Brenda Brock, founder of Farmaesthetics sustainable beauty skincare line, knows a thing or two about ‘kitchen chemistry.’ The longtime Rhode Island resident is the daughter of a seventh-generation Texas farmer – who worked the land as his father and grandfather did before him. A subculture to Brock’s growing-up, rural Texas farm life centered around the kitchen.
“All of the women– my grandmother, aunts – had gardens,” says Brock. “Hours were spent canning and pickling; infusing herbs. I loved the ‘kitchen culture’ – hearing their ‘doctor remedies’ and stories relating to healing, health and beauty. If someone had a rash or dry hands, they would snip a few herbs, like calendula or lavender, and blend them with oil or butter. There was this exchange of information that passed from one generation to the next, an oral legacy. I grew up listening to stories of my grandmother raising seven kids on a cotton farm during the depression. They were kitchen chemists and I was interested from a very young age in their stories and knowledge – especially how to use flowers and herbs in skincare.”
While family members stayed on to work the Texas homestead (many are still there), Brock, an aspiring playwright and actor, departed for New York City, where she landed a role on the soap opera, “One Life to Live.”
But even in the city, amidst the skyscrapers and traffic congestion, she stayed rooted to the earth. “Every Sunday, I’d buy herbs, wash them vigorously and infuse them in my apartment,” Brock recalls. “I’d gift them to friends; use them myself. It was my Sunday; my way of grounding myself in the city.”
A simple invite from a friend – to go sailing in Newport, Rhode Island –turned that Sunday grounding ritual into a life-long career passion.
“I remember crossing the Newport (Rhode Island) bridge and my lungs just opening up,” Brock says. “I loved it – the water, the air.”
And so she stayed – purchasing a Victorian farmhouse and restoring it with (now husband), Paul. “The first thing I did was plow up an acre and plant herbs, flowers and veggies,” says Brock. In time, she started whipping up face creams in her kitchen blender. “The floodgates just opened,” says Brock. “My daughter was young at the time and I wanted to show her how to grow things; I wanted her to see that products didn’t grow on shelves.”
A local friend encouraged Brock to bring a dozen of her products, including her Nourishing Herbal Cream – a product she still has today – to sell at her rural farm stand. The bottles sold out in hours. And Farmaesthetics was born.
“This was 1999,” says Brock. “There wasn’t a clean, green movement. There weren’t natural products – 100 percent natural luxury skincare was unheard of- everything was artificial. But once people saw the products and tried them, they wanted more. I didn’t know anything about cosmetics. But I knew a lot about traditional American herbal preparations made from herbs and flowers from the farm. And how they worked on the skin.”
Not long afterward, a farm stand customer gifted a basket of Brock’s products to the owner of a well-known skincare salon on Madison Avenue in NYC. The owner called Brock, wanting “to see every product she had.” And bought them all.
Today, Farmaesthetics has a flagship apothecary and treatment room in Newport –a step-back-in-time boutique where sprigs of lavender soak in oil-filled jars; blue and clear glass bottles line the shelves. It also has two co-branded spas. The Retreat at Castle Hill by Farmaesthetics in Newport – housed in a historic mansion hotel overlooking the sea. And featuring Farmaesthetics products – shampoo, conditioner, Nourishing Lavender Milk, Gentle Mint Body Wash and Rainwater Handmade Organic Beauty Bar – in every guest room of the Relais and Chateau property. And her newest spa partnership – Farmaesthetics at Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, Long Island.
The sustainable beauty line is also found in spas at Ocean House, Rhode Island; Four Seasons West Lake Village, California; and Blush Bar in South America (Columbia and Chile), which operates seven beauty boutiques.
Retail, too, is booming: Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue have added Farmaesthetics to their apothecary selections. While celebrities such as Madonna, mother-daughter Frances Fisher and Francesca Eastwood, and Whoopi Goldberg are fans. Goldberg, so much so that when traveling, she arranges for her favorite Farmaesthetics product – Cool Aloe Mist (aloe vera, lavender, bergamot and witch hazel) – to be delivered to her hotel prior to arrival.
Despite Farmaesthetics’ growing global footprint, Brock remains true to her kitchen roots. All of her products, including bestselling Fine Herbal Cleanser and Nourishing Lavender Milk remain 100 percent natural – no fillers, parabens or synthetics. Very few ingredients are used – most products have five or less; some have only two ingredients. Formulations are still from Brock’s original recipes which she used to write out on 5×7 recipe cards. Even the packaging is evergreen – the same beautiful glass apothecary bottles (with two-year certified shelf life).
In its beginning years, Farmaesthetics grew its herbs and flowers locally on neighboring Rhode Island farms. But as the company flourished, demand outstripped local-grower capacity, prompting Brock to expand her network of suppliers. While she continues to cultivate a lovely herb-and-flower garden at her current home, a small seaside cottage outside Newport, Farmaesthetics’ ingredient deck is now directly sourced from small family farms and co-ops across the US; purveyors Brock has grown to know and trust over the decades. Lavender oil is sourced from one farm; powdered milk from another; calendula from yet another. The local Rhode Island farms are still utilized for limited-edition and seasonal products.
“Farming is where I come from,” says Brock. “And I’m committed to working with small farms and co-ops. In farming communities, there is a saying that ‘the farmer takes care of the land. And the land will take care of the farmer.’ We really are interdependent on one another. That’s a really important part of the natural movement – natural living, whole living. My whole skincare line, really, is about getting as much fresh, live, growing, vitality into a jar or a bottle as I possibly can.”
What We Love: The packaging. Beautiful, clear apothecary bottles featuring labels written in Brock’s own cursive writing.
Our Favorite Products: Fine Herbal Cleanser (witch hazel, geranium rose oil, lavender essential oil), Nourishing Lavender Milk (calendula, witch hazel, lavender essential oil), and Brock’s newest addition, Watercress Eye Gel (arnica, cucumber, watercress, and caffeine).
Easy At-Home Facial:
“Many of us convert from chemically laden skincare products to clean healthy products that are 100% natural once we are pregnant or nursing,” says Brenda Brock, founder of Farmaesthetics. “But it is important to always choose natural.”
Brock offers this easy at-home facial – perfect for new moms and anyone wishing to restore a natural healthy glow:
Remove Eye Makeup: Eyebright Make up Remover & Treatment Oil– a three-in-one product that removes even waterproof eye makeup without synthetics, softening fine lines and helping ease eye irritation.
Cleanse: Fine Herbal Cleanser- a gently foaming, thorough cleanser that does not dry, strip or irritate tissue. Contains antibacterial herbal ingredients that help keep skin balanced.
Exfoliate: Sweet Milk & Lavender Bud Facial Exfoliate – mix with Fine Herbal Cleanser to create a creamy paste. Apply to face with circular motions. Natural lactic acid in organic milk dissolves dull skin cells while infusing tissue with skin-plumping nutrients.
Treatment Mask: Herbal Hydration Complex – use two to three times per week to help reduce redness, inflammation, discoloration, and dryness.
Moisture: Nourishing Lavender Milk- a light organic lotion created for the face and décolleté, but so divine, many slather it on their entire body. Gentle enough for sensitive skin. Great for use under makeup or sunscreen or as nighttime moisture application.
As Needed: Watercress Eye Gel is a must-have. Apply a drop or two to eye orbit to restore tone to tired, puffy eyes. Arnica, cucumber, watercress, and caffeine work to lift eye tissue, helping eyes look dewy and well-rested.