How Australian Bush Ingredients Fuel Our New Favorite Skincare Line
A chance encounter with a sleekly packaged, super-moisturizing lip potion was like our meet-cute with Rohr Remedy, a collection of insanely effective lotions, serums, and balms made by Aussie Emily Rohr. And it turns out there’s also a pretty crazy story behind how Emily discovered the unheard of (by most of us, anyway) ingredients that make her stuff work so damn well. So, of course, we asked her to tell it to us.
Q: You have an art background, but you’re obsessed with skin. How’d that start?
A: “Rohr Remedy is a beautiful collision of so many different things in my life. I grew up with a dermatologist father, so we were surrounded by medical magazines. I always say I developed my passion for abstract art from a lifetime of being exposed to close-up images of skin conditions! I studied art—and strangely that includes a lot of chemistry, so I’ve always had to work with viscosity, color, and chemicals. My husband comes from a very remote part of Australia, so because of that we ended up in Broome, on the far Western Coast of Australia. I set up a gallery there working with the last indigenous people to come in from the desert, and they introduced me to the traditional remedies that fueled my desire to start a skincare line.”
Q: So how did that shift from art to skincare happen?
A: “These wonderful women I was working with worried everyday about their children and grandchildren and the future of their culture. We tried to get the younger generation to try making art, but they weren’t interested. So instead, we thought maybe they could try collecting plants and making medicines to keep that important knowledge alive. It’s very much use it or lose it—so we decided to use it.”
Q: And how did that turn into a business?
A: “This all coincided with the land rights movement, which saw many of the different language groups get their traditional territory back, much it was bereft of infrastructure. But these women and I felt there was strong potential for those communities, as we knew the value of the plants on these seemingly barren lands. So we started Rohr, which is really a merging of my family’s traditions and what I’ve learned over 20 years of living in the Australian bush and experimenting endlessly to create effective products. We work with people we have strong ties with and always ensure they own all the rights to collect plants. This way, the harvesters run their own companies, so they can control the supply. We all focus on sustainability, every step of the way.”
Q: Tell us about a few of your favorite Australian skincare secret weapons.
1) KAKADU PLUM
“In Broome, Kakadu plum is called gubinge, and the trees are everywhere. They are beloved, and extremely popular—when they fruit, everyone just walks down the street and picks them off the trees. They are like a super shot of everything good. Sometimes my kids and I freeze them and puree with lime to make sorbets. A few decades ago, local farm owners started researching their benefits, and it turned out to be it was the most potent form of Vitamin C in the world, by significant percentages (800 times more potent than wild blueberries). Their extract is also incredibly stable, which is rare for Vitamin C. It helps brighten skin and reverse sun damage.”
“Boab trees are everywhere in the Kimberly region, where I live. They produce a fruit similar to coconut and are such iconic and wonderful symbols. Lots of people carve the nuts as artworks, and the kids eat the dry flesh of the fruit. They have been traditionally used to make flour and oil and as a form of medicine. The seeds and nuts are like a multivitamin—they are particularly rich in Vitamin C but include an incredibly high ratio of your daily needs. Boab oil is an extremely balanced moisturizer and has a really long shelf life.”
3) GUMBI GUMBI
“This tree is actually from Northern New South Wales. This is where my father grew up, and the tiny orange fruits are legendarily famous for fixing any kind of viral infection. We work with an aboriginal family group there to harvest them. They are traditionally brewed into a tea to heal colds, and the Southern Cross University has been studying it and finding a surprising amount of evidence that they are anti-viral. This is the base of our lip balm, and we use a very old formula to make it.”
4) DESERT LIME
“These are sort of similar to finger limes, but round, with lots of little orbs inside. They’re packed with folate and Vitamin E, plus they’re exceptionally rich in antioxidants. Folate is important for producing red blood cells, healing wounds, building muscles, and maintaining the nervous system and in every function that requires cell division.”