Kapua Browning started her brand Honua Beauty with one thing in mind: “to create a line using modern skincare technology but inspired by traditional Hawaiian healing plants and methodologies,” she tells thirteen lune.
Browning was born and raised in Pālolo Valley, Oahu, and has been an esthetician for over 17 years. Throughout her career as a skincare professional, Hawaiian culture has been central to her work, and it's embedded in the ethos of her Honua Beauty brand.
“I decided I wanted to treat skincare the same way I was taught to look at overall health and wellness growing up: looking at the root cause of conditions rather than masking the symptoms or issues that arise.”
Throughout her life she relied on the traditional Hawaiian practice of plant healing called Lā'au Lapa'au, which Browning says treats “the root cause of issues” rather than the symptoms, “using plants and herbs to heal” the body.
With her knowledge of these cultural practices, Browning first started her own apothecary spa, From The Root, where she made all of the products she used on her clients. “The demand eventually grew beyond my treatment room and evolved into the worldwide brand it is today, Honua, which means earth, land or foundation,” she says.
Now, Honua is a successful business that sources its ingredients from Hawaiian farms and donates to Hawaiian communities to sponsor beach cleanups, reforestation, and more. The following are insights from Browning regarding her experiences being a founder, her beauty philosophy, and early beauty influences.
GET TO KNOW – Kapua Browning
Do you have a beauty philosophy? What is it?
You should always mirror what you are doing on the outside and on the inside as well. I eat, drink, and consume many of the ingredients that I use topically, such as Noni, 'Olena, Astaxanthin, and Kalo. I understand how important it is for us to consume vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants if we want to maximize the results on the outside. I also know that it’s important to treat the root cause of skin conditions, allowing for a simple ritual with powerful results.
What were some of your first memories of beauty growing up? What are some early beauty influences?
One of my favorite beauty secrets is so simple: soulful swims in the ocean! Growing up in Hawaii, we were taught by our parents and grandparents to jump in the ocean to heal acne, sickness, or even a broken heart. It was the heal-all. It wasn't until I became an esthetician did I understand why our salt water was good for the skin. It was all the healing minerals, like magnesium and potassium. I know daily dips in the ocean aren't accessible to everyone, which is why I infuse our Pa'akai Cleansing Cream with liquified Hawaiian Salt straight from the shores of Hawai'i. Kukui Nut Oil and Aloe Vera are other plants I remember being used on my skin from a young age when I had too much sun. Both plants have been used to heal skin from inflammation and sun damage for many years.
What does self-care look like in your life?
A daily morning health tincture of Noni, 'Olena, Ni'oi, honey and black pepper, plus a coffee to start my day. A Pa'akai Cleansing Treatment in the shower, if I can't take a dip in the ocean, followed by a facial self-massage using the rest of my Honua products.
Time alone in nature, whether it's a quick walk, swim at the beach, or a hike. It truly makes me happy. Play time with my kids and husband. (At this age, it's a multitude of sports or surfing.) Yummy soul food for dinner, like home cooked Hawaiian and local dishes. Finally, an evening beauty ritual to end my self-care day. I also love to go to sleep early.
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
Seeing so many wonderful women-owned brands emerging with unique concepts, especially ones that bring culture, traditions, and diversity to the mix, as that was very hard to find when I first became an esthetician 17 years ago.
Additionally, it is a relief to see more brands focusing on ensuring their packaging is reusable or recyclable. We have a long way to go in the industry and Honua has been focused on sustainability from day one, so it is nice to have some company in this massive challenge we have of reducing waste.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
It was rough. I started very small, grass roots everything and wore all the hats initially, as I had no budget to start with while seeing brands with money backing them grow so quickly and beautifully.
The growing pains were real, always wondering how long I could keep my business thriving and my passion burning. Now almost seven years in, I am so proud of the journey Honua has been through, the amazing partners and employees that I brought on board and how we are still quite small and family-owned, but growing in our divine time and ways.
Balancing family and work time was also something I had to learn from the beginning. I made a point to turn off the work button at certain times to spend quality time with the fam, and I also involved them in many of the aspects such as the ingredient sourcing, farm work, and even bottling and labeling in the early days!
What has been the biggest win thus far?
It brings me so much joy to be able to not only source from our Hawaiian farms, but to now have a budget to donate to our Hawaiian communities and farms that provide food and education, help to bring in farm interns, and sponsor beach cleanups and reforestations projects. In Hawaiian culture we learn that it is crucial to give back to the land more than you take. This simple concept stuck with me since I was a kid, and reminds me how important it is to make sure we are always giving or helping to grow more than we are using. It's the only way we can continue to grow.
On the topic of giving back, Honua has created a brand that is very sustainable–all of our bottles are glass so are fully and easily recyclable. We do offer consumers the option of sending bottles back to us and they are reused in housing materials, art supplies and even coastal restoration through a nonprofit partner. Our boxes are all recyclable or compostable so we are confident our landfill impact is minimal.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?
I would love to see more consumers really appreciating the culture, the history, the love, the stories, and multiple hands that created the products they are using and realize that many of these brands are also giving back to a diverse community and inspiring the next generation.