Bottega Organica, How Close to Nature Can we Get?

How powerful and important are the things that we choose to put on our skin? Bottega Organica is interested in answering this question. Dr. Andrea Alimonti began researching a very particular type of sage called Prawn Sage, also known as Salvia Haenkei. He found that this plant had anti-senescence activity and instead of putting it in another vitamin or supplement, he decided to put it into his entire line of skincare, haircare, and food products. Not only that, he wanted to make the line as organic, pure, and close to nature as possible. 

Bottega grows its own ingredients from both their farms in the Columbia County and on their family farm in Italy. I had the chance to visit their NY farm a few months ago, and this was the first time I had been to the exact place where the ingredients in my products were sourced from. I was looking down at the ground and thinking "this is the birthplace". I spent time with the founding partner and head of products formulation, Mary Ahern, who talked to me about the farming practices and why it's so important to grow ingredients for the line organically. She has an obvious interest in science and so in collaborating with Dr. Alimonti, this brand brings something potent and unique to the table, a combination of passion for both science and nature. 

Their line consists of different serums, oils, creams, scrubs, sprays and they also have tea, olive oil, and olive oil soap. These products are unadulterated and powerful. I saw and felt big change when I used these products. If you live in New York City, you can visit their charming brick and mortar store in the West Village, and they even have an organic Italian restaurant a couple of blocks away. From farm to face and farm to table, Bottega Organica is taking both movements to the next level. 

My favorite product is the Body Contour Formula, with Peppermint and Chili Pepper. I love to rub it on my body after the shower and have noticed my skin is much tighter in the areas where I apply it. Goodbye cellulite. On their website, it says it has "Pure organic chili peppers, which are rich in capsaicin molecules that enhance micro-circulation, increase blood flow to cellulite prone areas. Peppermint stimulates, energizes, and refreshens the skin. This synergic action favors deep tissue penetration and rejuvenation from the activity of prawn sage and natural vitamins from carrots and apricots." This baby is front row center in my bathroom. 

Q+A with Bottega Organica

Q: How did Bottega get started? How long has it been around for?
A: Bottega Organica launched in January 2014 with the research of Dr. Andrea Alimonti. The discovery of powerful anti-senescence activity in prawn sage (salvia haenkei) inspired the desire to create a skincare line that would help to preserve cellular health and maintain skin’s youthful glow. As doctors working in oncology, there was a poignant awareness of a need for nontoxic skincare, so we only use plant-derived organic or wildcrafted ingredients. Our mission is to create effective anti-aging skincare without artificial or synthetic ingredients.

Q: What makes Bottega different than other organic product lines? 
A: We combine science with nature — high level research conducted by Dr. Alimonti and our scientific advisory board combined with natural, organic ingredients from our farms or known certified organic growers. We also don’t incorporate any preservatives in our products. All products are made with purely plant material. In other words, we address natural preservation throughout our process.

Q: Where do you source your ingredients from?
A: We have a large percentage of our plant material organically grown or wildcrafted and hand-harvested now on our farms — in Liguria, Italy and Chatham, NY. We are currently in the process of developing this even further to be able to produce all of our own ingredients. In addition, all of the olive oil in our line is produced on our farm in Italy, so we can ensure the purest quality and the best maturation for the olives.

Q: Tell us more about the prawn sage. What makes it so special?
A: Dr. Alimonti developed a scientific method to select plants with anti-aging effects. He just published his discovery in a prestigious medical journal, Nature. Using his method, we were able to select several plants with great anti-aging activity. Salvia haenkei has the strongest activity and is incorporated into all the products. While not reaching the star status of salvia haenkei, other herbs also have potent anti-aging activity, such as French lilac and wild carrots, and gain approval after extensive research conducted by the scientific board and Mary Ahern.

Q: How are the recipes formulated?
A: Mary Ahern, our head of formulation and product development, has decades of experience in organic skincare. She personally grows and hand-harvests many of the plants in our upstate NY farm. The ingredients are then formulated using natural, traditional botanical extraction methods, directly onsite at the farm. Our products are currently made in small batches at our upstate New York apothecary and in Italy, near our Ligurian farm. 

Q: How effective are the products?
A: Our products show strong anti-aging activity on skin cells and were also clinically tested by a team of independent investigators under the direction of Massimiliano Ferri MD, a specialist in cosmetic surgery at the University Tor Vergata in Rome, Italy, with overwhelmingly positive results: the clinical trial results showed objective and subjective improvement in wrinkle burden, skin glow, skin texture and elasticity in more than 90% of tested patients. 

Q: What part do you play in conservation and respect for the land?
A: The Ligurian farm has been in the founders’ family for more than 500 years. Throughout that time till now, it has never been touched by pesticides or synthetic chemicals. The farm in upstate NY has also never seen any chemicals whatsoever. We use crop rotation to keep soil from being depleted and green manure to introduce nutrients and organic matter. Proper tilling protects soil from erosion and leaching. Currently our chickens and, of course, wild animals freely roam our pastures to introduce manure from a foraged diet. In our wildcrafting practice, we are careful to harvest with respect to natural cycles of the plants proliferation. While we grow all of the herbs with anti-aging activity, we also allow many of the naturally present plant species to grow freely. 

Q: How difficult is the process of getting certified organic?
A: The process of getting certified organic for us is easier (than those converting farm land) because both farms have never been used for commercial farming, never been touched with pesticides, and nothing around the farms would contaminate the plants. In order to be compliant with current regulations, we still needed to wait three years in order to obtain certification, but the three years are up in May 2016. 

Q: What’s it like to have a restaurant down the street that you are in some way related to?
A: The restaurant, Quartino Bottega Organica, is a great way to get our message and brand story out, especially to those who really value the importance of eating wholesome, organic foods. It’s a process: you start eating organic and next you realize the importance of applying to your skin only products free of toxic chemicals. The skin is the largest human organ and can absorb many harmful ingredients, or you can expose it to truly anti-aging and pure organic skincare. It starts from the food and it ends with the skin.

Q: What is the big dream for Bottega? 
A: We hope that the Bottega Organica experience is part of a positive change in the way we think about all products that we use in our lives. We want to inspire confidence that you don’t need toxins and chemicals for a product to be effective.