Keep it simple. A lot of skincare lines say this, but Kari Gran and her business partner Lisa Strain mean it. In fact, this month’s Hero product, Three Sixty Five SPF 28, is the first new product they have added to their skincare line in several years, making a grand total of 4 products in the Kari Gran System. Perfectly dubbed as the ‘little black dress’ of eco-skincare, their range features the fundamentals for daily self care. They’re not out to sell you anything you don’t need, but deliver everything you want. This ethos is the reflection of the friendship between two women who compliment, support and strengthen each other and are committed to providing women high quality organic skincare that feels good on the skin, but more importantly inspires them to feel even better about themselves. With the tagline ‘Wear Yourself In’, Kari Gran promotes grace and self-acceptance, and views beauty as a ritual, not an obligation.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know Kari and Lisa since first meeting Kari in San Francisco last November with Jolene Hart (author of Eat Pretty and Eat Pretty, Live Well), whom she collaborated with on a special edition Lip Sheer. Kari and Lisa explain why they decided to expand their tightly edited lineup of three core products, and why the latest addition is like a perfect accessory to the ‘little black dress’.
Jeannie Jarnot: What are your origins in starting Kari Gran skincare?
Kari Gran: It all came out of my kitchen, literally. I started making lip products for all my friends during the holidays. I’d give away about 40 every year at work, family events, to all my neighbors. If you had lips, and I knew you, balm would be coming your way. And people asked for more. It wasn’t until I tried to figure out my autoimmune thyroid disease that the puzzle pieces started coming together for me, which led to creating the skin care line. The search for good skincare began for me back in 2007, when I discovered what I was putting on my body was going into my body. I found lines that I liked, but didn’t love. The choices back then weren’t as good as they are now. Had I not shared the line with Lisa as a Christmas gift, I’m pretty sure I’d just be cooking this all up for myself; she’s the brainchild behind getting the line out there.
JJ: How did you learn the art of formulating?
KG: Lots and lots of trial and error. I read everything I could get my hands on when I was doing it for myself. When it turned into something that we would be selling, I devoured the estheticians textbooks, studied under a natural formulator in California and took courses at Bastyr University, a leader in Naturopathic education.
JJ: When it’s time to create/develop a new product, how do you begin?
Being a small, but mighty company is also reflected in our product line. It’s not often we bring anything new into the mix. This is why Three Sixty Five SPF 28 is so exciting. It’s been years in the works and is the only item we’ve added to our skin care line EVER! For me, it usually begins with something I can’t find in the open market. Something that I really love and want to use everyday. Usually I find lots of things I like, but I always end up wanting something that might smell or feel different. This is why it takes so long to come up with something new. I have to really love it. Plus, it needs to meet our strict adherence to using only natural ingredients that are good for you.
JJ: How often do you make a new product? How long does that process take? Do you begin with an ingredient or an objective?
KG: With the exception of the Lip Whip color line, we haven’t launched a new product since 2011. You could say the SPF took 4 years! Given the rigorous (and expensive) lab testing required for an SPF, it was something that took a lot of time. My best ideas usually come to in the middle of the night, which isn’t terribly convenient, but is the way my little mind works.
JJ: What’s been your biggest discovery in terms of the creative process in creating a new product?
KG: I don’t know if it’s a discovery as much as an inner knowing that I’m on the right path. Although I’m not trained as a chemist, there’s something that led me to the path of formulating. My greatest compliment came from a formulator I studied under who told me I was a “natural” and didn’t change anything about the products I had created. “Natural” is a word we love! Same thing goes with the new SPF. I had a biochemist check all my work and process prior to sending everything to the lab for testing and he didn’t change a thing either. So my ideas come from an inner inspiration but are thoroughly tested and approved before going to market. On humans, of course, never, ever on animals.
JJ: Your tag line is “Be Kind to your Skin”. Can you tell us how this came to be?
KG: I created the line for myself, and shared my story with my friend, and now business partner Lisa. I was having a hard time finding products that were good for me that I liked (that was way back in time when green beauty was just beginning to get its legs). Aside from the health food store, the pickings were slim. I also grew weary of being bombarded with a zillion things to use and some of them would burn or sting or just irritate my skin. What if I just took a step back and was nice to my skin? Turns out my skin was nice in return! We had hired a good friend and creative genius (who happened to be a sixty-something man who wasn’t an expert in the beauty world) and he gleaned this essence of our brand that became our best tag line from the story.
JJ: Do you have a favorite ingredient? What do you love about it?
KG: Oh, this is a tough one because I really do love everything we use. I specifically did not choose any ingredient that I couldn’t stand the smell or feel of, even if I knew it would be amazing for the skin. There are so many choices of raw materials that it’s so hard to not to include everything. I’m pretty fond of organic avocado oil, but it’s quickly being overshadowed by red raspberry seed oil, which can be found in Three Sixty Five. I wanted to focus on new ingredients I hadn’t used before. Luckily the Pacific Northwest produces some amazing raspberry oil like the one that we use. It has a light and lovely fragrance that isn’t overpowering.
JJ: Can you share some of the details on how you source your ingredients sustainably?
KG: Whenever possible, I use certified organic ingredient which, by nature of the process, are sustainable. I also seek out suppliers that really know their craft and that I can develop a long-term relationship with.
JJ: What’s your workspace like and a little bit about your team?
KG: We have an open workspace with a team of dedicated colleagues who share our mission to create the best skin care line we can while demystifying and simplifying the beauty category for women. And we are committed to providing excellent customer service. We take our work seriously, but try to keep the atmosphere light with some great rock and roll music as a backdrop. Gratitude is something we embrace every day.
JJ: What’s next for Kari Gran, can you share some of what we can expect from you for the rest of this year?
KG: The big news is our sunscreen, Three Sixty Five SPF 28. This is a huge opportunity to educate how important it is to use SPF every single day, rain, shine, or clouds. UVA or UV-Aging rays are the culprits of photo aging-premature aging caused by the sun. Everyone is looking for the magic pill to stop or turn back the clock but the reality is there’s no turning back. Many people only use sunscreen in the summer, which is only protecting them from photo aging for a season. The good news is it’s never too late to begin protecting your skin with good sunscreen. Faithful use every single day is what can be done to prevent photo aging. A 2013 study published in the American College of Physicians Annals of Internal Medicine is the first research on humans to show conclusively that sunscreen can help prevent photo aging. There has been significant indirect evidence suggesting that sunscreen has anti-aging benefits and this study is the first clinical human trial to show it directly.
JJ: Do you have a creative muse?
KG: Oh, I love to tap into my inner beauty fanatic who lives inside of me. The one who was making her own perfume from neighborhood roses as a little girl.
JJ: Do you collect anything?
Kari: I love all things vintage, clothes, jewelry and cake plates are at the top of my list.
Lisa: Lisa back when concerts had actual ticket stubs, I couldn’t get enough.
JJ: Where might we run into you on a Sunday Morning?
Kari: Sleeping! It’s the one-day I don’t set an alarm.
Lisa: You won’t run into me unless it’s late morning. I’ll be out with my husband having breakfast and reading the Sunday Times.
JJ: How do you relax?
Kari: TM (Transcendental Meditation). It keeps me balanced and quiets my mind so that I’m ready for the day’s challenges.
Lisa: Dancing and listening to live music.
JJ: What is your Vision for Kari Gran Skincare?
To simplify, demystify and educate. We love to call B.S. messaging of conventional beauty. We are tired of being beaten down and told that we, as women, need to be fixed. We think our customers feel the same way.
We want our customers to enjoy using our products as much as we do. We fervently believe our skin care will benefit anyone; it’s soothing, feels luxurious and is good for your skin!