julie Longyear picI’ve been enjoying Blissoma skin care products for well over a year and absolutely loving them. What distinguishes Blissoma from many other lines are the complex herbal blends that mark the skill of someone who knows what they’re doing.

Enter Julie Longyear, founder and creator extraordinaire of Blissoma Holistic Skincare & Apothecary. This is no run-of-the-mill skincare line, but rather a brand that offers synergistic healing, soothing, and rejuvenating treatments for the skin.

Contacting Blissoma about your particular skin type is one of the best ways to maximize use of these products. I’m so happy that I did because Julie and her wonderful staff are available to help. I received condition-specific recommendations about product selection, as well as advice on how to maximize their use.  They were also great about fixing any issues, as needed. It’s exciting to find a company that is so open to feedback and growth.

Much like the organic garden that she cultivates, or the house that she’s repairing herself, Julie knows what the creation process is all about—replete with weeds and wonder!—and is willing to share her valuable lessons as she goes along.

That’s a large reason that I’m so grateful to her for agreeing to this interview with me. Her depth as a person matches the inherent wisdom in her formulas. I know that I’m walking away with many insights to mull over today. Enjoy!

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1) I’m so excited to pick your brain! It’s clear from your skin care formulas that you know what you’re doing. How has your background in chemistry given you an edge in developing Blissoma?

My chemistry background was initially acquired thinking I might go into Art Restoration, but the classes were general in scope.  I got all the basics in and in Organic Chemistry got to feel comfortable in a lab setting.  We distilled essential oils that we had to identify by Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry and it was wonderful getting to experience first hand the instruments that help prove the quality and authenticity of many of the essential oils I was already using and loving so much in my daily life.

“It helps me cut through any marketing fluff that ingredients companies might be promoting and come to my own conclusions about why a particular ingredient might work or not, or why a substance may be safe or not.”

It definitely helps to have a good understanding of how molecules work together and why.  Primarily it helps me cut through any marketing fluff that ingredients companies might be promoting and come to my own conclusions about why a particular ingredient might work or not, or why a substance may be safe or not.  This is important to me since my clients trust me to be discerning for both the sake of efficacy and health.  Anything where I feel there is gray area or unproven assertions I usually don’t use those ingredients.  Even with ingredients sales, fancy sales pitches and marketing are more common than hard science.  Ingredients suppliers are trying to come up with the latest and greatest extract or compound that will give them sales as well.

“We don’t produce products based on trends or new ingredients, we produce what we know works well and serves a real need with clients.”

In personal care it is amazingly common for people to just private label stock base products or create a product using fancy, nice-sounding ingredients from big cosmetic companies.  They rely solely on the claims from the suppliers in making formula choices or make choices based on what they think will sound good in a sales pitch.  We don’t work that way at all.  Firstly I listen to clients —what they are concerned about, what are they reacting badly to, what do they need in their routine?  Then I try to match that up with ingredients I know to be available, safe, and have good science behind them from sources other than a primary supplier.  We don’t produce products based on trends or new ingredients, we produce what we know works well and serves a real need with clients.  It’s in making those connections that I feel my background knowledge really helps.

Blissoma Bright

2) Bright – Eye Vitalizing Nutrient Serum is a newer product and one of my favorites. What key ingredients make it work so well? What’s their function in the product?

With our formulas there really aren’t any ingredients in them that aren’t there to contribute to the total effect, so overall it is the whole recipe that is providing the result.  However we were really glad to be able to use a stabilized, time-release Vitamin C in this product that was suitable for the eye area.  Vitamin C can be amazing for collagen production but can sometimes be too acidic for the delicate skin of the eye area.  The compound we chose is active even at a low concentration and doesn’t start working until your skin enzymes activate it, so it remains fresh until it hits the skin.  As a primary cause of darkness in the eye area is weak capillaries the grape seed Proanthocyanidins were an ideal choice of active as well.  They are a concentrated extract with antioxidant action that is actually superior to Vitamin C and E as well as vascular strengthening properties.  We included a strong amount of them in the recipe which is what gives the product its rich purple color.

The herb blend is really a synergy of more antioxidant-rich, energizing, and soothing botanicals that help provide the cooling, hydrating, skin lifting, and brightening properties.  I could go on for quite a while about each of them as they are all fantastic.  The Sea Buckthorn Berry oil is very active too for anti-aging.

I think the important thing with our line that is really different from a lot of lines is that we don’t just choose a few ingredients that sound flashy and exciting to promote.  Every ingredient top to bottom is functional in the product and it wouldn’t be the same without them all.

3) I’ve had amazing results when you recommended using Smooth A+ Perfecting Serum and then topping it with Restore Deep Healing Oil Serum. What makes this combination work so well? Isn’t it unusual to use the cream before the oil? I usually use oil then cream.  Also, are there any issues with using a vitamin A product during the day in the sun? Does it make your skin photosensitive?

We have a lot of clients that use this same combination!  Interestingly that is our lightest product and our richest product, but they can work really well together for people suffering from acne, rosacea, or just fine lines and dullness in the skin.  “Water” of course has gotten a bad rap in skincare as so many lines include water to just bulk out their recipe cheaply.  However water is a useful solvent for carrying many valuable minerals and phyto-chemicals to the skin.  Smooth works based on water based ingredients and Restore is entirely oil.  Therefore you’re getting the best of both worlds and types of nutrients—water and oil based.

“I actually always recommend that people apply products in order from least oil to most oil.”

I actually always recommend that people apply products in order from least oil to most oil, so applying Smooth before Restore follows that rule.  One purpose of applying oil to the skin is to rebuild the protective lipid layer, which shields the skin from moisture loss and also from irritants penetrating the skin from the outside.  The problem would be if you apply oil before a product that has water based ingredients the water ingredients aren’t going to absorb anywhere near as well.  Think about if you put oil on your hand and then put water on the skin – it would bead up and not absorb because the oil is forming a barrier.  Therefore you’re actually losing all the water-based nutrients from your products when you apply oil first and then cream.  Regardless of if something is labeled as a serum my feeling is that you should always apply 100% oil products last.

“Adequate doses of Vitamin A in the body (not retinols) can actually improve your skin’s natural sun defenses by improving immune system function.”

As to the vitamin A, we’re not using retinol but plant-based Beta Carotene which is a retinol precursor, so it’s a different form of Vitamin A.  It’s not prone to creating irritation on the skin like a retinol and doesn’t have the toxicity or sun damage issues.  It also doesn’t have quite the same activity—for proven fine line reduction and anti-aging retinols are more effective but they have so many drawbacks that using the Beta Carotene is a great way to provide the vitamin without damaging skin or having worries.  In fact adequate doses of Vitamin A in the body (not retinols) can actually improve your skin’s natural sun defenses by improving immune system function.

From my blog on 5 Skin Benefits of Eating Salad: Beta-Carotene is a form of Vitamin A found in plants and one we think of when we think of orange, yellow, and red fruits and veggies.  It is a photo-protective agent and is thought to quench photochemical reactions in the epidermis involving oxygen radicals generated by UV exposure.  While most studies have not found a significant reduction in erythema (sunburn), there was better, more efficient immune system function in relation to sun exposure in individuals supplemented with Beta Carotene in studies. Here’s the bigger benefit for your skin… beta-Carotene was found to inhibit the action of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9, a collagenase enzyme that breaks down the extracellular matrix and collagen, contributing to wrinkling and sagging.  In studies with mice fed dietary beta-Carotene the expression of MMP-9 was suppressed, along with corresponding wrinkles and sagging of skin.

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Fresh – Mild Rice Cleanser
4) Do you have a Blissoma favorite that you’d like to share?

I really can’t function well without my Fresh Mild Rice Cleanser twice a day.  My skin loves to be washed and the process is rejuvenating for it and helps it stay bright.  If I don’t wash there is a visible difference in the clarity and elasticity of my skin.

Blissoma collage

5) Any hints about future plans for you and Blissoma? Are you developing any new products?

We should be switching our spray deodorants over to a Vegan preservation system in a few months and also debuting a solid, stick deodorant that will be baking soda free and “extra strength.” I have that out with testers right now for evaluation.  I’m also working on two new facial oils—one for acne skin types and one for mature, dry, and aging skin.

We’ll be starting to work with more estheticians as this year goes on as well.  This is a transition we’ve been working on for some time, but some of our new recipes will be made available only through our website and through estheticians.  Our existing collection will continue to be widely available but we will have some items that will be through skincare pros only.  We love working with passionate skincare professionals as they really help fit people with the right products, help them work through allergies, and also can guide them to getting the best possible results. Service has always been huge for us and this is why we are choosing to move in that direction over selling through retail stores where service is harder to obtain or where the staff isn’t trained as well.

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Harmony Soy Candle
6) I follow you on Facebook and have been monitoring the progress you’re making on renovating your house…yourself! How has this been a metaphor in your life and what have you learned in the process? (I already know this is gonna be an awesome answer!)

In one word, transformative.  In one sentence, my rehab is where I rediscovered my faith in myself and in the universe (or God if you prefer to call it that).

I didn’t really start out thinking I would be in my current circumstance—fixing a 115+ year old beast of a building on my own. The building was a purchase of last resort.  After searching for months and realizing that I wouldn’t be able to afford a mortgage for anything with the square footage we needed in any of the nicer neighborhoods of the city my eye turned to distressed neighborhoods.  Initially I didn’t relish it.  I had plenty of work to do already with running a business and caring for my then three year old daughter.  But my business had to grow, commercial spaces were too expensive, and I wasn’t going to give up on my dream.  Rehab became the only option for a path forward, so I jumped in with my usual enthusiasm and hard work.

“What I discovered was that the house was bigger and more difficult than any other projects I’d ever taken on in life.”

What I discovered was that the house was bigger and more difficult than any other projects I’d ever taken on in life (other than creating a successful business, but the two were linked right from the start).  I am such a hard worker and I was used to taking on a project and working my self to the bone until it was done because I loved the accomplishment.  After the first three months of hard, body-breaking work, it became clear that the pace for the house wasn’t going to be anywhere near what I had imagined.  It took all that time just to refinish the 2800 square feet of wood floors, much less deal with anything else.  There were moments of despair and panic already even in just that beginning time.  I can remember applying the stain to the floor, fumes making me feel ill, and for one of the first times in my life, feeling just unable to finish something.  I had never worked so hard and had so little progress.

“There were moments in there that I barely had money to pay for toilet paper and toothpaste, months where I ate stale bread and canned food from the food pantry to get by, and long stretches where nothing got done on the house because I was just busy trying to survive.”

One and a half years later, I was getting divorced and had to face keeping the house on my own if I wanted to continue running Blissoma.  It was fish or cut bait…. I fished.  Four years and another difficult, flawed relationship later I’m alone again.  There were moments in there that I barely had money to pay for toilet paper and toothpaste, months where I ate stale bread and canned food from the food pantry to get by, and long stretches where nothing got done on the house because I was just busy trying to survive.

“…people in 1900 had a very basic life with many discomforts—yet they also kept living and loving.”

What I have had beaten into me by the house is patience, persistence, gratitude, and bhakti (devotion) which has been my guiding feeling as of recently.  I have learned to be thankful when something (even something ugly and leaking) still works at all and not to touch it lest it break completely!  I have learned that life goes on even with there is dust everywhere and your windows are broken and only plastic separates you from the weather.  Never mind the laundry. You can have fun and quality family time even when you are living literally in the middle of a construction zone and that it is important to take that time so you continue to feel human.  I’ve learned that basic things like heat, indoor plumbing, and electricity gain extra sweetness when you’ve done without them for periods of time and that people in 1900 had a very basic life with many discomforts—yet they also kept living and loving.

“There is no other way to explain how everything has continued to work out other than a combination of manifestation and miracles.”

I’ve also learned that the universe wants me to be where I am right now.  There is no other way to explain how everything has continued to work out other than a combination of manifestation and miracles.  Help has arrived at all the right, most important times.  I still have to keep pushing forward in the quiet moments and keep hope alive, but assistance will come when I need it.  I’ve made beautiful friendships over buckets of drywall mud and blessed others with the money they needed to feed their family that week.

“As I have fixed the house, the house has, in turn, fixed me.”

This was an assignment my soul needed to face some of my deepest fears and to develop faith.  When I bought the house my ego was more in the driver’s seat.  I thought I could conquer the house…. but it had lessons to impart to me and it continues to be my guru.  It is my gym, my temple, my mountain to climb, my practice in humility, balance, and faith.  It is my darkest moments of fear and uncertainty and my brightest triumphs.  It doesn’t matter what color I paint the walls or if the trim isn’t perfect… the process has been the important part.

As I have fixed the house, the house has, in turn, fixed me.

7) Do you have a quote or mantra that gets you through challenging times?

—Every tool I need will be provided for me.

—I’ll figure it out.

—This too shall pass.

—I am loved.

These are the most frequent. 🙂

Here’s where you can find Julie Longyear, Herbal Chemist and Founder, Blissoma holistic skincare and apothecary (make sure you check out her blog too!):

[All photos courtesy of Blissoma other than the herbs in the third photo courtesy of www.biocompletenaturaldiet.com, www.inlifehealthcare.com, & www.theplanteater.com.]

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