I first found out about Ally from Heart of Gold through Free + Native. I immediately ordered some samples and each one was absolutely transcendental. Every product has a unique personality. Every time I smell them, they evoke some of my best memories. Spruce trees, lake water, jasmine nights & skinny dipping. I was sooooo lucky to get an interview with this exceptional lady. Read about her process, skincare from the inside out, and her most blissful day.
1. What is your favorite wintertime self care routine? Including any of your favorite Heart of Gold products, tonics, recipes, etc.
Warm foot soak a few times per week. I usually add a bit of magnesium flakes & sea salt. Then I put a healthy amount of shea butter on my feet and put on some big wool socks.
Warm hair & scalp oil treatment once a week. I use Coconut Melt Cleansing Balm or Sugar Magnolia Cleansing Fluid for this, as I love the scent & texture, and they rinse off more easily than straight oil.
My winter night time routine: I wash my face with Sugar Magnolia Cleansing Fluid and I use a warm linen washcloth to remove it. I follow that up with Jasmine Tea Hydrolat, a dab of Saffron Ghee Eye Balm on eyes & lips, and 7 drops of Harvest Moon Oilserum which I massage onto my face & neck.
2. Can you tell us how you started your skincare practice/company and what your journey has been like?
I developed cystic acne that started at age 11, and I wasn't in a family that considered going to the dermatologist a worthwhile expense. When I was 15 I found The Herbal Body Book by Jeanne Rose, and that a big turning point for me. I started researching herbal medicine, aromatherapy, and how to make skin care products. It was probably around then that I started thinking about having my own skin care company. It took me about 15 years to finally do it, and it took a cosmic kick in the ass to get started. Fear was holding me back, but I think I spent those years wisely. I went to esthetics school, massage school (a really rigorous program with lots of anatomy & physiology, pathology, etc), herbalism school, and I spent 20 years as an esthetician. Giving facials for 20 years is a fantastic way to develop keen discernment when it comes to skin care products. I learned what I like & don't like, what works & doesn't work, and what ingredients do what.
About 3 years ago I had a very busy esthetics practice, then suddenly I was in a car accident and received a brain injury. I couldn't function at the level I had been, and the stress of it was eating me alive. I truly dreaded going to work, and I daydreamed about walking into traffic. Finally one day I cried all the way to work (it's a 20 minute drive) and when I got there, I knew it was over, and I closed my practice. I had been doing a Lakshmi mantra practice, and I believe Lakshmi gave me the brain injury as a gift. There wasn't room in my life to start a skincare company, so Lakshmi made room. It was brutal gift, but I am forever grateful. I went to herbalism school, and every day for the next year I spent either outside learning about plants, or at my workshop making skin care. I knew there would be a lot of months (or years) of being really bad at formulating, and I kept telling myself that it was okay to suck at it. It took me a while to figure out my creative style and find my voice as a maker. I still worry that my products aren't perfect, but then neither am I and neither is anyone else. I allow the products to be imperfectly perfect beings with personalities.
3. You mention balance; skincare isn't just about what we put on our skin, but about the balance of internal mechanisms like hormones and gut health. What are some go-to resources you'd recommend for people who are just starting out on their health journey to connect the dots? i.e books, podcasts, tests, etc.
Skin care is almost all about the body as a whole. How our skin looks & feels is so tied in with gut health, hormone health, diet, and stress. There is a goldmine of information out there, but my first recommendation is developing your intuition and critical thinking skills. It's not about knowing what everyone else says/thinks/does, it's about knowing your own body, and how to connect your own dots. I highly recommend reading Woman Code for hormone balancing information. I also recommend talking with a naturopath, they are a wealth of knowledge and they can tailor recommendations to your specific needs. Tests I frequently recommend to my clients: blood test for food & environmental allergies, sibo test, ultrasound for pcos, stomach acid test (you can do that one at home), cortisol & dhea levels. There is really such a wealth of information about hormone & gut health on the internet, I am reading these articles right now:
When reading stuff on the internet, always consider the source. If they cite scientific studies, that's usually a good sign.
4. As a creator, what inspires you most when you're developing products?
I feel like products come to me as fully formed beings. That's why they have so much personality, it's like a person is tapping me on the shoulder. I'll receive a picture of a night sky, or a person, or I'll hear a song lyric. From there I ground, open my heart, and listen. It's a really fluid process. It feels very easy because the products are there, just waiting to be actualized. I don't know if Michelangelo actually said this, but this quote is dear to me "The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material." I feel that way, the products are already there. I just remove the unnecessary until I get to the absolute essence.
5. What would your most blissful, perfect day look like?
It's very food-oriented. My most blissful day would start at the farmer's market. Next I'd have brunch at my favorite cafe. They make the most amazing breakfast plate with brioche toast, a little green salad, fresh fruit, cheese, and a poached egg. After brunch I'd go to water- a swimming hole or the ocean. I'd go for a swim, then lounge on the shore and read a good book. I'd go to an aerial class, I looooove trapeze. Then I'd go to a thrift store with my best friend. We always end up laughing and having the best time. I'd end the day at my favorite spot in eastern oregon. I'd cook dinner over the campfire, then sleep under the stars.
6. What are some of your biggest challenges as a business owner?
There are a lot of things demanding my time & attention coming from all directions. I know I need to take time for self care when I start to feel resentful instead of blessed. I also struggle with feeling like I deserve the wonderful life I have. I'm working on self worth, and allowing the business to grow.
7. Each one of your products has an incredible personality; what is the best way to get acquainted with your line?
I always tell people to sample the products. There's no way to really know for sure if a product is right for you without experiencing it firsthand. Also, think of the products as people. Does Red Tara seem like someone you'd like to hang out with? That's an easy way to bring your intuition into the equation, and intuition knows best.