Herbalist Nichole Santigati Shares the Healing Power of Plants with Her Skincare Brand
By Anna Befort
Nichole Santigati is the recipient of a micro grant from My Founder Story, a program dedicated to providing resources to female-identifying founders. Since 2018, more than $220,000 in grants and services have been donated to women business owners. To learn more and apply, visit our grants page.
It was like a bad dream come to life: Nichole Santigati had to give a speech in front of her college public-speaking class, and she was covered in hives. The nurse tried to reassure her that it wasn’t as bad as she thought, but Nichole was itchy all over and embarrassed in front of her classmates. Though she’d struggled with eczema her whole life, this was a new experience—a reaction to the synthetic fragrances and chemicals in her new laundry detergent or body wash. The nurse said she needed to stop using them.
Stopping the use of synthetic chemicals isn’t an easy thing, though, in a country where many everyday products contain ingredients linked to allergies, cancer, and hormone disruption. (The U.S. has much more lax regulation of skin-care chemicals than Canada or Europe, where many of the same ingredients are banned.) As Nichole struggled to find products that worked for her, she decided to go to her first farmers market, where she met a woman who made her own cold-process soaps. Nichole immediately fell in love with the idea of natural handmade soaps, realizing they were something she could make to help others like her. Two years later, when her dad asked what passion she wanted to pursue as she graduated from college with a fine-arts degree, her answer was clear: soap.
The path to get there wasn’t always clear, though. Nichole’s interest in making soap led to a growing desire to have her own homestead, so she enrolled in a sustainable agriculture program. It was in a business class during her first (and only) semester there that the idea for her company started to take shape, and she created a business plan she still looks at today. It was also in sustainable ag school that a conversation with a fellow student helped redirect her course, as the classmate told Nichole about the herbalism program at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. Nichole didn’t know what an herbalist did, but she knew she wanted to learn more about plants and their healing properties.
The 15-month herbalism program helped Nichole hone many aspects of her mission: how to use different herbs and ethically source them, why it’s so important to preserve Mother Nature for future generations, and how you shouldn’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat. Though her herbalism program was mostly focused on internal applications of herbs, Nichole was intrigued by topical uses, given her experience with eczema and skin reactions. She was excited to share the magical properties of herbs with others, so she started playing around with bath tea satchels, including herbs like anti-inflammatory rosemary, circulation-boosting eucalyptus and anti-bacterial basil.
It was the pandemic, however, that gave Nichole the final nudge she needed to start her own business, after she lost her job as a pet resort manager. She’d already been selling bath satchels and simple soaps to family and friends, but now she decided to go all-in. She reached out to a woman who was starting her own market, and the woman offered Nichole a spot if she could get all her paperwork together. And thus Copper Crescent Botanicals was born in January 2021. Its aim: to make natural small-batch body products that help customers feel closer to nature—products like Nichole herself had needed a few years earlier. The business name is a nod to her home state of Arizona (copper), the healing energies of the moon and sun (crescent), and the herbs she uses to craft her products (botanicals).
Copper Crescent Botanicals started with one market in late January, and now, nine months later, it has regular markets every Saturday and Sunday, two to three pop-up markets a month, shelf space in multiple retail stores, and its own website. Nichole still makes soaps with natural ingredients like oats, shea butter and hemp, but she’s also expanded into products like her sweet orange facial oil, calendula facial toner, skin salves and a new men’s skin care line.
In everything she does, she’s passionate about considering what impact her choices will have not only on the health of the human body, but also on the health of the planet as ingredients wash down the drain or end up in the soil. She makes sure the herbs, oils, clays, beeswax and salts she uses are sustainably sourced and fair-trade, and she uses recyclable packaging and ships her products through the carbon-neutral shipping company Sendle. She also keeps the health of her communities in mind, working with small local farmers whenever she can and trying to uplift other small businesses along the way. “I don’t see people as competition,” she says. “I see them as my community, and I want to support that. There’s enough for everyone.”
Photo: Copper Crescent Botanicals
About the author: As a writer, editor, and yoga teacher, Anna believes strongly in the power of words to connect us. She is passionate about using that power to uplift women’s voices and create spaces where women can connect to their own innate wisdom, creativity, and wholeness.