Have you always loved taking care of skin and hair? How did you arrive at this point in your journey?
It all started when I was 10 years old. I became fascinated with styling people's hair and my own and how to use styling products. It was the second thing in my life I discovered that I was really good at so it gave me confidence in life that I really needed. In high school, I discovered The Body Shop. I was sixteen and I was instantly obsessed with natural skin care. It made sense to me. I felt so connected to the cucumber toner, the carrot moisturizer and the blue corn mask. The Body Shop's branding was androgynous. It felt inclusive, so I felt safe, accepted and like it was made for me. It also gave me the opportunity to express my feminine side by applying masks, toners and moisturizers, which wasn’t something boys did and wasn’t accepted. But in the privacy of my own space, in retrospect, I realize how I was finding myself and learning to love myself by using skin care products so early in life. I was practicing self care and didn’t even know it. So the skin care ritual is deeply connected to who I am today and my survival.
Going to cosmetology school was a natural next step on my path. Working in the beauty industry for 20 years allowed me to develop my products and approach to skin, scalp and hair, through working hands on with my clients and creating each treatment. I extracted a vast database of real, practical, holistic knowledge from my clients which informed the development of each product. Pure, organic, medicinal herbs were lacking in the high end natural skin care market and many herbs are clinically proven to support skin health, function and regeneration. Through my studies and working with an herbalist and chemist, I spent 5 years developing my brand to launch my first two products in 2009. I knew that what I had created, antioxidant- and herb-centered skin care, was what was missing from the market and what people really needed.
What does the power of plants mean to you? What drives you to work with naturals?
I use only organic plants and they are extremely powerful, effective and fascinating on many levels. If plants aren’t organic, they aren’t pure and don’t contain the rich bioactivity people deserve and need. ‘Organic’ matters because the plants are not laced with impurities and pesticides and the soil they are grown in contains more nutrient density, which is then delivered to your skin, hair and body.
Plants are the original medicine. They are the source of all the active healing constituents for health and wellbeing. I use plants synergistically in my formulas which offers increased benefit for multiple skin types and concerns. My inspiration with plants and their skin regenerative and healing capability is endless and cosmetic science and research are always bringing us new ways of harnessing these actives to successfully deliver them into the skin where they make a real difference and support our health and beauty.
It seems like your products are your babies, lovingly formulated and crafted with intention. What is the process of inspiration and formulation like for you?
The creative process is a mystery. First, I am drawn to something, maybe it’s a single whole ingredient or an extract, a research study or a type of product or a level of performance that doesn’t exist with something on the market. I write down these thoughts and let it go. Then they come back to me at random times, in bits and pieces. It's like I'm guided to and through the project. Products start to show themselves in strange ways and I throw myself into research and development with the ideas that are coming forward. Many times they change drastically and I can see how I’m being shown something to lead me to something else that I really want. I only look to create what I can do differently. It has to be fresh and innovative. Everything else is a waste. I only work to create what needs to be done better on a more efficacious level or what needs to be modernized. After determining the ingredients and the type of product I begin working on the formulation at home in my studio. I’ve learned that all great things come from tinkering and failure. I make many iterations while changes are continually made and the product keeps improving. When the formula is just about perfect and I’m feeling it, and when I know it’s going to work, then I share it with my chemist and we fine tune the creation.
As naturals grow in popularity and become a part of the mainstream culture of beauty, how important are the ideas of quality, responsible sourcing and transparency?
Transparency is all you really have. Today’s consumer is savvy and intelligent and we only want to educate them more. I love being as transparent as I can without giving away my trade secrets and sources. There is nothing to hide when you have the highest standards. When you have integrity and that is what you are sharing as an expression of your brand and products, you are naturally open about what you are doing and where your raw materials are coming from because you are so excited about the level of excellence that you are putting forward and sharing with the consumer. When you put people and product first, when your intention is truly to give people something of worth and value, it comes through in everything you do. The whole reason why I started sharing my homemade skin care creations with my clients so many years ago was because they worked and they helped make their skin more beautiful and I just felt a responsibility to continue. My clients needed my products, so I made a commitment to myself to keep making them available and only share the best on every level. That’s really the only way it works. That’s why I put my name on them.
It seems like you are constantly evolving, educating yourself and others on new (and ancient!) techniques. What is your latest obsession? We hear you’re into Gua Sha.
You cannot stop educating yourself in your field. You must learn and expose yourself to everything that is developing and going on. A lot of it won’t matter because you have to your own thing but it’s about being open to what is happening, the innovation and passing it on to your customers. My customers trust me and that is something I am truly grateful for. I am nothing without their trust and confidence and I want to help them as much as I possibly can on every level.
When I started learning about Gua Sha from my dear friend and Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist Sandra Chiu, it wasn’t very trendy. Now, it’s grown into an industry phenomenon. I’m so happy such a powerful, rejuvenating, beneficial ancient practice has made it to mainstream. I’ve assisted Sandra instructing many Gua Sha classes and it’s one of my favorite workshops to help lead. Gua Sha is dear to my heart and I practice it as a part of my self care ritual every single day. Right now, I’m loving focusing on Gua Sha Neck technique as neck tension is a huge issue with many people and where we hold a huge amount of stress that can lead to accelerated aging. Neck tension and stagnation is also exasperated by working on devices all day every day. Everything happening in the neck relates to and informs the muscles of the face, and to see improvement in the appearance of the skin, the connective tissues and musculature of the neck must be addressed first.
What does “beauty is wellness” mean to you?
Honestly, I don’t think it makes sense to me because beauty and wellness don't equate. To me, it’s more like, beauty can be wellness. It can be a doorway to wellness. Beauty is personal and it can be defined and expressed in as many different ways as there are people. If a person has an idea of beauty that isn’t particularly healthy or life giving, how could it be wellness? Having, creating, and/or maintaining beautiful skin IS beauty and can be a great practice of self love, but it can also be an unhealthy attempt to keep up with or achieve society’s standards of beauty that are totally impossible.
Of course, I feel good about myself and I’m happier when my skin is clear and radiant. I love applying products, caring for and accepting myself. This kind of beauty is wellness. Sometimes I pick myself apart and it’s difficult to appreciate my beauty. When I’m struggling like this, it’s an intimate my journey with myself spiritually, and it doesn’t always feel like wellness and sometimes I don’t have the answers. What makes me feel loved and confident is always changing and evolves as I grow older. True beauty is working to accept yourself and feel good with however you appear, but it’s not easy. Aging is an art. True beauty is our light, our heart, our soul that we allow to shine. Wellness is a true, holistic, spiritual practice that involves many choices every day in relation to how we treat ourselves and live our lives.
What are your guiding daily practices to keep you present for this work?
Daily meditation. Asking myself questions and questioning my thoughts. The work of Byron Katie. A committed yoga practice. Accepting what makes me feel good and what’s important for me. Practicing non-judgement thoughts of myself and of others and when I fail, forgiving myself. Remembering it’s all a practice and I’m never done.
How has the beauty industry changed since your career began? Where do you see the industry going?
Oh my, it’s entirely different. Our market barely existed when I began. When I started out there was no defined market for luxury, high performance organic products. That’s why I persevered, because it existed on such a small level that wasn’t recognized and people needed it. One of the biggest parts of my mission was, and remains to be, to educate people about how effective, powerful and sustainable truly natural and organic products can be. There were no products like this when I began.
Who are your heroes?