Mirra Q&A: Kathleen Currie Talks the Art of Natural Perfumery

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NOLA-based massage therapist, Kathleen Currie, turned her love of aromatherapy into a range of holistic beauty and natural perfumes. It started with the original Smoke Perfume, which had earned her a cult-following for its intoxicating blend of essential oils and absolutes. Kathleen dishes on how each Smoke Perfume item is created to fill a void in her own personal life, and her tactics to de-stress and live consciously. 

What inspired you to start Smoke Perfume? 

It all developed really organically. I majored in Holistic Health in college and I focused heavily in exercise and nutrition. I worked as a personal trainer, then eventually a massage therapist, which really played a role in me moving into aromatherapy. 

I had made the original blend for Smoke Perfume for myself, and I would get so many compliments on it. Soon, friends were wanting it. 

What is the mission behind your brand? 

I really share Mirra’s philosophy for self-care and beauty coming from within. I hope that my products inspire people to slow down and re-connect. I want people to make more empowering choices for themselves.

What are benefits of natural perfume?

All mainstream perfumes are a blend of fully synthetic perfumes. There’s very little regulation in the perfume industry, so a lot of the toxins that you find in mainstream fragrances can be hormone disruptors and can trigger allergic reactions. They’re basically a cocktail of bad ingredients and companies don’t have to disclose what those bad ingredients are. 

Synthetic perfumes tend to be carried in denatured alcohol, which is a harsher alcohol. Natural perfumes are usually held in alcohol or oil or a blend of the two. The alcohol that natural perfumers use tends to be much more gentle. Ours is actually organic corn alcohol.

Everything you put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream, which is why my natural perfumes are derived exclusively from plants. I work with essential oils - and taking it a step further - waxes, absolutes, and materials. It’s easier to trace down these ingredients. 

What’s an absolute?

An absolute is a part of the distillation process of an oil. It’s usually the first run of the oil and it’s more refined and solvent-extracted. Absolutes tend to be middle notes of a scent and they, typically, have more staying power. Some aromatherapists may argue that you should only work with essential oils. 

What are the best introductory products to Smoke Perfume.

Well, I would probably have to say the namesake Smoke Perfume, which started it all and is a bestseller. But if you’re interested in discovering new scents, the best product to try is our Trinity Perfume Set, which has our three main perfume offerings. It’s a really good value and it’s a fun way to discover which scent you like best. Plus, you can layer them too. Our perfumes are going to interact completely different on everybody. They’ll morph to your unique chemistry and change really dynamically with your skin. 

And our all-purpose oils: the Full Moon Rose Oil and New Moon Cypress Body Oil. The Full Moon Rose Oil is an infusion of rose petals that are strained and then added to essential oils. They’re both designed to be used from head to two. You can use them as a scalp treatment, an oil cleanser, a full-body moisturizer, a shave oil, a bath oil, and an essential oil diffuser. They’re very versatile and they’re made with gentle ingredients that are suitable for all skin types. 

Can you tell me a little more about your Herbal Smoking Blends? I was so intrigued by this concept. 

All of my products were something I initially created to fill a void within my own life. I created our Herbal Smoking Blends during the winter solstice, which I always honor. I was thinking, “What do I really want right now?” I’ve smoked herbal smoking blends before and herbals are obviously a huge part of my personal self-care routine.

My intention was to inspire a moment. I wanted to create a “moment,” where you can relax on-the-go. These aren’t addictive; they’re non-habit forming. And a lot of my friends have used them to cut back from smoking. It may seem counter-intuitive, but people have always smoked Mullen. It’s a really soothing herb for your lungs and it’s meant to have a calming effect to your nervous system. They’re also really great after a nice meal to aid your stomach in digestion and help soothe your stomach.

We’ve also thought about them as a form of energetic cleansing - kind of like a sage cleanse for your body. You could even smudge with that.

What’s smudging?

Smudging is thought to help energetically clear space. The smoke in aromatic herbs have anti-microbials and anti-bacterial properties, so it actually does cleanse the air. There are so many herbs you can burn. 

What is your education/background in herbalism?

I took a long-distance course, where I was required to meet in-person once a month. Herbalism is a lifelong study and it’s very multi-faceted. I’m not a clinical herbalist, but I do love taking weekend workshops. I love to go foraging on my own. 

Personally, what are your core values when it comes to beauty?

I’ve become so much more passionate about beauty and skincare since launching Smoke. It’s been something that’s really fun for me. I definitely go all natural when it comes to skincare and that’s healed my skin tremendously. I don’t really use any conventional mainstream products. 

What major skincare challenges have you dealt with?

I do have combination skin that tends towards dryness and acne--this can be problematic. I definitely veer towards some adult acne. I never had acne growing up and then when I was 25, I had this really intense cystic acne. They probably went hand in hand with my journey

I started oil cleansing my skin. Switching to oils in general has really helped my skin. In general, since launching smoke, I’ve become much more aware of how all my choices affect my health. I’m eating better, paying attention to hydration and my skin, definitely. Cutting out/limiting my caffeine intake has helped my skin a lot. Coffee causes me to breakout along my jawline. I think most people don’t think about caffeine’s effect on the skin, but it affects mine more than sugar, alcohol, anything!

How has your beauty routine evolved over the last few years?

I keep it really simple in the morning - just soap and water, or I’ll use a toner in the morning to wipe off my face. My moisturizer is a very light oil. I use the Full Moon Rose Oil on my face, then Glossier’s new sunscreen. 

I definitely crave my evening skincare routine. It’s apart of my self-care ritual, and it’s how I wind down, so I spend more time on it. I’ve really been into the Urb Apothecary “Charcoal and Below” Cleanser, then I’ll moisturize. I may do a mask at home, sometimes a DIY on. On days where I need more hydration, I’ll use a heavier moisturizer.

As far as my fragrance routine, I like to apply my perfume on all of my pulse points. If I’m using the spray version, I’ll use it all over. All of my perfumes’ wear varies. Depending on where you apply it and how active you are, it can change. With a natural perfume, they’re much more intimate. You really want to spray them close, like 4-6 inches away from your bare skin. I would say, typical wear time is between 4-6 hours, in a perfect world. I find that if it’s hotter, it may evaporate or sweat off quicker. I do like to keep a roller version in my purse to freshen up. I like to touch up my perfume midday when I re-apply lipstick. Then I’ll just touch up my face for a quick refresher. 

What has been some of the best skincare advice someone has given you to date, that really made an impact on your skin?

Less is more! Oh, and I really don't wash my face with soap in the morning - just water. Having combination skin that tends to acne ,I can easily over-dry it... so moisturizing and protecting the natural moisture by not over-cleansing has been super important for me!

What are your swear by, beauty tips?

I drink a ton of water and I’ve noticed a huge difference in my skin. Sleep is also so important. My main beauty takeaways have to do with what goes on inside. Stress management is a priority for me. I really try taking the time to go on a walk, do some deep breathing, and yoga.

Each nigh when I cleanse my skin I do a tiny face massage... just a few sweeps upwards to get some of the tension out of my facial muscles. It feels so good, and I know it helps stimulate my lymphatic system .

At Mirra, we believe beauty and self-care go hand-in-hand. Do you have any beauty rituals that you use to unwind or practice self-care?

I love restorative yoga. I usually do this move where I “lie up the wall” in an ‘L’ shape. It drains your lymph system, which is so connected to your beauty and your immune system. It completely relaxes you after a long day. I tend to do that for about 5-10 minutes. That’s a huge one for me instead of tasks because it helps me shift gears. 

I do feel it like alleviates any pressure in my feet, ankles, and legs because they’re completely inverted. I don't feel an actual draining, but my hips will get nice and heavy, and I’ve heard that it drains into your pelvic area and then the drainage can be recycled into the rest of your body, which leaves me feeling really refreshed. 

I also love receiving body work, like acupuncture and massage. I’ve been doing a lot this summer. I have a history of tendonitis and pain, so they’ve a lot with stress management. My acupuncturist also does a tune-up and she always asks a bunch of questions about me to address any pain or issues.

Being a business owner can be stressful. How do you manage stress levels and what keeps you sane?

I love exercise and I really crave it. It helps me feel so much better, whether it’s taking a walk or going to the gym. Meditation has also been really helpful to me. So have baths. 

Epsom salts are key... of course I love to use my salt scrub as a bath soak. I love using my Himalayan salt lamp in the bathroom... a dim bathroom during a bath is so much more relaxing. Occasionally I'll watch Netflix from my laptop or read, but generally, I prefer just silence in the tub. I like to fill a big quart jug with cold lemon water to stay hydrated as the salts and heat draw any toxins out!

Also, breathing has really helped me. People just don’t take long, deep breaths enough. Your nervous system needs to have this feeling of intention and taking long, deep inhales and exhales helps me visualize my breathing in a three-dimensional way. Just taking 5 of those intentional breaths can really allow me to “get back into my body” and helps me to shift my focus.

And of course, community, having people has really helped me stay sane and manage stress. My partner is my biggest supporter and confidant. I can't imagine not having him to lean on in both good times and bad. And of course, where would I be without my girlfriends?