Though I’m fascinated (obsessed?) with skin care, I’ve never been one to fuss over a 10-step skincare routine. I like products with a punch that allow me more time to drink coffee, hug my dog, and journal on the deck. Thus, Shauntavia Ward – the founder of eleMINT Skin Health and Wellness Studio and the pioneer behind an unconventional, simplified, alternative view on skin health – is my kind of girl.
Walking into eleMINT Skin feels like stepping into a chic boutique in London filled with bright light, good vibes and alternative R&B tunes. Defined as a facial studio, the mission of eleMINT is to cultivate healthy skin care as a lifestyle, rather than a luxury. You won’t find fancy tools, invasive treatments or a laundry list menu. They provide one simple service: a custom, nontoxic facial.
Shauntavia shares her vast knowledge around skin health, wellness and educational tools that ultimately aid clients in taking ownership over their skin. She cares deeply about cultivating healthy habits and leading others to a space where they feel good, holistically.
In our conversation together, she enlightened me about the difference between a skin care regimen and a skincare product regimen. (Translation for my grammatical brain: skin care as noun verses skincare as adjective). She reminded me that true health begins on the inside, starting in the mind.
I am ecstatic to share this interview with you. I urge you to surround the words below with the essence of Shauntavia: down to earth, nurturing, passionate and genuinely optimistic. To hear her voice, visit the Woke Beauty Podcast.
What does eleMINT Skin mean to you?
There are two sides to my business: the client facing side and the internal things that happen. You might see this fun brick and mortar where you can come get a custom facial but there’s a much bigger picture–inspiring people to love themselves, inspiring people to show up for themselves. When we analyze skin disease, we see a connection between skin health and mental health. With that knowledge, I created elements to help eradicate some of the issues that are associated with beauty. The mission behind eleMINT is to help people feel good about themselves so that they can show up in the world as the best versions of themselves; not only to be productive, but to cultivate a healthy environment in which they can thrive. Skin care is not a luxury. It is a lifestyle.
Why is skin care so important to you?
When I think about how I grew up and the sacrifices that my mother had to make, I realize that I am enacting change. She didn’t get opportunities to choose self care. She didn’t get opportunities to show up for herself in regards to her own skin. My story isn’t common. It’s not like I had acne and found this big miracle cure. I think it’s just recognizing that my family including my mom, my grandmother, my aunts and myself; well, we never made self care a priority. I wanted to be a beacon of hope to change that narrative for families and people like me.
I’ve always been interested in beauty. I became a nurse practitioner and started blogging about natural approaches to treatments for hair, skin and nails. Around the same time, I took positions within the medical aesthetic room, cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery. I got a front seat view of what the beauty industry looks like. And it was not butterflies and flowers. It was: if you want to fix your skin, we have to do a peal or conduct a surgery. They were feeding into this idea that beauty was something that was man made.
I had to do something different. I had to create a space for the people who didn’t even realize they needed it.
How do you define holistic wellness?
I think holistic wellness is defined by having alignment and being in tune with what your needs are. I think pushing that a step further, it’s also being responsive. Holistic health encompasses a variety of different channels: physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and even intellect. You want to center those entities around how you feel, how you move and your responses to those different components. It’s so important to be aware of what your needs are so that you can be your most healthy self. Some people show up at eleMINT complaining about their skin breaking out in response to stress. And my question is: how are you responding to that stress? Because if you think coming in here to get a facial will end your breakout, you’re wrong.
I’m the kind of person that wants to spend less than five minutes getting ready so I love how accessible you make skincare routines. Can you tell us what your current morning and nightly routines consist of?
I love that you started with what you like and what you want, because that’s really something that I teach people. You have to know your position on skin care. I’ve met so many people who come into the studio wanting a 10 step regimen and then after a longer conversation, they realize that it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. So that’s where you begin: what works for you?
Nowadays, it’s so important that we differentiate between skin care and skin care products. Those are two completely different things. Skin care is: how do you show up for yourself so that you can have the best skin care of your life? Are you getting enough sleep each night? Are you being active to get circulation in your skin? How is your diet? Are you eating things that are causing your hormones to be off balance and thus your skin is breaking out? I really urge people to ask themselves these questions and to remind themselves that skin care does not start with a cleanser.
Your skin care regimen actually starts with sleep. You need to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep each night because when you don’t, it shows up in your skin. The skin is the largest organ of the body. If you’re not sleeping, you’ll notice that your eyes will be dark and puffy and your skin will be dull and dry. Chemically, when you sleep, your skin cells are working to rejuvenate. That rejuvenation causes an increase in circulation while you’re asleep which thus increases a hormone that helps to give you a natural glow when you wake up.
Wow. I never thought about it that way.
Yeah, girl. Now, when it comes to a skin care product regimen, less is more. I teach all of my clients that they only need four basic steps in their skincare routine to make sure that they’re setting the foundation for healthy skin. Those steps are: a cleanser, a toner, a moisturizer and a sunscreen. I like to look for gentle, gel based cleansers that have ingredients like water, aloe and coconut. It does not have to be a big ordeal. Rosewater toners are my favorite – they’re hydrating and provide astringent properties. When it comes to moisturizer, you invest. A good moisturizer will go a long way and will help to balance out your skin long term while creating a moisture barrier. I like to look at moisturizers that have hyaluronic acid in them to really pull the moisture in. Lastly, you absolutely want to wear some type of SPF every day. It helps protect you from the effects of the sun. The sun will age you light years beyond your actual age: wrinkles, dark spots, all kinds of things. A lot of people sleep on SPF, especially my women of color. We have melanin in our skin but that’s not enough to protect us. It actually hides a lot of skin cancers. It’s so important that we use SPF as a way to prevent any damage to the skin.
Remember, all of the things that encompass the skin carry itself. So taking care of the skin begins with sleep, diet and water, water, water. Your skin protects literally all of your organs in your body. It protects them from the environment.
Is the only difference between the morning and nightly routine sunscreen?
Absolutely. I’m so glad you asked that. You will hear many people say that you need a day cream and a night cream or specific products for specific times of the day. You don’t need any of it. It’s all marketing. You don’t technically need a specific night serum but they are the only products that are relevant to time because they can have elements that react to the skin. But that is getting really technical. You just need a decent cleanser, toner, moisturizer and SPF.
Are there specific skincare brands that you recommend?
I love a plant based brand called Botnia, based out of California. They grow everything in a very small batch in a small micro form in their own yard. They use minimal ingredients in their products and are using elements like glycerine, coconut extracts and hyaluronic acid with no fillers, preservatives or synthetic fragrances. We are one of very select few retailers and spas that carry Botnia in Texas and we just love it. They have a smooth, gentle, gel based cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin; a rose toner that is hydrosol based (great for healing the skin and providing anti-inflammatory effects); and a daily face cream that comes in a jar. What’s really neat is that, at eleMINT, we can add in specific serums – like colloidal oats or goldenseal – to help customize the moisturizer for whatever your skin needs are.
Sundaze is a great sunscreen option as it’s loaded up with vitamin C. Elta MD is my favorite; it’s been used professionally for years. It’s thin, absorbs really nicely into the skin and provides a lot of coverage.
We’re going into Fall and for some of us, there are many shifts. We might have a lower energy mood or even experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. And externally, our skin might begin to show symptoms such as dryness, flakiness or in my case, eczema. I’m curious about how you transition from Summer to Fall?
Get out. Get out of the house. Shaking things up and changing your environment absolutely helps with mood and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). And it’s ok to do things off season. For instance, if we’re in the thick of Fall and no one is hanging out by the pool – whatever – it’s totally fine to go to a pool, put your feet in the water and have a cocktail like it’s summer. I’m huge on living your best life unapologetically no matter what season it is and no matter what somebody says you have to do. A lot of the SAD comes from sitting inside and watching things change on the outside. So, break yourself free from the home. Create the life you want and live it.
Transitioning into that Fall skincare, when we see those leaves change, we know the sun isn’t going to be as bright nor will it be as harsh. It’s a great time to incorporate heavier exfoliating to remove dead skin cells. This isn’t something you want to do in the thick of summer when you have a ton of sun beating down on your face because it can cause a lot of damage. When it comes to products, in the summer I like to keep it light with gel based cleansers and mist rosewater tonics. But when we move into Fall where we face less humidity and sweat, I like to involve heavier products so my toner might become an essence, which is essentially a more viscous liquid (this is really popular in the world of K Beauty). My cleanser might become cream based to help supplement the moisture I usually receive from summer weather.
While we love to put some pumpkin spices in our exfoliating masks in the studio, when it comes to your Fall skincare regimen, you have to be careful with those pumpkin spice lattes. Diet is key. Spiced drinks and apple ciders are fun but they are sugar central and major culprits for breakouts. Everything that glitters ain’t gold.