I’ve been a big fan of using natural oils for my skincare, and I like to buy them from small crafters, because they put so much passion and love into their products. The current one I had, was running out, and I wanted to try something different. So when Pip brought her Vanya Essential pots, I decided to give them a try.
Photography César Ochoa
We all have our hangouts, a place where everybody knows your name. When I need a break from my daily grind of working at home (Ah the joys of being self-employed—but that’s another story) I join my friend Gisèle at her shop, Bazr de Ville, just right around the corner from home, here in Brooklyn-esque Parc-Extension, Montreal.
At her shop, we hang out, we talk about what’s trending, and we just share our passion for clothes and style. Not to mention that it’s a great place to meet other free-spirits that are slowly moving into the neighbourhood.
Pip is one of these free-spirits. The first time I saw her walk into the shop, in late May, she was sporting a California Girl tan, and a makeup-free face. Picture it: 70s flower hippie girl meets amazon jungle woman! In her short wrap skirt and matching camisole in tan and black spots, that looked like it was made of suede. I was absolutely delighted by her magical styling. Whenever she would drop-in (and I happened to be there) we would talk about skincare and natural oils, and how much we loved their goodness, and we would also talk about her line of natural beauty care (it’s sold at the shop).
She helped me understand that crafted beauty products, are not an easy D.I.Y. process. Like any crafting, it takes a lot of tinkering around before you formulate a product so good that you can sell it.
Pip met up with Cesar and I, on the highest peak of the city, at sunset, to capture her magic. She did her own hair and arrived with no makeup. We also talked some more about skincare, and the meaning of life (maybe they do go hand in hand) :
Tell me about why you started Vanya Essentials.
I’ve been dealing with skin issues, like psoriasis and acne. They used to be out of control back then, and I just didn’t know what to do. I used so many products and I tried all kinds of different things, and there wasn’t anything that worked. I was very discouraged! My sister suggested that I look into skincare made with natural ingredients. So I threw everything out and switched to Shea butter and coconut oil and my face started to recover.
Yes! When I had acne in my teens, it was the same issue: you think piling on products and drying your skin out will get rid of acne. But it’s actually using gentle and simple skincare that really helps!
I agree, I think also people have this idea that natural isn’t effective, but essential oils are very potent! You have to know how to blend them—I wouldn’t recommend applying essential oils directly on the skin, they have to be diluted into what’s called carrier oils—there’s actually a whole science that has been around for a long time. Before modern-day creams, this is how people would take care of their skin.
How long did it take you to develop your beauty care products?
It took about three years of trial and error. I started by reading a lot of books, then I would go to workshops, slowly gathering information. I would buy the ingredients and make formulas and try them on myself and my friends. It’s the only way to learn!
I’m sort of jealous, because I’ve been really interested in essential oils, too. I’m glad I didn’t start to try and blend them myself. I know that there are so many kinds of oils! Some are very expensive, too. How did you manage to make a formula that is still affordable?
I really like earthy, and woody fragrances. I find they are really grounding. I chose an oil like frankincense, because it has a lot of different properties: it’s effective at repairing and healing skin, as well as being a natural anti-bacterial and the scent is very calming.
The Internet gives us the impression of instant results, but it just goes to show that everything takes time, including crafting natural products!
Yes, it does! But it’s something that I’ve become very passionate about, so it’s a fun process of exploration. I’m actually adding a new product to my line-up which has cocoa butter (she passes me the jar to try).
Hmm! Smells like a woody, subtle, cocoa fragrance!
I have to admit that I was lurking on your Facebook and I saw that you like to do yoga! I’ve been practicing for two years now, and it’s really helped me to remove stress. It’s made me feel much more connected to myself and more spiritual. How did it come into your life?
I studied ballet as a teen and into my twenties, and I did a lot of yoga to train my body. At first I did it more as an exercise, but now, yoga is much more a spiritual practice.
I’ve been doing at lot of Yin Yoga at home with some Hatha poses. I’m looking for new options, do you have anything to recommend?
You have to try Kundalini Yoga, there is a lot of chanting and staying in the same position for a long time while you breathe. I love it! If you can, check out Equilibrium Yoga.
How about spirituality? Did yoga help you get in touch with yours?
For me, it started when I began to travel. Seeing different realities and ways of being, and living really opened up my eyes. It made me realize that we are very lucky and blessed. In the end, finding happiness is what’s important.
I agree. To me it’s all the little things that really matter, like taking care of yourself and your body, eating well, looking after your skin and hair, and just expressing yourself in ways that make you feel free. Everything else is extra.
Yes! I always try to find the beauty around me, others might not agree with what I find beautiful, but I always focus on the positive side. Finding beauty and happiness helps me to stay focused.
The black dress, sandals, and all jewelry are Pip’s own. The two other dresses are from Montreal local designer Valérie Dumaine. No makeup was used, Pip did her own hair by using her natural oils and wrapping it in a bun to dry it into it’s natural waves.