In Your Element with Lauren Willson

In Your Element is a photo series and open dialogue with experts, community and thought leaders that truly practice what they preach.

This month we sat down with beauty gurus to talk about clean beauty and get tips on how to transition to a toxic-free regiment. Lauren Willson, creator of Lauren’s All Purpose Salve, spoke about why it’s as important to take a clean approach to what you’re putting on your skin, as it is for the food you put in your body.

Tell us about Lauren’s All Purpose Salve. How did you come up with the idea?

When I was a line cook at Northern Spy in the East Village six years ago we used the most incredible ingredients that our Forager picked up from the Union Square farmer’s market every day. The restaurant had a Forager! It was someone’s job to go and handpick fresh ingredients! I burned myself in the kitchen, a lot, and couldn’t find a burn cream made with organic ingredients. It felt wrong to rub chemicals all over me and contaminate these beautiful, organic dishes for people so I decided to make an organic cream for myself. That’s when I started looking at the ingredients of the products I was putting on my skin. It was hard at first to spend so much money on organic skincare products, but I was already spending a lot of money on organic food and it didn’t make sense to me to do one without the other.

Why did you make the switch to a Clean Beauty routine?

I made the switch out of necessity. The FDA does not regulate skincare products. It’s expected by the government and the general public that cosmetic and skincare companies won’t sell you poison. I don’t think anyone embarks on a career with the intention to harm people, but between the pressure placed on formulators and manufacturers to make products that will never go bad, and the executive suite squeezing margins, seriously harmful ingredients go into a lot of products. 

So for me, clean beauty wasn’t a necessity until I understood that not doing it could make me very sick. I tell people all the time that buying organic skincare is more important than eating organic because at least people can’t put poison in your food. I could go on about this for hours. That being said, I’m not a purist. I do my best. Life needs to be lived.

What do you prioritize when it comes to Clean Beauty?

I went back to school for nutrition and was taking anatomy and learning how the integumentary system absorbs everything you put on it. I also don’t have great health insurance so I think of food and skincare as medicine. It doesn’t matter how much money I have in the bank. I will always buy the cleanest food and skincare I can find. What better investment could you make than in your own health?

It definitely all comes full circle! Who has impacted your interpretation of Clean Beauty?

I would have to say the initial source is my mama, who took a bubble bath every night and encouraged that I do the same. Then during my herbalism apprenticeship, there was a Swedish woman in the program who told me she rubbed oils and butters on her body before she got in the shower because hot water can strip your skin. It’s basically oil cleansing your entire body. She was extraordinarily passionate. Passion sticks with you, you know?

What are your favorite Clean Beauty rituals?

I LOVE Gua Sha. I love everything that facial Gua Sha represents. Touching yourself in a very gentle way, smoothing the face, lifting the face, using a funny little tool. It’s great. I actually developed an oil to use during Gua Sha which will be available through Lauren’s All Purpose very soon. 

But the ritual that really keeps me looking gorgeous is 8 hours of sleep every night. But I’m lucky that I’m my own boss and I can do this. There are lots of rituals that go into ensuring quality sleep including meditation, baths, Blublox glasses, eating what my body craves. I think starting with one ritual that feels super exciting and making it a habit is much easier than deciding you have to do a complete overhaul of your entire life.

What role has Lauren’s All Purpose played in your Clean Beauty journey?

Lauren’s All Purpose, as a brand, was created through years of learning how to take care of myself and my body, and then sharing this knowledge with others. The brand is a part of myself bottled up and labeled. 

At first I resisted using my name–Lauren–it felt so close, so vulnerable. However, using another name didn’t make sense so Lauren’s All Purpose became the brand. I still feel incredibly vulnerable and am learning to see it as a strength. I wrote down a quote out of a book written by Roxane Gay years ago and stuck it on my computer screen: “When you can’t find someone to follow, you have to find a way to lead by example.” Lauren’s All Purpose is a way to inspire others to explore that gentle side of themselves, playfully learning what makes them feel content, and sharing their findings with others. Our slogan is “Give a tender touch.” Tender is very intentional. Being tender with others, and especially with yourself, is the most rewarding ritual you can adopt. 

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