Welcome to our first In Conversation With...of 2021!
If you've made it out to our store in the past week, you may have noticed the addition some particularly gorgeous 100% Agate Gua Sha facial tools sitting pretty on our shelves. They are the creation of the recently launched Canadian clean skincare brand, Essentialist.
Founder Madina Baxendall took the time to answer some of our questions about the Essentialist philosophy, the origins and benefits of the Gua Sha practice and the best beauty advice for healthy skin.
What were the reasons for creating Essentialist and how did you want to differentiate it from other brands?
With so many brands on the market, differentiation was and continues to be key. I had three primary concerns that I wanted to address in one single product line: anti-aging, hyper-sensitive skin, and blemish prone skin. There are several great products out there to help with each of these concerns individually but together, there are virtually none. I set out to create my own dream product line knowing I wasn’t alone, countless men and women share my needs. It came down to multi-functional products to ultimately help individuals streamline their routines
What fundamental principles are at the core of the brand and are important to you as the founder?
At our core Essentialist is centred around the principle of simplicity. In terms of both the product formulation, as well as our daily routines, we’ve focused on eliminating the excess. Isn’t this what we need right now? We’ve learned that less really is more.
With that in mind, we resisted to urge to try pack as many ingredients as possible into our formulas. Instead, we focused on a select set of active ingredients and used them at optimal concentrations so they could actually deliver results. We made it a point to be incredibly discerning and ruthless with our editing so only the essentials would find their way into our bottles.
Let’s talk Gua Sha! What are the origins of the practice?
Gua sha is an ancient practice deeply rooted in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). It has been widely practiced in variant forms, and called different names, throughout China and Southeast Asia for over two thousand years. Various “scraping” techniques, akin to Gua Sha as we know it, are said to have been used for medicinal purposes as early as 200 BC. What’s clear is that this technique has proven to stand the test of time!
What are some of the benefits associated with regular use of the Gua Sha tool?
First and foremost, it’s incredibly simple and can be done virtually anywhere so it’s easy to incorporate into your self-care routine. The principle behind it is release and its main functions are to address stagnant energy, increase blood circulation, promote lymphatic drainage, and break down fascia. The outward benefits you’ll see will be improved tone, elasticity, and a more lifted, sculpted look.
It’s a modality that can often be overlooked because it doesn’t have the kind of immediate dramatic impact we’ve been conditioned to expect. Most of us are too busy, tired, or lazy to put in the daily work and look for quick fixes instead. Gua sha does deliver immediate results but they’re subtle and require consistency to take more noticeable effect. In my view it’s like yoga, the changes in your body and mind begin from the first moment you step onto the mat, however, you probably won’t notice your evolution until you’re able to hold a challenging pose or finally do a headstand. Perhaps we can all learn to be more attuned to the subtle changes that compound with regular practice, and work to create the larger transformations we wish to see.
I urge people to look in the mirror the first time they try gua sha. For facial gua sha you typically start at the chin and work your way up to the forehead on one side of your face before doing the full cycle on the other side. When you finish the first half stop and look at the side that has been treated vs. that which has not- you will definitely see a difference!
Talk us through the decision to use 100% Agate stone to create your Gua Sha and the benefits in the different shapes of the stone?
Agate is so stunning, I love the variations in color from the deep rusty tones, to soft pinks, whites, greys, and blues. Each stone is different which I think is wonderful because, as with people, it’s about celebrating uniqueness. One of our customers said they’re like functional pieces of art and that really sums it up!
Beyond aesthetics agate is known to rebalance and bring harmony to the mind, body, and spirit. It’s grounding, strengthening, and protective, helping to ease tension, create a sense of security, as well as promote physical and emotional healing. It spoke to our values of promoting inner and outer beauty in tandem.
As for the shapes, they’re both functional and great for beginner or advanced users. The “wavy” is so intuitive, just place it on your face or neck and the curves fit beautifully. You don’t really need to think about it. Both sides can be used and we like to promote this tool for its ability to cover a larger surface area so it’s great for body work as well.
The “edgy” can be used without much manipulation but, if you really want to maximize its potential you should be willing to experiment and play with the tool. Each curve and edge can be used to target various points on the face, the toothed edges being particularly good for wrinkle work.
What do you personally find to be the most grounding or relaxing part of the Gua Sha practice?
For me it goes beyond the benefits, it’s more about creating meaningful self-care rituals. Once you’re comfortable using your tool you can forget the mechanics and allow yourself to slip into an almost meditative state. I usually practice after my morning shower in a cozy spot bathed in soft morning light. It’s a simple five-minute Indulgence that can help set the tone for my day. Allow yourself to focus on the sensations and how awake and enlivened your skin feels, it’s incredible!
Talk us through your ideal morning and the rituals and products you like to incorporate into it.
My mornings vary but, I usually roll out of bed and go straight for lemon water and then coffee! Once I’m a bit more awake, I like to do a quick meditation while the world feels still and quiet. After that it’s breakfast, emails, then off to shower. I love to dry brush before showering, just like the Gua Sha it stimulates circulation and promotes lymphatic drainage-plus it feels so good!
Of course, my facial routine involves mainly Essentialist products, most of which are not yet available to the public but, they’re coming soon so stay tuned! I’m a big fan of incorporating AHA’s into my daily routine and use an essence with lactic acid. I also alternate every few days between our Fresh Faced Exfoliating Peel (coming in March!) and our Weekly Reset Mask (rolling out early summer). These both help to keep my skin balanced and clear which is not always easy.
Lastly, I always finish with our Daily Renewal Facial Oil and it’s at this point in my routine that I typically try to practice Gua Sha.
That really sums up the morning, after that I’m off to do whatever is in store for the day. I can tell you that with a new business there’s rarely a dull moment, I’ve learned to value the quiet moments and relish in any “me time” I can get.
What’s music do you like to listen to when getting into the self-care mood?
I’m obsessed with Tibetan bowls, my husband jokes that our house sounds like a trip to the spa. The sounds really resonate and help to melt away anything you’re carrying from the day; if you’re unfamiliar, try it! I’m a huge music fan in general so there’s a lot of singing out loud and annoying anyone that happens to be near me!
What is one piece of beauty advice you’ve received that you like to share with others?
Healthy skin is the goal, not perfect skin. I think we’re often chasing the airbrushed look from magazines which is so sad to me. Why do we revere a falsified image when natural beauty is so much more authentic and alluring? I would urge people to focus less on their flaws and embrace themselves as they are!
What do you hope to accomplish with Essentialist in the coming year and what’s next for the brand?
We’ve just launched and are blown away by the momentum so far. Our next two products are lined up to launch very soon and we can’t wait until the complete line is released. Beyond that I hope we can continue to educate, share, and inspire others to take care of themselves holistically. We want to see our community grow, thrive, and elevate together! The possibilities for our brand really are endless. Right now we’ll use our time to play, experiment, and let things unfold organically.