Jessa Blades may be the only makeup artist who is as versed in Jungian psychology as she is in the restorative properties of lemon balm, but that’s what makes the products in Blades Natural Beauty, her new online apothecary, so unique.
Her circuitous path to becoming a natural beauty expert began after studying art and psychology in college. Despite her respect for psychotherapy, she learned from experimenting on her school friends that a little makeup could lift their moods, too. Or as Blades describes her thinking at the time: “I’ve got the power to improve someone’s self-esteem with something as simple as lipstick? I’m in!”
She continued her studies at a makeup school in Canada and developed a successful business as a makeup artist in the city. Inspired by the organic and natural food movement Blades began researching the ingredients in the makeup she was using. The discovery that many contained harmful ingredients like phthalates was disillusioning.
“I was not very fun at parties,” she said, admitting to cornering more than one friend during that period and itemizing the toxins in lipstick.
Rather than switch professions, Blades schooled herself on natural ingredients and medicine, and studied with an herbalist. She translated her knowledge into making natural skincare and figuring out the best beauty products that she felt good about using and recommending. Up until this fall, only her clients, which range from brides to men who ask her for curated gifts to give to their wives and girlfriends, were privy to her selection, but she recently launched a new line of goods in her online store that she is also selling at the Wythe Hotel’s holiday pop-up shop, open until Dec. 23. (Some items are only available at the pop-up, and online orders can be picked up at the Wythe.)
Blades products go beyond bronzers and eye pencils. Many are meant to keep you healthy and are often made by hand, whether in her Fort Greene apartment or by colleagues locally, with ingredients so safe you could eat them (though you probably wouldn’t want to do that). Here are a few of her favorites.
Jessa’s Healthy Skin Essentials, $45
“As a makeup artist I see a lot of skin issues, but as an herbalist, I know what’s going on is a lot more internal–that’s what inspired this set,” said Blades. Inside are three products she makes by hand: her Balancing Face Wash, Magic Powder and Mountain Woman Tea. The face wash, made of ingredients like milk powder and calendula petals, is dry–you pour a little in your palm and add water to form a paste. It sounds funky, but it’s super gentle and doesn’t dry out your skin, and it’s perfect for traveling since you don’t have to worry about anything spilling or going over your limits on liquids. The Magic Powder is a clay-based powder that, once you add water, can be used to take the itch out of a bug bite, dry out a zit, unclog pores, even use in place of toothpaste in a pinch. The Mountain Woman Tea, which applies to actual mountain climbers and those “just carrying your groceries up a fourth floor walk up after a long day of work,” is also made by Blades to help soothe an overtaxed nervous system, which can manifest in bad skin. Made of lemon balm, oats, nettle and other herbs, it actually tastes good, and isn’t hard to choke down like other good-for-you teas. As a bonus, Blades includes a guide to picking out the best beauty products, ingredients to stay away from and the brands she loves.
Soapwalla Deodorant Cream, $14
If you have yet to find a natural deodorant that works, join the crowd. “I’ve tried every single one that’s out there, and a lot of them don’t work or don’t work for everyone,” said Blades. “This one works for the masses. I love it, and I think the price is great for the quality of ingredients. I also love that it’s made in Brooklyn and made by hand,” by Rachel Winard. “We live pretty close, and I really like her and her story. She’s struggled with personal health, has amazing energy, and I love supporting her.”
Travel Remedy, $48
“This has been great in the Wythe–it’s a roll-on of essential oils with some olive oil and speaks to a lot of people.” One whiff can reduce the stress of flying on a packed plane (or your morning subway commute) and you can even rub it on your ankles if your feet swell during travel. The brand, H. Gillerman Organics, is made by Hope Gillerman, an Alexander Technique practitioner who lives in Fort Greene, and Blades offers a few of her aromatherapy cures at the Wythe (more are coming to her online store, too). “I roll it on the back of my shoulders, like a self massage.”
Winter Wellness Bundle, $48
Made by a former Brooklynite who recently moved to a farm in Germantown where she harvests her own ingredients, Lauren Giambrone is a friend of Blades’ who, she says, “knows the hustle. A lot of her products speak to our lives here.” Her Good Fight Herb Co.’s Elderberry Syrup employs this native plant for its most popular use over the centuries–to strengthen immunity. You can pour a little bit in your tea or water for a daily tonic, or if you feel a cold coming on, sip it straight. “I also like to put it in cocktails–it makes them delicious and gives them a beautiful midnight purple hue,” said Blades. The syrup is paired with Good Fight Herb Co.’s Hard Workin’ Hands Salve and a cookbook by Brittany Wood Nickerson, an herbalist in Western Massachusetts, filled with recipes for wellness like how to turn garlic and soy sauce into a medicinal salad dressing. It also comes with a sample of Blades’ Mountain Woman Tea, for “a big hug kind of gift.”
For more of Blades’ products, or to ask her questions about a curated gift set, visit bladesnaturalbeauty.com.