Deborah Burnes has been a leading voice in the natural skincare industry for decades. We had the opportunity to chat with her about her handmade skincare line, Sumbody. You can find Sumbody skin and body care products in our Wellness department.
GE: How was Sumbody started? How has your mission grown and expanded over the years?
DB: After becoming a cosmetologist, I quickly became the go-to for A-list celebrities. Working with their skin was a huge learning experience. Celebrity skin puts up with a lot, from harsh lights and thick layers of makeup to their busy lifestyles. I was frustrated at not getting the results I wanted. Since I’ve always lived a clean lifestyle, I thought using more natural products would do the trick. I scoured the market, but with the absence of indie beauty brands in the 1980s, I couldn’t find any. Bolstered by my background in chemistry, herbal medicine, and botany, I decided to make my own, and finally got the results I was after. Eventually, I moved from Los Angeles to Sonoma County. I continued to see my LA clients, commuting with my own products. In 1998, I took those products and founded Sumbody so that anyone could have access to natural, non-toxic beauty.
The name Sumbody came from my belief that it’s the total sum of who we are that makes us beautiful – what we put in our bodies, on our bodies, and even the thoughts we think. This “whole sum” perspective is at the root of everything we do at our company. We’re big believers that less is more when it comes to skincare, staying as close as possible to Mother Earth for ingredients, and maintaining a 360 perspective on our planetary impact. While we have continued to grow and evolve over the years, our values and dedication have remained steadfast.
GE: Sumbody’s products are handmade. Can you tell us a little bit about what that process looks like and how it sets you apart in the beauty industry?
DB: Many of the beauty products you see on shelves are manufactured in one of a handful of cosmetic manufacturing companies (co-packers). This means that many brands are using the same ingredients, purchased in enormous quantities for cost savings.
At Sumbody, we source each and every ingredient that goes into our products. I personally know the goats that produce our goat milk, the bees that make our honey, and many of the farmers that grow our botanicals. I formulate all of our products and am not limited to a co-packers list of ingredients. Instead, I choose ingredients based on efficacy and results. This makes each Sumbody product unique. We manufacture them in small batches on site, allowing us to purchase ingredients in small quantities to use at peak freshness. This ensures that when you buy the product, it’s also fresh.
GE: What are you looking for when sourcing a new ingredient or looking for a new supplier?
DB: When sourcing, I try to find local and organic ingredients whenever possible. It’s not possible for everything, because many skincare ingredients are not agricultural products, but the abundance of organic ingredients is truly amazing. We feature a number of organic skincare products, using only ingredients that are USDA Certified Organic.
Something I look for in my suppliers is that they are as passionate about their ingredients as I am about skin. Our oils supplier can literally talk for hours about them. The excitement of the beekeeper who supplies some of our honey is contagious.
GE: What are some of your favorite ingredients to formulate with and why?
DB: This is a great question, but it is such a difficult one for me to answer. It’s like asking who my favorite child is. I love skin, formulating, and ingredients so much that I get giddy over finding new, effective, and transformative ingredients. But my favorites are generally the tried-and-true, non-toxic powerhouses like hyaluronic acid and rich sources of essential fatty acids.
GE: What advice would you give our readers?
DB: Let your skin do the talking. If you listen, skin speaks. When you try a truly effective, potent, non-toxic product, your skin knows the difference.