Heroines for the Planet: Model and Skincare Chef May Lindstrom

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Photo by Larry White

May Lindstrom is a self-professed explorer, skin chef and conscious epicurean. Her deep connection to the earth seeps into every facet of her work as a successful model, green makeup artist, painter and now, entrepreneur. May’s new, artisanal skincare line, May Lindstrom Skin, is a collection of the purest concoctions imaginable, personally crafted using only ingredients that are organic, bio-dynamic, wild crafted, cruelty free, vegan, sustainable and conscious. Since each bottle is formulated, hand-blended and filled by May in her private studio, she controls precisely what goes into her products, avoiding harmful chemicals, outsourcing and labs that are commonly used and abused in most beauty and skincare products.

I had the pleasure of catching up with May recently. She shared how wildly passionate she is about her new line, where she sources her ingredients from, how her modeling career took off, and what she loves most about her job.

Lindsay: Congratulations on your skincare line! What inspired its creation?

May: Thank you so much, Lindsay.  It has been the most incredible journey introducing this line into the world.  I started formulating as a little girl, mashing plants and mud together and coming up with special “potions” for all my friends.  I took playing in mud puddles very seriously! As I got older, the process evolved and I grew fascinated with the history of beauty rituals, the coming together of women to celebrate themselves and indulge in their own self care, the sharing and passing on of recipes and traditions from one generation to the next across continents and social divisions.
My own skin has also been a constant motivator.  I am highly sensitive to several of the chemicals common in everyday cosmetics and beauty products and am fighting a never ending battle with these influences to my complexion.  As a consumer, I have yearned for something nourishing and luxurious, deeply indulgent and beautifully packaged without sacrifice to purity and potency.  As a formulator, it only made sense for me to make it myself. What a fun challenge this has been!

Photo Credit: Courtney Dailey

Lindsay: I’ve spoken to so many women who have suffered averse reactions to beauty and personal care products, myself included. You’ve said, “I strongly believe it is more important to be conscious of what you do not put on your skin rather than what you do.” Where do you source all of the ingredientsyou use in your products?

May: I absolutely believe that is true.  It is better to use simply water and nothing else rather than bombard our skin with synthetics, colors, perfumes, preservatives, etc.  I am constantly turning my clients onto the benefits of pure coconut oil, olive oil, salts and honey and and easily accessible skin treats you can find or make in your own kitchen. My line is designed to feel luxurious and special but the truth is, it is an indulgence.  It is delicious and fun to treat yourself to something decadent but when it comes down to it a little water and olive oil goes a long way. Purity of ingredients is essential to what I do.  I source my plants, clays, salts and oils from a small handful of suppliers I chose based on their company’s philosophies and their dedication to freshness and quality.  I like to support good people doing good things, small businesses that can tell me exactly where their lavender comes from, when it was harvested, how it differs from last seasons crop, etc.

Lindsay: So why are so many skincare companies putting potentially harmful ingredients into their products? What ticks you off most about it?

May: Simple answer – the bottom line.  It is a money game.  The bulk of what goes into the average cream or cleanser is just filler.  It is cheap and fits a specific purpose.  The way these formulations are made requires that large amounts of preservatives must also be added to keep the product fresh as they are designed to be able to sit on store shelves for years and years. Then you need to make them smell nice so they are loaded up with synthetic perfumes, which are not regulated and you do not need to disclose the full make up of their ingredients on your labels.  The end result is a product that looks nice, has even consistency, lasts a long time, smells good and is ultimately rather useless for your skin and potentially damaging to your body and your environment. Clients come to me all the time with bags full of product covered with words like “natural,” “gentle,” “inspired by nature,” “contains organic extracts of…” and so on and so on.  And they are absolutely sure they are doing the right thing, buying these bottles adorned with pictures of leaves and flowers and ringing with reassuring words.  This makes me cringe. Not enough people actually bother to read the ingredient’s label. Advertising is incredibly powerful. Green-washing upsets me as it discredits so many of the wonderful lines out there that really are making pure and beautiful products. The market is evolving, but there is still a lot of education that needs to happen.


Lindsay: You handcraft all of your products yourself in your studio. I’d imagine you spend a good part of your day blending up concoctions which sounds like a dream gig! What’s the best part of your job?

May: My entire line is blended by hand. It is a very loving and intimate process.  I adore my time in the studio, taking raw ingredients and concocting new treats or putting together orders of the current line for clients. It is an incredibly therapeutic routine for me – my studio has the most wonderful scent from all the bottles of plants and oils, cocoa and flowers mingling in the air.  It feels magical. The best part though… is happening now.  Since the line has launched, I’ve received the most wonderful emails and letters and phone calls from clients receiving their packages.  For so long, I have created only teeny tiny orders of custom blends for individuals so the opportunity for feedback has been limited. I really had no idea how people would respond to this line.  It has been humbling to say the least. Every day reaffirms that I am on my right path.

Lindsay: Tell me about the packaging you use for May Lindstrom Skin?

May:  When I decided to do a retail line, my goal was to put something out there that didn’t already exist.  I shied away from doing a standard foaming cleanser, a lotion, a cream.  There are great options available already.  I wanted to push the limits a bit.  My line is a “Green” line, but I really wanted it to be more than that.  I wanted to create products that inspired you to take a time-out.  I wanted to make something so beautiful and luxurious-feeling that you couldn’t help but love yourself a little more each time you used them.  The world doesn’t need more products really.  But we do need an excuse to treat ourselves well.  In aiming to be that excuse, I knew the whole experience of the line had to be simply lovely. Packaging is key. The exterior boxes are very sophisticated.  They are a soft black matte with gold foil.  They feel good in your hands and protect the bottles inside well, which is very important as my products are housed in glass. The glass itself is exquisitely beautiful and special too – deep violet verging on black, super sleek and refined vessels that block almost the complete spectrum of visible light, allowing only a certain part to be permeable in the spectral range of UV-A, and infra red light. This offers optimal protection against the aging process, keeping these potions safe and potent without the use of chemical preservatives. There is only one supplier of this particular glass and they are in Switzerland. It’s not the most economical or convenient choice, but I had to have it.  The packaging really is beautiful.  And when I ship my orders… they come in pretty box all tied up with a bow.  I went over-the-top with everything about this line and had so much fun doing it!

Lindsay: You’ll even work one-on-one with your clients. Can you tell me more about your Skin Feast Prescriptions?

May: I love this part.  I started this journey creating exclusively custom formulations.  There was no retail line and I rarely created the same thing twice.  In fact, standardizing recipes for the public was a giant hurdle I had to overcome – it meant I needed to finally write down my formulations so I could re-create them! With the Skin Feast Prescriptions, I give clients the option to work directly with me to create their perfect treat, customized exactly to their specifications.  There is nothing more intimate than skin and I adore the process of being so involved with clients on such a personal level.  It means I get to continue to create every day, researching and learning and growing.  This is an exclusive service, I have to limit the amount of orders I take on so I can give each client my full focus.  It is the equivalent of purchasing a custom made suit direct from the designer rather than a one size fits all garment off the rack.  For the client, it’s exciting to call the shots and explore outside the box and the limitations of my very small current line.  For me, it’s a playground!

Lindsay: How did your career as a painter evolve into modeling? Do you still find time to do both?

May:  Painting was actually almost always for passion, rarely did I bother trying to sell any of my works.  But I do love it and miss it quite a lot.  I have not painted in a very long time.  I made my husband a giant Valentine on Vday and felt like a little girl again.  I think it was a sign it is time for me to return to that part of myself. When I was in art school, I would paint others and they would paint me.  And sometimes the photography students would trade with us as well, body for body.  I would paint someone, they would photograph me and so on. After a time, photographers kept requesting more and more of my time and I found myself in front of the camera more often than a canvas.  Eventually those photographers went on to shoot fashion professionally or fine art for galleries and such and I wound up with my image all over the place.  My modeling career took on a life of its own.  It was never a goal, but it has been a gift that has sustained me over most of the last decade.

Lindsay: When you’re not busy working, how do you take care of your mind and body? What do you treat yourself to?

May: I go to the same breakfast place every weekend with my husband and my giant yellow lab, Rex. We sit outside and just love on each other. That is my favorite thing in the whole world.  I also get a massage every single month for two hours.  This saves me. On a daily basis, I think it is important to create some kind of ritual for yourself.  Journal, do yoga, take your tea in a fancy cup, have an elaborate bath routine… whatever it is that make you take a pause and appreciate yourself. Everything falls into place from there.

Lindsay: What are your hopes for May Lindstrom Skin? Do you have plans to add more products to the line?

May:  My hope is that this first line flourishes, that it creates a vibration of self love that stretches far beyond just the clients using the product.  I would love to be able to add new products on a regular basis.  I have so many formulations in my head I cannot wait to release.  I also want to expand beyond this first line and introduce others – something really decadent and delicious for mothers and babies, a men’s line, a stripped down basics line that is accessible to every budget.  I have far more inspiration than time, and I am simply grateful it is not the reverse!

Lindsay: May, thanks ever so much for your time.

May: You are very welcome, Lindsay.  It has been a pleasure.

Lindsay has spent her career at the intersection of media and social change. In her role at Eco-Chick, Lindsay has established partnerships and campaigns with some of the world’s most-recognized companies committed to sustainability and CSR. She co-created the popular interview series “Heroines for the Planet” that features groundbreaking women who share courage and a deep passion for protecting people and the Earth. Lindsay is the Marketing and Sustainability Manager at Health-Ade Kombucha and previously served as Director of Communications at the social enterprise CBS EcoMedia. There she directed corporate advertising dollars to the nation’s most effective non-profits tackling urgent social issues in local communities and was awarded CBS Corporation’s prestigious Share-the-Vision award. She has written for Whole Living Magazine, Edible, Cottages & Gardens, From The Grapevine, EarthHour.org, Eco-Age.com, and for environmentalists Laura Turner Seydel and Susan Rockefeller. Lindsay holds a BS in Global Business Studies and Marketing from Manhattan College, and received the 2012 Honors Award at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.