If you love finding authenticity in a delivery box, then you’re going to fall hard for Stark Skincare and its out-of-the-box founder, Jessica Lafleur.
When I called Jess to interview her for A Night for Green Beauty‘s brand spotlight—within seconds—the Q & A warmed easily into a chat with a good friend. It goes without saying that we compared notes about the evolving green beauty world, but we also related to each other on how well social media works for us mamas with unpredictable schedules. As she dished about her hectic life and raising a son—all while helming an eco-conscious business of her own creation—it became clear that this budding solo-preneur is carving a niche in the industry that’s starkly her own.
Due to battling acne in her twenties, Jess knows a thing or two about the importance of feeling good in your own skin. Just to give you a glimpse into her skincare philosophy, check out her thoughts here. As such, she founded her business on the principles of simplicity, purity, clarity, and integrity.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking these products are boring. Not a chance! Stark Skincare fuses incredibly potent ingredients that are sourced raw, organic, fair trade, animal-friendly, locally, when available, and derives its extraordinary scents from primary grade essential oils (no exaggeration, I could inhale CYPRESS Purity + Defense serum all. day. long!). It’s also an entirely vegan line that’s created with intelligence, balance, sustainability, transparency, and a sincere concern for the consumer’s needs inside and out.
The streamlined range consists of:
- a serum for daytime defense and one for nighttime restoring
- a purifying toning mist
- a cleansing and hydrating balm
- a detoxifying green tea clay mask
- a soon-to-be-released duo of lip treatments
- a moisture replenishing body oil
- two perfumes
The line sounds fairly straightforward and unencumbered, doesn’t it? In case you’re wondering, these products just so happen to work amazingly well for a wide range of skin types and multiple purposes too.
In a bold move for a small business, Jess made the decision to stop selling her products in other retail shops and is now offering them online exclusively at starkskincare.com, in order to maintain the personalized contact with her clients. In fact, interfacing with the consumer prevails as a cornerstone of her business.
Cutting edge product development—that’s Stark Foundry
That’s one of the reasons why Jess decided to create Stark Foundry, a membership-only team that test drives new formulas. Each blend is customized to suit specific skin care goals within a carefully selected control group. The testers then report their results, providing constructive feedback that then earns them first dibs and special pricing on the perfected product, once launched.
Jess filled me in on how this focus group helped update her argan lip treatment in a surprising way. Here’s what she shared:
My team has helped me re-launch the Argan Lip Treatment. It’s actually become two different products! The consensus was that Foundry members wanted one kind of product for nighttime, and one kind of product for daytime. So, “AG” has two different formulas; both still loaded with argan, but one is creamier, more emollient and rich, and the other is silkier, fresher and lightly tinted! I really love the new formulas, and I also feel that both are everything the original treatment was, just better than ever.
Are you ready for some fabulous news? The new Argan Lip Treatments will be launching this Friday, May 15th, so mark that date—plus don’t forget to use the special coupon code listed at the end of this post!
Drawing on the feedback from Foundry collaborators, Jess also developed a new serum that is slated to launch at ANFGB this summer. She described it as totally different from the rest of her line and that the testers on the team are begging to know when they can purchase it. Oh gosh! I can’t take the suspense either.
Why Stark scents make sense
If the new release is anything like her other products, then we’re in for a real treat. As I mentioned earlier, the scents are absolutely intoxicating and set Stark apart from other brands. Of course, there’s a good reason why Jess selected the specific essential oils for each product.
Scent is really important to Stark products. Personally, I’m easily bored with any product when I don’t enjoy the scent and will quickly stop using it, so creating products that have unique, enjoyable scents isn’t an afterthought for my brand. I think scent helps people relate to a product, and they can then make it “their own.”
Trained in aromatherapy, Jess chooses scents based primarily on preference, while bearing in mind the therapeutic benefits of the essential oils she’s using. What ends up happening, she said, is that the fragrance naturally supports the function of the product.
The Grapefruit balm just bursts with a fresh, happy scent and grapefruit essential oil is actually a cleansing astringent that uplifts mood. (By the way, only a low percentage of grapefruit is used to keep it well within the sun-safe zone…I enhance the scent with orange peel wax which doesn’t contain any photo-toxic compounds that grapefruit does when used in high percentages.)
I can definitely vouch for many joy-induced moments when removing makeup at the end of the day with the grapefruit-laced balm. For another savvy way to use the gf balm, try this!
cy purity + defense oil
She also explained the multi-functional purpose of the cypress essential oil in the Cypress Purity + Defense oil:
The Cypress Purity + Defense oil is an oil made for the day-to-day wear of someone who lives in the city, and I wanted to address both the physiological and psychological needs of a city-dweller; Cypress essential oil has this beautiful, deep-woods, foresty-scent that helps reduce stress and uncertainty, but it also helps regulate active, oily skin. Each product has these dual functions…I guess it’s another layer to multi-functional natural skincare! My launch for ANFGB actually takes this idea to a whole new level…. [She’s killing me softly here!]
I think when a person is as attracted to a scent as I am to this earthy, woodsy product, there must be something in it that my skin craves. With five plant oils, this serum is still unexpectedly weightless on application. It’s clear that when too much oil sits on top of my skin without sinking in, I start to develop small bumps on the surface, so I appreciate the high absorbency of this serum along with its compelling aroma. My skin feels supported and stays clear thanks to the addition of purifying cypress and bergamot essential oils.
Huile de Parfum
As you can imagine, with such forethought to fragrance and performance, the perfumes that Jess creates are equally evocative, layered, and carry a rich story with every note. Huile de Parfum 02 earned raves from other beauty bloggers when I shared the sophisticated blend with them, and I have yet to experience the sweet, floral aroma of Huile de Parfum 03.
wb perfecting tonic
While the serums and the balm are perennial favorites of mine, I’ve got to put in a good word about the White Willow Bark Perfecting Tonic—no less than a perfecting skin savior!
The first noteworthy observation would be the absence of water in this “astringent super-juice,” as it’s accurately referred to on the website. (Full list of ingreds: Aloe Vera Juice, Witch-hazel, Watermelon Fruit Extract, Cucumber Extract, White Willow Bark Extract, Lime Fruit Extract, Grapefruit Seed Extract, Vegetable Glycerin, Litsea Cubeba Fruit Oil.) That’s pretty unusual in a mist and testifies to the potency of the ingredients.
Secondly, the addition of white willow bark injects a dose of blemish-banishing salicylic acid that has antibacterial and astringent properties, while gently exfoliating dead skin cells away and controlling sebum. The aloe vera juice soothes and nourishes, while watermelon extract offers a hefty serving of Vitamin C to allow UV-stressed skin to rebuild and protect itself from daily toxins. Witch-hazel has effective soothing and astringent abilities. For my often inflamed skin, I look for ingredients to calm and cool my skin. Cucumber can be a rarity to find, so when I do, I get excited as it contains vital nutrients for cell growth and naturally takes down redness and inflammation.
All told, this super-juice accompanies me wherever I go in the hot summer weather to keep breakouts at bay and oil in check—it’s a must-have in my toner arsenal, for sure.
Taking beauty to a whole new level
After Jess and I talked shop for a while, we reached a topic that essentially sums up the direction where Stark Skincare is headed. It is quite the trajectory!
At the heart of the brand stands Jess’ desire to connect with her customers. One way to accomplish a point of contact is through the development of a 21-day mini e-course called 21 Days to the Best Skin of your Life.
Here are her wise words about it:
I think that green beauty really is changing how we talk about beauty for the most part, but there’s still a missing layer in this industry. There’s a really important component to skin that’s not being talked about much, and it has a lot to do with what’s going on within the person. Not just diet or intestinal health, but in a person’s heart and soul. The mind-body connection is vitally important to skin, and nobody is really talking about it beyond: “Oh, you should really reduce stress. Have you tried meditating?”
The course sets out to transform skin, regardless of what types of products are being used. Readily apparent is that Jess’ innovative style and great sense of humor suffuse the course.
Here’s her description of it:
This course is something completely different from anything I’ve seen out there, and it’s information I feel compelled to guide others through. Based on years of emails and chats with people about skin and how to take care of skin, as well as my own ups and downs with my skin (I had acne throughout my early and mid twenties) I started to see these patterns. Patterns with how people were approaching me, and what they were asking about their skin. I recognized the fear and anxiety in their tone, and knew that although they were asking for product recommendations or what in their diet they might want to change, that it wasn’t enough. I could never 100% reach my customers through physical products alone. This is, in true Stark-form, an honest, fun, sometimes really intense, sometimes completely insanely silly way of changing your beliefs to change your skin. There’s some slightly woo-woo stuff involved, but if I can do it straight-faced, anybody can (despite my penchant for crystals, I’m not a very new-agey person in practice!)
This is my way of taking the best possible care of my customers, which has been my intention behind every Stark product.
If the power of intention has anything to do with Stark’s success thus far, then I’d say this e-course is destined to be another surefire hit. All I can say is—sign me up!
A lil somethin’ somethin’ for my readers
Jess is generously offering 15% off all purchases until the end of May with the code edible, so it’s a great time to try out some new goodies. Head on over to Stark Skincare and have some fun getting to know the line—every product comes with its own entertaining story. You can also follow Stark Skincare on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Of course, you’ll have a chance to meet Jessica at A Night for Green Beauty where you can experience the scents and textures of the line for yourself and be one of the first to try out her mystery product.
Thank you so much, Jess, for the opportunity to get to know you and your brand more closely. I certainly have a deeper appreciation for the work that you’re doing and am even more excited to give you a big hug in Chicago!
Have you tried anything from Stark Skincare? What are you loving?