I am absolutely beaming with excitement to introduce today’s very special, informative and inspiring conversation with Jessa Blades. A true force in the natural beauty industry, she has made it her life’s work to teach the power of self-care and empower women to own their individuality.
I have been following Jessa for years now, first discovering her work in the beginning stages of exploring this world of natural beauty. Her energy pulled me through even on the computer and I knew that as soon as I had the chance I would be attending one of her workshops. When the opportunity presented itself a few months ago, I didn’t think twice about signing-up (definitely follow Jessa on Instagram to stay up-to-date on all events + daily inspiration). I can’t recommend experiencing Jessa’s knowledge in-person enough. You will walk away with valuable information and feeling the true possibility and excitement that comes with having the tools to feel your best.
Jessa does everything from workshops, to bridal beauty, photo shoots, editorials, makeup tutorials, one-on-one sessions and more – with a lot in the works! She splits her time between Brooklyn and LA, traveling all over the country doing work that improves the lives of women, teaching them to own their beauty and guiding them with love and passion.
I am incredibly honored that she selflessly shared so much of herself and what she has learned throughout her career with us. You will find many jewels in the profile below. From her top places to shop + eat, go-to homemade mask, a recipe for kitchari, the power of herbs and how to incorporate them into your life, how she takes care of herself while traveling and must-have products in the shop – I recommend making yourself a cup of tea and letting it all sink in.
If that wasn’t enough, Jessa was kind enough to offer you a 20% coupon code on her site for the next week, just use “jewelsofadreamer” when you checkout. If you have any questions or want recommendations leave a comment below (although I must say everything she sells is unbelievable) and stay tuned for an exciting collaboration announcement!
Can you share a bit about your background, how you became a makeup artist and what triggered your switch to natural beauty?
My background is in studio art and psychology. From there I was fascinated with the simple power of makeup, how it can really affect self esteem and how powerful it was as a tool. I didn’t want to make people look like lions but I do really love makeup as a tool for inspiration and confidence. I wanted to work in fashion with a creative team and make beautiful images using makeup as my medium. I went to school in Toronto, Canada and have been working my way through the fashion industry for a long time, and still do.
The real catalyst for me was that I needed to heal my own skin. Eight or so years ago I was hearing news reports, little snippets of information. Things like there is mercury in mascara and lead in lipstick and I was like what?.. hold on. I worked for corporate beauty companies and went through their trainings and never heard there were toxins in our beauty products. I thought, if I didn’t know than other woman must not know. I wanted to educate myself as much as possible and at that same moment I gave up on all the advice I was given for my own skin. From dermatologists to allergists, they were calling me super sensitive and didn’t know why I was getting hives and rashes, I was really fed up. So I started to make my own products and really simplify everything I was using. I got rid of all the dermatologist recommend products and really simplified to one or two ingredients and things I could make at home. My skin completely improved.
From there I worked on the activist side. I was part of an organization called Teens Turning Green, trying to get regulations changed and educate other teenagers about healthy products. I worked with the campaign Teens for Safe Cosmetics. Honestly, I found it really overwhelming and really depressing because the reality of the toxins are pretty heavy. I decided I wanted to focus on not just holding a product and looking at the bad ingredients but the good ingredients. I went up to Vermont and started studying with Rosemary Gladstar at Sage Mountain, her herbal retreat center. I started to look at what was happening with beeswax and essential oils. As I used these products and continued to make more, my skin was glowing for the first time in my life. I started to learn about using seeds, made into tinctures, to help my digestion. I started to learn how herbs, probiotics, bitters, all of these plants helped to heal my digestive system and how it related to my skin. I started to look at how connected everything was and how whole and holistic it all was. So much is what you put on topically and then so much is what you take internally. It opened up this whole new world. It empowered women to take care of themselves. Whether it is non-toxic concealer, bitters for digestion, basically connecting women to healing themselves and looking and feeling good in all ways.
In terms of herbs, I can suggest things that work for me, but I am not a doctor and can’t recommend. The herbs I take for myself and that work well for others nettle, oats, lemon balm and chamomile (amazing for digestion, soothing the nervous system). Tonic herbs are something you can eat. I love including herbs in what I eat. Having nettle in a pesto or pickled nettle, I am not a fan of a nettle capsule. I am a fan of people eating these plants and drinking them to really get the maximum benefits. Connecting to the plant, smelling it, touching it in their hands. We are so lucky, in NYC we can get tumeric and use it as a seasoning or in a beverage. We are so disconnected from nature in the city but we also have access to a lot of these amazing plants. You can buy purslane, lambs quarters and nettle and all these fresh herbs at farmers markets.
Thoughts/advice on living a balanced life and what that means to you?
That is my goal. That is my daily question to myself. It is such an important question and it is so tricky. All of the things we love, the travel, the city living, it completely throws us off. It throws off our digestion, our sleep, our stress-levels. I love being in the city but I was just upstate all weekend and I felt really great up there. I crave the creativity and the community and that business but I’m still figuring out that balance. I think it is my lifes work to help people work on self-care and what that looks like for them. I can tell you some of my tricks.
Looking at the diet and exercise. What is so great about traveling is you can find a yoga class anywhere you go. I really think there is wellness everywhere, it comes down to if you are looking for it. I was just stuck at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport on a crazy layover and it turns out that there was an airport lounge. It had organic Red Flower soap and I took a shower. It was the most wonderful soap I ever smelled and a rain shower! When you take the time to realize that oh, I actually feel better when I do my meditation practice every day or if I eat mostly plants, a little bit of good quality protein and some great quality carbs – whatever it is for you that makes you feel really good. A real focus on that makes all the difference. I am not for extreme anything. Not extreme classes or extreme dieting or extreme juicing, that isn’t what the body likes. The body likes balance, that is all it is trying to get back to at all times.
I am really conscious of getting a good night sleep. When I am on a plane I get up, walk and stretch. I bring essential oils to help purify the air around me and help boost my mood. I make sure I am honoring myself and loving myself as much as possible, the number one way I do this while traveling is to bring good quality snacks for the plane or road. Realizing the power that all these small parts of our lifestyle have such an impact on us. Not relying on extreme behavior, but gentle, and daily support to our body. You know, we are so American. I had a consult with Pratima, a Ayurvedic doctor in NYC. She told me… you need to eat walnuts, but like 4 a day. Not what Americans do and when I tell them to do that they eat a whole bag in one sitting. Everything in moderation. That is obviously not my original idea, but I find it to be some of the most important advice we can practice. I am a student of Ayurveda, a journey that I know I will be on for the rest of my life. One of the best gifts of this study of this wise and old tradition is the ability to offer my clients a very special healing beauty treatment utilizing the Marma (vital energy points) of the face, hands and feet. It is super powerful because it deeply calms the nervous system and gives the body a reboot. When healing is involved- I always try to support myself and my clients to remember that once you can calm the nervous system and get the digestion up and running well, the body can really heal itself. I love putting that power back in the hands of people. Your own body has and always will do all the healing. We have the power, really and truly.
What is Blades Natural Beauty? What are your must-have products?
It all started with me making skincare products for myself and my friends in an effort to heal my own skin. The magic powder and the face wash are the two most basic products I make and sell on my shop. I get such wonderful reports from everyone I share them with. Friends were telling me that they didn’t want to use the face wash that the dermatologist gave them because it was making them breakout or drying their skin, wondering what they should use. Right now there is so much access to natural products but it wasn’t always like that.
I realized that it wasn’t enough to just teach about healing and healthy products, because students and clients left feeling inspired and empowered to take care of themselves but had no idea what to buy or where to buy it. I really wanted to make it easy for them to make changes and to shift the market. To shift their focus, allow them to have access and make buying these wonderful products easy. A lot of these product are made by women, a lot of them local, a lot of them small batch and seasonal. To provide healthy, well made products for people that motivate them to vote with their dollar. That is how things change and that is how these companies will be forced to put healthy products and healthy ingredients on the shelf.
I started carrying my favorite essential oil remedy brand from my friend Hope who is an Alexander Technique Practitioner. And a hand salve that is made in upstate New York by my friend Lauren, an herbalist who grows all of her plants and makes amazing products. Realizing that we could put so much abundance and energy in their lives and bank accounts, I am really excited about supporting them.
Some of the things I am into is this Rose Elixir from Vermont for heart-opening, social anxiety, speaking your truth and creating personal boundaries, which everyone needs! I also really love Shiva Rose Oil, it is one of my favorites and really nice for calming skin and a great antioxidant. I am also obsessed with the bronzer which is really nice for brightening up the skin while allowing you to stay out of the sun and giving a nice healthy glow. We are also going to be carrying this great bug balm. It is a stick with oils that keep the bugs away instead of those products you spray and have to worry about what you just put on your body. It is really nice for kids. I have also been wanting to start a men’s section. All of these products are for men and woman! It is funny how you need to market for men but it is actually for everyone. The kids section is also growing. Parents are so good about that, they take all the care about their kids but don’t think about themselves. I like having something for everyone. I am also really obsessed with the herbal lip stain by Poppy & Someday, it comes in coriander and peppermint flavors. I could go on and on!
Go-to homemade beauty recipe?
Turmeric & Honey Mask. This mask reminds me of sunshine as it is yellow from the turmeric. It brightens up the skin on my face and my mood, mostly from looking at how silly I look with a bright yellow face- whenever I catch my reflection in the mirror 🙂
This is my favorite go-to mask, simple to make and leaves my skin feeling refreshed, clean, and glowing.
Organic Turmeric, Organic/local & raw honey, and whole milk organic plain yogurt is all you need.
The measurements are not exact- you do not need to be too precise with these amounts, easy to double or triple if you are doing the mask with a group of friends.
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon yogurt
and about a 1/2 a teaspoon of the turmeric
Combine ingredients in a small, clean bowl and apply to your face. Leave on for 20-30 minutes, or until the mask grows tight, then wash off with warm water. If you notice a little yellow still on your skin, gently scrub your face with a washcloth and it will come off. *Expert tip- do you it before a shower and then just wash it off in there!
What role does fashion and personal style play in your life? How does this tie into your view on wellness?
I think that what is really interesting about makeup is people’s relationship to it and how it involves their self-esteem. People are sometimes resistant to it or they feel like they are a feminist and don’t need it, or using it makes them somehow less strong or takes away their power. Since I was 18 I have been fascinated by the beauty industry and wanted to improve it. There is so much power in when a woman feels really beautiful, whatever her definition of beautiful is – it could be yellow fake lashes and a poodle skirt, no makeup, a bold red lip. Whatever it is for them, is valid and important. When they feel beautiful, they are unstoppable. There is nothing more powerful than a woman who feels really good and believes that she looks really good. That is so exciting for me to think about. How to do you bottle that? How do you teach that? How do you inspire and empower women? Makeup is one of many tools to help with this. In my work I encounter a lot of women who have an awkward or tumultuous relationship with makeup, one example being, if they are smart they don’t need makeup. And of course- they don’t, and I don’t care if anyone wears makeup. But what people forget is that for centuries, we have been adorning ourselves whether with coal or different ingredients to make colors, with the goal to make ourselves look healthier and happier and playful. I remind my clients that with makeup, your basic goal is to look healthier. You are mimicking yourself when you are at your healthiest.. And yes, you should be living that, and real health comes from the inside of course. But we live lives with stress and pollution and lack of sleep. The case can always be made that we don’t NEED makeup but that is forgetting that a lot of us are really overworked or just had a baby or are trying to look professional, pulled together and vibrant. So I think makeup is a really powerful tool that is just as powerful as wearing a great suit or wearing a fancy dress. It is one of our many tools at our disposal in our toolbelt.
Unfortunately, talking about the the beauty industry is such a loaded topic. I’ve already talked about how useful it can be but I can’t emphasize the importance of using it for fun as well. That is why I love my job and bringing the fun back into it. In our current beauty culture, the woman behind the beauty counter has all the power. To put makeup on me and tell me if I am pretty, she is the expert. The techniques I teach in my classes, are really simple (I attended her class and can attest that it was definitely easy to grasp and learn!). I am not saying it doesn’t take a little bit of practice, but makeup application is inherently intuitive and fun. You need good tools and you need to blend. It involves color and play and women are not born knowing all of these techniques, education is really missing from the conversation. And I love nothing more than sharing all of this with all the women I can.
What outfit do you feel most comfortable in:
I really love (and maybe this is my gemini rising) two very different ways of dressing – give me some cut off vintage denim shorts, no shoes, a bathing suit and a vintage muscle tee and put me in nature. Then I also love the perfect black dress or a really beautiful, structural art piece that I can wear and dress it up or dress it down with a pair of really nice heels. Black is great color for me to wear when I am doing makeup because I can get makeup on my clothes and you can’t see it.
These very different types of outfits speak to both sides of my personality, I am happiest in nature ready to jump in any sort of swimming hole or ready to slip into a black dress and head to a fabulous party in NYC.
Favorite stores/places to shop (online or in-person):
Marlow Goods (NYC), Personnel (NY), Other Wild (LA), Individual Medley (LA), Shop Judith (Maine), Vagabond Boutique (Philly), Gravel and Gold (SF) and Of A Kind (Online).
What is a typical day of food for you?
I get up and have warm lemon water. If I do have caffeine I make sure to have a breakfast with fats, protein and carbs. (Here is a lesson from: Lisa Wimberger from The Neurosculpting Institute, on happiness and stress management that Jessa mentioned blew her mind. She was aware of the connection between caffeine and eating breakfast but we are so busy – which I totally get!) If you drink caffeine without a balanced meal you are sabotaging yourself (adrenals and hormones) for the rest of the day. Why would you do that to yourself if you knew better? You can have the benefits of caffeine (it is medicine, it is a plant) but you need to make sure to take care of yourself.
I also like to make smoothies which are more for medicine and less for taste. Kale, spinach, berries, soaked chia seeds, kefir, almond milk, banana, flaxseed, tincture of echinacea (depending on what is going on in my body). A robust smoothie or big pot of kitchari which is a lentil and rice Ayurvedic dish (get the recipe below!). Sometimes I will just heat up kitchari and fry an egg on top with a cilantro pesto and put a little bit of a good quality grass-fed dairy/cheese on top.
I mostly eat a plant-based paleo diet with no real rules and make sure to have fun with eating. I think eating is supposed to be a joyous, social and delicious experience. I mostly eat plants, really good quality protein (grass-fed meat in moderation) and good quality grains. Dinner is some quinoa, a salad, a little bit of some sort of lovely well-raised meat. I also love a good quality chicken noodle soup. I was really lucky to be raised with my grandfather and his brother who in the 1940’s ordered organic food from a farm when medicine wasn’t able to heal his brothers colitis. Which is incredible! He grew up with the knowledge about food and plant medicine that surpasses me. My grandfather would always have freshly torn out newspaper articles for us, about living off the grid in Vermont, homesteading and living the “Good Life” and all of these really incredible, nourishing, traditional food movements. So I would eat a really good bone broth Jewish chicken noodle soup when I was a kid which was just chicken noodle soup made by my grandfather. Sally Fallon is also wonderful. I eat a lot of fermented foods, I try to have sauerkraut as my medicine once a day which I will put on my kitchari or salad. Then seeing how I feel, if I am feeling like I am run down I will throw in a lot more garlic and ginger. Garlic is one of my favorite medicines. I will eat it as many times a day as I can stand it if I am getting sick!
Favorite restaurants in New York and Los Angeles?
NY:Roman’s, Cafe Mogador, Calexico, The Spotted Pig, Bakeri
LA:Sqirl, Gjusta, Moon Juice, Kitchen MouseOjai:Farmer and the Cook Anything at the Grand Central Market in Downtown LA
Your favorite dish to cook at home:
Kitchari is one of my all time favorite healing foods, it is so easy to make, keeps well, I always have a big pot of it in my fridge.
Great to eat hot or cold. Add seasonal veggies to it, or a fried egg, or some pesto on top if you are feeling fancy.
In Ayurveda, Kitchari is a cherished cleansing and detoxifying food. It helps to stabilize blood sugar and is high in protein and carbohydrates. The spices and ghee help with digestion.
This is the recipe from Kripalu. I like it as a base recipe…. feel free to add different spices depending on your dosha and different veggies depending on the time of the year. * Make sure to choose all organic ingredients as much as possible. Get creative- and do not worry if you don’t have all of these spices on hand. I find it tastes great just with cumin, curry and turmeric if you aren’t able to find all of the other spices… you can always find those three.
Kripalu’s Basic Kitchari Recipe
2 cups yellow mung dal beans
1 cup white basmati rice
2 tablespoons ghee or organic sesame oil
2 teaspoons each black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, and black pepper
1 teaspoon each cumin powder, coriander powder, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds (cinnamon optional in winter)
3 green cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
2–5 cups of chopped, organic, seasonal vegetables such as spinach, carrots, celery, kale, and bok choy (avoid nightshades)
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Rinse the mung dal beans and strain them five times, or until the water runs clear.
Heat the ghee or oil in a large pot.
Add all the seeds and toast until the mustard seeds pop.
Add the bay leaves and powdered spices, and mix together.
Stir in the rice and beans.
Add 8 cups of water, cloves, bay leaves, cardamom pods, and chopped vegetables.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Cook at least one hour, until the beans and rice are soft and the kitchari has a porridge-like consistency.
Serve warm with fresh cilantro on top, if desired.
Mind, Body and Soul
Daily rituals to keep you grounded (at home and travel):
I am a big fan of meditation, which is my #1 ritual since I can do it anywhere. I am a fan of the Silva Method which teaches you how to control your own mind. It is a really cool, proactive meditation. My mom studied the method in the 70’s and shared a lot of the principles with me during my childhood. The Silva Method also has a great app, which makes it easy to keep up with the methods (my favorites on the app are the ones for: night relaxation, energizing and the morning). Listening to these are one of my favorite go-to ways I take care of myself.
Taking my shoes off and putting my feet in the grass, sand or earth (even if you are in the city, getting out in nature is very therapeutic). I also find that my sleep is so precious to my well-being, when it gets disturbed I really feel a difference. I carry this rad diffuser, it fits into the usb in my computer. My favorite oil to diffuse right now is stress remedy which is really nice and gets me in the mood for sleep and relaxation. I am also a fan of juice in moderation. I think you should mostly eat your plants and get your fiber, chew, digest but I think we are pretty lucky we can get a green juice in most places. When you are on the road or feeling run down it is a great supplement to give yourself a boost.
Another really important point is adrenal and immune support. I really like Paul Staments, the mushroom expert. His company Host Defense has an immune blend that I always carry and travel with.
Current favorite ways to stay active:
Barre3, I was just at the MindBodyGreen Revitalize Conference in Arizona and I met Sadie Lincoln who is the founder of this method – bar meets yoga and pilates. I took a class while she was in town and now I am addicted. It is awesome. I like any exercise that makes me laugh the entire time I am doing it.
Also, Yoga, Hiking and I love to play basketball.
How do you unwind at the end of the day and on weekends?
I love a bath, epsom salts and essential oils. Get some good detox in my muscles and calm my nervous system.
I also like to watch the sunset wherever I am, I find it really helps me to unwind. I love to go the movies and zone out, I am always busy reading, learning, talking, socializing and I just love to go to the movies with no technology and do nothing else but watch the movie.
Seeing art really helps me to relax and unwind. I like having a night time tea routine/ritual. I use herbal blends like passion flower, lemon balm, oats before bed.
What are the “jewels” in your life? (i.e. your passions, favorite topics, people, places, etc.)
A teapot my sister made me that is such a beautiful handmade gift, my makeup brushes – my tools. I love washing them and caring for them, I still have original ones from when I was 18. Pots and knives that I use to make soup and other foods. My little cloth case that holds all of my tinctures makes me feel like a little wizard. All of these are my tools that help with my self-care.
The women I work with. Their stories, vulnerability and power. Their smiles, when they realize the vastness of their own power. I love when I see that sparkle bubble up and shine through.
What are some of your future plans for Blades Natural Beauty?
We are growing the man and baby component of the shop to open up the community, working with a couple other California brands, always sharing the word and supporting these companies. Also in the future, a ton more workshops, collaborations and how-to videos… oh and a book!