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If you haven’t asked your friends on social media about their own favorite sustainable brands, put it on your to-do for after you read and pin this post. That’s how I found out about natural and organic oral care brand Terra & Co, which is run by two sisters on a mission to create natural, non-toxic and cruelty-free products. Their story is impressive—from their beginnings amidst war in Bosnia to managing beauty startups in LA to building a company while living on opposite coasts (NYC and LA) and now having products sold in coveted stores across the US. If eco friendly dental floss and oral care products (besides the bamboo brush) aren’t already on your zero waste shopping list, we’re pretty confident they will be after hearing Azra’s story.
Tell us a bit about you and Amra…
Amra and I always wanted to start a business that pays it forward. Growing up during the war in Bosnia, we had so many people and organizations help us during those terrible years. Postwar we moved to the US, got an education and both worked in the beauty business for over a decade. We never thought that oral care would be something we’d get into. A few years ago, while Amra was pregnant, she used only natural products and limited products filled with chemicals. That’s how she found activated charcoal powder and saw her teeth whiten, but it was a super messy process. She thought about how there should be toothpaste that contains activated charcoal but has no fluoride and fillers. Just simple organic ingredients like coconut oils and peppermint essential oils. She called me and we started looking for manufacturing here in the USA.
We were not sure how people would react to black toothpaste, but almost three years later, we have a brand that is sitting on shelves at Anthropologie, Saks, Free People, and eco-friendly hotels.
Now that we have created a successful brand and have the power to help others, each month we donate oral products to the Downtown Women’s Shelter in Los Angeles to help low income and homeless women. Amra and I have been personally visiting the center and working with them. One of the wishlist items in almost every shelter is toothpaste. We hope as our business grow to help out more shelters in our communities. Terra & Co plans to start a fund where the percentage of each sale will go towards helping low income and homeless women.
How did your combined experience in the cosmetics industry help set you up for a business in natural oral care?
I’ve lived and worked in NYC as a makeup artist and beauty creative for over a decade. Amra managed few beauty startups in LA so her business side and my creative side were proven to be a good fit to get a business idea to a working business.
What was your biggest challenge in creating all-natural, zero waste oral care products?
We both believe that the future of consumer products have to be created with the least impact on mother earth. The biggest challenge is finding biodegradable packaging and lowering our carbon footprint. After attending a few packaging trade shows I found a limited number of suppliers who focus on eco-friendly and biodegradable packaging, to my surprise. Especially because we want all of our products to be made in USA.
Can you talk about the differences between conventional dental floss and Brilliant Black?
Conventional dental floss is usually made out of strands of nylon or Teflon with added wax and flavors. Neither of these polymers is biodegradable, and not to even talk about plastic packaging that flosses come in. Brilliant Black floss is made with bamboo fiber, activated charcoal (why not whiten between teeth?) coconut oil, candelilla wax (vegan wax) and peppermint and spearmint essential oils. All of these ingredients are biodegradable including our carton box that floss comes in.
Tell us more about the packaging you use for your products.
From day one we have focused to not only make chemical-free products that work but to minimize packaging as much as we can as a small business. Our biodegradable bamboo charcoal toothbrush used to come in a plastic travel case and now we have switched to box made out of the biodegradable carton and printed with eco-friendly ink in California. We have been working and testing new tubes made out of sugar canes that will be a great replacement for recycled plastic.
What are a few of you and Amra’s fave sustainable beauty/skincare brands?
There are so many brands that we both love. Few of the favorites are: Dr. Hauschka, ILIA Beauty, Immunocologie, Noniko Natural Skincare, Jane Iredale…