the stell

I first came across The Stell, an online shop focusing on natural beauty, about 8 months ago when I was in the process of revamping my skincare and beauty routine. I fell in love with their unique product offering and beautiful aesthetic. I have found so many great brands and products through The Stell (like Soul Sunday Ricewash Cleanser, LVX Nail Polish Removing WipesContext Moisturizer, and Lauren Napier Cleansing Wipes) and wanted to get to know more about it and the shop's founder, Carol Hu.

WHAT DID YOU DO PRIOR TO STARTING THE STELL? WHAT MADE YOU START THE SHOP?

I studied visual arts and art history in college, and spent several years working in art galleries and with an interior designer. The Stell came from a personal need. Because of my chronic skin issues, I had experimented with natural DIY remedies and searched for products that worked for my skin. At the same time, I was sharing all my knowledge with friends and family. I was basically a personal shopper for everyone I know. Then about two years ago my co-founder and I started toying with the idea of combining that experience with my background in high-end aesthetics and knowledge of clean beauty to create The Stell.

 

WHEN STARTING THE STELL, WHAT MADE YOU FOCUS ON NATURAL BEAUTY PRODUCTS + BRANDS?

I've battled with skin issues throughout my life and it's about daily maintenance. Certain problems will come and go, but never fully go away. I learned that certain products just didn't work for me. Growing up, I was always told to use high-end products because they were better quality. Now I know that a price tag doesn't necessarily translate to effectiveness. I shifted to using natural products when I started paying attention to the ingredients on the labels. So, when I started The Stell, that was an essential part of our philosophy.

how do you choose the brands that you carry?

Some of the brands are ones my team and I have personally used, others we actually find through Instagram. I think Instagram, as a tool, has transformed the discovery process for us and other consumers. There are so many great clean brands that are independent and up and coming that we otherwise may not have discovered. Some brands we love have a huge cult following, but aren't mainstream. We narrow down the ones we really like and we test them ourselves to make sure they are truly effective and safe.

 

what are your favorite beauty products / brands?

It's so hard to choose! Every time we pick up a new brand, we all get obsessed. Currently, I am really into Indie Lee's skincare products. Indie's story is so inspiring—she battled a brain tumor that was caused by environmental toxins. From that experience, she created her namesake brand. These products are beautiful, luxurious and effective. I've been slathering on her Squalene Face Cream and Oil. It's noticeably evened out my skin tone, diminished sunspots and the beginnings of any wrinkles. For body, I'm hooked on Herbivore Botanicals Coco Rose Body Polish. It smells amazing and organic coconut oil leaves your skin super smooth and hydrated. Herbivore Botanicals was actually one of the first brands we started carrying.

what is in your makeup bag / what do you use daily?

My daily makeup routine is pretty uncomplicated. I like my makeup to look natural. Typically, I dab on a little Glossier Stretch Concealer, add some Herbivore Lip Tint to my cheeks, swipe on DiorShow Mascara and finish with Kosås lipstick in Stardust. If I'm feeling bold I use Glossier Boy Brow. I also always keep an extra Cleanse by Lauren Napier Facial Wipe in my makeup bag just in case.

 

WHAT ITEMS WOULD YOU RECOMMEND SOMEONE START WITH IF THEY ARE THINKING ABOUT SWITCHING TO A MORE NATURAL ROUTINE?

Start with the basics: a great cleanser, toner and day cream. Indie Lee makes a Brightening Cleanser, which is one of her most popular items. Toner is something a lot of people skip, but it's an essential step. It helps minimize pores, adds a boost of moisture when applied to damp skin and helps to further clean skin. It also balances the drying minerals in tap water. Grown Alchemist and Soul Sunday make great toners. Last, but not least, I love Indie Lee's Squalene Facial Cream. It's super light, but very effective. Plus, it doesn't hurt that it has all these great anti-aging properties.

images via The Stell's Instagram


P.S. Stay tuned for an upcoming post with my updated beauty + skincare routine!

Natural Beauty

This post has been a long time coming, and I'm so excited to finally share it with you. I've been making changes in my beauty routine for the past year or so - trying to implement as many natural (+ organic) products as I can. It started after I was introduced to a few 100% natural beauty brands, and was then pushed along even more once I read Skin Cleanse. Reading Skin Cleanse solidified what I already knew about the beauty industry and taught me a lot of new information, especially about how what you eat affects your skin. It's definitely a must-read if you are at all interested in natural beauty and skincare!

Once I decided that I wanted to implement these changes in my own routine, I found that it was hard to find good resources on where to buy, what to buy and more importantly, what actually works. After doing a lot of research and testing, I wanted to share with you my favorite brands and products, as well as my favorite places to shop for natural products. Luckily, more and more natural beauty brands are popping up and larger stores (Sephora, Nordstrom, etc.) are carrying more of them, so it's getting easier to find all-natural products. Also, there are a lot more "cool" natural brands with beautiful packaging, so the products look great sitting on your bathroom counter (which is important to some people, myself included!) in addition to working well.

And just to let you know, my whole routine is not 100% natural - I still use some products that have chemicals, but for the most part I try to choose natural when possible!

CLEANSERS + MASKS

I first dabbled in the natural beauty realm with cleansers, and more specifically the Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser. I absolutely love this cleanser and always find myself coming back to it after trying others. It's exfoliating, but in a mild way so you can use it everyday. I also tried the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask around the same time and can say that it lives up to its hype. I like to use it a few hours before a special event to make my skin more glowy, in addition to using it on a weekly basis. Bonus: it's also great as an overnight spot treatment. 

Sometimes I want a gentler, calmer cleanser and for that I turn to Soul Sunday's Rice Wash Cleanser. It's a super simple and gentle formula and leaves your skin feeling clean, but not stripped. I also love the Earth Tu Face Face Wash for its simplicity.

I've never been a huge fan of facial wipes, although I seem like their perfect audience because there's nothing I want to do less at the end of the day than wash my face. However, that has all changed with my introduction to Lauren Napier's CLEANSE Wipes. My biggest issue with a lot of facial wipes are that I often feel that I need to wash my face after using them. These have the opposite effect - your skin feels clean super clean after using them and they smell fantastic. Consider me a convert!

SERUMS + OILS + MOISTURIZERS

I'm still trying to figure out all of the hype about facial sprays, but I do really like the Herbivore Rose Hibiscus Spray (you can tell based on how little is left!). It's a refreshing way to prep your skin, add moisture and use to freshen your skin throughout the day. 

In terms of oils and serums, my favorites are Tata Harper Rejuvenanting Serum and Nude Skincare Rescue Oil. I absolutely love the scent of the Tata Harper Serum as well as the brightening look it gives my skin. I also love that it sinks into your skin really nicely and acts as a good layer under your daily moisturizer. I started using Nude's Rescue Oil this winter and I love the added layer of moisture it provides. It also has this way of evening everything out and calming my skin.

I haven't quite found my perfect all-natural moisturizer yet, but I've found a few good contenders. The best ones I've found are the Context Skincare Intensive Daily Moisturizer and Tata Harper Repairative Moisturizer. I love Tata's moisturizer, but I was ultimately looking for either a) a moisturizer with SPF or b) a great natural SPF to layer with it. I ended up coming across Context Skincare's Moisturizer, and while it isn't 100% natural, it has a lot of really great things going for it. I've been using it for three weeks now and really love it. It's unfussy and it smells great (my favorite part of any product).

At night I like to use Block Island Organics Revitalizing Night Cream. It's very gentle and does the trick. I really want to try their facial moisturizer + SPF next!

BODY

Deodorant seems to be the one product that people are most interested in switching to all-natural. I came across Ambre Blends' natural deodorant while reading about Hannah Soboroff's beauty routine and thought I'd give it a try. Turns out it's fantastic and so much better than any other natural deodorant I've tried. It smells amazing and it actually works (I use the Ambre scented one). I also tried some of their essence oils and now wear their Ambre oil as my perfume (see below).

Body wash wasn't really a category I was looking to change, but one night I was in Whole Foods and I thought 'why not?' I had been using a body wash with shea butter so I decided to try Nubian Heritage's Raw Shea Butter Body Wash. I had read in Skin Cleanse that using raw shea butter is a lot better than refined shea butter because it's gone through less processing and hasn't lost it's inherent natural benefits. It's very moisturizing and I never have that dry skin feeling when I get out of the shower. They make a lot of different types of body wash and it's easy to find - I get mine at Whole Foods.

In terms of body moisturizing, I've never been a huge fan of lotions and have always preferred oils. I picked up The Honest Co. Organic Body Oil (also at Whole Foods) and love how quickly it sinks in. I highly recommend it if you are also not a fan of that greasy feeling some lotions can have. At night I love to use Weleda's Skin Food Creme on my hands. This guy is actually quite greasy, which is why I only use it at night, but it's super moisturizing. It's also great for your feet! During the day I carry around Grown Alchemist Vanilla + Orange Peel Hand Cream.

BEAUTY

I've mentioned my love of RMS Beauty before and I still use their UnCoverup Concealer (shade 11), Lip2Cheek (Modest) and Living Luminzer. But, I just recently started using their Volumizing Mascara and I can't believe I waited so long to try it! I am obsessed. It leaves your lashes looking and feeling so natural - it doesn't weigh them down at all. RMS Beauty recently launched nail polish that I'm super anxious to try.

For lip balm, I love the Olio E Osso lip balms - I have No. 2 and No. 4. (ps. they also double as cheek tint!) On a recent trip to Nashville, I discovered the brand F.Miller and picked up their lip balm, which I now use almost everyday. It has a great gender-neutral vibe to it - perfect for dudes too.

As you all know, nail polish is a big part of my life and whenever possible, I try to use 5-free nail polishes, which are free of the 5 leading chemicals that are typically found in nail polishes (formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde resin, and camphor). There are a lot of 5-free polish brands nowadays and you honestly cannot tell the difference in quality or color. My favorites are Tenoverten and RGB Cosmetics (I wear Doll and Dove frequently). I'm eager to try RMS Beauty's new nail polishes as well as Habit Cosmetics, Côte and JINSoon polishes.  

WHERE TO SHOP

Here are the places I like to shop for natural beauty + skincare: Whole FoodsThe StellCAP BeautyTata HarperShen BeautyCredo BeautyBeautycounterThe Honest Company and Spirit Beauty Lounge

Whenever I'm unsure of a new product's ingredients, I search for it on Skin Deep Cosmetics Database so I can find out more about it. 

A few products I have my eye on to try:

From left to right, top to bottom:
Agent Nateur Deodorant / Habit Cosmetics Nail Polish in Bardot / Beautycounter Lustro Face Oil 1 / Honest Beauty Younger Eye Cream / May Lindstrom Honey Mud Mask / Grown Alchemist Eye Makeup Remover / Vinter's Daughter Botanical Serum / Drunk Elephant Sheer Defense SPF / Beautycounter Eye Perfector

I'd love to hear about your favorite natural beauty brands + products! Let me know what you're loving, as well as if you have any questions about anything here!

commodity goods

I've been following along with Commodity Goods since they launched and was so excited when they reached out to me to test out their line of perfumes. Their packaging is so beautiful, which is what initially attracted me to the brand, and I was happily surprised that their scents were just as good as their packaging.

Commodity Goods offers a fitting kit for $9 in both women's and men's scents (some of which overlap), so you can try the scents at home. It was so fun getting to try a new scent each day and their samples come in mini-sprayers so they are super easy to use. And, if you end up purchasing a full size bottle of one of their scents, they refund your $9!

I ended up choosing Magnolia, which has floral and dewy notes. It's a perfect scent to wear during the day or for a special occasion. I did have a hard time narrowing down the scents though - I loved so many of them! Some of my other favorites were: Moss, Gold, and Paper. I hope you'll try out their fitting kit and find your own favorite scent!

RMS beauty

As I've mentioned before, I'm trying to switch to using more natural beauty products and my newest favorite is RMS Beauty. I was first introduced to their products at work and a few friends recommended them, so I decided to give them a try.

I started with the Living Luminizer (per my friend Sarah's suggestion) and immediately loved it. It instantly brightens and illuminates your face wherever you use it. I like to use it on my browbone, in the inner corner of my eyes and along my cheekbones. I then tried their Un-Coverup (shade 11) and their Lip2Cheek and love them as well. The products go on so easily and last all day. I've been using Lip2Cheek in Modest, which is a subtle rosy color. At first it seems like it goes on really bright, but it immediately sinks in and looks like a natural glow. I have yet to try it on my lips, but will let you know when I do!

And to top it off, you're using something free of any harmful chemicals so you can feel better about what you're putting onto your skin. Next, I want to try their mascara!

going nude

Ever since getting this awesome manicure at Olive & June in January, I've been obsessed with opaque nude polishes and trying to recreate that same look (the original gel color was called "ink 3," if you're curious). After much experimenting, I wanted to share my favorite nude polishes: RGB Doll, Essie Topless & Barefoot and Essie Sand Tropez

(left to right: Essie Sand Tropez, RGB Doll, Essie Topless & Barefoot)

RGB Doll is definitely my go-to, however it's almost identical to Topless & Barefoot. I tend to favor Doll 
though because I like that RGB polishes are five-free and are better for your nails. I've found that all three colors compliment most skin tones and look good on almost everyone. Sand Tropez is great if you are looking for a more gray nude, and it also changes depending on what kind of light you are in. Do you have a favorite nude polish? I'd love to try out more!

new routines

I've been bouncing around between products for awhile and decided I wanted a more solid skincare routine. I started with Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate, which then led to sampling a bunch of their other products. I've (somewhat) settled on a new skincare routine and wanted to share my finds:

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate / This was the first new product I tried after hearing rave reviews from a few friends. While I can't say I've noticed a dramatic difference after using it, I love using this every night. It feels like I'm doing something really nice to my skin and I love the smell of it. It has a hint of lavender which is so relaxing before bed.

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Eye / I picked this up along with the Recovery Concentrate, mostly because I was looking for an eye cream. I love how silky it makes my skin feel and it has the same amazing smell as the Concentrate - it's a nice end to the day. I also like using Kiehl's Eye Alert to brighten my eyes in the morning.

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cleanser / In the past I've used drugstore acne cleansers and they've all dried out my skin. I love how gentle this cleanser is, but it still feels like it's an effective cleanser.

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Toner / I'm not a big believer in using a toner, but this one is nice and gentle on my skin. I've also tried the Ultra Facial Oil-Free Toner and actually prefer that formula to this one.

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Moisturizer + SPF / After Clinique altered the formula of my favorite moisturizer (still angry over this!) I had to find a new one. The main thing I look for in my moisturizer is sunscreen so I decided to try this Kiehl's moisturizer. So far, I like how lightweight it is.

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment / This is by far my favorite lip balm. I love the smell of it and I love how soft it makes my lips. Bonus points for sunscreen! I also own this in a few of the tinted versions.

Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask / Not pictured, but I couldn't write this without mentioning it. I had read about Tata Harper on Samantha's blog and was intrigued by the all-natural product line. After Sarah raved about it to me, I knew I had to try it. I've used this a few times since getting it and so far really like it. I like how refreshed it leaves my skin and that I'm putting something really good onto my skin. I'm hoping to try a few more of Tata's all-natural products!

What are some of your favorite products? I've become a bit obsessed with skincare and would love to find some new products to try!

Olive & June

At the very top of places to visit on my trip to LA was Olive & June, a nail salon that opened in August. The salon was founded by Sarah Gibson Tuttle who recognized a void in nail salons, and boy did she deliver. The space is so beautiful and simple, with every detail carefully thought out. I love that you can quickly book appointments online and they keep track of all your preferences, from nail shape to massage pressure. I ended up going with the classic June manicure, and it was the most meticulous manicure I've ever had (and is still perfect, 4 days later). I can't even begin to say how lovely the interior is - I want to move right in! I can truly say that this was by far the best nail salon experience I've had and I can't wait to go back in on my next trip in January!

top three pictures from Refinery29 / bottom two by me

chopped

If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen that I finally (!) cut my hair shorter last week! I'm so happy that I did it! It's a small change to some people, but for me it's a big change. I've had my hair long for about 6-7 years so I was so ready for a change. I cut about 2.5 inches off and moved my part. My favorite part is that it's the first time I've had a hairstyle that actually looks better messier! It's made getting ready so much quicker and easier.

I've added some new products to my routinethe Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray, Living Proof Satin Hair Serum and Prime Style Extender. I am beyond obsessed with the Oribe Spray. I've had to seriously stop myself from spraying too much because I've been going through it so quickly! It gives your hair such an awesome texture and creates volume—it definitely helps you achieve a 'messier' look, but I love that it also works as a dry shampoo (p.s. it smells amazing). I'm planning on purchasing The Drybar 3-Day Bender curling iron soon to give my hair some subtle waves after I've blown it out.