How Sommelier Laurel Shaffer Became a Skin Care Expert
Interview with Laurel Shaffer of Laurel Organics
Headquartered in Sausalito, California is an open lab where wine sommelier turned skin herbalist Laurel Shaffer develops uniquely pure and effective skin care products sourced in large part from organic and biodynamic farms within 100 miles. This multi-talented mastermind behind Laurel Whole Plant Organics aims to “capture California’s hearty terrain and natural abundance in each and every bottle”.
Parvati Magazine: Laurel, you’ve had a diverse career path, from wine sommelier to grape farming to skin herbalist. How do you think these experiences led to the skincare phenomenon that Laurel Whole Plant Organics is today?
Laurel Shaffer: Being a sommelier fine-tuned my senses. I became able to smell, see, and taste characteristics that told a story about how the grapes were farmed, where they were farmed, and how the wine was made. That directly translates to how I determine our ingredient quality today. I often come across adulterated or expired ingredients being sold as fresh and pure. Luckily, nothing can defy my senses. It makes me grateful for my overarching understanding of farming and processing and how those things determine the efficacy of each ingredient.
Parvati Magazine: You provide seasonal recommendations for skincare products. Why is it important to switch up our beauty regimens as the weather changes?
Laurel Shaffer: Many of our customers benefit from the different plants we use seasonally. In the summer, it’s ideal to increase our sun-loving plants, which contain carotenoids and flavonoids to help prevent and repair UV oxidative damage. Winter can be a good time to focus more on soothing, with extra hydration and moisture from richer oils and balms.
Parvati Magazine: You’ve held Holistic Esthetic Retreats that brought together experts in the natural skincare community. What makes these retreats valuable?
Laurel Shaffer: In the clinical skin care world, things like Botox, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion are all incredibly common and well known to “reverse signs of aging”. The natural skin care world has treatments that are equally as effective, but they require additional education for estheticians. Modalities such as Gua Sha, lymphatic drainage, connective tissue massage, acupressure, and Tao Te can create profound shifts in our skin’s health and appearance, but all require advanced education for estheticians. We like to provide them with additional tools and a broader understanding so they don’t have to fall back on conventional modalities that might be harmful to the health of their clients. The holistic esthetics movement is still small and growing, so getting together and learning from each other can be profound.
Parvati Magazine: Laurel Whole Plant Organics is founded on the concept of “Slow Beauty.” What is Slow Beauty, and how can our readers incorporate it into their daily lives?
Laurel Shaffer: I first started using Slow Beauty as a nod to the Slow Food movement. Understanding where my food came from and how it was made was a huge eye-opener for me. I wasn’t sure why this wasn’t happening in the beauty industry. A skin product with 20 ingredients might contain chamomile from Egypt, rose from Bulgaria, evening primrose from China, and so on. [This] despite the fact that all of those ingredients [can be sourced] effortlessly in North America, which would drastically reduce the brand’s overall carbon footprint.
In addition, brand founders would need to be constantly traveling the world to ensure their ingredients are as sustainable as they claim to be. The more I learned, the more I saw these [overseas] ingredients were more likely to be unethical or unsustainable – putting the plant and habitats at risk. These bulk commercial ingredients were always older and lesser quality than ingredients that came from smaller farms that were more closely monitored.
As we pay attention to where our food comes from, we can also be doing that with beauty products. When people use our products, they tell us that they can feel the love; that’s because we honour the Earth, the plants, and the people every step of the way.
Parvati Magazine: It’s captivating to see you and your team in your lab coats experimenting with ingredients. What inspires you to innovate?
Laurel Shaffer: I get my inspiration from plants, our farmers, and our esthetician and spa partners.
Parvati Magazine: What’s next on the horizon for Laurel Whole Plant Organics?
Laurel Shaffer: We have more retreats in the pipeline, new products for those with extreme sensitivities, as well as body products, more sourcing development including a non-profit around that topic, and I’m working on my first book. I hope to also slow down and appreciate the Slow Beauty of it all!
Inspired by the health of loved ones and the efficacy of plants, Laurel Shaffer studied plants and physiology at the California School of Herbal Studies. Now, she is the owner, formulator, plant communicator, loving center, and driving force behind Laurel Whole Plant Organics.