The Rule Breaker:
Kristi Blustein from KHUS KHUS
On a blustering, snowy day, I met Kristi Blustein, founder of KHUS KHUS in the warm and cozy Dushanbe Tea House in Bolder, Colorado. Though not conscious of it at the time, the sensorial contrast of our first meeting was not dissimilar to how I experienced KHUS KHUS; namely her Hero product, Bleu Body Wax. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried due to its simultaneous cooling and warming effect on my skin. I was instantly intrigued by this unique sensation, and equally curious about her background in Ayurveda. Having spent a month doing a full-on (very restrictive) ‘pancha karma’ Ayurvedic purification ritual in Grass Valley, California (incidentally the same area where Kristi studied), I was well aware of traditional Ayurvedic principles, ingredients and practices. But while her line is rooted in this ancient Eastern philosophy, her products didn’t smell or feel like anything I had experienced before. My interpretation was that Kristi learned and studied the rules, practiced them for years, and then adapted them to make something that was somehow reverent of tradition, but entirely her own. To me, KHUS KHUS has its own distinct look, scent profile and feel – not an easy feat when you’re abiding by centuries-old recipes. The oils are unctuous and decadent, and super skin-softening. While there is no shortage of oil-based green beauty brands available these days, KHUS KHUS stands out for its modern take on Ayurveda that will, as Kristi intended, get you hooked on a daily Abhayanga, self-massage practice.
What inspired you to create your KHUS + KHUS?
I was inspired by daily Ayurvedic lifestyle routines that I would prescribe to my patients when I practiced holistic medicine. I saw that they enjoyed the practice of Abhyanga, Ayurvedic self-massage, and that’s where I began to conceptualize KHUS KHUS. Over time, the concept morphed into to a modern take on conventional herbalism. I decided that I wanted the modern women to have options to employ these rituals that reflected a more modern aesthetic and that would get them interested in and continue to use products that produced a healthy effect within the body. I feel strongly that chemically loaded products are the cause of health problems, particularly in women. I wanted KHUS KHUS to be a brand that creates healing within the intricately connected body and mind.
How did you learn the art of formulating?
I graduated from the California College of Ayurveda where they have one of the most amazing herbalism programs and facilities. I learned how to formulate from Dr. Marc Halpern and Mary Thompson and both renown teachers have been my mentors. That is where I initially learned how to write formulas for specific symptoms and doshic imbalances. I also studied Western Herbalism with Brigitte Mars and Luke Terry as well Aromatherapy with David Crow from Floracopeia, taking both his Aromatherapy and Advance aromatherapy courses. In addition, I’ve also taken four anatomy courses, as well as courses in biology and botany, both imperative in understanding plant science and their constituents.
When it’s time to create/develop a new product, what is your process?
I usually begin with a couple of main herbs that I want to work with and build from there. I’ll make many test samples and then decide if we are going to move forward, adjusting the formula all along. I thoroughly research plants to make sure there are no known precautions or contraindications, and to make sure that the formula makes sense from a classical design stance. This means that all the actions that the individual plant constituents have will work in a synergistic way and that they don’t contain constituents that aggravate the action I’m going for. In general, I’m always looking for plants that calm the nervous system (nerves) and those that increase Ojas, the rejuvenative qualities in the body.
What’s been your biggest discovery in terms of the creative process?
I’ve discovered that I need to be open to changing formulas to make them better. Working with plants and plant medicine is an evolution for me; it’s a creative process as well as a science.
Do you have a mantra?
I’m an avid Yogic practitioner for over 10 years now, I practice the Yamas and the Niyamas, which are disciplines of the yogic system. Nonviolence, truthfulness, control of energy, self-study and surrender to the highest Self. “Ishvara Pranidhana” means surrender to Ishvara the highest divinity, is my mantra always. Without my foundation through the practice of yoga, I would have never conceptualized KHUS KHUS, even the name came to me in meditation.
When going to Ayurveda school the sister science of Yoga I learned that I first needed to heal myself then I became able to share this knowledge. KHUS + KHUS represents a very long journey of that started when I first decided to change my life and the mental habits that were impairing my ability to heal myself. Now I feel well and want to help others find their way toward healing themselves assisted by our plant allies, which is why I’m created KHUS KHUS. Suffering, then awareness and surrendering, are the catalysts to healing.
Do you have a favorite ingredient? What do you love about it?
I like all plants, but I’m going to say that two of my favorites are helichrysum and sandalwood. Helichrysum is highly anti-inflammatory and well-studied for its healing qualities. Sandalwood is my favorite because of its ability to foster spiritual development and aura cleansing. It is fantastic for meditation and overall channel opening. It is one of the highest aromas used for centuries for enhancing consciousness. When you become very attracted to this aroma you know that your awareness is becoming developed.
Can you share some of the details on how you source your ingredients sustainably?
We source most of our ingredients from reputable companies in France and co-ops in the UK for specialty essential oils. I source a few ingredients from inside the United States. We are careful to us use certified organic, or sustainably wild harvested ingredients. When sourcing our ingredients, I always learn about how the ingredients have been cultivated, it is very important to me that they have been grown and harvested in an ethical manner.
What’s your workspace like and a little bit about your team?
We are a small focused team of 4 full-time people; Sean, Susy, Gloria, Myself and my husband Harry who works with us part-time. We have plants, crystals and palo santo burning in the office on the regular. I would define it as hippie-chic with a modern touch. I love electronic dance music (I’m originally from Miami so I can’t help it) so there’s some ‘Pretty Lights’ mixes going on most days. If Susy’s in control of the music, then we listen to Amy Winehouse. Sean grew up with a Celtic mother and grandmother, so herbalism is in his blood, and Susy’s a reincarnated hippie and a natural plant lover and herbalist. Gloria just tolerates all the weirdness. It makes for an interesting working environment, and the team is like family to me.
What’s next for KHUS + KHUS?
We are working on two new products; you’ll just have to wait and see what they are. And, we are working on new outer packaging. We are also planning to exhibit at the Indie Beauty Expo in London 2018, as we do very well with the European Market. I love London so I’m excited to participate.
Do you have a creative muse?
Yes, plants. All of them.
Do you collect anything?
Yes, I collect essential oils, crystals, plants, statues of and books yoga, Vedic sciences, Ayurveda, and herbalism. I’d decided long ago that self-realization was the goal of life, so I spend a great deal of time reading ancient spiritual knowledge passed down from the masters.
Where might we run into you on a Sunday morning?
You’d find me at my favorite Sunday Yoga at 9am, at The Yoga Pod in Cherry Creek, brunch with my husband at The Corner Beet in Denver, and my local Sabai Thai massage studio where Mr.Tin, a true healer, and I have a special relationship. Then, maybe a walk at Cheeseman Park with my dog Bhīma.
How do you relax?
I have a daily meditation practice as well as a pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) practice that both help me stay relaxed. I’ll do yoga asana, and sound therapy usually with crystal singing bowls. I’ll listen to Soundcloud where there’s some good vibrational playlists and just lay in corpse pose for thirty minutes. You’d be amazed at the results. I also will consider my practice of doing Abhyanga self-massage with warm herbal infused oils everyday a relaxation practice.
I take adaptogens daily; a reishi, cordyceps, ashwagandha tincture, and I use them in conjunction with various nervine herbs like passionflower, gotu kola, and lemon balm. I also sleep with a diffuser next to my bed with essential oils. If this seems like a lot, I feel that we live in a stressful world, and you must put back into your container if you expect to be functioning from a peaceful place. It’s imperative to reset the system and maintain healthy habits that calm the mind and body.
Is there anything else you want us to know about you and KHUS KHUS?
Just one thing, and that’s that when we are dealing with plants, respect for their abilities needs to be at the forefront. I have seen first-hand how a plant’s communication within the body can translate to infinite healing potential. This translation of intelligence within the body comes from successful evolution and is basically the plants developed immune system that has been accumulating for millions of years. This is where we get the constituent profile from each species. I ask you to think about that the next time you look at a rose or helichrysum flower, because you are literally looking at 30 million plus years of successful evolution and a highly advanced species by which this plant’s immune system has been protecting it from stressful environments. We are in a symbiotic relationship with plants and our health and vitality relies on this relationship for us to maintain a healthy body and mind. Our ability to thrive is directly affected by our relationship to plants and their constituents.