Slow Beauty and the Upside of Selling Out

Laurel Shaffer, the Pioneer of Slow Beauty, has some sage advice: good things come to those who wait. The skincare pioneer has perfected the art of patience in the development and evolution of her namesake brand, Laurel Whole Plant Organics. At the mercy of nature’s unpredictability, Laurel takes her time sourcing only the highest quality organic ingredients for her formulations. But that’s only the first part of the waiting game. Like a winemaker at crush, after the harvest, Laurel begins the slow and steady process of hand-crafting her formulations, ensuring every last ounce of raw material is purposely used. Even then, the ingredients only yield a finite volume, forcing Laurel to regularly hang her “Sold Out” sign on her bestsellers.

These complexities and limitations are part and parcel of artisanal product development, and Laurel would have it no other way. At a time in our industry when the spotlight is shining brightly on indie beauty, with more resources for niche brands to scale quickly and become overnight “successes”, Laurel happily sticks to her indie roots, committed to the quality and craftsmanship her devoted customers have come to expect. Like a brilliant indie star who eclipses bright but fleeting trendsetters, Laurel defines her own metrics of success, and it has earned her some serious staying power. If she’s ever accused of selling out, the fault will be Mother Nature’s.

Laurel weighs in on her Slow Beauty process and her commitment to clean.

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How do YOU define Slow Beauty and how did you come to embrace sourcing and formulating your line with these principles?
I see Slow Beauty as an intentional practice, making every step an act of love or meditation. This includes each usage step that we practice in our evening beauty ritual. Slow Beauty can also start at the beginning, from the source. Each seed can be oh-so-carefully planted with love, harvested at the perfect moment, and eventually – with many beautiful steps in between – blended into skin care by us. Sourcing is what inspired me to begin with. Quality products start at the source, which is the farms they are grown on, and those farms are what continue to inspire me.

Laurel Shaffer | Laurel Whole Plant OrganicsThe name of your brand, Laurel Whole Plant Organics, intentionally emphasizes the importance of using whole plants. What’s the difference between using whole plants and plant extracts in beauty products? Sadly, so many plant extracts or natural extracts are so far removed from the plant itself (if it ever was a plant to begin with). Almost all ‘natural’ vitamins or antioxidants are actually synthetic replicas. To me, this defeats the whole purpose of us using plants; so it was important to make that clear to our customers. In regards to extracts that actually are made from plants, when I was first starting out I bought a lot of these ingredients to experiment with. They had no life, no vibrancy, nothing about them resembled the plants themselves – in fact most of them smelled like chemicals, and I definitely did not want them anywhere near my skin. The deeper I dug into this, the more I knew sourcing whole plants directly from farms, and handling them ourselves was the only way to go.

As Laurel Whole Plant Organics grows and the adoption of natural beauty grows, how will you make sure that you can continue to source enough raw ingredients to support the demand? Right now it’s definitely a challenge, and we have to find new farms to partner with constantly. We hope to one day have our own biodynamic farm, so we can have more control over our ingredient quantity and availability.

Your line is so unique and authentically YOU. Do you pay attention to trends when formulating new products? I don’t pay too much attention to trends…. mostly because as a plant person they offend me, LOL. I know that sounds so silly. I feel I’m a voice for plants. Each of them are such powerful healing tools, and when one gets too much hype over another, I really am clueless as to why. Scientists or skin care chemists can focus on ANY plant, do a multitude of studies, and then use marketing lingo to make those studies sound completely out of this world amazing! It doesn’t make that trending plant any more or less valuable or powerful than any other plant, but I guess I just have an understanding how valuable ALL plants are.Laurel Shaffer | Laurel Whole Plant Organics

Laurel Whole Plant Organics encourages taking time for beauty ritual. What are a few of your favorite Slow Beauty rituals? Baths and tea time. I couldn’t live without them. I have at least two cups of tea a day… and those first few moments of me holding the warm mug in my hands – it just doesn’t get any better! Same with a hot bath… those first few moments when your body just melts into the bath – the best! Of course, I could list off all the products I use, and each step of my evening beauty ritual – but if I’m being honest, those 2 tiny things are truly my favorites.

I’ve been so lucky to receive the ultimate Laurel Whole Plant Organics ritual with a facial at your studio in Sausalito. It defines nature as luxury. It’s so decadent! What do you want people to experience when they get a Laurel Whole Plant Organics facial? I want people to feel good about taking that time to slow down for themselves. That is when revelations happen, when the mind is quiet. Of course our products are effective and they smell delightful, but for me that 90 minutes in the treatment room is really about letting go, letting yourself be cared for by the practitioner, by the products, by the plants… and leaving with a new perspective on something because you were able to be still and quiet.

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Where, besides the Laurel Studio, can people experience a Laurel Whole Plant Organics facial?
Laurel facials are offered all over the U.S., on up to Canada, and over to Australia. We work with some of the most talented estheticians, who are truly at the top of their field, as well as some stunning destination resorts and day spas.

Since there’s only a finite number of products you can craft, I imagine you’re very selective about which retail partners you work with. What criteria do you look for when choosing your partnerships? I love partnering with people who really ‘get’ what we do and appreciate what we do. This makes partnering so easy. Some of my favorite partners are estheticians who I enjoy learning from – they keep me on my toes! I also love partnering with resorts and day spas that are committed to being green… usually they notice that what we are doing is not the standard. When they notice the difference in our products, it’s always a giveaway that this is a partner we want to have!

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