May 24, 2015

Natural Beauty: Etta and Billie’s Organic Bath and Body Line

It may seem early to start thinking about gifts, but is it really? This week brings us into November, and we’re accustomed to the weeks flying by after that. With that in mind, there’s no time like the present (sorry) to start collecting locally-made giftables for the special people on your list. A current fave: bath and body products from San Francisco’s Etta and Billie.

Made right ‘tchere in the city, the line of sustainably-made soaps, lip balms, exfoliants and moisturizers relies on organic ingredients, as well as fair trade and natural essential oils. You’ll find an eclectic array of scents with appeal for bohemian and strictly modern sensibilities alike. For example, there are products featuring lavender, patchouli and cedarwood. But for the less earthy among us, bitter orange, bergamot ginger and peppermint lime concoctions provide crisp, lively alternatives.

Bringing it all together is the pleasant packaging: holiday soaps arrive in neatly tied bundles wrapped in eco-friendly corrugated cardboard, while the eco-friendly gift box pictured above features a quartet of nicely-labeled goodies. And while it’s what’s inside that counts (of course), the outward appearance makes items from the line even easier to give as stocking stuffers and hostess gifts – or to leave as nice surprises for visiting guests (family or Airbnb!).

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3 Reasons to Love Local Nail Lacquer by Floss Gloss

Nail color is as much a part of fashion these days as any accessory, so you can imagine we were thrilled to find a new line of professional grade lacquers from a local source. And while the vintage-inspired bottles and memorable name were enough to hook us from the start, Floss Gloss has impressed in a below-the-surface way more than a few times since our first encounter a few weeks back. Here are three reasons to love this new local brand:

1. Beyond-average color. Way. Without skating into zany-ville, the colors in the nail brand’s debut collection are far from the usual suspects you’ll find on most nail displays. Taking their hue cues from 1970′s Miami, the assortment roves from a milky tan to neon orange to powdery blue. At the same time, the colors remain wearable and all manage to go together, in case you’d like to create designs and layer hues for original looks. The emphasis on color makes all the more sense when you learn that founders Aretha Sack and Janine Lee are California College of the Arts alums with backgrounds in painting and fashion.

2. Long-lasting polish. Really. During two separate trials with different colors, a layer of polish finished off with the clear top coat stayed on for five days without chipping. And that was without any clear polish touch ups in between. Sack and Lee tell us they were really focused on creating a formula that was nearly opaque in one coat and resisted chipping, and from what we’ve seen, they’ve succeeded.

3. No nasty chemicals. Fab. The polish is professional grade, but still manages to be cruelty-free and free from scary chemicals such as DBP, toluene or formaldehyde.

Add to that the fact that the polishes are produced right across the Bay in Richmond, Calif., and you can see why we’re in love.

For more on Floss Gloss and the creative ladies behind the company, check out the recent coverage by SF Indie Fashion founder Lorraine Sanders on the San Francisco Chronicle’s SF Unzipped blog.

Want more? Get in on the gloss by visiting the online shop, where you can also share your latest nail pics in the burgeoning Floss Gloss image gallery.

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Future Fragrance: Ineke’s Hothouse Flower

Due out this September is the latest fragrance from artisanal San Francisco perfumer Ineke. With notes of gardenia and tea, the new Hothouse Flower scent continues the local company’s tradition of offering up fragrances with botanical roots and everyday wearability.

One of our favorite ways to try this line without committing to an entire bottle – and also an amazing hostess gift – is the Ineke Deluxe Sampler Collection. It’s $25 and includes sample size versions off the line’s seven scents.

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Bohemian Beauty: Nieves Rathbun’s By Nieves Line

Growing up in a nomadic lifestyle led by parents who traveled across the West using pack donkeys laid the groundwork for Nieves Rathbun‘s organic body care line, By Nieves. Exposure to alternative remedies through her travels and exploration from a young age, she went on to combine her knowledge into a line of products for the face, body and hair. Read on to discover more about this Oakland expert in naturally-crafted beauty.

A young Neives Rathbun in Sheridan, Oregon, 1980

Another shot of Nieves as a young girl

Nieves and her donkey Betsy.

Behind the scenes of By Nieves products.

Today Nieves produces her By Nieves body and skincare line by hand using natural ingredients. (Photo: Gwen Harlow)

How did growing up with such a unique lifestyle influence your decision to get into skincare and body products? Growing up in the wilderness and in the counterculture instilled a sense of interdependence and an awareness of immediate consequence. It’s hard to ignore nature when you’re surrounded by it. I think this leads to a feeling of responsibility and makes me question how a product or ingredient is made and what does it affect after we wash it down the drain. Then as a career choice, even though I’m attracted to herbal medicine and nutrition, I’m enamored with glamorous fancy things so I gravitated to skincare and perfuming.

After being in the skincare industry for a while, I started wondering there weren’t more simple and lovely products out there and thought why doesn’t some one just put together this and this and that it would be so great? So I mixed up some things, loved them and the rest is history (in the making).

Tell us a little about your childhood. How were you able to travel and move around so much? I was raised by my father, who is an intellectual hippie that renounced materialism to a large degree. We were able to survive on very modest means, which meant he didn’t have to actually make a lot of money. When he did, it was mostly with forestry work, tree planting, trail maintenance and stuff like that.

What makes By Nieves skincare differ from other skin care lines? I only use very natural ingredients…that’s why you don’t see any lotions, serums or cleansers that would require emulsifiers, surfactants and preservatives. I think what sets By Nieves apart is that I use simple recognizable, effective ingredients and I serve them up with sassy sincerity and classic packaging. Honestly, I’m not the only one doing this and that’s great. I’d love it if there were lots and lots of successful artisan skincare companies rather than just a few huge companies (oops my hippie roots are showing!)

What are your most popular products? I developed each of my five products to fill a particular need in my routine, so I can’t live without any of them. But if I had to choose one, it’d be the C Perfect Skin…I play around with other products sometimes (‘cuz I love skincare stuff), but nothing quite does it for me like the good old C Perfect Skin. Oh and it is the number one seller, too.

After such extensive travels, where did you decide to settle down? I’m located in Oakland on what some people call the Oakland Riviera, a funky little artist enclave on 5th Ave. I’m in the process of moving some of my business to Petrolia, California on the Lost Coast.  My husband grew up there, and it’s time to help his aging mama and let our boy Jasper run wild in the hills. I’ve been longing to get back to the woods…back to my remote country roots. I will maintain an Oakland office and continue to produce some products here. I will continue to spend plenty of time in the Bay Area to do events, stay in touch with clients and  keep my finger on the pulse of the big City life.

Where can we find By Nieves products? You can find By Nieves at a bunch of awesome independent boutiques in the Bay Area and you can order online at

Photos courtesy of Nieves Rathbun

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Sneak Peek: Elizabeth Street Cosmetics Launches Spring Hues

Continuing the brand's love affair with San Francisco street names, new Spring hues from Elizabeth Street Cosmetics include a creamy violet named Lilac St (top) and a sheer fuschia gloss dubbed Poplar St.

A fresh batch of lip colors from Elizabeth Street Cosmetics means all new, seasonally-savvy hues from a local source. You can sneak peek them this week during the company’s spring show, and, in the meantime, brush up on your lipstick know-how with expert advice from founder Kelly Crispen.

Five new colors named for Mission streets are out this month from the company, which garners fans with its paraben-free formulas and personalized service (Crispen does house calls, where she helps clients choose colors and dishes out beauty knowledge culled from her 20+ years in the industry).

Expect juicy brights in sheer, glossy formulas.

“It’s an accessory, like a clutch or like a bracelet,” says Crispen of her lipsticks, balms and glosses.

You’ll find Crispen and her spring collection on view this Friday evening at Pixie Hall Studios in Noe Valley during a spring show featuring special guest stylists from Harper Paige Salon (details on the calendar). We recently caught up with Crispen to get her take on wearing spring’s exuberant colors.

We’re seeing bright lip colors everywhere this season. What advice do you have for women who’d like to try out a brighter hue, but usually opt for nude lips?

Bright colors are actually highly wearable, they just need to be “sheered out.” Try a glossy formula. Avoid anything matte or opaque. Use a lighter hand when applying or opt for a lip brush when applying brights, but don’t be afraid to go for a pretty pop of color this season.

Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping lip color on longer, making it last?

The best trick for making your lip color last is to dab a hint of concealer or transluscent powder on first. Avoid pencil liners, as they can look drying and accentuate tiny lines and imperfections.

Are there colors you’d recommend for any skin tone? Sometimes it’s fun to give lip color as a gift, but hard to pick out a color for someone else.

Most skin tones do well with a neutral rosy brown such as Church or Noe Streets from my line, Elizabeth Street Cosmetics. Church is a creamy satin with more color payoff, as opposed to Noe, which is a super sheer tint or glaze.

How can we use lip color to complement what we’re wearing, but without looking matchy-matchy?

Staying in the same color family works but vary the hues. For instance if you’re wearing an orange silk top, try a fresh peach or apricot sheer lip color like ESC’s new Linda Street. If you’re wearing a pale rose top, opt for a bolder fushcia lip color like ESC’s new Rosemont Street. Think of your lip color as another accessory in your wardrobe, one you can change up on any given day.

You’ll find Elizabeth Street Cosmetics in San Francisco stores such as Mira Mira, Two Birds and Rare Device.

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