Mar. 04, 2020
After being diagnosed with thyroid cancer as a young mom, True Botanicals founder, Hillary Peterson, started taking a closer look at the beauty products she used daily. After learning more about the potentially harmful ingredients present in all sorts of substances, Hillary transformed her frustration into a passion for creating a skincare line that’s good for both the people and the planet.
For this installation of #WomenMade, we sat down with Hillary to learn more about how she, and her True Botanicals team, are on a mission to prove that beauty products can be both natural and effective.
When did you start your company/work?
Why did you start this work/company?
I want more people to know that they don’t need to risk unnecessary exposure to toxins in order to get results. True Botanicals is the proof. As someone who knows what it feels like to find out that you have cancer as a young mom—which is truly terrifying—I want to inspire more people to use products that do not contribute to their toxic load.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m the founder of True Botanicals and I’m on a mission to empower all people to take the best care of themselves, each other, and the environment.
What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company/work?
In the early days, it was hard to get beauty editors to take note of our face oils, which are created for every skin type and core to a transformative routine. They just didn’t understand the benefit of using face oils as a moisturizer and they definitely did not get how our face oils were different from others on the market. As soon as we did our clinical trials, offering dramatic results and outperforming Crème de la Mer, all of that changed. Beauty editors started taking home our face oils, trying them and loving the results that they saw. Our clinical trials changed everything.
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or career?
My kids! When I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I was just 32 and had two babies at home. I wanted to support my health not just for my sake, but for theirs. As a result, I took a close look at my lifestyle. I read the ingredient labels on all of my beauty products and could not believe that every single one of them contained endocrine disruptors. I was appalled. This was really the ultimate motivator that led me to build True Botanicals.
What are some of the ways women today can help raise and inspire the next generation of ambitious females?
The most important message I will share with the next generation is to take good care along the way, and never put success ahead of your sanity—just enjoy the road. One of my favorite poems is “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver, and the last two lines run through my mind on a regular basis: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Why is it important for established women to put time into helping the next generation of women who are looking to shake up industries and even start their own companies?
Women are really amazing. We are powerful, tender, loving, and fierce. My girlfriends are my heroes—up all night with a sick baby or parent and still ready to do whatever they can for a friend or partner the next day. In recent generations, a woman’s intuition and “knowing” has been undervalued, and it is so exciting to see that women are feeling empowered to emerge as they are at this time. Women have shown that they are particularly good at considering the greater good in their decision making, which has never been more essential to our collective survival.
The most important message I will share with the next generation is to take good care along the way, and never put success ahead of your sanity—just enjoy the road.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Loving, Powerful, Dedicated
What’s something most people might not assume about you at first glance?
I can seem serious, but in reality, I love a good laugh over a margarita with my friends and co-workers. This is my one and only life, and I am committed to enjoying the road as much as possible. Surviving cancer at an early age certainly puts a lot into perspective.
When do you feel most beautiful and/or confident?
When I am feeling grounded and expressing myself in the most authentic way possible. Tapping into who I am at the core makes me feel the most confident.
When and where are you happiest?
I am happiest when I’m with my family. My three children are all grown up, so it’s so much fun whenever we have everyone in one place.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
Trust the path. You never know where it will lead. The biggest challenges can turn out to be amazing opportunities.
What’s the top song on your playlist right now?
This Must Be the Place, Talking Heads
Time Is Dancing, Ben Howard
Life Is a Highway, Rascal Flatts
What is your motto?
One of my favorite mottos is derived from Rilke: “We must be willing to live the question until we are ready to live the answer.” I have found that rushing to an answer doesn’t lead to the best decisions. If I allow the process to go whatever length it needs to, things work out so much better. I have more trust than ever that the right answer will appear when it is meant to.
Do you think founders/disruptors/creators should take time to reflect on the pros, even if they’re constantly putting out fires?
I always make an effort to look at whatever concern I have in the context of the big picture; it makes such a difference. It is easy to only focus on what is concerning you, but that is never everything that is happening. And I’ve found that looking at all the good things that are happening helps turn a lot of the “fires” into creative opportunities.
What did success mean to you when you first started your company/work? How has your definition of success changed since then?
Success has traditionally meant reaching “the goal” to me. Now, seeing the ways in which I am inspiring the change that I want to see in the world is so insanely rewarding to me. Reaching our goals will be amazing, and leaving the world a bit better than I found it through my efforts and the work of our incredible team takes that feeling to a whole new level.
Can you share what happened when you finally felt like you were on the other side of the struggle?
I’ll let you know when I get there! 🙂 The entrepreneur’s life requires endless problem solving and flexibility. As with my personal life, embracing versus resisting the lows, while enjoying the highs, has made it so much easier to enjoy the process. Which I think is, in reality, the point of this journey anyway.
What does your morning routine look like?
My best days start with the 7:10 a.m. ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco. It’s a moment that allows for a pause and connection to the beautiful environment that surrounds me—because what follows is a short walk to the office before being fully immersed in a busy day.
What motivates you to keep going in the toughest of times?
At the time that I was a marketing executive at LS&CO with young children, I don’t think that anyone would have imagined that my career would lead to where I am today, leading a rapidly growing disruptive beauty brand. Or even more unexpected, that a cancer diagnosis would become a major catalyst for such a dramatic change in my career path. Change may be inspired by the most unexpected occurrences, and I have found that embracing what is happening, rather than what I THINK should be happening, can be so powerful.
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
I love a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt bath because it’s not only relaxing, it’s also proven to help skin retain moisture. And I love adding relaxing essential oils such as bergamot, lavender, and jasmine. It is one of my favorite winter rituals. Just as Karen Blixen said: “The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears, or the sea.”
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
Hearing how our products have had such a positive impact on our customer’s skin and knowing that we did not need them to risk unnecessary exposures to toxins to get there.
Shop Hillary’s pick: