Review for By Nieves Skincare

I was pretty excited to find an all-natural skincare line made within an hour of where I live. Even though I’m slowly transitioning to making more of my personal products, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really know what I’m doing, and my face is just sensitive enough to make me nervous about experimenting. Here, I defer to the experts.

Nieves Hagmeier Rathbun By Nieves is a small, all natural body care company based in Oakland, CA. It won the Best Local Skincare Line in SF Weekly last year, and I hope it wins again this year. Each of its five products was created by Nieves, who has a background in natural perfumery and skincare. Nieves favors warm, slightly spicy combinations with long lasting resin base notes. They’re neither overtly feminine nor masculine, and they smell good.

I was given the chance to try the Face Fix, the “C” Perfect Skin, and the Cloud of Protection. Each contained primarily organic ingredients, no fillers, no preservatives (oil based and dry products don’t require them). I would consider the line mid-priced: $14-$35 for full sized products that last forever. I’ve barely made a dent after two months.

Face FixThe Face Fix is a mixture of dry, powdered herbs (white willow, rosehips, lavender), clay, and jojoba beads. It has an herbal, earthy scent and can be used as either a scrub (I loved mixing it with my Blissoma cleanser) or a masque. As far as scrubs go, it’s pretty gentle, yet left my skin feeling smooth and clean.

The “C” Perfect Skin is an oil based moisturizer that uses a combination of base oils (evening primrose, sesame) and essential oils. It has a subtle, sweetly woody scent with floral middle notes. It takes longer to absorb than the straight jojoba oil I was using before, and I ended up finding it a bit heavy for everyday use on my face. I have oily skin, so I think it would be perfect for drier or more mature skin.  “C” Perfect Skin is wonderfully kind to my hands after pottery.
Cloud of Protection By Nieves

I wasn’t expecting to find much use for the Cloud of Protection (air freshener…meh), but it turned out to be my favorite of the three. It smells amazing — bright, citrusy top notes with warm, slightly spicy juniper and cedar scents just underneath.  The old-fashioned style label claims it wards off ‘illness, bad vibes, and stinkiness.’ I don’t know about the bad vibes, but the neutral grape spirits as well as the anti-bacterial properties of the essential oils in the formula make it an effective and wonderfully fragrant hand sanitizer. And did I mention that I love the way it smells?

What I love about By Nieves:

  • Locally made
  • Organic ingredients
  • No synthetic chemicals, fragrances, colors, or preservatives
  • Safe, effective skincare
  • Multi-tasking products
  • Wonderful natural scents
  • Terrific, patient customer service (thanks, Michael!)
  • Reusable glass containers
Things that I would like to see:
  • Full ingredients listings on the site. Ingredients are up for Face Fix and “C” Perfect Skin in an ingredient glossary, but not for the other three products. When I asked Michael, he said that the skincare industry had many snipers who wouldn’t scruple to rip off other people’s creations, and that Nieves therefore had reservations about posting full ingredients. As a paranoid consumer, I tend not to order from companies that don’t provide full ingredients lists online, but I can also see the downside to this transparency. However,  Michael was kind enough to provide me with the ingredients for the remaining two products, and I can assure you that they are indeed squeaky clean. No bad stuff.
  • More information on the site about how the ingredients are sourced and certified organic. Although By Nieves doesn’t claim the USDA organic seal, I like it when companies can verify that their ingredients are organic and/or sustainably sourced. Michael said that they were working on it.
  • Biodegradable packaging materials. Brie can’t play with real styrofoam peanuts (they fall apart and get into her fur), although for all I know, the ones in my box were reused.
Pretty minor caveats. Bottom line: totally natural, reasonably priced, effective skincare made by someone who, in her own words, gives a f***. Thanks, Nieves!

12 responses to this post.

  1. Ingredients decs are so important!! My feeling is that it isn’t just the way you blend a product but the source of the botanicals that matters. If you are getting some awesomely fresh base oils that other companies wouldn’t be using then who cares if they can see your list, they still can’t duplicate it. Blending is a skill unto itself as well. Bottom line, in the naturals industry people want to know what is in products. They can find many ways to remain unique even with disclosure. 🙂

    Reply

    • Hi Julie,
      It’s great to get the perspective of someone else in the skincare industry. I have to say, though, that your formulas are quite a bit more complex than Nieves’s, and would take a lot more determination to steal. Is it an issue you’ve ever had to deal with?

      On the consumer end, too many of us have been burned by so-called natural products that end up containing all sorts of chemicals that we didn’t expect. I agree that once you’ve started to pay attention to what’s in your cosmetics (and therefore headed for the naturals market), you want full disclosure.

      Reply

      • Posted by Julie on 06/06/2011 at 16:11

        Heya! So far no I haven’t had anyone try to copy my recipes. They would indeed have trouble because even if they could duplicate the exact ingredients list they would have a heck of a time replicating the concentrations of the herb extracts that we make ourselves. The list can be the same but the content of the product very different in a situation like that.
        That is part of what you have to think about when launching any new product though – why will people choose to buy this item from me instead of from another line that may be similar? There has to be a strong reason. It can be packaging, the fact that you are local, the smell of the product, the size, the price, or a combination of these things and others. Generally it is a few things. If one has a recipe that is very very similar to what is already out there in the market is that one should ask themselves if it is really necessary to put it out there for sale or if it is better suited to be just a make for self and friends kind of item.

        Some products in the beauty industry completely get away with being sold with just packaging changes though. This is the nature of a business like Essential Wholesale who sells generic base products to customers to then bottle and put their own label on. It is all the same stuff just with different marketing.

        That really bothers me but it is totally legitimate business from a legal and ethical standpoint. Being someone that has worked for years to develop a brand it really annoys me when an esthetician or dayspa would rather sell some generic stuff like that with their own private label on it rather than work with my brand (which I will NOT private label because I want to keep it totally unique in the market) that I have invested years into the branding and formulations. Are they not thinking about the fact that any other spa could do the same? They have no uniqueness at all that way.

        This is also why the beauty arena is so dang confusing for customers too – because so many products are just slight variations on the same thing in a different bottle with different marketing. That confusion does sell product in some cases because people keep trying new items because nothing is making a difference. Personally I got really alienated from it and distrusting which is why I started making my own items. I wanted something real, something that I knew for sure what was in it.

        It indeed is not a kind and benevolent market out there. It is insanely competitive and new products from bigger brands get released all the time. New products from small, crafty, kitchen size business get released all the time as well. You have to hold your own against all of them. That is just life though, and a harsh truth is that if you are producing something that can be duplicated so easily then you better have another hook to make sure you keep your sales. A big cosmetic company can take a sample of your product to a lab and have it analyzed for individual chemical constituents if they really wanted to, so hiding the ingredients dec isn’t going to help. Even easier they could just buy the product from you and use the dec that is on the product itself. Not declaring online doesn’t make a bit of difference except to create distrust with the core naturals audience.

        You do need a unique product or unique sales angle to grab your audience and hold onto them. Not many people last longer than 2 to 5 years in business, which is a tough reality. I hope for all good things for people who choose this path with determination. It is a unique adventure and often difficult, but for those who just can’t live any other way it is worth it.

        My best thoughts are with Nieves and I wish them luck!!! 🙂 Their labeling is very nice – way nicer than what I had in my beginnings so they are a leg up on where I started from already. 🙂

        Reply

        • Posted by Michael DeLong on 06/08/2011 at 07:15

          Thank you both, Jennifer and Julie, for such thoughtful and thorough responses. I did want to clarify with you, Julie, that there is disclosure with Nieves’s products: all the ingredients are on the labels of each product, clearly stated. They are just not on the website at this time! Where the ingredients are organic, that is stated also. Thanks again for the comments and I am glad you like the packaging!

          Reply

  2. Being an extremely allergic consumer, I won’t buy anything that doesn’t disclose all of its ingredients… but I pretty much don’t have a choice.

    My skin care routine —- are you ready —- water. That’s it! No soap, no cleansers, no moisturizers, just water. Seriously, I didn’t do it to be green, it was because of allergies, and I can honestly say that my skin has never looked better!

    I do use some unscented soap to wash my hands and for the, um… smelly parts, but that’s it. I use jojoba oil for shaving (because soap dries out my skin way too much) and if my hands get dry from washing dishes or using soap, I use a little jojoba on them.

    Easy shmeasy with no more eczema or hives!

    Reply

    • EcoCatLady, that’s awesome. I tried going soap-free for a week and my skin was not thrilled. (We do have pretty hard water here, and lots of chlorine, so that probably didn’t help.) I do wonder sometimes if my skin issues are the result of too many products, not too few.

      Reply

  3. I am so with you on the ingredient disclosure, and think the ‘they will rip off and copy our creations’ is a red flag. I list all the ingredients of every product I make or carry from other reputable sources. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    On the other hand, finding a local healthy skin line is good find. I will check them out further, perhaps I will carry them in my store for my clients. However, I WILL list the ingredients!

    Reply

    • Hi Lisa,
      I’m sure it is often used as an excuse, but in this case, I did actually get to see all the ingredients and I think you’d be fine with them. I forgot you were also local. I work up in Redwood City now, so we’re even closer than before.

      Reply

      • Posted by Michael DeLong on 06/08/2011 at 07:24

        Hi Lisa,
        I just want to clarify (as I did with Julie above) that Nieves actually does list all the ingredients in her products. Each product bears a label with each and every ingredient and nothing is hidden. It’s just that those ingredients are not currently listed on the website for every product. There is an ingredient glossary here: http://www.bynieves.com/ingredientglossary.html for two of the products, which not only lists the ingredients but also describes the effects and properties of each. For the rest of the products, you can still see all the ingredients: you just have to pick them up and read the labels! So rest assured that if you carried them in your store (a great idea!), your customers would be able to see all the ingredients by simply looking at them. Thanks for your comment. And thank you again, Jennifer, for this wonderful review.

        Reply

  4. Jennifer,
    Thank you for the in depth review. I really appreciate you taking the time to do a real assessment of the products. Your blog rocks.

    Julie,
    Thank you for your insights and your good wishes.

    Lisa,
    If you’re interested in talking about wholesale feel free to contact me at Nieves@ByNieves.com

    Michael,
    Thank you for tact and timely responses. Yer great.

    In response to a couple things….
    What do you think is the best way to show Organic pedigree for each ingredient? I probably won’t be going for the full on USDA organic seal for the whole line for a while it is such a paperwork nightmare …maybe someday….. But I do continue to increase the proportion of organic ingredients in the products. Whenever possible I choose organic and as my volume increases it brings more ingredients into the do-able range I want to make great products and I want to keep them in the affordable range it’s a balancing act.

    Speaking of balancing acts, I know that successful products get copied it’s just how the industry works and I’m pretty much ok with that. I have to be. In some ways I can hope that I make something popular enough to be copied at the same time there is an innate protective reaction, I don’t want to just serve it up with a spoon. At the same time I want to give people that use my products all the information they desire. I do a lot of craft fairs and festivals these days and I talk to hundreds of people in depth as they want about the ingredients. In fact the same day that I read the these comments I was having an email exchange with a customer who wanted to know how to make her own custom balm. I think I will end up putting all the ingredients on the website. And I share the frustration of misleading labels it is rampant! That’s partly why I started making stuff with ingredients that work and are recognizable.

    Oh and yes, they are recycled packing peanuts, I’ll start putting a note in the packages again. I can’t stand the though of putting packing material in the land fill. I wish they where more fun for Brie to play with!

    If any one has any questions about anything (within reason!) don’t hesitate to contact me.

    All the best,

    Nieves

    Reply

  5. Posted by Heidi on 09/09/2011 at 20:03

    Hi Jennifer,

    I wanted to let you know that Nieves now lists all her ingredients on her website!

    Cheers,

    Heidi w ByNieves.com

    Reply

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