I’m back on a new website! Make yourself at home and look around. I decided to make some changes and take up some freelance writing too.
I enjoy blogging and plan to bring you new and fresh ideas when I can. I still bubble with ideas to write about and it’s fun.
Today, I wanted to tell you about one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, Julie Levin, founder of Leaf People Organic Skincare Products. At the end of this post, there will be a coupon code for 25% off Leaf People Organic Skincare Products exclusively for Ivy and Sprig friends.
A few years ago, I met Julie Levin at her booth in the Aspen Farmers Market selling her brand of handmade, homegrown skin potions called Leaf People.
I was immediately struck by the line of people in her booth waiting to talk to her and get her take on their skin problems.
I bought one of her products and then went back and bought more. My skin literally drank in the essential oil combinations of her serums and hydrating creams.
Fast forward and now, Leaf People Organic Skin products are in 15 Whole Foods Stores throughout Colorado, Utah and beyond. She is also on Amazon under Handmade Products.
In January, with snow dumping outside, I sat down with Julie for a chat by the fire and we discussed how she came to start Leaf People and how she creates these problem solving potions.
Organic skincare products have really gotten a lot of attention over the last few years. The beauty industry’s lack of regulation over ingredients has caused much discussion over the harm they could do to us longterm. So, consumers started looking for more natural alternatives to put on their biggest organ.
Times have been changing. People really want clean, toxin free products for their skin.
Julie Levin’s Story:
Julie’s unique background set her on a path to formulate some of the most effective organic skincare products I’ve ever come across.
Me: Tell me about yourself. How did you get into the organic skincare business?
Julie: I was raised in very remote part of Alaska. In order to have plants for food or medicine, we foraged and brought them back to our garden. We grew wild roses for rosehips, Arnica, Burdock and many other plants for medicinal and food purposes. We had to take care of our own medical ailments with plants because there wasn’t a doctor for miles. My father was a salmon fisherman and we lived mostly off of the land.
Julie left Alaska for college in California and become interested in homeopathic medicine and botany. She made it her goal to travel around the world to learn how different countries used plants to heal health problems.
This curiosity took her to Australia to learn from Aborignes, to Hong Kong to study under true Chinese medicine specialists, to South America into the Amazon where she lived for months, to South Africa, and all over Europe.
After this hands on education, she moved to Colorado and attended the Yarmeny Mountain Herbal School in Eagle /Vail for Botanical training.
Julie: My teacher taught methods from the Ute and Paiute Indian tribes of the Colorado area. I learned about complex plant combinations and plant etiquette. Plant etiquette like offering before taking and honoring parent plants that propagate groupings of plants. Sustainability.
Launching Leaf People:
When Julie finished school, she realized there wasn’t much available in the skincare industry using complex plant blends. She wanted to help people find a more natural way to get the results they wanted with their skin and set out to formulate organic skincare products.
Julie worked with two teams to develop her formulas; one at The Aspen Club Spa and one in Los Angeles. Her family and friends were all her guinea pigs too.
The formulas were first made out of her kitchen and then moved to a commercial kitchen and then a lab pretty quickly.
Julie launched her first products at the Aspen Farmers Market on Saturdays 20 years ago and she still participates all summer there. It is hands on consumer feedback and problem solving.
Farmer’s Market customers stood in line to talk to her and even started bringing in their consumer products and asking if she could make something similar that was organic. She would go back to the lab and figure it out.
She humbly says, “I had a high success rate of solving skin problems.”
Me: What were those most common skin problems they came to you with?
The three most common skin problems people asked Julie to help solve?
1. Age spots and wrinkles
2. Adult Acne
Her website is great at directing you to the right product for each of those and if you call for customer service, you actually might just get Julie who likes to talk directly to her clients.
Me: What is one of the most gratifying skin problems you ever solved?
Julie: “One time a girl came to me with completely shredded, trashed hands. They were peeling, red and raw. She had tried everything. She couldn’t hold her three year old son’s hand or her husbands hand. She was embarrassed and they hurt all the time. I started her on high percentage Calendula balm. They were 70 % better in a week and completely healed in three weeks. It was very emotional for her and she wrote me the sweetest letter thanking me.”
Me: What do you think about lasers and chemical peels?
Julie: Some people don’t want to wait through months of a product clearing a problem so they opt for more aggressive treatments to kick start the changes they want to see so I developed Leaf People Clinical which is sold in spas now. The products are gentle for raw post-treatment skin or more active to hold and maintain the effects after a peel or treatment. I’m not opposed. I think micro-needling gets great results for instance.
Me: What if you have SUPER sensitive skin?
Julie: I have a new line coming out this spring for super sensitive skin types called Leaf People Botanical….completely hypoallergenic.
On Dealing with Hormones:
Me: What if you are dealing with hormone fluctuations and skin issues?
Julie: I would say….
-Focus on certified organic foods/clean eating and lots of water
-Watch sugar and alcohol
-Stay away from photo estrogens in plants that mimic hormones – soy, red clover. Choose almond milk instead of soy etc.
This is the same for those in puberty.
Keep gloves around for toxins like pumping gas because chemicals alter your hormones. Use gloves with housecleaning agents, paints, etc. and limit your exposure to them.
I’m a big fan of gloves and I keep them in my car for pumping gas.
Those toxins are known interrupters.
Also keep your liver clean with plenty of fruits and vegetables and gentle liver detox tea, You can even keep it in the fridge as iced tea.
I like teas because they are whole plants; they give back while taking away, nourishing and detoxifying.
Get plenty of exercise.
Take hot salt baths to keep the lymph clean.
Me: There is such a VAST array of Organic Skincare Products now….how is Leaf People different?
Julie: There are a lot of products out there with a few organic ingredients but then a lot of filler oils that aren’t that good for you. Leaf people products are 100% pure plant products. My combinations of plant formulas work together to help cells and tissue strengthen, tighten and repair tissue.
Our sources include wild locations on private land that owners allow me to use and certified local organic farms that are like minded about sustainability. I am using the most fresh, pure version of the plant and it’s properties for my formulas.
My harvesting rule of thumb is to get in and out of an area without it seeming as if I was ever there. That means taking one flower for every three or five flowers. There are generational plants that support each other and it would cause whole species to die if you just greedily took all of a certain kind of flower.
This actually happened last year when the Wild Arnica population was decimated here in Aspen Snowmass because some group was greedy and just went in to the areas where the wild arnica grows and picked all of the flowers. It wiped out all of the Wild Arnica in our area.
I always go back and spread the seeds after harvesting to ensure that the natural balance is kept.
Julie’s sensitivity to the plants and population of plants that support each other is worth taking notice. Her knowledge is broad and so is her heart for the land and the continuum of the plant properties that we will want to have forever.
Looking ahead, Leaf People is planning a podcast and a book! But, Julie says she will only grow to the size that still allows her to make and look after all of the formulas herself. Truly handmade.