February 15, 2020 (updated February 2, 2023) — Written by

This year I wanted to take some time to highlight a few effective skincare brands that formulate organic/wildcrafted/pure BUT without the high price tag that can sometimes accompanies eco-beauty (and conventional beauty too for that matter). Budget beauty is one of the most popular topics here at The New Knew so I wanted to dive into that topic a bit more and at the same time seize the opportunity to highlight some formulators who are just doing it right.

I also realize “affordable” or “budget” are relative terms. You will be able to find “more affordable” options here, here and here BUT for the purpose of this series, I am highlighting luxe, indie, founder-formulators with high ethical standards who produce supreme product all under let’s say that $40-45 range. I don’t want to put a hard number on it in case one brand has a product that goes over that but that is the general idea. To search this series and discover more luxe skincare brands like this, type “luxe for less” into the The New Knew search bar.

Also be sure to scroll all the way down. I’ve got a way for first-timers to save 20%


founder of LIVE BOTANICAL and The New Knew
Meeting LIVE BOTANICAL founder Carolyn McRory at IBE Dallas 2017

I met founder Carolyn McRory for the first time at IBE Dallas in 2017. Right off the bat, I could tell she was the real deal. She is not only the founder of LIVE BOTANICAL but she is also the formulator which is not always the case. Some brands hire out for formulation which is fine but when a founder has their hands in everything from formulating to sourcing to researching to testing to packaging, it really brings a bigger knowledge base, understanding and respect to the final product.

A woman in front of a booth
LIVE BOTANICAL founder Carolyn McRory at IBE Dallas 2017

Right off the bat, I asked Carolyn about some of her ingredients and she talked to me for about 30 minutes, expanding my understanding and appreciation of LIVE BOTANICAL. Carolyn is a practiced and knowledgable formulator with a tac sharp moral and ethical compass. She has high standards when it comes to respect for the planet, sourcing and cultures. I can say, without a doubt, her standards have pushed me personally to be a more keen writer, journalist, blogger and representative of the clean beauty movement as a whole.

How did she get here? Mentorship. From informal mentorship from her grandparents to a more structured mentorship from Dr. Mara Levin in the early 2000s. She studies Indigenous, Western Herbalism and Traditional Chinese Medicine with Dr. Levin, Carolyn. She also took tutelage from Sue Sierralupe who contributes to The Practical Herbalist. And after many years of the LIVE BOTANICAL dream, Carolyn finally brought it to fruition in 2016.

Why LIVE BOTANICAL stands out:

Alright, let’s bang it out. Here are 10 things that elevate the LIVE BOTANICAL brand taking it from average to luxe:

1.To ensure potency, Carolyn formulates with fresh herbs over dried even though they cost 4-5x more.

2. She also sources with the idea of using abundant herbs to limit the impact on the earth.

3. Carolyn uses extraction methods that retain high amounts of plant product where conventional extraction tends to glean very little of the original plant.

4. Based out of Portland, Oregon, Carolyn prioritizes regional ingredients.

5. LIVE BOTANICAL also formulates with organics as a priority and when organic is not an option, she works with producers who follow organic guidelines or ethically wild-harvested rules outlined by United Plant Savers.

6. Not only are LIVE BOTANICAL formulas free from all the typical culprits like fragrance, parabens, etc BUT all oils, butters, waxes are GMO free and unrefined or minimally refined.

7. Preservatives and lab based ingredients must be biodegradable, safe and the molecule size must prevent penetration into the skin.

8. LIVE BOTANICAL gives back to the land we live on with donations to Chinook Nation and the Wild Salmon Center.

9. Products are handcrafted in small batches.

10. LIVE BOTANICAL remains purposefully small, with low overhead and low marketing expenses to ensure products are affordable.

A fresh rebrand…

LIVE BOTANICAL recently, within the last year, went through a reformulation and was repackaged and rebranded. And that being said, I assume Carolyn will continue to tweak each formula as more sustainable options or more effective ingredients become available. I love the new packaging and new formulas, don’t you?

8 products from the LIVE BOTANICAL line

Carolyn’s entire line is stored in freshness-extending violet/black glass. This luxury vessel not only looks sleek but helps protect the plant compounds from degradation. You will see this packaging in many of the higher priced brands but rarely with more affordable brands. A touch worth noting.

What I love and recommend…

I’ve tried quite a bit of the LIVE BOTANICAL line and recently I’ve tried it all again after the reformulation/rebrand. These are my current top picks (in order):

1.Glowing Honey Mask

Girrrrrl. There is nothing like a honey mask. In fact, I love it straight. Just straight honey on my face as a mask or a cleanser. Hydrating, repairing, restorative, cleansing, brightening the works – which I write all about here. The Glowing Honey Mask is all of this and so much more.

It’s herb infused honey with botanical extracts and fruit enzymes. The botanicals work to refine the skin leaving bright and glowey. Some of my favorite ingredients (besides honey) are whole, organic, rose, chamomile, roots of marshmallow and dandelion (all organically and locally sourced) which work together to tone and lessen scarring.

This mask has a little bit of texture (herbal grains) to it too so when I’m ready to remove it, I love wetting the tips of my fingers and rubbing in a circular motion to activate it as a light manual exfoliator. It’s also formulated with organic papaya so it enzymatically exfoliates as well. You can read a detailed breakdown of what each ingredient does here.

Smells earthy and sweet. I love using this straight away in the morning as a mini mask while I get ready. Leaves my skin glowing, smooth, fresh and bright. Glowing Honey Mask is a staple and my number one pick from LIVE BOTANICAL.

2. Brightening Oil Serum

This is a beautiful luxury face oil that can be used both day and night as a moisturizer. It also doubles as an eye serum and you can even use it to boost your face cream too.

taking out a drop of LIVE BOTANICAL's Brightening Oil

Brightening Oil Serum is specifically designed to support collagen production and reduce the appearance of fine lines, scarring and discoloration. I love that it’s essential oil free and suitable for sensitive, acne-prone and mature skin types.

My favorite ingredient here, because I don’t typically see it often, is date extract which has shown in various studies to improve skin elasticity, increase brightness, greater hydration, and a decrease in redness and hyperpigmentation. It also has organic and locally grown calendula to help with puffiness and dark circles, organic carrot root extract for skin brightening and locally grown Daikon radish to improve absorption and give it a light-weight feel. Click here for a full ingredient breakdown.

It’s truly a pleasure to use, absorbs easily, can be layered, smells earthy and beautiful…Brightening Oil Serum is a true crowd pleaser.

3. Balancing Whipped Oil

Okay Balancing Whipped Oil is a Blue Tansy lover’s dream come true and IMO, totally competes with Brightening Oil Serum for spot #2. The color of this whipped oil alone will knock you off your feet. This is a rich, firm textured balm that melts into an oil on contact. It’s designed to deliver antioxidants and clearing botanicals. Great for dry, combo, breakout prone or mature skin. You can use this alone as your moisturizer or layer over your face oil for an added layer.

showing the blue color of the LIVE BOTANICAL Whipped Balancing Oil

Some of my favorite ingredients are organic Blue Tansy for it’s anti-inflammatory properties, organic and fair trade Babassu which acts like a protective barrier keeping skin hydrated and organic and locally sourced Self-heal which is an herbal first-aid to pacify skin ailments. Check out a detailed ingredient breakdown here.

I tend to use Balancing Whipped Oil at night layered over my face oil. I love how nourished and hydrated it makes my skin feel. It’s a great last layer because it just locks everything in while nourishing and repairing. If I had a chance to rename this oil, I would call it; Relax, I’ve Got Your Back! or You worry about you and let me worry about your skin!

4. Nourishing Cleansing Oil

Love it. I’ve been using Nourishing Cleansing Oil nightly for about a month now and I can say with absolute certainty, it gets the job done. If you are new to oil cleansing, use this to take off your makeup and then use it again to cleanse you skin. This is called double cleansing. More on why the double cleansing method is my preferred method here.

This is a rich anti-inflammatory cleanser designed for dry and sensitive skin. It smells bright and fresh like lemon balm and I consider it a dose of aromatherapy as well as a cleanser. Some oil cleansers are harder to remove than others. This one is easy. It breaks down with water so sometimes instead of running a warm cloth over my skin, I will splash my face with warm water, lightly massage my skin in a circular motion and dry off with a dry towel. Either method works.

Some of my favorite ingredients are chamomile, heal-all and rose flower (all organically and regionally sourced) to deeply clean pores, calm inflammation and inhibit acne-causing bacteria. Check out a full ingredient list here.

I can tell you right now Nourishing Cleaning Oil WILL BE an empty. I’m working on getting out the last few drops as I type this!

5. Hylauronic Acid Hydrating Serum

Hylauronic Acid (HA) sounds scary but it’s naturally found in the body and it’s super power is being able to hold 1000x it’s weight in water – or something like that. So it’s incredibly effective at retaining water and therefore, hydrating.

Sometimes however, if HA is not formulated with the appropriate molecular weight or if the concentration percentage is off, it can also have the opposite effect and actually draw hydration from (inside) the skin which can have the opposite effect of drying out the skin.

Carolyn takes great care to get the formula right here. Play with layering Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum under your face oil, emulsifying a few drops of it with your face oil or layering it over your face oil…see what feels best for your skin. I prefer layering it over my mist and under my face oil.

Not only is the LIVE BOTANICAL HA effective, it’s also Ecocert certified, created using non-gmo plant materials. And to boot, this specific formula is made with just 4 ingredients: organically and regionally sourced aloe vera juice and green tea hydrosol as well as lactobacillus ferment and sodium hyaluronate (HA). That’s it. I sometimes add this as an extra layer so I appreciate the minimal ingredient list because I can control how much product I am putting on my face.

Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum is great for all skin types, especially those with oily to combo skin.

Tell LIVE BOTANICAL I sent you!

And you know I hooked it up. Code NEWKNEW will save first-timers 20%. Yeah, I just said 20%! Shop here!

Have you tried LIVE BOTANICAL?

xo, lisa in cursive

Photos by Monkey + Squirrel

By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of The New Knew. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!

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