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Image: A woman wearing flowers. Only her hands and feet are showing. It's an image from Honua.

How Honua Hawaiian Skincare Founder Infuses Her Brand with the Spirit of Aloha

Named for Mama Honua (Mother Earth), all of Honua Hawaiian Skincare cosmetics carry with them the spirit of aloha—a loving force that holds existence together, according to Hawaiian culture.

All of the brand’s products are crafted from organic botanicals that are ethically sourced in Hawaii. Honua Hawaiian Skincare combines traditional Hawaiian healing botanicals and methodologies with modern skincare technology. The company’s founder, Kapua Browning, first became interested in skincare when she noticed sun damage and pigmentation in her own complexion while in her 20s.

Her interest turned to passion, leading Browning to train in aesthetics and study traditional Hawaiian healing and medicinal herbs. After spending a decade as a licensed esthetician and training extensively in herbalism, Browning began building her own brand that honors Hawaiian culture and the planet.

Kinder Beauty is proud to be partnering with Honua Hawaiin Skincare in our October 2021 collection.

We had the chance to talk to Browning about the sources of her inspiration, how Hawaiian botanicals help heal our skin, and how Honua Hawaiian Skincare is infused with aloha.

KINDER BEAUTY: What inspired you to create Honua Hawaiian Skincare?

Kapua Browning: I had always known the magic of our Hawaiian botanicals and the healing ability of our medicinal plants, as our family resorted to Lā'au Lapa'au and other traditional healing practices rather than Western medicine when health issues arose.

Then 15 years ago, I became an esthetician and realized there was a lack of accessible skincare lines that looked at treating the root cause [...] of skin conditions rather than masking the issues that popped up.

By this I mean, there was one serum for acne, one for aging, one for sun damage, and one for sensitivity/redness—when the root cause of many of the issues that come up is inflammation. This wasn't talked about in skincare 15 years ago.

Plant-based skincare was also looked at as a novelty and wasn't treated like medical-grade skincare, when they actually equals.

So I set out to heal skin using traditional Hawaiian methodologies and botanicals, while combining modern skincare technology. 

KINDER BEAUTY: How did Honua Hawaiian Skincare get started?

KB: After getting licensed in esthetics, I studied the topical skin uses of our Hawaiian plants, worked with my husband on traditional formulations (he had been trained by the last Lā'au Lapa'au Practitioner), and also flew to another island to learn more modern-day plant formulations.

After using and sharing my own creations with family and friends, we saw amazing results. So I decided to open my own apothecary spa in Palolo Valley, on the island of Oahu, where I was born.

I used these formulations in facials and also sent home fresh products after each treatment that [clients[ would refill when they came back.

Honua as a nationally/world-recognized brand, however, wasn't even a thought in my mind when I started out. The birth of Honua was pretty organic, once we moved away from Hawaii and I could no longer offer treatments to my customers who now relied on the products. We made small batches for a few months, then eventually we had to increase production.

Why did we leave? The cost of living in Hawaii got so bad, our 'ohana had to move to the mainland. There is a huge exodus of Hawaiian families, and ours was one of them. 

Making the world a better place

KINDER BEAUTY: How had growing up in Hawaii influence your work? 

KB: Being raised in the Hawaiian culture means that you have a whole set of values that you live your life by, work-life included.

For one, Honua is truly a sustainable brand, and not because it's trending or because we are suddenly scared for mother Earth (although that is real, too), but because we are born understanding that we need to take care of the land that takes care of us.

It's a symbiotic relationship—a kinship, even—as Hawaiians believe the Kalo (taro plant) is actually the first-born Hawaiian. Every decision I am faced with as a brand owner comes down to how we are contributing to a better tomorrow for our future farmers, children, and [future] generations. 

Are we giving more back to the land than we are taking? And are we doing our part to share our aloha with the world?

KINDER BEAUTY: What is Honua Hawaiian Skincare’s mission?

KB: #ALOHAWORLDWIDE was one of my first missions for Honua.

The aloha spirit is a gift from Hawaii to the world and was something my uncle Moe Keale engraved deep in me as a child. It was his kuleana to BE it, to LIVE it, and SHARE it. He also told me it was ours to do the same (the children of Hawaii).

The true meaning of aloha is a “spiritual principle” that connects us all—with oneself, family, community, friends, and even strangers. The “true meaning of aloha,” is greater [...] than just hello or goodbye. It is a mindset and a way of life. It's about sharing your innermost essence, being open and honest with humility, and accepting others for who they are. 

It is believed that every living creature contains this essence, and if we were to recognize that essence—that power in every living creature that connects us all to the same source—how could we harm another living thing? 

The healing power of plants

KINDER BEAUTY: How do Hawaiian botanicals nourish the skin?

KB: We've all heard these buzzwords in skincare—antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega fatty acids, AHAs, BHAs—they all have a source. Some are lab-made and some are from nature.

I chose key Hawaiian botanicals that had many of these all in one plant. For one example, most of our plants are anti-inflammatory, so they work to treat the root of all skin conditions. All of them are potent sources of antioxidants such as Vitamins A,C, E and K. Some also possess skin-nourishing minerals, omega fatty acids, and ceramides.

Some have exfoliating properties, as well. So in a nutshell, they treat the root of skin conditions, detoxify and cleanse the skin, enhance cell turnover, feed the skin key nutrients, and balance oil production, while supporting and keeping the skin's natural barrier intact—resulting in healthy skin that glows! 

KINDER BEAUTY: What is the "Honua Glow" and how does one achieve it? 

KB: The Honua Glow is healthy, glowing skin that is being healed at all levels. Our products all work together.

The 4-piece Ritual Set plus SPF is a great start to healthy skin. If you need some extra surface moisture, our Mahealani Balm will do the trick.

I always recommend mirroring what you do on the outside on the inside as well. I eat or supplement with many of our botanicals such as 'Ōlena, Noni, Astaxanthin, Ni'oi, and Kalo. Internal wellness is just as important, if not more!

KINDER BEAUTY: How does Honua merge traditional Hawaiian healing with modern technology? 

KB: One of the big differences of traditional healing is that we look at treating the root cause of conditions. We also use plants to heal, so we place importance on the mana, or energy, in the plants, as well as the farming process.

That is why it's so important for us at Honua to know where and how our ingredients are being sourced. We also like to take part in the process as much as possible, even as we grow as a brand.

As far as modern technology, I looked at the way we can break down and infuse certain ingredients for best results. As an esthetician who also worked briefly at a medical spa, I wanted to make sure our products could perform [as well as] or out-perform medical-grade products.

So although we use plant-based ingredients, they don't lack science or technology. We use CO2 extracts (with smaller molecules), heat-infused blends, and combine some lab-based functioning ingredients such as hyaluronic acids to enhance our products’ performance. 

Caring for the planet

KINDER BEAUTY:  What is kuleana and how is Honua fulfilling it?

KB: It's about walking the walk and fulfilling our responsibility or privilege to take care of the land, give back to our farms, and the future of Hawaii and the entire world.

Through our sourcing methods [...], we are able to reforest and grow more plants than we use. This is a kuleana. Through our compostable packaging and our re-use of bottles, we are able to help keep waste out of our oceans and landfills. This is our kuleana.

Through our partnerships with nonprofits such as Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, we are able to arrange beach cleanups to clear microplastic and educate the community, leaving our home better than we found it. This is our kuleana. 

Through our messaging to share aloha worldwide we are able to make a difference in the world. This is also our kuleana.  

KB: We source many of our ingredients from the Hawaiian islands—from smaller sustainable farms. Our Sandalwood, Vetiver, Kukui Oil, Astaxanthin (algae), and 'Olena all come from Hawaii island or (The Big Island); our Kalo and Laukahi from O'ahu and Kaua'i;Sunflower oil from Maui.

We also source from other sustainable farms around the world so we don't deplete a source. Balance is key! 

Returning home to Hawaii

KINDER BEAUTY: How has moving back to Hawaii after some time in California affected your work?

KB: It's been soul-filling, to say the least, but the biggest benefit is that I am now able to connect with the farms even more. I can visit anytime, lend a helping hand if they need it, or figure out a new source if they need a break.

I am also able to form new partnerships, collaborate, and create new small-batch products.

Lastly, I can be more involved with reforestation events, beach cleanups, and Hawaiian community efforts.

Honua can only continue to grow if we can boost our Hawaiian agriculture while keeping our farmers and ecosystems thriving. 

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Maya Gottfried is the author of books for children and adults, including Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary (Knopf) and Vegan Love (Skyhorse).