Meet the Maker: Christine Cunningham of 28 Litsea
The story behind a brand is so much fun to explore. It is important to know what you are buying, where it comes from and why it will benefit you. I love getting to know "the man (or rather woman) behind the curtain". I'm kind of a history nerd, so learning people's stories is kind of my jam.
There are so many great clean beauty brands out there now, and 28 Litsea is no exception.
Christine was making a mark in the industry back when she was half the genius behind an extinct brand named Splurge Skincare. She took that passion and leveled-up to create the beautifully conscious brand she crafts today. I have had the honor of knowing her throughout the years, and see her progress in business. I love seeing women grow in their strengths and am happy to continue cheering her on to success, and give you a glimpse into her story as well.
Christine, when did you first start creating, and what was your first love as a Maker?
I first started creating products over twelve years ago with the sugar scrub. I think what I loved about the body/sugar scrub is that it was and still is about a simple step that can be added to a beauty routine which can make people feel good about taking care of themselves. I also really loved the idea that I could hand pick the ingredients I wanted and create something that truly worked.
What is your work/studio like?
At 28 Litsea every product is handcrafted in small batches. I am behind every step in the process from creating every batch and labeling the finished product, to packing and shipping orders. My studio has definitely changed and grown over the years. What started out as one room has now become three separate work areas. I have a space where I create and make all my products. This is also where I surround myself with the ingredients I use. My second space is used to package and fill orders. I also have an area which houses finished product and packaging materials. When I am working, there is always music in the background, this is an absolute must!
They say when you are doing what you love, you lose track of time and this is certainly true of the time spent in my studio.
When did your passion for clean beauty begin?
My passion and journey into clean beauty started about twelve years ago. I started becoming more mindful of what I was putting in and on my body. I grew an awareness of the ingredients in many of the products I was using and started researching clean ingredients. I also discovered products and companies that provided a safer and more natural alternative to what was currently in my routine.
I slowly went through the process of switching out my "lotions, balms, and soaps" for healthy alternatives. At that time, the marketplace did not have the amount and variety of brands it does now. Splurge was born out of the desire to formulate a line of small-batch, high quality, multi-sensory products that were effective, affordable, and most importantly, free of harmful chemicals. Of course this goal remains the same today with 28 Litsea.
What is your favorite part about the art of creating beauty products?
Throughout the week I am focused on making product, filling orders, responding to emails, and managing the social media aspect of the brand. As I am sure this is true with most people, I can only "create" when I am feeling inspired. For me, when creating a new product, I am in a different mindset. I am able to truly focus on the ingredients being blended, the scents, the texture and the beauty of the whole process.
What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with?
You will find babassu oil in several of our products because I absolutely love it. It is an ingredient that was incorporated into the line very early on due to the countless benefits it provides. It's lightweight, soothing, and incredibly moisturizing. I also love to work with red raspberry seed oil which is found in Melted Balm. It is very high in Vitamin E and has wonderful hydrating qualities. A new ingredient that I am working with is tamanu oil. It is highly absorbable and its healing properties are fantastic. (me: yes, I love tamanu oil, and use it in my formulations as well. I am excited to see what you do with it!)
What are some of your sources of inspiration?
Our line of products are clean, affordable, and can be easily incorporated into a self-care routine. I am so inspired when I hear of someone who is new to "clean beauty" experiencing our Petala Balm for the first time. I feel they often choose this because it is a simple step to help them make the switch, a step that can actually make a huge difference.
I also find inspiration in other brand founders. For instance, Josh Rosebrook is someone who I respect and admire. I use his entire line of products. He is truly the real deal and has been extremely generous with his time and advice.
We are into healthy skincare and body products, so what are some of the snacks/drinks you like to have on hand to provide yourself with healthy (or not so healthy ) fuel?
Can I say coffee as a healthy fuel? I do love my coffee and absolutely need it in the afternoons. I am also a huge snacker, but not when I am working. When I am doing paperwork or other behind the scenes projects, I like to have hummus and something to dip on hand which is usually found on the shelves of Trader Joe's.
My personal journey in "green beauty" has given me the mantra: "If it's not safe to eat, it's not safe to use." What is your beauty philosophy?
I love that philosophy and absolutely agree with it. My belief is that clean beauty is just one component of whole body wellness. What you put on your skin is just as important as what you feed your body internally, and the thoughts and energy with which you surround yourself. I feel as though you can eat right, exercise, and consume all good things but if you are constantly surrounding yourself with negativity it will take its toll on you.
You parted ways with your business partner, and branched out to follow your dream and make a whole new brand. What was that process like and what was your biggest takeaway?
The truth is that Splurge was an incredible experience and creative launch pad. It will always hold a special place in my heart. I have grown over the last eight years and wanted a brand that best reflected who I am as a business owner and product formulator. I've never had any doubt or reservations that the rebrand was necessary for me personally and for the brand's growth. With that said, there is always fear that comes when you are making big changes. I was thrilled with how the process was unfolding, but you always question, will everyone else love it as much as I do?
It is important to me that my brand incorporates mind, body, and wellness. I feel as though the clean, updated, sophisticated design truly reflects this vision.
I guess my biggest takeaway is that it is normal to have that fear when you are evolving but to recognize it and still move forward.
Where does the name 28 Litsea originate, and what is it’s significance to you?
I started the rebrand at the beginning of May 2017 and although I had a vision of where I wanted the design to go, I was so stuck on a name. Litsea is an essential oil that I have always been drawn to because of its beautiful, bright and uplifting scent. What a lot of people don't know is how versatile and beneficial it is. It has the ability to bring out the best in other ingredients so over the years it has been my go-to and is in several of my products.
The number 28 honors my dad, who has always been a major influence and guiding force in my life. He passed away at the end of May. He was incredibly supportive of my dreams and I just knew I wanted to make him a part of the brand some how. His birthday was on February 28th which then became the official launch date of the new brand.
Inquiring minds want to know—-do you have a personal favorite of your products and why?
Oh that's a tough one....I love Melted Balm because of its versatility. I use it every night on my lips but it can also be used for cuticles, dry spots and we have a lot of customers who swear by it as a lip primer for their lipstick. I am obsessed with body oils so that is why I created Top Note Body Oil and I honestly use it every day. It absorbs quickly, is non greasy, super moisturizing and leaves me with the softest skin. The two scents, Wild Citrus and Red Ginger are also addicting and not like anything I have experienced before.
What’s the biggest compliment you’ve received since creating your brand?
I have honestly been so overwhelmed with the response to 28 Litsea. I literally get emotional when I read emails and comments from people who have tried the products and love them. For me, it has meant so much to not only introduce new customers to the brand but to have people who have been customers for years embrace the new design and products. I also realized that we first connected back in 2012 when you reviewed Splurge, so to hear your positive feedback about the brand now, means everything to me.
Is there anything new you’re working on (that you can talk about), or something you’d like to create in the future?
Although I am constantly working on new ideas and jotting down formulas I want to try, with the growth of 28 Litsea this year, I have had to put a lot of my efforts into reorganizing the way I run the business. Since I balance my full time job as a school counselor with my brand, I have to make sure everything runs efficiently. I have some new scents in the testing stages and I am currently working on a vegan lip balm. Stay tuned for new retail partnerships and news from 28 Litsea!
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Christine of 28 Litsea, and that you take time to check out her beautiful brand! My two favorites of her products are:
the Melted Balm - for its versatility and healing properties in so many uses.
the Wild Citrus Body Oil, which works great on everyone and is a super light and uplifting scent.