Chatting with Tarmaine Hales, founder of Ħarlo Design Studio.
As a qualified aesthetician and Sydney Design School graduate, Tarmaine Hales has long had an eye for detail and passion for botanical skincare. After struggling to find skincare that ticked all of her boxes, Tarmaine refined her own formulas, and ultimately launched her Canberra-based design studio Ħarlo; a "space to honour local and international artisans and creators able to transform raw materials from the earth into something magical and functional."
What made you start Ħarlo?
I have been making botanical based skincare since my graduation in 2001. As my career changed and my family grew, I became time poor and struggled to find skincare formulations that ticked all of the boxes for both myself and my family (as an aesthetician and conscious consumer, I guess, there were a lot of boxes). This led me back to making. In 2020 we decided to make our products more widely available so we refined the formulas and opened the online store.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Quite often the little ones dictate my morning routine, but I do try to start my day with a self note of things I am grateful for.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
There’s definitely a few in the ‘beauty’ industry. To be honest just even the ‘beauty’ title is a bit of a barrier. What is ‘beauty’? Because to me, beauty isn’t really the complexion of a persons skin. Unrelated challenges aside, in terms of socially conscious challenges I think the levels of misconceptions is a primary one, especially when it comes to ingredients more generally and their performances, particularly for ‘natural’ water based ingredients. I think also people are used to products feeling a certain way. Often a product is designed based on how it feels on the skin, or how easy it is to apply, rather than on the actual benefits it gives to the skin. So introducing something that is absolutely 100% botanical, highly concentrated, and non-conventional in terms of form or feeling sometimes has its barriers. But I think that all comes down to educating and informing. People are becoming more aware of things like greenwashing, so the truths are finally starting to rise to the surface in this industry, as they should.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of Ħarlo, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us a bit about them?
The products are handcrafted in small batches by me, in my solar powered studio.
As many people know and appreciate, there are so many aspects to running a small business. Small business owners often have 10 different industry hats they need to know and understand. But, making for me as an aesthetician and designer, is the soul giving aspect of the business and the most enjoyable part.
I was fortunate to have a very cultured upbringing in quite a creative family. Over time I developed an appreciation of the wabi-sabi philosophy values of simplicity, modesty and nature. Something which I hope to encourage in what I sometimes find to be two very fabricated and excessive industries. Authenticity and honesty is important to me. I don’t believe in false promises, criticism or encouraging individuals to fix or change the unique attributes that make them who they are. I believe in sustainable, filler free, high quality botanical skin nourishment. I think changing our routines into purposeful rituals, where we act and move with intention and presence is meaningful for our everyday lives, and I hope that our little shop inspires that.
Why did you pick the ingredients you have chosen to work with?
There are a lot of factors which are carefully considered in the selection of a particular ingredient.
We are certified toxic- free, vegan and cruelty free. Additionally we don’t celebrate any synthetics, palm oil/palm oil derivatives or wax’s (natural or otherwise). We also purposefully rule out any water, or water based ingredients, such as infusions and gels, which are largely diluted in some form or another and require preservatives and often emulsifiers for product longevity and form.
In addition to our strict no naff policy we look into the ingredients attributes, their organic status, and their comedogenic and absorbing ratings.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
I was really fortunate in my initial teachings. My teacher was a highly regarded aesthetician, Reiki Master and Ayurvedic practitioner. She introduced energy and its meaning into my life. I think one of my favourite learnings from her was that what shows up in our lives is a direct reflection of our inner thoughts and emotions.
What’s next for you Ħarlo?
We will continue to be grateful, to share our knowledge and to improve our products and services so they continue to benefit both the skin and our environment. There are still huge ethical barriers in the industry which we are committed to exploring including the fair trade of many oils and ingredients on the market, their farming impacts both in terms of the environment, the soil, and also the longterm conservation of certain botanicals .
One book everyone should read? Why?
That’s a tough one, I am currently reading Reality, Creation and Manifestation by Frederick Dodson. I’m enjoying it so far, its gentle reminders, I think, are always beneficial regardless of the person or their situation. I also really enjoy listening to the Minimalist Vegan’s podcast, and appreciate their journey in inspiring people to live with ‘less stuff and more compassion.’
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
I think the efforts of any conscious company, cooperation, or consumer should be celebrated. It’s never a straightforward task, there’s always easier and a more cost effective way to do things or cheaper products to support. The Made of: Tomorrow’s Standard. is a perfect narration that this is imperative for our future and for the future of our planet. And, I think anyone choosing to support that standard is a Mover & Shaker in their own special way.