After Her Diagnosis a Brand Was Born

Nothing prepares you for a life-threatening health diagnosis, especially at age 30. First came the fatigue, followed by hair loss, a full body rash, and a hundred pound weight gain. Then the joints locked up and the swelling began. It got so bad she could barely open her eyes.

Dana Jackson is among the 1.5 million people in the U.S. battling Lupus. Her illness took away her glamorous and glitzy life in the music industry and replaced it with a lonely new one, that of a recluse. At her lowest point she looked down from her 14th floor apartment and considered letting go.

And then she looked up.

Suddenly, faith meant something different and she knew this crossroads, however painful, had a purpose. She made a choice to release the person she was and embrace the one she became — not the one with Lupus, but the one who found deeper meaning as a result. The possessions and people that used to matter no longer did. Her perspective shifted and Dana realized that up until her diagnosis she had been wearing a mask and not living an authentic life.

It was because of this epiphany that Dana created Beneath Your Mask, a line of skin care products for those with health challenges involving the immune system such as Lupus, cancer, and other autoimmune diseases. These individuals have difficulty with the detoxification system in their bodies and sometimes struggle with mainstream products that contain preservatives or other synthetic ingredients. She also developed a hair and scalp serum to help those who’ve experienced hair loss due to illness, hormonal changes or age.
Her story resonated with me on a personal level. May is Lupus Awareness Month, along with a couple of other lesser known auto-immune diseases such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) and Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP), the latter of which I have.

I was in 3rd grade and it was Easter morning. I excitedly leapt out of bed to find the eggs and basket, but when my feet hit the floor my legs buckled and I collapsed. There was no pain. In fact, there was no sensation at all, just an inability to move. The doctors were flummoxed and had no idea what was wrong.

But just as mysteriously as the paralysis occurred, it also disappeared. Three days later I was back to my normal self, running, playing, climbing trees and tearing up the neighborhood on my bike. The crutches I had briefly relied on were the only reminder that something had been amiss.

My parents chalked it up to a fluke. That is, until it came back years later in High School. I was 14 and sitting in class. The teacher asked a question and I attempted to raise my left hand, but I could barely lift my arm from the desk. Inexplicably, my right arm was fine. After a series of tests, including a spinal tap, MRI, CT scans and multiple electromyograms (EMG’s), a neurologist diagnosed me with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and put me on steroids.

It turned out to be the wrong diagnosis and the steroids made my condition worse. I stopped playing the cello and eventually gave up basketball too. I hid the condition from most people because I was a teenager and back then appearances were everything. I was also an only-child and didn’t want to disappoint my parents. Since they didn’t have any “backup kids” I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect. I felt guilty for somehow being broken.

Dana’s description of wearing a mask very much applied to me during those years, but it also made me more sensitive to others. I started noticing people on the fringe, those that didn’t quite fit in, and began volunteering at a youth hotline. I also developed a passion for photography and video production and would spend countless hours alone in the editing studio or darkroom making videos and prints. Creativity and art played a big role in helping me channel things outside my control, like whatever was happening with my body.

For the remainder of High School I was in and out of the hospital. My mom would leave work and drive me to appointments. I knew it wasn’t easy on her either, but she never showed it. Her eternal optimism of seeing the good in everything got me through. I confided in a few close friends, but no one, myself included, really understood what was going on.

The symptoms of my condition would ebb and flow. One moment I’d be fine and the next I’d be struggling to tie shoes or comb my hair. This temporary paralysis would last a few days, a week, or up to a month, but then it would eventually fade away and go into remission. The time between relapses could be one year or five. There were no warnings or detectable triggers. It just happened when it happened.

I saw multiple neurologists and they ruled out MS, ALS, and even Lyme disease, so I considered myself lucky. It was manageable and I got used to living with it, whatever “it” was. I went almost an entire decade without incident until one night as I was leaving a fancy media event I became wobbly on the sidewalk and almost fell. I was completely sober but everyone assumed I was intoxicated. It was embarrassing and scary.

The following week I went to another neurologist, a new one, and that’s when I was finally diagnosed with CIDP. I was 40 years old. Fortunately, I have a less severe case of it (which is why it look so long to pinpoint) so I’ve lived a normal life, and will likely continue to do so. On the outside you’d never know I have this condition. Only a trained eye can detect the subtle signs. It’s not something I readily share either because it doesn’t define me, nor will I allow myself to be a victim.

I’ve been presented with various treatment options, but since my symptoms rarely manifest I’ve chosen to hold off. Recalling my negative reaction to the steroids no doubt plays a role in this decision, but I’ve also learned that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is sometimes the best medicine, whether you have a chronic illness or not. What you eat, what you don’t drink, getting enough sleep, consistent exercise, even meditation and spirituality, it all matters, especially as we age. Most recently I’ve been paying closer attention to the products I use, seeking natural alternatives whenever possible.

This is why Dana’s story connected with me. I am not someone with an incurable condition. I am someone despite of it. Her journey, and mine, are gentle reminders that life, despite setbacks and challenges, is worth giving your all. You never know what someone else is experiencing because so many masks are invisible. But whatever yours might be, or perhaps once was, discovering the individual beneath it and allowing vulnerability is one of the bravest things you can do. And strong.

With Dana Jackson and Jillian Wright at the Indie Beauty Expo in Dallas, 2017

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The Indie Expansion: IBE Adds Another Market

The Indie Beauty Expo, a unique trade show for independent beauty, wellness and lifestyle brands, was born in New York City the summer of 2015. By the following Spring a sibling arrived in the form of Los Angeles. And now, IBE proudly welcomes a third to the family, Dallas.

As IBE grew, so expanded the platform and an additional day was added to the three-day event devoted solely to education and thought leadership. The decision was made because indie entrepreneurs, in addition to wanting access to buyers, press and consumers, also crave a community.

No one knows what a small business person goes through better than a fellow small business person. CONNECT INDIE was created to serve that purpose as well as provide a valuable learning opportunity to help brands achieve their business objectives and grow. It’s also a way to honor and recognize these individuals as leaders, innovators and industry pioneers.

Jillian Wright leads a panel with fellow business owners

“IBE’s mission is not only to elevate indie brands in the marketplace, but to bring brains together in a highly creative and collaborative community,” explained co-founder Jillian Wright, also an indie brand owner who conceptualized the idea after feeling isolated and unwelcome in the larger expo market.

IBE co-founder, Nader Naeymi-Rad, echoes those sentiments, “We don’t want to just be a trade show in the conventional sense, where we provide mostly space and furniture. We are invested in the success of our exhibiting brands and deeply care, from the moment they put their trust in us and sign up, to the feedback we hear afterwards. Nothing makes us prouder than brand success stories, which I can now say after five shows is substantial.”

Indie entrepreneurs learn how to scale their business

The Dallas Demo

IBE is still a relatively young company, so why add Dallas? The answer is strategic. Dallas is a top-ten retail market with one of the highest percentage of per-capita spending/income. Other markets were considered — and haven’t been ruled out in the future — but Dallas made sense as the next logical step in IBE’s business model.

Just like all firsts, there is a learning curve. It’s a different landscape requiring another set of navigation tools, but for its first foray into the Dallas market IBE exceeded expectations and definitely intends to return.

“Just like our indie brands, we took a risk on Dallas, but we were delighted with how receptive Texas was to what we are building,” said Wright, who is already envisioning a possible charity partnership next year.


As for the venue and expo itself, which took place May 9-11th at the Joule Hotel for CONNECT INDIE, and sixty five hundred for SHOP and TRADE INDIE, IBE continues to deliver on it’s art-gallery aesthetic and experiential surprises, like LED cotton candy, alcohol infused ice cream (Frost 321), flower crowns (Branching Out Events) and larger-than-life photo ops. The open bar and coffee (High Brew) flowed throughout the event keeping spirits high and minds alert as indie entrepreneurs worked hard and had fun in the process.

Having fun with flower crowns

There were over 70 exhibiting brands from around the country, including 14 Texas-based brands and a handful of international: Monte Carlo, Australia, Jordan, Korea, Dominican Republic and the UK. They represented a large cross section of the indie beauty industry and brought diversity, flavor, and new perspective.


The next expo is August 22-24th in IBE’s birthplace, NYC, and boy has this baby grown! “We have a few exciting additions to the roster, including an expanded education track. We also have some big news, which we’re saving for IBE’s birthday. So come and be the first to find out,” hinted Naeymi-Rad.

So if you’re an indie brand in the beauty, wellness and lifestyle category that is seeking community while growing your business, the Indie Beauty Expo welcomes you to join the family.


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Mother Nature’s Muse

Bad weather often bums people out. Not me. I love a stormy day, and the stormier the better. I wasn’t always this way. As a child I was a major grump if I woke up to one of Mother Nature’s mood swings. My six-year-old self would dramatically declare, “The day is ruined! I can’t go outside and play!”

My mom would always counter these moments of despair with, “It’s not a rainy day; it’s a creative day.” And then suggest we light a fire and commit ourselves to a project. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was giving me an invaluable lesson in patience and re-channeling my energies when confronted with elements outside my control, like bad weather. I learned to love a rainy day because it presented an opportunity to create something, and eventually that became my association.


I get a certain rush now when the weather is furious. It heightens the senses and triggers something, a passion. What possibilities can be harnessed from this chaotic energy? External forces unleash the imagination in ways unknown until that first clap of lightening or a foreboding shift in light. A jaundice sky gives way to an eerie cloud pallet as the artist readies her entrance.

This shift in nature, be it dramatic or subtle, is a welcome presence. Even just the awareness of rain against the window in the morning awakens something in me. The sound almost becomes a clarion call for creativity, inviting a rewiring of the mind and thoughts.

Harnessing it is as unpredictable and mysterious as the elements themselves, which is what makes the creative process exciting, frustrating, and ultimately invigorating. The magic and madness of Mother Nature, tapping into our own in some ways…


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Beauty Big, Bobbi Brown, Gives IBE a Nod

The Indie Beauty Expo returned to Los Angeles January 17th-19th with the endorsement of a lifetime. Beauty veteran and indie brand pioneer, Bobbi Brown, headlined the first day.

The exciting part? Bobbi offered to be a part of this exciting event. If you’re wondering why an accomplished entrepreneur would have any interest in a show dedicated to small indie brands, she summed it up in a word: Inspiration.

Photo by Natasha Goldberg

“Indie anything is cool and, right now, most people want something that they just discovered or something new or something different. … So, I just think that small, cool, creative companies are where it’s at.” – Bobbi Brown

Day One, dubbed “Connect Indie,” was dedicated to the brands. From 9am – 5pm they were invited to attend a full day of educational presentations and panels focusing on key areas of business success. Think of it as a crash course in the beauty industry.

Nader Naeymi-Rad leads presentation for indie entrepreneurs

This took place at the LA Hotel in downtown Los Angeles and concluded with a 45 minute conversation with Bobbi Brown, led by Rachel Marlowe, West Coast Editor of Vogue. Afterwards, the discussion opened for questions in the standing-room-only packed house of beauty entrepreneurs.

Rounding out the day the space was transformed as quickly as a sheet mask into a welcome reception, where brands could meet, network and enjoy complimentary cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.


Day Two takes us to the expo at the California Market Center where over 100 brands exhibited. The 40,000 square foot room was swathed in the signature IBE white, green and purple palette hues, with a massive 30 foot installation of flowers, tropical greenery and neon purple greeting you upon entry. Another wall housed an equally impressive “We (heart) LA” green installation giving the space more of an art gallery feel than the typical staid expo hall.

Strategically laid out, the room never felt too crowded, even though over 600 people attended. Attention to detail was carefully taken, right down to a dedicated lounge where exhibitors could take a break and relax with massages by A Magic Touch and lunch provided by Lemonade. Keeping things environmentally friendly RETHINK water was the official IBE thirst quencher.

Photo by Natasha Goldberg

The press had exclusive access from 3-5pm. The event was then open to the general public for “Shop Indie” from 5-9pm, where beauty consumers had fun discovering products, sipping cocktails, snacking on cotton candy, making flower crowns, and listening to beats by DJ Colette.

They could also attend panel discussions with popular digital influencers like Amanda Jo, the Organic Bunny, and successful brand owners, like Amanda Chantal Bacon from Moon Juice, May Lindstrom, Tanja Gruber, Josh Rosebrook, Shiva Rose and Jeannie Jarnot, just to name a few.

L to R: Jillian Wright, Shiva Rose, Amanda Chantal Bacon, Jeannie Jarnot, May Lindstrom, Tanja Gruber and Josh Rosebrook

Remember the game musical chairs when you were a kid? QVC and Beauty IQ host, Keri Parker, led a round of “musical makeovers” with a few lucky attendees plucked from the floor. Different rules, same spirit, and when you have Tonya Crooks from the BrowGal among one of the talented artists there’s no such thing as being out.

The final day, dubbed “Trade Indie,” was all about business. From 10am-5pm beauty professionals, buyers and trade took to the floor to meet brands and forge relationships. This is why IBE added the first day, to help brands prepare for this crucial moment in the B2B process.

Photo by Natasha Goldberg

There were also panel discussions throughout the day covering new and emerging trends in the industry, including the rise of the ingestible market and the impact indie brands are having on the spa industry. Julie Keller of American Spa magazine led the latter discussion with panelists from some of the world’s most renowned spas offering invaluable insight into this growing and sought-after market.

Wish you’d been there? You can watch portions of the Indie Beauty Expo on the IBE TV YouTube channel and Facebook page. Or, you can attend the next one in Dallas taking place May 9-11th, 2017.


Skinesque for the K-Beauty Rookie

If you’re a beauty product enthusiast then you’ve probably heard about K-Beauty, which is the Korean influence on skincare that’s making waves across the globe. Some even claim it’s a decade ahead of the West in terms of products, formulations and innovative technologies.

So how is it different from the skincare practices in the States? For starters, the Koreans are known for their preferred lack of pigment versus the Americans love of the sun-kissed glow. That’s why you’ll often see umbrellas on a sunny day. Tanned skin is not a desired look.

They’re also known for multiple steps in their cleansing rituals, sometimes exceeding upwards of ten or more. If that seems like a lot, especially for those of us on-the-go, you’re not alone. Who has the time, let alone the patience, for all those steps? It’s why microwaves became a sought after appliance in the kitchen.

Seeking to find a beauty balance that would simplify the process without compromising results, one woman set out to create her own version. Meet Susie Yoon, the founder of Skinesque, an approachable and luxurious way to treat your skin K-Beauty style.

susieYoon had always been exposed to Korean skincare via relatives, many of which are plastic surgeons and dermatologists in Korea, but it wasn’t until she moved to Asia herself as a corporate attorney that she was immersed in the rituals firsthand.

Yoon was inspired by the attentive care, but as a busy professional she found the many steps daunting. Observing a void in the American market she decided to switch careers and start her own line of K-Beauty in the States. Curious to learn more I asked Susie about her professional metamorphosis that became Skinesque.

1.) From corporate attorney to skincare brand founder. That’s quite a leap. How did it happen?

Even though I grew up in the States I’ve always been exposed to Korean skincare through relatives. They have glass-like, luminous skin, a lot of which is attributed to genetics and weather, but more of which is their focus on regular maintenance and access to advanced skincare technologies and products with amazing ingredients.

I’ve always been in awe of their commitment, but I did not have regular access to such products in the States. I returned from living in Asia with a new approach to my own skincare regimen, coupled with the fact that I was also pregnant and wanted effective and gentle formulations.

The Skinesque line features three main products, and just like with real estate where it’s all about location, location, location, Skinesque is all about simplify, simplify, simplify.
skin1 2.) Saving time is at the core of Skinesque. Tell us about your signature 3-step masks.

Masks are my absolute favorite K-Beauty products, but I wanted to provide our market with something more convenient and less laborious. Our 3-step mask is such that with just one pouch you have a mini facial for your face in the comfort of your own home or wherever you happen to be, even post-workout at the gym. Yes, it’s that easy!

The pouch has three detachable parts: 1) fruit based foaming cleanser to deeply cleanse your face; 2) hydrating essence to prep and hydrate your skin; 3) the mask sheet to brighten and treat your skin.

Skinesque offers two different types of masks: the Brightening Charcoal Mask and the Aqua Mask.

The Brightening Charcoal Mask, made of oak tree charcoal, deeply absorbs toxins and impurities, evens out skin tone, helps to improve the appearance of dark spots, and creates a radiant complexion.

The Aqua Mask’s light texture allows for skin to breathe while seamlessly adhering to the face. Dehydrated skin is revitalized, damaged skin is repaired, and moisture is retained.

You really can’t go wrong with either one. As one of our customers said, “It’s like a facelift without all the drama!” Or like a spa treatment without the waiting, money and time.

3.) My experience with powder washes is that they tend to be a little scratchy, but your Enzyme Washing Powder is the opposite of that and I fell in love with it. What’s the magic ingredient?

Koreans do not believe in harsh exfoliation, yet at the same time believe that only when the skin is properly cleansed and polished will the secondary treatments become truly effective. Since many exfoliators scratch, Koreans tend to use fruit-based ingredients, like papaya, which is much more gentle.

The Skinesque Enzyme Washing Powder is a great example of this. The super fine powder, which is activated when mixed with water, gently removes the dead layer of skin to create that polished smooth complexion. It’s essentially an exfoliator without the abrasiveness so it’s delicate enough to use every single day, morning and night.


4.) Is there a market for K-Beauty in the U.S.?

Absolutely, especially since so many people are pressed for time but still want the desired results. Trying to balance parenthood and a career we sometimes sacrifice time for ourselves, including taking care of our skin. How many times have you fallen into bed or rushed through a morning compromising your skincare routine? We’re all guilty of that, which is why Skinesque makes it easy to incorporate regular maintenance into our hectic lifestyles.

It’s also travel friendly so you can throw a few masks into your carry-on, which is a nice treat after a long flight or during a busy business trip. A lot of my customer feedback revolves around the ease-of-use. Convenience is king and Skinesque makes it super easy. The packaging is also elegant, making it an ideal gift for the person that has everything, except time to go to the spa!


Power Plants and Rural Entrepreneurs

The mountainsides of the Cape Floral Region in South Africa are a wild, magical place.  The area is home to more than 9,000 plant species, 69% of which exist nowhere else in the world.  The beauty of the landscape is breathtaking, but hardly fragile.

Along the rugged terrain lives the Aloe Ferox, which is somewhat prehistoric in appearance with thick rubbery spiked leaves.  You don’t want to bump into this!  It’s related to the Aloe Vera plant, but larger, tougher and contains five times the mineral content.  In fact, “ferox” means fierce. One plant can live up to 150 years and requires less than half a cup of water a year to survive.

Aloe Ferox plants

The Buchu also lives here and is considered to be one of South Africa’s most important therapeutic plants. It’s potent anti-inflammatory properties reduces free radical damage. This small hardy aromatic shrub is a fighter, able to survive the extreme terrain and weather conditions far better than many of its counterparts.

And then there’s the Rose Geranium, an intriguing aromatherapy plant that produces an oil so pure it’s described as having magic powers, among them, stimulating the olfactory nerve and inducing feelings of well-being.  A happy plant!  The intense antioxidants are believed to improve circulation and assist with detoxification and anxiety, so much so, it was exported to Europe in the 1800s as a therapeutic treatment.

The People Behind the Plants

The indigenous people of the Cape Floral Region are known as Hessequa, meaning “people of the trees”, which refers to the tribe Khoikhoi that once occupied the land.  The Hessequa are the only surviving group that inhabited the region in pre-colonial times.

The Aloe Ferox is at the center of preserving this ancient people’s history.  The Hessequa harvesters, known as “tappers”, are wildcrafters, which means they sustainably harvest and care for their Aloe Ferox plants by hand.  The system was established centuries ago and combines environmental conservation with economic opportunities for these rural communities.

Hessequa Harvester

The traditional tapping methods require only a few leaves from each plant to be harvested, which lightens the heavy load and prevents the plants from falling over. This synergistic relationship between the Hessequa people and the Aloe Ferox not only ensures the longevity of the species, but provides financial independence for an entire community.

The harvesting skills are passed down generation to generation and it’s not uncommon to see four generations working together on the hillsides. It’s safe to say the botanical extracts from these power plants are the lifeblood of this unique, rich culture.

Phyto Afriq, Skincare With a Cause

Phyto is the Greek word for plant, and Afriq has an astrological origin that means “from the heart.”

Phyto Afriq was born out of a lifelong love for the indigenous botanicals of South Africa’s medicinal plants and the rural entrepreneurs that rely on them.

The founder, Julie Scott, was inspired after her sister used the leaves of the Aloe Ferox and Buchu plant to holistically treat an autoimmune related psoriatic skin condition.  She was stunned at how quickly it worked. Thus began a journey of rigorous research and development.  Along the way Rose Geranium was added to the cauldron and the first in the line of products was created: Aloe Ferox + Ultra Hydrating Facial Gel.


The price tag is not cheap, $140, which typically far exceeds my budget.  However, after reading about the values behind this brand I was compelled to purchase some.  I admire the founder’s commitment to up-skill and empower people that have fewer opportunities.  Also, a percentage of the proceeds are donated to a fund that supports rural entrepreneurship aimed at preserving the Hessequa wildcrafting communities.

Another element of the farmer/harvester relationship is that the farmers own the land and allow Hessequa families to live there freely.  They allocate Aloe Ferox plants in large areas, fields or mountainsides, to individuals who are then the legal owners of the plants in their given area, forever, and they hand those plants down to their children.

Harvester’s home

“The farmer/harvester relationship is a unique one, happy and harmonious, based on a culture and system that has been in place for many years.” – Julie Scott

It’s interesting, man has come an astoundingly long way with innovation and technology, yet in this fast pace world sometimes returning to the basics is where progress is rediscovered.  The potency of a hand-harvested product versus something cultivated with insecticides, herbicides or any other agricultural chemical process is incomparable.  This is why the Aloe Ferox is called a “super plant.”  Unlike strains of Aloe species in mass scale mechanized farming, it is 100% naturally occurring and wildcrafted. You can’t get more authentic than that.

Essentially, by purchasing this product you are paying it forward in three ways.

1.) Supporting sustainability practices that are better for the environment.

2.) Providing self employment opportunities that help preserve the heritage and culture of South Africa’s Hessequa communities.

3.) Lastly, since the ingredients in this product are hand-harvested, the purity and integrity are far superior than plants that have been leached by the chemical agricultural process, which means it’s healthier for you.

Phyto Afriq debuted in 2016 at the Indie Beauty Expo in New York City.  It’s brands like this that represent the values of what it means to be indie. And it’s founders like Julie Scott that exemplify the spirit, creativity and passion of forward-thinking entrepreneurs that do more than make a product, they also support the greater good.

Julie Scott, founder of Phyto Afriq

A Product to Go Nuts Over

Pistachios have always been one of my favorite snacks. They’re fun to crack open (except when you get the tough ones) and provide an excellent source of vitamin E and good fat. They also contain lots of lutein, which benefits the eyes.

I had never considered pistachios beyond their dietary and appetite quick fix perks until I came across the skincare line Pistache. As the name implies, pistachio oil is one of the core ingredients.

Created by a fourth generation pistachio farmer, the founder, Sima Mostafavi, really knows her nuts. After using the moisturizer for a week I was converted and caught up with her to learn more.


Pistachios have been a big part of your family for generations, but you’re the first to create a skincare line utilizing their oils. How did that happen?

Sima:  Our family loves everything pistachio related and we are constantly looking for creative ways to use pistachios in our lives.  I personally have been using pistachio oil under my eyes and in my hair for quite a while.

Sima Mostafavi, founder

About two years ago I was consulting for an Italian skincare company, so I was attending beauty conferences. During these conferences, I kept hearing that “nuts are very big right now.” But pistachios were always missing from product lines. This was especially surprising since pistachios have higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals as compared to most other nuts.

So I started asking exhibitors why they didn’t have pistachio oil, but none were able to give me a great answer. Some told me that they don’t have access to pistachio oil, or that it is more expensive that other nuts. And that is when I had my “ah-ha” moment. I decided to launch a skincare line that harnesses the rich vitamins and minerals in pistachios. And voila, Pistache was born.

What separates pistachio oil from other types, like almond, sesame, olive, etc.  What makes it so unique?

Sima:  Pistachios are a richer source of vitamins and antioxidants relative to other nuts, such as almonds. Pistachio oil is a rich source of lutein and vitamin E, both of which have been shown to have anti-aging properties and to provide essential antioxidant protection for the skin. Recent studies, (for instance, a study by Department of  plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery at Saint Eugenio Hospital) have found that topical use of lutein provides significant antioxidant protection for the skin.

In short, given how potent pistachio oil is, it is a great and a unique way of making natural but effective skincare.


What type of skin type is your product best suited for? Can it be used day and night?

Sima:  My products are suitable for all skin types, especially those with sensitive skin. My current moisturizer is great both for night and day. It is light enough for day use and hydrating enough for night.

I like to think of my hydrating moisturizer as the little black dress: Every woman needs at least one and it always makes you look good. I collect quotes, and one of my favorite quotes is by Coco Chanel. It reads, “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” I followed this simple principle as I was creating Pistaché Skincare.

Will you be adding more products to your line?

Sima:  I will be launching six new products at the Indie Beauty Expo LA.  

  • Hydrating Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
  • Eye Serum with Vitamin C
  • Exfoliating Clay Cleanser with Glycolic Acid
  • Pistachio Body Butter
  • Pistachio & Lavender Divine Beauty Oil
  • Pistachio & Rose Divine Beauty Oil

I am so excited to launch these products and have already received raving reviews from beta testers. I am especially excited for my two multi-purpose beauty oils; they are simply divine.

Can men use this product?

Sima:  Yes, my products are light and unscented so men can use them. Actually, my husband uses my moisturizer nightly.  

I know that skincare is still a relatively new concept for men and many are unfamiliar with this complex category. Currently, studies suggest that men heavily rely on packaging in making their skincare purchase decisions. In other words, they purchase products with the most masculine look. As men become more familiar with the category I do believe that there is enormous potential there. 

A lot of people are stuck in their ways and creatures of habit.  I know a lot of guys that won’t use anything but their trusted name-brand commercial products, despite many containing ingredients that are anything but natural.  How do you convince people to go “nuts” over your product?  What is your art of persuasion?

Sima:  I think the pendulum is already swinging toward indie beauty brands. When discussing my business with men, I like to compare the beauty industry to the beer industry: both experiencing a renaissance right now. Also, there are so many new and innovative brands and these brands are giving the established brands a run for their money.

There used to be limited options for skincare, dominated by the same few brands (same can be said about the beer industry). But large brands have become passé because they became complacent and failed to innovate. Thus, smaller, more innovative brands are blossoming and working to meet customer demands for cleaner and more effective beauty products.  

The Indie Beauty Expo is a champion of the small business owner.  What are some of the positives and/or challenges that go into launching your own line?  

Sima:  Launching my own skincare line has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I think launching your own business is the ultimate test of your core and your self-confidence.  You need to trust your instincts when you have limited information and no senior personnel to confide with.


More Than Makeup

Let’s be honest, stereotypes exist for a reason, just like all good humor has an element of truth. When it comes to “green and organic” I will admit my mind conjures up images of Birkenstocks, granola and hippie collectives. Those aren’t bad things; they just aren’t my things.

I wondered, is there a more chic version?

Then I came across Au Naturale, a vegan cosmetics line made with 100% pure ingredients that’s also a modern day movement.  No tie dye and patchouli oil here. As the edgy video on their website states: Green Meets Glam.


I was intrigued.

ashleyIn 2011 the founder, Ashley Prange, was working as an analyst in Washington, D.C.  After experiencing adverse reactions to her cosmetics she started researching makeup and was shocked by the toxic ingredients found in most commercial brands. She started experimenting at home mixing pigments and organic oils in her blender and eventually a business was born.

Ashley left Washington for Wisconsin where she set up shop in Green Bay.  She’s a big believer in supporting local and the majority of her suppliers are in the Midwest.  Her respect for the environment prompted her to incorporate a recycling rewards program into her business model that incentivizes customers to return their empties for store credit.

But it doesn’t end there.  Her time in Washington opened her eyes to the politics of pretty. You would think that in a country as advanced as the United States there would be more ingredient integrity.  The truth is legislation hasn’t been updated since the 1930’s and the FDA has only banned a dozen ingredients from legal use in cosmetics versus over 1,300 in the EU. That’s significant.

au2Ashley decided that Au Naturale would not only support legislation like the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which calls for stricter ingredient regulation, but also create a trade organization to elevate the conversation further in Congress.

Lastly, Ashley didn’t just want Au Naturale to be a brand, but also a cause for good.  The company has a partnership with Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) and donates 10% of their sales to funding the education of marginalized students, particularly orphans and girls that are often cast aside in the sub-Saharan country.

“When the forgotten children of society become empowered through education, they are more likely to lift up their community and become stronger.” – Au Naturale

Ashley’s mission is clearly about more than just makeup.  Her values and passion built a beautiful brand, but her heart created so much more in the process.  As the company grows she intends to expand its philanthropic efforts. In the meantime, she wants her customers to enjoy the products, feel comforted by the fact the ingredients are clean and safe, and have pride knowing they are made in America.

If you’d like to meet Ashley or any of the Au Naturale team, they will be exhibiting at the Indie Beauty Expo (IBE) in Los Angeles this January, which is a gathering of like-minded entrepreneurs in the clean beauty category.  

One of the IBE founders, Jillian Wright, visited Ashley on her home turf and wrote a behind-the-scenes description of the Au Naturale makeup making process. She also joined her at two local farms, one that harvests lavender and the other that raises honeybees. Jillian experienced first-hand the labor of love that small business owners pour into their work making products that are not only clean and safe for people, but also the environment.

We often don’t think about the bigger picture when rushing through our list of errands, grabbing products from the shelf at the drugstore or ordering online.  Convenience often overrules consciousness, not intentionally, but life is busy.  Au Naturale and the values they support hope to slow the consumer down and give them pause in their purchase decisions.  The benefit is twofold and serves a larger purpose, something that — if we all do it together — can affect change and a better quality of life for everyone.