When I decided to start a blog for Inner Light, I knew that I wanted to feature interviews with women that inspire me. I reached out to Cortney Herrera, founder of Wildcare, a holistic skincare line we have the honor of carrying in our Shop. What I didn't realize is the depth of Cortney's wisdom. Our conversation brought me to tears. We both had difficult births, and Cortney's words on how her experience with her dear son Oso has affected her are so beautiful. I also loved hearing about how she started her business is inspired by connecting with nature and was born from her struggles with eczema. Serendipitously, I had never dealt with eczema until just these past few weeks. My Sawyer's had a bad case and I've been trying everything to heal it, so I was intrigued by Cortney's journey. I plan on trying out her Rosemary Bay Hydrosol on his beautiful skin.
Read our interview below, I hope you enjoy it! Also follow Cortney on instagram. xx
KELLY: I’m so excited to chat with you and learn more about your philosophy, lifestyle, and all things Wildcare. You recently had a little boy, Oso! Congrats! This is a big question to start off with but I’d love to know how you’re feeling post-birth. It’s a birth for you as well into this new role as mother. How has it made you feel? How have things shifted in your life?
COURTNEY: Honestly, it has been a whirlwind. I’ve had so many dreams about meeting this little boy over the last few years that becoming a mother now feels instinctual and familiar. He is just an incredible spirit. Our baby arrived 2 months early via an emergency cesarean, which was a huge surprise. While I am forever grateful to my body for carrying this special being and keeping him (and I) healthy, I’ve had to reevaluate what a dream birthing experience looked like to me. Post-birth revolved solely on the separate care and healing of Oso and I, while he remained in intensive care for a month after delivery. This was easily the most difficult time I’ve experienced. In many ways, I’ve come to realize that something as grand as bringing life into the world only makes sense to come hand in hand with embracing some level of darkness and fear. I am feeling everything still - the duality of immense, deep love and celebration of this beautiful life, while simultaneously working through grieving the loss of being separated from my baby his first month. This continues to be an enormous process to work through emotionally. It has shaped how I consider many aspects of daily life now such as being more selective with my time and projects I take on, and protective with the energy I choose surround myself and our baby with. I’ve learned that this process cannot be controlled - it is completely fluid and we get to embrace the shape it takes. I have a much broader perspective on how honest dialogue around birth, regardless of the situational events that occur, should be encouraged, especially amongst other women. I’m excited to share my story because I know that the unexpected, surgical belly birth experience I had is still a natural birth. Oso has helped me release heavy long lost fears and reminds me what gentle strength looks like. He is my greatest teacher, my little guide.
KELLY: WOW, your words have brought me to tears! I completely understand where you're coming from, I had a high chance of a c-section due to twins, but mine was brought on due to pre-eclampsia. My babies were only in the NICU for two days so I cannot imagine all you went through being separate from Oso for a month. You are so strong, I am in awe. I am also in awe of how you balance everything being a small business owner. I'm not sure balance is the right word... how have you been finding a rhythm?
CORTNEY: Thank you! It’s a work in progress, but things are feeling much more smooth lately. Knowing I have these two babies now (business + baby) has helped me prioritize my work much more efficiently. Some days it’s a challenge to get to it, but I spend those working hours now very focused which wasn’t quite the case before. When I have that dedicated space, I feel charged with energy since I don’t know when I’ll get that time again! I am blessed my husband and I both work out of our home, so having that supportive partnership has been *huge* in finding a more adaptable rhythm.
KELLY: What are the rituals that ground your days or weeks? I realize they likely changed with Oso’s arrival, I know mine have!
CORTNEY: My biggest ritual right now is taking neighborhood walks. Everyday around 5:30pm the crows go nutty in the giant ficus trees that line our block. At the same time, a couple of falcons swoop overhead to play and little songbirds go back to their nests and sing- I call it bird o’clock - the perfect orchestra! Besides this, a bath for me with a special snack and face mask is my biggest luxury. There in the water, I have space to completely reset and teeter between organizing my week and zoning out often recalling my dreams. We are also getting back into our ritual (pre-pregnancy) of a trip outdoors once a week, if not more. Something simple and not too far away like the ocean, a nearby mountaintop, or a sage-dotted trail. I have a fun Tumblr account linked on our website that’s dedicated to the photos of these special day trips we’ve adventured to over the years.
KELLY: Oo I need to check out this Tumblr! I'm semi jealous of your Californian access to wild landscapes... okay very jealous. Similar question, but how have you been taking care of yourself? In mind, body, and spirit. What nourishes you?
CORTNEY: Everything above + asking for help has been a big one. I’ve always been the one to take care of others without question, often giving more energy away than I should in order to feel stable. This is the first time I’ve let down my walls a bit more and asked for support while at the same time set stronger boundaries when needed. I rely heavily on my instinct now whether I’m requesting space or asking for help. My family has been huge in offering care whether it be packing orders, or just listening as I process the last few months. I have never been more thankful to have this special support system.
KELLY: That's wonderful, I rely heavily on my family as well. I feel like you’re a true artisan and alchemist. Can you talk a little about how you started Wildcare and your mission?
CORTNEY: Wildcare started as a desire to support and be supported by the plants of my landscape. I was using a prescribed cream from a dermatologist that I was given a handful of times for eczema and was frustrated that it was negatively affecting my skin. This has always been a grey area for me as I lead a very natural life, yet in the past chose to accept these types of “healing” chemical-laden products. (There’s a time and a place of course for medicines if they can help). For me personally, using those strong chemicals didn’t sit right with me and that feeling of upset in choosing to use it manifested into stress, making my eczema worse. I went outside and started looking around at what was growing around our yard, trying to see if there was something soothing I could make instead. I grabbed a handful of rosemary stalks and a couple of bay laurel leaves knowing they were both highly anti-inflammatory. I remember researching different modalities of healing I could do and I started experimenting with distillations at home using a makeshift still of pots with inverted lids and ice to make a hydrosol! I witnessed how well this hydrosol was helping heal my skin and slowly started sending them to friends and family who noticed the same benefits. Beyond a playful pursuit in DIY self-care, I had an epiphany that I wanted this work to reach a broader community. Wildcare was and still is a reminder of how we can be further supported by what we are surrounded by.
KELLY: I am SO inspired by the authenticity of your brand and products. And I love that you are self-taught in your craft. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from creating and running your business?
CORTNEY: Thank you!!! Oh gosh, so many lessons along the way. I’ve had experiences with being too trusting and naive and being taken advantage of, overspending on things that didn’t ultimately matter, navigating the balance of structure vs fluidity...the list goes on. A big thing for me early on was not to get caught up in what’s often portrayed on social media from bigger beauty/wellness brands. While there can be a lot of pressure to crank out one item after another, I am much more keen on focusing on what I have, how they can be improved upon first, and what may work in synergy to elevate our current lineup. If we spend our time focusing on our creations and doing what brings us the most joy instead of making choices to bring in more income, I think that level of passion and authenticity attracts the consumer in a bigger and beautifully natural way. I was talking about this recently...in many ways starting a business is a lot like being a first time parent. You’ll make mistakes along the way that may cause a ripple in the day and then you realize you’re lucky enough to have the next day to start again and do better than the day before.
KELLY: I have so much to learn from you! I have been trying to do everything "work" related with just joy and play vs. the masculine, work mindset. More than a skincare company, I feel as though Wildcare is about using botanicals and herbs to heal. Do you have any great healing stories from customers you can share?
CORTNEY: My favorite stories are the ones that are actually quite similar to my own testimonial. Whenever I get asked about why I started Wildcare I always describe the Hydrosol that cleared my own maladies I touched on earlier - the skin soother Rosemary Bay. It’s what brought Wildcare to life. I have numerous customers that still purchase it since our opening a few years back for the same reason and has done wonders at diminishing their flare-ups. Knowing that just 2 plants and local spring water through this ancient distillation process has helped others feel confident again in their skin makes my heart full! I feel so lucky to just be the tool for the plants to do their magic here.
KELLY: I know they’re all your babies, but if you had to pick one, what would be your favorite Wildcare product (at the moment)?
CORTNEY: My favorite currently is Empress Cypress Hydrosol. I add it to everything- my masks, a spritz emulsified into a few drops of facial oil, misting my pillows at night….the scent is bright with notes of citrus while subtly smoky with hints of evergreen. The way I see my skin transformed from it makes me all the more grateful for this special tree.
KELLY: You and your brand are so grounded and connected to the earth. Do you have any tips for how we can all get a bit more of that into our own lives?
CORTNEY: The best suggestion I have is to breathe fresh air. If you don’t have time to physically drive to a more quiet & natural landscape, take a walk in your neighborhood. Notice everything around you - use your senses. What does the breeze feel like, what scents are in the air, how does the breeze feel on your skin. If you have a yard, plant some seeds and watch how they grow!
KELLY: Any other wisdom you can leave us with?
CORTNEY: I hope if anything, I can inspire at least one person to do something beautiful for themselves this week. When we take care of ourselves, we radiate so much more beauty that can extend to those around us.
Thank you so much it’s been an honor to interview you and it is an honor to bring your beautiful products to our community!