It’s often said that beauty is skin deep, but for Kristen Ma the dynamic co-founder of Pure + Simple, a Toronto-based chain of natural & organic spas, it is anything but. From the mind-body connection to the importance of inner exploration, this natural beauty is living proof that vanity is a good thing – as long as it’s holistic.
What drew you to the natural lifestyle?
I grew up in a holistic household that definitely had an “alternative” approach to health, so it was already engrained in me. But what really drew me in was the struggle with my own skin. I suffered from acne for over 10 years and it became a huge part of my identity. It hurt my self-esteem, and I felt so ugly, which in retrospect is so harsh. The holistic approach to health really changed all that as I saw it wasn’t just about the external, but the internal as well, both mind and body. The change was impactful and empowering.
Sounds crunchy-granola, but it’s amazing how much the mental aspect played into it, and when you think about it it makes a lot of sense. We can get ourselves into some pretty viscous cycles of stress and inflammation, which can show on our skin.
When it comes to health you take a more Ayurvedic approach, what drew you to that?
When we first opened Pure + Simple we were all about operating without chemicals, really just on a mission to cut out all the junk. But as I learned with my own skin issues, beauty isn’t just about what you are using on your skin, but also about what you’re eating, and how you’re feeling. The framework of Ayurveda spoke to me, it has a beautiful philosophy and spiritual element behind it. Learning from people that are studying a modality that is thousands of years old has an inner peace that is transmitted through the teachings. It’s not just about cutting things out of your life but rather looking at what is happening energetically. Ayurveda helps you to understand that people are individuals to be treated individually. It is really beautiful.
So how does that impact you as an Ayurvedic practitioner?
I work with people to help them become more body aware. You live in your body for 24 hours a day, if something is not working for you stop and revisit why. Go inside and see what you’re feeling on the emotional spectrum as well as the physical. How are your stress levels? How is your hydration, your digestion? Learning the intricacies about what makes you you is really important, and will really help shape your health.
Your blog as well as a line of products at Pure + Simple is called Holistic Vanity, what does that all mean?
It's a bit of a sassy term that underscores that there's definitely a vanity piece to beauty. But, if in the context of a holistic life, that's not necessarily a bad thing. In many ways vanity is a gateway for health exploration. When I was growing up I ate pretty well, but it wasn’t until I started suffering from a skin issue that I started to look at what was uniquely affecting me. For the most part skin issues aren’t life threatening, but they do give nice red flags that there's something you may need to pay attention to.
Since you started Pure + Simple have you seen a shift in your beliefs?
When I started Pure + Simple with my mom it really was about cutting out toxic chemicals and wanting to make sure people were safe. Now it’s about Ayurveda and questioning what beauty is and what it means to our clients.
There is definitely much more of an emotional aspect coming into play than before, and of course the role of diet is much more emphasized. We give people guidance if they have skin issues, and encourage them to look at themselves meaningfully. “Why am I so inflamed?” “What is causing this congestion?” It’s taking things to a different level. When we started we really just wanted to be a “free-from” but now that has totally evolved to one that is trying to look at people uniquely, and help them find meaning in their beauty.
To learn more about natural health and beauty be sure to check out Kristen’s blog Holistic Vanity or her critically acclaimed book Beauty: Pure + Simple.