For our next installment of Clean Faces, we chatted with one of our favorite female founders, Shannon Davenport of Esker.
Why do you stand behind clean beauty?
I used to work for some of the world’s biggest global beauty companies as a trends consultant. I loved it—I respected the history of the brands and the stories they told but I noticed that many of them weren’t taking clean beauty seriously. I think they saw it as a phase or a blip, but the truth is, this is a real movement. We need to know more about the companies that are providing products that go in, on and around our bodies, whether that’s beauty, food, personal care or feminine care. It’s not a bad thing that people want transparency and accountability, I think it’s a great thing. At the same time I feel that it’s really important not to come from a place of fear. We’re all learning how to live in better accordance with our bodies and the planet and I don’t want to shame people or make them feel scared that their products are hurting them or giving them diseases. We’re all doing our best with what works for our individual budgets and lifestyles, and I want clean beauty to feel positive and fun.
What is your approach to sourcing ingredients? Are there certain credentials or requirements that you look for?
I went to the New York Institute of Aromatherapy for my certification and I learned so much. Primarily that the words we hear a lot in terms of ingredients are bogus. ‘Wildcrafted’, ‘therapeutic grade’, ‘pure’—unfortunately these don’t have any real regulated meaning. Neither does the term ‘natural’. What’s important for me when I look at ingredients are more concrete facts—what country does it come from, which parts of the plant are used, is it mixed or diluted with any other ingredient, was it at any point tested on animals? The extraction method is also important—essential oils or CO2 extracts are both created from chemical free processes.
How long does it take you to develop and formulate a product?
It depends, but one of the really important pieces of advice I got early on was to not rush the R&D process. The quality, aroma, feel, and packaging are all so incredibly important. We don’t outsource any of those things to outside parties (aside from experienced formulators who make sure everything is shelf and PH stable). Sometimes that process can be 6 months but often it’s 18 months or more. It’s one of the reasons our line is so small—we only want to put out products we’re incredibly proud of and have genuinely perfected. I’ve walked too many tradeshow floors in my life to want to pump out more needless products.
Have you read any good books lately?
I’m reading “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight (the creator of Nike). It’s inspiring to hear how humble some founder stories really are and how hard they worked to break through, even those who have created the biggest brands of our lives. Everybody started from somewhere. I’ve also been reading a lot of gardening books and since I have a toddler I read some parenting books too—my current favorite is “The Montessori Toddler” by Simone Davies, it’s so direct and to the point which I love.
How do you unwind?
I’m a real bath person, which isn’t surprising. Even if it’s just 10 minutes, it’s enough to make me feel renewed. Now that I have a yard I’m becoming a bit obsessed with gardening, even though my garden is definitely still amateur by all measures. My happy place is digging in the garden while listening to a really good podcast. I’m also a bit of a political junkie—that’s probably why I need to garden so much to calm my nerves! Also I don’t do it as much as I’d like to but I really do love cooking.
If we've got 24 hours in Austin, what should we hit up?
The natural springs here are beautiful and very unique—Barton Springs or Deep Eddy are both really fun. As I mentioned I’m a bit of a plant nerd but I love the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center—its super serene and consists of all native plants. The grounds are just gorgeous. You also can’t go wrong with Lake Austin—it’s really lovely to walk around and there’s always a great stream of runners, bikers, and strollers of all walks of life.