Brooklyn may now be home to everything from a children’s used clothing store to a dedicated shuffleboard bar, but in 2009 there was one glaring absence that drove Jessica Richards crazy: She couldn’t find any place to shop the small-batch, hard-to-find, and natural beauty products that she yearned for.
So instead, the cool-hunter who worked in fashion created that store herself, opening up Shen in Cobble Hill. In the seven years since, the curated boutique is now a triple threat (in addition to the shop, the Brooklyn space offers select beauty treatments and has an online presence as well) that’s developed a reputation among those in the know as the destination if you’re looking for what will be landing on #shelfies in a few months. (Pubic hair oil, anyone?)
Richards grew up in California with a hippie mother who never let her eat processed foods, so she was living a vegan and organic lifestyle “before it was a thing,” she says. That this philosophy continued with Shen is no surprise. “I was never beauty obsessed—my mom rarely wore makeup,” says Richards. “But I was always on the hunt for the one really great product…the one really good mascara or cream. And I’ve always tried to avoid toxic ingredients.”
Richards tends to gravitate towards brands that are not only non-toxic, but have inspiring stories behind them. Clean beauty with a purpose? Mother Nature would be proud.
In advance of Earth Day (the store is hosting a slew of events to celebrate), we chatted with the beauty guru on what she uses to ward off super-dry skin, hyper-pigmentation, and frizzing.
These are the 5 products she swears by…
1. Immunocologie Oxygen Treatment Creme ($195)
I have terribly dry skin, some dark spots from growing up in California, and hyper-pigmentation issues, and I noticed a big difference in my skin when I started using this cream. I use it day and night, which you’re probably not supposed to do, but whatever. It’s also really thick—and I’m an addict for a thick cream.
2. Nuori Vital Facial Serum ($80)
Jams [Bonnen], Nuori’s founder, was just in our shop hand-mixing some products. She used to work for L’Oreal, and she never understood why products would sit on shelves for so long. The basis of her skin-care line is that it’s actually fresh—it lasts for three months on the shelf, then three months after opening the product. There are no added, nasty ingredients. It’s all as organic and fresh as possible. If you don’t sell it by the time its shelf life is over, you have to send it back. And the packaging you can peel like you’re peeling an orange. I always have this one in my handbag, and I use it in the morning or before I put on makeup.
3. Youth To The People Serum ($62)
I thought this was really weird when I saw it, but the hyaluronic acid binds the moisture to your skin and the kale helps to brighten it. I use this before my cream and it’s not tacky and dries down really nice. You know how when you put talcum powder on your skin you have that satin finish—even though you probably shouldn’t be using it? This feels that way.
4. Kahina Giving Beauty Facial Cleanser ($56)
We’ve sold this pretty much since day one—25 percent of the profits go back to helping the Berber women who crack the nuts and make all the oil. It’s based on argan oil and it’s so gentle on your skin, I even use it on my sons. It has little beads in it and it almost feels exfoliating, but it’s a nonexistent bead—it’s strange!
5. Phylia Connect Leave-In Treatment ($60)
I think I’m the only store in New York to sell this. I started using it because, after I had my first son, my hair started to fall out and get these frizzies underneath. It’s a weird thing—ask a mom and she’ll tell you. I already have super fine hair and I noticed a world of difference after using this; my hair is thicker and stronger. It’s turned into a pretty rope, not coarse rope. I’ve turned lots of models onto it. It’s basically organic Viviscal.
Shen Beauty, 315 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231, 718-576-2679, shenbeauty.com
Haven’t made the switch to non-toxic beauty yet? Here’s our guide to replacing your go-to drugstore products with something way cleaner.