You have so much experience within the world of beauty. What is the biggest mistake we all make with our beauty rituals? That's a tough question! One thing I notice often is our tendency to lock ourselves into specific rituals. It's understandable and somewhat unavoidable: we have a lot of people telling us what we should and shouldn't do, so we often create rigid beauty routines and stick to them, come hell or high water, to make our lives simpler.
I get it. But I also believe that skin and hair can change — pretty dramatically at times — because they reflect what's going on with the rest of our bodies. And those moments of change can actually be kind of fun to tackle if you align yourself with great people to guide you through them. Eventually, those days you wake up to find your skin or hair behaving differently (and not in a good way) will start to bother you less, because they've turned into interesting little challenges. If you have a flexible arsenal of great products and people you can trust for sound advice when you need to make a change, you'll be much more confident in the ability of those products to perform and in your ability to use them.
You truly curated and bring international brands to the US market. How do you discover them?It's kind of random, to be honest. I usually hear about them from my friends who are in the industry in some way: dermatologists, aestheticians, hair stylists, makeup artists, or product developers. My experience in the beauty world has helped a lot. And sometimes I stumble upon new things while traveling. But I don't enjoy shopping all that much, usually, and I see so many products every day — so I find that the things that capture my imagination most, right off the bat, are the stories that I hear from other people.
I’ve never seen some of these brands and I think of myself as in the know. Are there challenges sharing brands with people with no US marketing support? It can be challenging for sure. But it's my job to tell the stories behind these brands and explain why they're so interesting, and I love doing that. We've been lucky in that our customers trust us to be as picky as possible in our curation process, so when we present something to them, they know we really stand behind it.
What are your essential beauty products? My other products change a lot based on the time of year and what my skin and hair are doing, but these five are almost always in the rotation:
1. BioRecept Mousse de Peau. I love this cleanser because it's like NUDE: anyone can use it, basically. It leaves skin feeling purified but comfortably hydrated, which is a hard combination to find. And it's great for removing sunscreen and makeup.
2. M Picaut Precious Oil. This is a super-light oil blended with a heap of peptides. M Picaut is a top selling brand in its native Sweden because the products are non-toxic and beautifully textured but pack a real anti-aging punch. I use this on its own or blend it with my moisturizer if my skin is feeling really dry.
3. Luzern La Defense SPF 30. This is one of the first sunscreens I actually enjoyed using. It's got a beautiful, lightweight texture, it spreads well without whiteness (even though it's zinc-based), and it includes a lot of great anti-aging ingredients. And it smells like Jolly Ranchers, which is a fun bonus.
4. JM Generals Castile Soap. Jeffrey Monteiro, the former design director of Bill Blass, Derek Lam, and Mayle, developed this beautiful and beautifully packaged line of products with a custom essential-oil scent he blended just for us. The soap is made on a centuries-old farm that only makes this soap and goat cheese! It's a painstaking process that takes about 8 weeks (the soap, that is; I have no idea about the cheese). The result is this mammoth bar of super-moisturizing, soothing soap that's so rich, you barely need to use body lotion.
5. MILK. Of course! I feel as though it was made just for my hair. And so does everyone else who uses it. It's like witchcraft.
You have a strong community presence and host events. Tell us about them. It's funny: our little studio opened almost by accident. We were moving, and we knew that a lot of our local customers wanted to come in and visit in person (which we were delighted about), so we made it into a working/retail space that people can come in and out of during business hours. During our evening events, which we hold about once a month, we try to bring people closer to the brands we carry and the advice that we share on our "Enlighten" blog. We're grateful to work with such cool brands, excellent products, and passionate people, and it's a lot of fun to introduce them to our community. We do that with dermatologists and other industry experts, too, because there's a real thirst for knowledge. And every Thursday night, we offer hair styling and makeup lessons, which I often stay to eavesdrop on — hopefully in a discreet way. I've always been a nerd who loves good information. I feel lucky to have found customers who value that, too.
Vist Ayla 1825 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94109 415-520-7320