Interview with Sara Runser of LILY DE MAI
Sensitive skin? Sara Runser of LILY DE MAI got you covered. What began as a journey to find products to solve her own skin sensitivity issues, led to the birth of her eight product lineup (complete with drool worthy packaging). Combining her expertise in aesthetics and her passion for educating her clients on skin, Runser is on a mission to prove that beauty can be both clinical and non-toxic.
What’s your background?
Having sensitive skin, I wanted to educate myself and understand why my skin was so sensitive. About 10 years ago, I got interested in the clean, organic beauty world. I got my esthetician's license after studying at the Aveda Institute NYC. I also went to the International Dermal Institute for continuing education and got a diploma in aromatherapy from ACHS. I worked in spas in NYC and as a brand ambassador for MyChelle, Pangea, and Alaffia. It was a great opportunity to talk to people about their skin problems and recommend products and ingredients and devise treatments to help them -it was very important for me to have a thorough knowledge of skincare and ingredients before I started LILY DE MAI.
What inspired you to create LILY DE MAI?
My own struggle with sensitive skin was the inspiration for LILY DE MAI. Having sensitive skin can be incredibly frustrating, painful and make you feel very self-conscious when your skin is reacting. Working in spas and as a brand ambassador, I saw first hand how skin problems (sensitive skin, severe acne etc.) can take a toll on a person’s self-esteem.
I also couldn’t find the type of products I wanted, so I created them myself. Traditional sensitive skincare products have some helpful ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid, but they are full of potentially harmful ones like PEG’s, parabens, and sodium lauryl sulfates. Green, clean skincare lines have beautiful organic oils, botanical extracts, and essential oils but they're lacking the clinically proven active ingredients that have an enormous benefit for sensitive skin. I don’t believe people should have to choose between green, clean or clinical skincare. Harmful ingredients should always be avoided and the most effective ingredients from both nature and science should be used to formulate the best products. That’s what I did with LILY DE MAI.
What’s the mission behind your brand?
My true mission in skincare has always been educating my clients. I spend a lot of time on my blog talking about skin structure, ingredients, and lifestyle. When people understand the physiology of their skin, they have a much better chance of having the beautiful, calm skin they want.
I especially love teaching people about the skin barrier and skin-identical ingredients. They're so important to sensitive skin. The skin barrier is a water-resistant, anti-bacterial, film located in the top layer of our skin. It helps prevent bacteria and allergens from penetrating the skin and protects against pollution, UV exposure, extreme climate conditions and other environmental stressors. The skin barrier is also crucial in maintaining skin hydration by limiting water loss in skin cells. People with sensitive skin have a weak or damaged skin barrier that’s unable to protect skin from irritants and dehydration. I can’t say it enough; a strong skin barrier is the foundation of healthy skin!
Skin identical ingredients are a specific set of ingredients, including ceramides, EFA’s, sterols, Sodium PCA, etc. that are crucial to skin health. They mimic the naturally occurring components of the skin barrier. When we apply skin-identical ingredients to our skin we are in essence working with our skin, helping it to help itself with ingredients' it recognizes and needs. When I started caring for my skin barrier I noticed a huge difference in my skin. Much less sensitivity, redness, irritation and my adult acne disappeared. It was like my skin was starving for the right ingredients and when it received them it healed itself.
Who is the LILY DE MAI customer?
She's a woman who’s very interested in her health and in self-care. Having sensitive skin, she’s researched and educated herself on science behind skincare. She’s smart, savvy and she doesn’t follow trends. She’s attracted to LILY DE MAI’s commitment to science and our organic and clinically proven skin-identical ingredients. The bottom line is she wants products that soothe her skin - products that work!
I have extremely sensitive skin. I can’t even use most laundry detergents. How do your products specifically cater to this skin type?
During the formulation process, I specifically chose skin-identical ingredients, because they occur naturally in our skin and are clinically proven to help sensitive skin. Skin identical ingredients have that name because they mimic the actual components of our skin. They balance and protect skin and our skin needs them to be healthy and calm. What could be better than putting on your skin what is there naturally? It goes back to supporting the skin barrier. People with sensitive skin have a damaged and weak skin barrier so irritants are able to penetrate it. When you restore and strengthen the skin barrier with skin-identical ingredients irritants are kept out.
The products are also formulated with my “Organic, Green & Clean” philosophy and the "NO LIST". With the botanical ingredients, I made a commitment to always use organic and unrefined if available so they have the highest level of phytonutrients. All the functional ingredients like the emulsifier and preservative system are "Green and Clean". Meaning they are plant-based and are Ecocert certified. The “NO LIST” is found on our website. It lists 13 ingredients including artificial fragrances and colors, parabens, isopropyl and SD alcohol, sulfates, and PEG’s that are considered harmful to sensitive skin and are not present in any LILY DE MAI product.
What’s the best product to introduce yourself to the line?
Definitely HARMONY Omega 3|6 Recovery Serum and BLISS NMF | Transformative Moisture Mist. They are the foundation products and are formulated to work together to offer complete hydration and skin barrier support.
HARMONY is formulated to mimic the oil part of the skin barrier using Shiso and Watermelon oils that have the highest percentages of Omega 3|6 essential fatty acids (EFA’s.) They replenish the fatty acids in the skin barrier. Plant-based Pomegranate Sterols replenish the cholesterol found in the Skin Barrier and Ceramide 3 replenishes the ceramides found in the skin barrier.
BLISS is formulated to mimic the water-soluble part of the skin barrier using Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium PCA and plant-based Soy Amino Acids (non-GMO) to replenish the natural moisturizing factor (NMF) found in the skin barrier. When you use them together you're getting maximum hydration, your skin barrier is stabilized, strengthen and is able to keep irritants out and moisture in.
Do you have any upcoming launches?
I'm working on a trial size set. It's a great way for people to sample the line before investing in the full-size product. It will contain RENEW Restorative | Calming Cream Cleanser, BLISS NMF | Transformative Moisture Mist, HARMONY Omega 3|6 Recovery Serum and SANCTUARY Vita 3 | AntiOx Defense Serum and the PURTY Marine | Mineral Detox Mask. It should be available in January.
What do you do to practice self-care?
I have a meditation practice that has helped me enormously, Learning to slow my mind down and being able to have that moment of clarity when a stressful situation comes up. Instead of reacting, just taking a step back, and understanding that this isn’t a final thing. It’s just a temporary moment that will pass.
Nature and animals are also so important to my self-care. In the past year, my husband and I have been spending a lot of time in upstate New York. I grew up in the country and being able to reconnect with the natural world, disconnect from technology, slow down, and take the time to appreciate a beautiful flower, sunset or a field full of horses. It’s made us both so much happier and calmer. I try to remember to be grateful for the simple things that we have around us every day.
We have a rescued pit bull and two rescue cats. They are so loving and always make me laugh. I call them my therapy animals! I also started riding horses again. I was a horse crazy kid and it’s something that I always wanted to come back to. Working with horses is a great way to practice staying in the moment. It helps build trust and teaches you to be more patient.
What are your favorite beauty staples?
I do use all LILY DE MAI products! I can’t live without HARMONY Omega 3|6 Recovery Serum and BLISS NMF | Transformative Moisture Mist. I love Aveda’s Botanical Kinetics Intensive Hydrating Mask. It’s a great boost of hydration for irritated or dehydrated skin. Put a tablespoon in the fridge, let it get cool and then apply. It feels great and the cool temperature helps to soothe sensitive skin even more. I’m a huge fan of Greek yogurt as a mask. The lactic acid is a fantastic hydrating agent and a gentle exfoliator. Sometimes I add a teaspoon of brewed matcha green tea for extra antioxidants or licorice tea if my skin is really reactive. I also can’t live without my Clarisonic for sensitive skin. I use it twice a week for a minute or two with light pressure. It gives a nice, gentle, uniform exfoliation. And for the days I really need to relax and decompress I’ll soak in a warm Epsom salt bath and then lie on my acupressure mat. It releases all of my tension. It’s pretty amazing.
What’s your best beauty advice or swear-by tips?
With sensitive skin, less is always more! At the Aveda Institute, I was taught the “Less Rule”. Less product, less pressure, less time, less heat. Use fewer products to avoid ingredient interaction and over treating your skin. Use light pressure in cleansing, exfoliating and massaging and do it for a short period of time. You don’t want to over-cleanse, over exfoliate and or over manipulate your skin. That can remove the skin barrier, increase dehydration and irritate skin. Use cool water and avoid excessive heat or cold. Both can over stimulate the skin, increase blood flow, redness and enlarged capillaries. Always err on the side of doing less. Your skin with thank you for it!
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