May Lindstrom Skin
While visiting the CAP Beauty store, I was immediately drawn to the shelf by beautiful black bottles with gold writing. Once I arrived at the shelf, it kept getting better because the names of the products were playful and lighthearted. I went back to my office and immediately looked up the contact information for May Lindstrom Skin dying for samples to try. Asking around if my co-workers had heard of the brand, we were mystified by this brand discovery. They arrived and uncovering each one was the ultimate TLC moment. The products surprise me every time by their effectiveness and each person I get to try them fall in love as well. May is such an incredibly sweet and accomplished woman and I have been thrilled to watch her company grow. Learn about her inspiring story below:
What is your background? My original and biggest remaining passion is food. My intention was always to be a chef and I began working in professional kitchens at thirteen. Cooking is my heart and fuels my inspiration like nothing else.
Somewhere along the way I fell into modeling as a creative outlet in the brief hours outside the restaurant, primarily working with artists - painters and sculptors in the beginning and ultimately, beauty and fashion photographers. I valued the relationships I was able to build with so many interesting, talented and dynamic people throughout my career, but I also deeply missed working in food and the intimate connections that came through feeding someone.
May Lindstrom Skin is where my two worlds come together. I am so grateful to be deeply immersed in raw ingredients again and crafting recipes - this time for the vital purpose of self care and beauty rituals.
Describe what it was like to launch a company right when your first daughter was born. The timing was magic. I birthed my baby girl at home in our own bed, and welcomed her right into our ripe and unfolding world. We launched with our first retailer the very next day and in the course of two sleeps, life changed entirely. This was absolute insanity, of course, but also somehow exactly right.
Becoming a mother shifted who I am - reaffirmed my values, sparked a new level of fire and commitment and pushed me over the edge in my desire to build something I could truly invest myself in with total pride. I came into my full power once life became about more than myself. The fearlessness of fancy-free youth was replaced with the fearlessness behind a bigger purpose ... and that laid an entirely new foundation for everything.
I had been quietly working out of my very small home studio (really, just a bedroom) on the formulas and general concept for May Lindstrom Skin for a couple years prior to my daughter’s arrival, and then with her in a sling or at my ankles as I blended products and filled bottles for shipment during the first nineteen months of her life, finally moving the business out of my home and into our Los Angeles studio in February of 2014. I’m now the mother of two and my one-man-band business has turned into something so much greater than I ever imagined. Life is full, challenging, and infinitely beautiful.
Explain the significance of the dandelion logo. Dandelions are what childhood wishes are made on, and I love the whimsy of that. As a country girl from Minnesota, I spent infinite hours gathering dandelions, making crowns with their flowers, salads with their leaves, and romancing endless dreams and wishes made on seeds, spiraling through the summer air. To gild this icon in gold, place it on a bottle that is designed to be a catalyst for connection and care - it made sense on every level. Decisions made from my child-eyes always turn out to be the good ones.
Expand on the term you coined for yourself, "skin chef". My approach to formulating is very similar to how I work in the kitchen. I am uncompromising in my quest for the best quality ingredients on the planet - rich in color, scent, and texture, stimulating to the senses and good for your whole self - inside and outside. Your skin drinks up everything you feed it, so I believe in feeding it well.
How did you perfect your gorgeous bottles that drew me to the shelf in Cap Beauty when I discovered your line? When I started working on this idea for this collection back in 2007 or so, nobody was using Miron glass for skincare. It was reserved almost entirely for keeping fresh very high end food products and funnily enough, medical marijuana. By the time I launched May Lindstrom Skin, a couple small natural brands had discovered its properties and now, years later, this glass is ubiquitous in the natural beauty world.
The dark glass is gorgeous and sleek, but more importantly, it serves an active vital purpose. The history and appreciation for the special protective qualities of violet glass can be traced back to the heyday of ancient Egyptian civilization. Even then, valuable essences and healing natural products were kept in gold and violet glass containers. Miron violet glass works like a natural filter, blocking the complete spectrum of visible light while allowing a certain part to be permeable for radiation in the spectral range of UV-A, and infra red light. This unique combination offers optimal protection against the ageing processes that are released by visible light, thus lengthening the stability and potency of our collection without the use of parabens and preservatives.
We have many clients who keep our bottles once finished to up-cycle for DIY oil blends or cut flowers (they stay fresh crazy long!) and our jars are fantastic for herbs and spices in the kitchen or holding odds and ends in the bathroom - qtips, bobbypins, and cotton balls.
What does it take to start a company? Were you aware of what you needed to do, or did you have to do a lot of research? Starting a company is a surreal adventure and the kind of thing that if you knew what was involved, you’d never begin. Luckily, I knew nothing - so I leapt and found my wings in flight!
Both of my parents are entrepreneurs and I was raised with examples all around of me of what it means to work for yourself. It’s in my DNA to do my own thing and thankfully I’m good at it. I joke that I’d make a terrible employee, and that’s likely accurate. My ideas can be a little wild and my standards crazy high. At the end of the day, I’m usually quite grateful that there is not a single person I have to answer to. I can just go for it - no compromises - and that has been my superpower.
I’ve learned a lot over these years - things I never would have gotten out of a textbook or from studying business or watching what anyone else in this space is doing. It took just showing up, doing the work, dreaming of and striving for the best and then figuring out how to offer it. Over and over, we ask the questions - What is it for? Does it benefit the client? Does it increase intimacy and connection? Bring joy and delight? Am I inspired? Do I want this? How could I make it better? We have our value system and we don’t budge on it. I rarely look at the numbers as I don’t want them to influence me. I don’t ever want to feel like I need to cut corners somewhere to keep profit or shy away from something risky but amazing out of fear. It’s an important kind of preservation for me. I know when we are doing well if I can stand behind our core priorities. The rest takes care of itself.
How do you figure out which ingredients should go together, and how much to put of each? I am especially curious since they help numerous skin issues. For me, formulation is as intuitive as making soup. I'm not one to follow a recipe in either cooking or formulating. I like to just play and explore until something resonates with me, until I reach a scent, texture, and effect that I know is special and exciting. My work is a combination of intuition and an ongoing study of plants, minerals and our relationship to beauty rituals throughout history.
I know when I've completed a formula when I don't want to let it go from my own ritual - when I crave it the way I do good food, and when I can't wait to start and end my day by immersing myself in its goodness. And of course, I watch my own skin. I'm highly sensitive, and my complexion shows almost immediately if something is a win or not. When I strike the right balance, I simply glow. When I'm yet to hit the mark, it's very clear in the language of my skin. I'm insanely picky. When I strike a solid YES, it's call for major celebration!
I've been fascinated with the process of product formulation since I was a little girl - with the magic of plants and minerals, salts and spices and oils. I love that the more I know about ingredients and how our skin responds to each one, the further back in history it feels I go with my creative voice.
The best ingredients are not necessarily the most rare or exotic, or the ones that have had millions of dollars spent to develop them synthetically. More often than not, I keep coming back to the materials that have been used all throughout the world since documentation on beauty rituals began - clays, salts, plants. For me, proper skincare is about restoring balance. Don't do too much, keep it simple. Sometimes we need to simply get out of the way and allow our skin the space to heal itself.
How do you view customer service? It's admirable that you include handwritten notes in each package. There is nothing more important than our clients. It is not an exaggeration to say we are nothing without them. Our clients are our sole investors, our board of directors, our toughest critics, and our greatest cheerleaders. They are our chosen family. The least we can do is send each one a handwritten note of gratitude along with their treats to bring a little light and love into their day. This is what it is all about - I wanted to bottle a catalyst for connection. Here it is.
How do you balance running a business and being a wife/mother? I have been having this conversation a lot recently and it’s a question that comes up all the time - in my personal life as well as in interview after interview.
And at the end of the day, I think that maybe the goal shouldn’t be balance, but instead, presence.
There will never be enough hours in the day for me to give all that I want to to either my children, husband, or my business and clients (not to mention my own self) - but I can give my all within the moments I have in each of these spaces and really be there fully. That is a goal worth working towards.
Are you planning any upcoming product launches? I am always up to something and I have more than a few special formulas spinning around in my head right now. We’ll have to see who the winner is!
We are also currently putting the final magic touches on a collection of our ritual in the sweetest little minis to facilitate easier sampling of our highly experiential treats. These will be incredible for short travels, for gifting, and simply because you’ve never seen samples so cute!
What is the best thing that's happened to you because you started this company?
I cry pretty much every day. That might not seem like the most awesome thing, but I’m telling you it is. We get the most incredible letters sent to the studio and emails in our inbox. The way our clients have opened up to us over the years, trusting us with not just their largest and most vulnerable organ but with their whole selves - their lives and personal stories - it has absolutely shifted me as a human being. I am humbled to my core at the honor it’s been to connect so deeply with so many women and men who’ve come to us for care. It’s the gift I didn’t know could be a part of this business, and the one that now makes me turn on my fire every single day to earn it.
How have you learned to be a boss? Slowly, but surely. :) It took a long time for me to be comfortable with that title, not sure if I’d earned it or knew what it meant to be a good one. I still struggle with that - managing people is hard. I have high standards and with a small team, every person must show up and really perform fully or we all sink. I struggle with having to hold people accountable and providing challenging feedback still scares me.
I’d give anything to my team and my husband (who is my partner) and I dedicate a ton of energy to coming up with more and more ways to ensure that we take care of everyone. From full health care to plenty of vacation to an annual education fund and bi-monthly massages at the studio - we try really hard to give back what each team member gives to us and our clients.
Where do you want the brand to be in 5 years? I have so many dreams about what is ahead. We are growing quickly, but my foundation and core philosophy stand firmly on the grounds of intimacy, on being special, and on delivering the most over-the-top client service and a truly personal experience. I want our collection to remain compact and concise and for each piece to play a vital part of my ideal ritual. I have no desire to add dozens of new treats to the line, but I very much wish to continue adding to our story and to bring in new pieces that deepen our connection to self and skin. Looking forward, I see space for more collaboration with other artisans, for just a few more special products that I feel deeply pulled to develop, and I am also looking every day to discover more ways to delight each client individually - asking myself what more I can share that will show each and every one how truly grateful I am and how seen and heard and cared for they are.
Any advice for someone wanting to start their own company? Make what you love. Tell the truth. Lead from your heart. Be fearless.