Beauty Brands and the Homemade Feel
Beauty products formulated with the latest scientific breakthrough or the miracle ingredient of the moment may always be the rage, but there’s a trend happening where companies are crafting handmade products in small batches. These soaps, cleansers, scrubs, and the like have none of the unpronounceable ingredients as their well-advertised and blogged about counterparts; instead they pride themselves on their old-fashioned homegrown influence. We’re big fans of these lines and the look and feel of their beautiful, pure products. Read on for our five favorite.
Waxing KaraKara Brook founded her honey-centric line nearly four years ago by accident. An artist who used an ancient technique of painting with beeswax for her pieces, she decided to raise bees on her 102-acre farm on the eastern shore of Maryland as a sustainable way to source her own materials. “The honey turned out to be a greater gift than the wax,” she says. Flooded with an abundance of the sweet stuff, she was inspired to use the surplus to craft beauty products. Fast-forward to today, and her 40-strong range of bar soaps, face masks, body balms, and lip tints are all made by hand in a small apothecary near the farm. Brook and her team are as passionate about the wonders of honey as she is. “It’s moisturizing, it’s antibacterial, and it repairs wounds and scars like you wouldn’t believe,” she says. “Basically, you feel great when you use it.” We couldn’t agree more and especially love how her body balm, scented with lavender and citrus, softened up our parched skin. Brook’s new career isn’t too far-flung from her old one. “It’s similar to being an artist,” she says. “I’m focused on colors and textures and experiment until I get the right finish.” $14-$100. waxingkara.com
Sabbatical BeautyAdeline Koh, a Singapore-born literature professor, moved to the United States when she was 20 years old to attend the University of Michigan. While there, the stress of her new academic life took a toll on her skin. “I began breaking out badly, and my skin was a disaster,” she recalls. “When I used moisturizer, I broke out, and when I didn’t, I had super-dry skin.” A few years later, she read about the traditional Korean beauty routine—multiple layers of moisturizing the face—as a solution for her dryness and decided to give it a try. Within a few weeks of trying the product, she says the texture of her skin was softer and her blemishes were far less visible. Her positive experience gave her the idea to start a Korean-inspired beauty line last fall. Koh, along with two other women, blend products by hand in her Philadelphia apartment almost daily and use ingredients including sake, turmeric, ginseng and fermented sea kelp to bring the cleansers, serums, masks and facial oils to fruition. The current bestseller, a tea-tree and volcanic-ash serum for acne, is one of Koh’s go-tos. “Since founding Sabbatical, my acne and dry skin are a thing of the past,” she says. $10 to $100. sabbaticalbeauty.com
JustBe Skin LineNegin Niknejad handcrafts products, using ingredients like walnuts, quinoa, and raw cacao, in her intimate Manhattan skin-care studio for her Ayurvedic-based skin-care line. “I use the freshest organic plant- and food-based ingredients and no synthetic substances and perfumes,” she says. A trained esthetician, she quit working at an upscale Manhattan spa to take some time off to travel. To help pay for the trip, she offered to do facials for friends at their homes, but instead of using an existing skin-care line for the treatments, she became inspired to make her own cleansers and masks. “I was feeling creative and so happy that I was done with a job I didn’t like,” she says. The elixirs, along with the facials, were a hit, and she eventually opened her studio in Manhattan’s Flatiron district. The space recently celebrated its fifth anniversary, and now offers customized items. We’re suckers for her stuff. After trying her handiwork, our skin has never looked brighter and more refreshed. $15 to $75. justbeskinline.com
Soap and Paper Factory Stay-at-home mom Lisa Devo was at a pumpkin patch with her two young daughters in New York’s Hudson Valley and found handmade soap for sale in its gift shop. Always a fan of herbs and flowers, she bought some of the soaps and became obsessed with the idea of learning how to make her own. “It smelled so good and made my skin so smooth and soft, and I spent the next several months in my kitchen stirring batches of soap in big pots over the stove,” she says. That was back in 2001. Now, her handmade soaps include 14 bars in fragrances such neroli, pine, bergamot and verbena and are sold at 1,500 boutiques worldwide including Colette in Paris. And, though there are a few products that aren’t made by hand, they all have a human touch. “Whether it’s putting labels on the bottles of our body washes, wrapping our soaps, or mixing our scrubs, there is definitely a homemade aspect to everything,” says Devo. And, she’s no longer plugging away alone: A few years into the business, her best friend, Shannon Burch, become her partner and is the creative mind behind the pretty packaging that looks as good as the soap feels. $5 to $62. soapandpaperfactory.com
Carthusia The story of this Capri, Italy-based perfume line—part legend, part history—dates back to the fourteenth century: Upon receiving the news of the impending arrival of Queen Joan of Anjou, the Carthusian monks of the local monastery gathered the most beautiful flowers from around the island to prepare a welcome fit for, literally, a queen. For three days, the blooms sat in water, which took on a magnificent scent and went on to become the first perfume of Capri. Carthusia’s modern history began in 1948, when a monastery prior rediscovered the ancient formulas and, upon permission from the Pope, partnered with a chemist to create the smallest fragrance laboratory in the world, Carthusia. The fragrances, now 20 in all, are still handmade in that lab, using locally sourced flowers such as lily of the valley, and are created with respect to the traditions of craftsmanship and techniques that have been at the core of the brand for centuries. Seductive—almost magical—every time we wear the scents, we get more attention than ever before. $19-$140. bigelowchemists.com