Q&A with Maryna Kracht Mahalo Skincare
From the moment I opened my first package from Mahalo skincare I knew I was in for a treat. The package included a personal hand written note on a bamboo card along with etched bamboo bottles and jars carved with the familiar shapes of the Hawaiian Islands. The packaging caught my attention and I knew I had stumbled upon something special. Then I opened the jars and began to experience what was inside – concentrated, potent and complex formulations that work.
Being from Hawaii myself Mahalo had immediate relevance as the products perfectly reflect the beauty of nature that is abundant on the islands. If you’ve ever visited you know that the essence of Hawaii stays with you after you leave. With it’s tropical ingredients and exotic scents Mahalo connects me back to the magic of the Islands. But as I got to know the products, ingredients and Maryna much better I’ve learned this is not just a line with a tropical theme, Mahalo has the intention, purity and the power to heal (skin and body). Together with the community of Spa Superheroes we selected our July Hero Product, Pele Mask, because of it’s therapeutic effect on the skin. But smoothing a few drops of Vacation Glow (Mahalo’s newest product) on my arms and chest has the ability to instantly improve my mood. I could go on about each product in the small (but growing) collection. This interview, a result of several in-depth conversations with Maryna Kracht, the founder and force behind the brand, reveals the origins of Mahalo and why we should all be on the lookout for what’s coming next from this conscious and organic luxury beauty brand.
What inspired you to create Mahalo?
I feel as if MAHALO chose me. Everything about it is a manifestation of everything I’ve learned and experienced in my 32 years of life. Although my personal skin care regimen has always been simple, I do love to indulge in luxurious self-care moments…and there is no better way to do that than with a quality facemask, cup of tea, candlelight and soothing sounds of good jazz.
The desire, or rather the need to start Mahalo came from my heart. The name, the vision, and the direction all came to me within hours of each other in the spring of 2014. I was barely able to catch-up with writing down the information. My life changed with the birth of Mahalo. Now I love everything I do with my whole being— the design, formulating, making of the products, packing orders, processing ingredients, all of it. I leap out of bed every morning excited to see what Mahalo has in store for me today.
Had you always wanted to formulate natural and organic skincare? How did you learn the art of formulating?
My knowledge and love affair with plants and skin care is the result of my personal interest layered in with experiences from my childhood and travels. Growing up in a Russian family, my grandmother instilled in me a devotion and love for alternative and plant medicine. During the summer months of my childhood she would take me away from hustle of the city into the wild fields to collect lavender, chamomile, marigold, coltsfoot (or commonly known as mother and stepmother and which will appear in a new Mahalo skin treat soon) and of course my beloved sea buckthorn berry (featured in all the Mahalo products as a tribute to my darling granny). She taught me to love, understand and, above all, respect plants.
In my teens, I ventured to India – my very first grand adventure that set bar high for the many more that were to come. I was only 15 when I went with a small group of friends to study yoga and backpack through Northern India, Orissa and Nepal for two months. I became acquainted with Ayurveda and other ancient healing modalities. I discovered the doshas, Ayurvedic body types, and the elemental relationship between plants, food and our bodies. Since then I’ve been to India five times and with every journey my love affair with it goes deeper as I gain more knowledge of plants, spices and oils. It was in India where I met my beloved turmeric, which you’ll find in almost all Mahalo skin treats. It’s also where I was introduced to tulsi (holy basil), ginger, coconut oil, papaya, neem and other exotic ingredients.
During my travels to Egypt and Asia I also discovered jojoba, black cumin seed and hibiscus. Then I fell head over heels in love with lavender in France and with geranium in the Mediterranean. But it was not until I arrived to Hawaii in 2010 that I really discovered the full spectrum of our Earth’s bounty. Macadamia, kukui, Polynesian tamanu, papaya, pennywort, guava, banana, hibiscus, and the list goes on! Hawai’i was the last missing ingredient from my life-long quest to bathe in the luxury of self-care surrounded by the sophisticated gifts of nature. Our ingredients are organically grown, ethically harvested and mindfully blended. Everything I have learned to date has been infused into Mahalo Skin Care.
How did you decide on the name ‘Mahalo’?
The name itself was like a call of and to the heart, an inspiration for something greater than the name itself. Mahalo is an ancient and sacred word, the kind of word that carries the ability to transform us for the better. I believe that “words can heal and words can kill”. Mahalo, serving as the name of my brand, is intended to serve as the epitome of empowerment and healing for the world and for ourselves. And what better way to do that than with the feeling of gratefulness and the breath of life itself. Mahalo is a Hawaiian word that expresses gratitude and conveys the sacred spiritual message of being in the presence of the Divine. So say ‘Mahalo’ to yourself, to your family, to the Earth and feel inspired to make a conscious choice for the better.
What’s your workspace like? What inspires you?
My workspace is a combination of extreme organization sprinkled with creative chaos. I have sections in the studio where everything is labeled, accounted for and easy to access. In it you’ll find ingredients, pre-mixed batches and macerating oils. I treat each ingredient like a piece of a sacred mosaic that is there to create Mahalo. I know where each ingredient is, how old it is, what temperature in needs to be kept in and when I need to restock. I love entering the studio in the morning and seeing everything lined-up, all in order and ready for me to create some Mahalo magic.
The creative chaos is the, just that, the creative part of Mahalo. You may see labels, cut outs from magazines, very many jar prototypes (as we are working on adding new products to the line and updating some of our current bottles), tarot cards, Mahalo minis (we are working on travel packs), vitamins, sketch books, mala beads, various samples from suppliers and a few other items that inspire me.
I am inspired by change. I remember years ago when I took ancient history in college, I wrote a paper on Heraclitus of Ephesus who lived around 500 BCE and his theory of becoming – concluding that the only certain thing in life is change. Routine is not for me, as I strive to fuel the “wanderer within.”
When it’s time to create a new product, how do you begin?
I have many upcoming products in mind already, so the challenge is to find the best one to compliment the line and to meet the need of our customers. Since Mahalo is pretty young, and we make everything by hand, it’s important to me to ensure that we will be able to support the production of our existing line, plus any new products. As a boutique line I like to make sure that each product serves a distinct purpose.
Vacation Glow™ is our latest addition that has been over a year in the making. It began with the need to indulge the body from head to toe – to express gratitude (Mahalo) to not just the face, but to the whole self. I also wanted to create something that would invigorate and uplift. It was inspired by my experience of living in Hawai’i and having the ability to experience the revitalizing energies of this tropical paradise. I literally wanted to bottle the full experience.
What IS your process? Do you begin with an ingredient or an objective? Please tell all!
I begin with establishing the need and envision the “flavor” of what the product should do, how it should make the person feel and what effect it should have on the skin, body and soul. From there I go to my books, notes and fingers. Fingers because I like to touch everything. I feel each oil, each extract – how thick it is, how it absorbs, how the oils act when blended with each-other, how they act in different temperatures. I take time to read through different books on Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, talk to my sister (a smart cookie with PhD in bio-chemistry) and so on. A lot of testing, a lot of sniffing, and a lot of note taking. It is a fun process and I feel honored to be able to do it.
How often do you make a new product? How long does that process take?
Vacation Glow™ took over a year to launch. Largely because we introduced a special subtle energy infusion that took time to develop. Right now I am working on a facial toner and another facemask. The toner was easy, because I knew the precise ingredients that would make the skin sing with joy. I’ve used this toner myself for quite a while now, so it’s now just the matter of perfecting the proportions. The second mask is a little bit more involved as I have a big vision for it which involves some sublime, rare and expensive ingredients. When I hit a hiccup or a roadblock I set the development aside. I am a strong believer that creativity needs time to blossom. I believe that I might wake-up one day at 3AM have the answer that “this” is the ingredient that I need to research that would be the tipping point for the product. This happened with Pele Mask when I had an “aha” moment to add aloe vera which completely made sense and I couldn’t believe I did not have it there all along.
What is your favorite superpower ingredient? What do you love about it?
It is without question Turmeric. This magical ingredient has saved me time and again from food poisoning, bad sunburns and painful acne. Turmeric, with its anti-inflammatory and redness reducing properties can be used to treat a variety of skin conditions including eczema, allergic hives, and even chicken pox! It helps heal and prevent dry skin and slows the skin aging process, is used to diminish wrinkles, keep skin supple and improve elasticity. You will find it in all three of Mahalo’s facial products.
How about a favorite product in the collection?
Right now I am head over hills enamored by the Vacation Glow – the aroma, texture and the way it makes me feel. I feel as if I’ve achieved my goal of bottling the experience of living in Hawai’i.
For my skin Pele Mask is my all time favorite. It has transformed my skin, like Pele – goddess of volcanoes and creator of the ‘Islands’ – has transformed the Hawai’i. The mask is my constant companion. I use it religiously once a week as a skin treat and as needed for spot treatments.
Do you have a creative muse?
I believe that my muse discovered me before I even know she existed and then invited me to live in her. Kaua’i. She is enchanting, magical, flavorful and very potent. It is an immeasurable blessing to live in the arms of my muse. I offer my Mahalo, gratitude, for this and hope to share it with others through Mahalo Skincare.
Do you have a personal mantra that inspires you?
My mantra is simple and it stems from my innate knowing that nothing in this world is permanent. My beautiful soul has lived countless lives and has had many experiences… and the only thing that truly matters and stays constant is unconditional love. When life hits the black zebra line, I do something I call “zoom-out”. I take my mind on an expansive journey – out of the room, the town, the state, the country, the continent, the planet, the galaxy and beyond – when I get as far as the galaxy, there is NO problem big enough to match the grandeur and magnificence of Divine creation. So I breathe and remember that nothing is permanent. I relax in knowing I am an integral part of this universe and I am here to make a difference in inspiring unconditional love. Zoom-zoom. Smile.
What’s been the biggest discovery for you lately in terms of the creative process – or in creating a specific new product?
Creativity needs time to blossom. Creativity is like a woman; you can’t force her to do something she does not want. I find that I need to fuel my creativity with inspiration based in goodness. It has to stem from a transformative, integrity and soul-fueling place.
When I asked my husband Mark to say what inspires him about me, he replied that it’s my ability to do anything I set my mind towards. He said that if I wanted to I would be able to build a car from scratch, as if I could figure anything out. And I agree with that. When I feel fully connected to my heart, my core, my integrity – my creative force is pulsating at 100%. It actually became my marker in life – if I do not get creative ideas on daily basis (like a simple “aha” of adding goat cheese with honey to a recipe instead of baking simple croissants), then I am out of alignment with my heart, so its time to meditate, get into nature and reconnect.
Can you tell us about a few of your favorite places in Hawaii? Are there any spots that may have inspired the line or one of your products in particular?
Each Mahalo product is inspired by a different Hawaiian Island which you’ll find represented on the bottle or jar. For example, Kaua’i inspired Mahalo Balm. It’s somewhat metaphorical because Kaua’i is the place that healed my heart, as it was a place I came to recover from personal tragedy. Mahalo Balm has healed my skin and helps to keep my hormonal acne at bay. One of my favorite spots on Kaua’i is the Waimea canyon. It’s like no other place and was dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” by Mark Twain. The canyon holds world’s tallest swamp and offers spectacular vistas. The canyon is definitely my go-to place to recharge and getaway into nature.
Where might I run into you on a Sunday morning?
Hah, the canyon. Or on the porch with a white tea and a book. In the studio when creativity demands. Hiking with my husband. Having breakfast at my top favorite cafe called Hemingway (if you ever on Kaua’i, definitely go there). It all depends on the Sunday.
How do you relax?
I’m an introvert so I need to be in my space to recharge and relax. I recharge by allowing myself to just be. Sometimes with a good movie, and often times it’s in meditation (an important part of my life’s heart beat) and I also enjoy cleaning and organizing to relax. Relaxing is about going inwards and responding to what I need to balance my mind, body and spirit in this moment.
photos courtesy of Mahalo Skincare