Small Batch Skincare: Meet Natural Beauty Brand s/he

If you’ve been wanting to streamline your beauty arsenal for spring or simply go more green with the products you use, unisex skincare line s/he is a great brand to look into. The line has a little bit of everything and is organic, wild crafted, and sustainable—not to mention affordable and beautifully packaged, too. Dawn De La Fuente, a Sausalito-based herbalist, founded the line in 2014 with the intention to create products that heal, restore, and nourish the skin using powerful natural ingredients. The name “s/he” nods to the fact that the line is unisex; Dawn’s decision not to use artificial fragrances, complicated formulations, and overly stylized packaging made that positioning easy. Learn a little bit more about the founder and her incredible products through our Q&A below! XXJKE

 Rip & Tan: When did you first become interested in beauty?

Dawn De La Fuente: s/he celebrates the time-honored tradition of self-care rather than a fixed idea of beauty. I have always believed in nature’s wondrous ability to heal the mind, body, and spirit—s/he utilizes nature to help reestablish the inner and outer connection with oneself.

Rip & Tan: What professional or experiential training do you have in the industry? 

DDLF: I began studying herbalism several years ago as a way to deepen my connection with nature. Through my practice I’ve learned about various herbs and their medicinal benefits, how to work with plants in their different forms, and how to formulate based on specific needs. I’ve had the pleasure of learning from renowned Bay Area herbalists and botanists that specialize in Western and shamanic herbalism as well as aromatherapy. I’ve also studied Ayurvedic aromatherapy and use this knowledge to further inform development of the line, a product’s intended use and efficacy.

 Rip & Tan: What inspired you to start s/he? When and how did you get it off the ground? 

DDLF: s/he began as a creative outlet for my herbal practice and desire to be independent from most store-bought goods that are laden with harmful ingredients. I find inspiration in the natural environments that surround me and craft formulas that help me feel grounded and alive, like the feelings evoked and healing that takes place when walking through a redwood forest, or the soulfulness of the Northern California coast, and the enchantment of the desert. I select ingredients from these environments for their medicinal benefits, and am most drawn to working with elements like seaweed, sea salt and clay; the seed, flower and roots of herbs; earthy aromatics with hints of citrus; and cold-pressed plant oils like Jojoba, Avocado and Coconut.

I began crafting s/he in my home in 2014, and then moved my work to a small studio in Sausalito, CA in 2015. s/he is very much an independent brand. I attribute its growth to the community of local artisans that I’m grateful to be a part of, the green beauty movement that continues to propel new brands, stockists who are passionate about natural products and supporting local brands, and to customers who understand the importance of natural living as well as those who are just beginning their journey.

 Rip & Tan: Why was gender neutrality important to you? 

DDLF: Simplicity and intention are at the heart of every creation which is why s/he products are multi-purpose and can be shared between genders. I formulate based on need versus want and allow products to develop under the natural guidance of the ingredients and their medicinal benefits. s/he is about making an intentional connection with nature which is not defined by gender.

Rip & Tan: What standards do you follow when it comes to the ingredients, sourcing, manufacturing, etc?

DDLF: s/he is handcrafted in small batches to ensure product freshness and efficacy. I carefully select ingredients from the earth and ocean—all botanicals and raw materials are organic, wildcrafted, locally sourced or sustainably harvested. With the exception of organic beeswax used in the Herbal Balm, s/he is vegan. s/he does not use chemicals, synthetic fragrances, artificial colors or harmful preservatives of any kind. And the predominantly glass packaging is both reusable and recyclable. 

Rip & Tan: What are your best-sellers? Why do you think your customers love these products?
DDLF: Amongst women and men alike, our best sellers include the Earthen Body Oil, Facial Toner, Seaweed + Lavender Face Exfoliant and Rosemary Salt Soap. The Earthen Body Oil is a very grounding blend that many like to use for body and hair moisturizing post bathing. It can help one start the day on a steady foot and/or rest easier at night. The Facial Toner is a lovely botanical mist to use post face cleansing or shave as it nourishes and rejuvenates. Customers are drawn to the Face Exfoliant due to the mineral-rich seaweed, but also because it can be used as a soothing face mask. And to be honest, the soaps are always a hit, but the textured Rosemary Salt bar seems to invigorate most everyone’s senses.

 Rip & Tan: Any tips on using or combining the products in your line? Any combinations that are especially effective?
DDLF: For face care I recommend the ‘Daily Facial,’ a combination of our Seaweed + Lavender Face Exfoliant, Helichrysum Facial Toner and Botanical Face Serum (to be used in that order). This trio of herbal magic gently exfoliates and soothes skin while providing hydration and long-lasting nourishment. And the Exfoliant can also be used as a nutrient-rich mask to help combat inflammation or irritation from sunburn and dryness.

 For full body herbal relaxation, I recommend running a hot bath and indulging from head-to-toe, starting with a scalp treatment using the Horsetail Hair Tonic followed by applying the Face Exfoliant as a mask. To cleanse, use the Juniper Patchouli soap (or any s/he soap) and exfoliate from the neck down with the Seaweed + Salt Body Scrub. To lock in moisture and stimulate the lymphatic system, gently massage with Earthen Body Oil from feet to heart, hands to heart and finish with neck to heart.

 Rip & Tan: What new product, event, or collaboration are you excited about right now? 

DDLF: I’m taking time to nurture the existing line, working to improve formulas where I can and allowing them to exist in the world without the pressure of the “next new product.” I believe in simplicity and intention and want to ensure each product has a place. I’ve also been spending time exploring what I envision as my larger contribution to natural living and how s/he is one part of this picture. 

 Rip & Tan: What beauty or wellness ritual(s) complement the line? What do you wish all of your customers would do to take care of their mind and/or skin? 

DDLF: Meditation, breath work, Abhyanga, and massage are all practices that beautifully complement s/he since the line was developed to enhance personal self-care. I feel blessed my customers share their self-care practices with me and am even more grateful when they come to me seeking support. What I often recommend is finding ways to incorporate more nature into their lives and suggest getting their bare feet and hands in the earth, to watch, listen to, and feel what surrounds them. Seeking out and soaking in natural mineral springs is a beautiful way to cleanse the mind and body. I also stress the importance of drinking water and eating a diet that supports the body and not the appetite. And I like to encourage exploring or enhancing one’s spiritual practice. We as people often focus on supporting our bodies when it’s equally important to nourish our souls.  

Photo: Morgan Pansing