Dr. Sarah Villafranco used to care for ER patients. Now, the Colorado-based force behind Osmia Organics uses plant-derived ingredients such as herbs, milks and essential oils to create handcrafted skincare products with love.
What does wellness mean to you? "Having practiced medicine for ten years, I got to see a really unique perspective on wellness. I took care of patients in the emergency room when they were pretty stressed out, and that's certainly not an ideal setting to try and evaluate someone's approach to their own health when they're panicked and worried. But, I did get to see the degree to which varying people sort of 'chose' their health. So to me, it starts with the choice to be healthy, which sounds really elementary—but it kind of isn't. There is a strange entitlement syndrome that seems to happen sometimes in—what I would say are less healthy people—where they feel people owe them their health. Really, it has to start with the simplest commitment from you, which is, 'I'm choosing to treat my body in a way that will result in the maximum level of health.'"
Is that something you practice yourself in your day to day life? "Yeah, I think I've practiced it since I was a kid, really. Growing up in a household like I did with active parents—everybody has some degree of dysfunction—but for the most part, I had a pretty loving family, and then I stayed athletic through my whole life."
That's great. Any tips on staying motivated? "One trick I try to tell people to do—especially people who have addictive personalities—is to get themselves addicted to endorphins. It sounds silly, but the word endorphins comes from 'endogenous morphine.' Endogenous means made from the inside, and morphine is a pain-relieving medication. So if you can create these endorphins in your body on a regular basis, you'll come to crave them in a way that motivates you for exercise purposes. It really does happen. Food wise, I try to tell people to think of it as fuel. Really, we are imperfect machines. So if you're going to supply your body with poor fuel, you just can't expect great performance. It's not fair."
How did you transition from ER medicine to skin care entrepreneur? "From a transition standpoint, I was working in the ER and I really liked it, but I was missing something. And then my mom died at age 64. She was a beautiful creature, she just went too soon from pancreatic cancer, which obviously she couldn't help. But I think that shortened the timeline of my own life, it made me think, 'What do I really want to be doing? Because I don't really know how long I have.' I mean, none of us do, but when you lose your mom too soon it becomes extra clear."
And what did you discover? "I started to feel a desire to get to people, on an inspirational level, sooner. I was taking care of them after bad stuff had already happened, and I was thinking, 'I wish I could get in their heads so I could remind them that they have a choice in their own health, to a degree. Certain things are unavoidable, so everything else you can choose you should be choosing. I love using the mountains of Colorado and these beautiful smells and scents I get to live in to do that through mountain biking, trail running, yoga, jumping in the snow and playing with my kids. What I really want is for people to get how beautiful the everyday stuff is. It's easy when I live where it's so shockingly beautiful here every day. But there's beauty to be found in the middle of New York City. You just have to choose to see how beautiful the mundane moments are that make up your life."
Have you always appreciated the small things or was that learned? "I think I've always been a noticer. I've always noticed someone's outfits when they walked in the room, whether it was fantastic or absurd, and appreciated it tenderly either way. Not in a critical way. So I've always noticed the details around me... And right around the time I had just had a baby, my second child, I took a soap-making class and I totally fell in love, totally. It was chemistry, which I've always been a science nerd, and beauty products, and I've been a lotions and potions girl since I can remember. And that really inspired me to explore the degree to which we can take beautiful, natural ingredients and make them into luxury products."
How does your medicine background affect what you do now? "Certainly, it's wonderful for me on a soul level. I hate being sold to. I don't want to be pitched. And I think that's one way our products might feel different to the consumer. I've already done all the vetting of ingredients to see if all the products are really good for you, evaluated the science behind it—I've been able to help a lot of people that way and I'm grateful for that. Because that's why you go into medicine in the first place, right? To try to help people."