Beauty Review: Kari Gran

Washing my face with oil? At first I wasn't interested. With long-time acne-prone and sensitive skin, the oil cleansing method that's on the rise in beauty circles didn't appeal to me. I had heard all the stories (myths) about how people with my skintype couldn't use oils. But I was wrong. After discovering the Kari Gran skincare line, I've changed my mind. 

Recently I had a chance to test drive this line using its Cleansing Oil, Essential Serum, Hydrating Tonic, Foundation, and Lip Whip (balm). And I was highly impressed by the whole line. The Cleansing Oil left my skin soft and fresh, while the Essential Serum kept that look going for the whole day long. The Lip Whip is a smooth lip balm that's a must-have and the Foundation is a new approach to mineral makeup: it comes in a powder form and you cleverly mix it with the Essential Serum for a dewy application. (I absolutely love this trick.)

Below is an interview with the founders, Kari Gran and Lisa Strain, who launched the line in 2011. 

How did the Kari Gran skincare line come to be? 

Lisa Strain: Kari battled an autoimmune thyroid disorder that caused her to take a second look at the beauty products she put on her skin. What she found wasn’t pretty.

Most beauty products on the market are full of parabens and toxins, which get into the bloodstream through topical application, and have been linked to very serious diseases and hormone disruption. Kari decided to adopt a natural approach instead, and after trying and failing to find a sexy, luxurious take on “green” beauty products, she set out to create her own.

Kari Gran: Once we decided to make the line a business, I kept perfecting my formulations and pursued several formal education tracks.

Where is the line sold? 

Lisa Strain: Kari Gran products are available for purchase at and at a growing list of boutique retailers. We’re excited to also share that Sephora will be carrying our Peppermint Tinted and Cinnamon Naked Lip Whips starting April 2015.

What is the premise of the line? 

Kari Gran: The Kari Gran line is a unique regimen designed to enhance the skin’s natural beauty and encourage a holistic path to healthy, radiant skin. It is made of all-natural plant and essential oils that gently nourish the skin. Several unique features include: All products are made using only the finest natural, organic, wildharvested and non-GMO ingredients.

All products are free of parabens and toxins. These agents have been linked to serious diseases and are known to act as hormone disruptors. Kari Gran is all natural with ingredients that are good for the body and the endocrine system.

All products contain absolutely no water, ensuring consumers get only pure ingredients for their skin instead of useless filler. Most beauty cleansers and moisturizers on the market count water as their lead ingredient, often up to 80 percent of the product.

Made from scratch, all products include a handwritten expiration date on the bottle.

What about the claims that acne-prone types shouldn't use oils? 

Kari Gran: Although oil-based cleansing is a new approach for many, it has been used by various cultures around the world for centuries. It provides a luxurious alternative to many detergent-based products designed to strip oil from the skin without replenishing it—succeeding only to signal the skin to make more oil.

Oil-based cleansing operates on the principle that “like attracts like.” Applying healthy, plant-based oil on the skin and steaming it away draws out grimy oils from within, while still maintaining the skin’s natural balance for soft and supple results. Another thing to note is that our products are not made from mineral oils or petroleum products which suffocate skin and clog pores—beauty products with these ingredients are never a good idea.

Can you tell us about some of the key products in the line?

Cleansing Oil: The Cleansing Oil contains a blend of natural ingredients formulated to deep clean while balancing the skin’s natural oil production. 

Hydrating Tonic: The refreshing Hydrating Tonic is a simple blend of soothing ingredients and, unlike traditional toners, contains no alcohol that strips and dries out skin. 

Essential Serum: The Essential Serum is a potent blend of 15 plant and essential oils known for their nourishing properties, plus a boost of natural Vitamin E, providing customizable levels of moisture to the skin. 

Lip Whip: A perfect everyday lip balm that complements the Kari Gran skin care system, the Lip Whip contains a soothing combination of ingredients. 

Foundation: Our lightweight mineral makeup provides long lasting, light reflecting coverage while allowing the skin to breathe. 

Mineral Blush: Our Peony mineral blush is a sheer, universally flattering shade suitable for all skin tones.

Setting Powder: Setting Powder is an essential product for every woman at any age. It extends the life of any foundation throughout the day and prevents smudging. 

Find Kari Gran products and learn more about the line at

Beauty Review: Wonderland Organics

I'm a huge believer in facial oils for all types of skin. Mine, in particular, is oily and acne-prone, so if I'm going to use a facial oil, it has to be formulated perfectly for my skin, which is hard to do. I haven't found many that excite me—until now. Wonderland Organics is a charming, whimsical facial oil brand out of San Jose, Calif., which was launched last year by Alice Lin. 

I recently had a chance to try out one of Lin's oils that is specifically geared for my skin type: the Balance Serum. And, I'm sold. Moving forward, this is my go-to facial oil. I absolutely love its effective nature, hydrating properties, and delicate scent. 

Below is an interview with Lin, the founder of the company

How did you first get interested in skincare?

I was working abroad in Taiwan as a marketing associate and when I moved to Asia, my skin became inflamed, and did not acclimate to the environment. As a result, I became interested in skincare ingredients, and spent a year reading skincare product labels after work. 

Why did you launch Wonderland Organics?

Wonderland Organics started last year as a result of my passion for skincare. When I was familiarizing myself with ingredients on labels in Asia, I noticed that many companies used the word “fragrance." Through market research, I learned that this ingredient could be 1,000 different types of chemicals and consumers would never know which ones the company used. This could be problematic for people who have extremely sensitive skin, so I started thinking about what ingredients could work for customers with this particular skin type.

Why oils? 

Initially, I feared oils like many people with oily and combination skin. I used to invest in oil-free products, but my skin never improved. When I started my research in Taiwan, I tried organic coconut oil and argan oil. When I didn't break out, I became more curious about how different types of oils could actually be beneficial to our skin. For example, organic apricot kernel oil is a light oil with a slight tightening property, which is perfect for most skin types. To this day, I still use organic coconut oil as a hair mask, to combat frizz, and to moisturize. The best part about facial oils is that they are effective in small amounts. To use the Wonderland Organics facial oils, wash your face, spritz on a toner, and use two to three drops for your face and neck. Keep them away from direct sunlight, and use them within four months.

What was the process for creating the several oils for your line?

When I moved back to California, I took many skincare classes to further my knowledge. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to perfect facial oils, specifically for oil-prone and combination skin types. During the classes, I would jot down notes about potential oils that I was interested in, and compare notes on suppliers. I also joined a professional trade organization, the Indie Business Network, which is made up of entrepreneurs. If I have questions regarding skincare, many skincare professionals are always willing to help out new entrepreneurs like myself.

How did the experimenting unfold?

It wasn’t easy when I first started experimenting. I remember the first facial oils that I had concocted: the scents were too strong, and the products were incredibly oily. But after fine tuning the ingredients and percentages, I was able to settle upon the perfect balance for different skin types.

How did you settle upon these specific ingredients? 

I knew right away I wanted to use organic jojoba oil, as this liquid wax ester has an incredibly long shelf life. Because jojoba oil is extremely similar to the skin’s sebum, most skin types are able to adapt to this oil with no issues. I also love organic pomegranate oil because of its high polyphenol content, which means it has plenty of antioxidants. Organic kukui oil is found in Hawaii, and is an incredibly soothing oil for sensitive skin. Organic argan oil is a non-greasy oil, and is constituted of vitamin E, fatty acids, squalene, sterols, etc. In terms of essential oils, organic lavender and geranium oils are balancing for all skin types, and have pleasing scents. 

What do you love about what you do?

Finding a job that I love and am passionate about makes it all worthwhile, especially when I work until 1 a.m. The best part about running Wonderland Organics is that I know exactly what goes into each product. Because I use GRAS (generally regarded as safe) ingredients, I have no problem recommending the Wonderland Organice facial oils and lotion to people with more sensitive skin. I’m happy to say that the product line I’ve created is natural, healthy, and eco-friendly. In terms of ingredients, I source organic, wild-harvested, and fair trade when possible. For packaging, I use violet miron glass, which is recyclable, and helps protect the products from light.

Try out a sample of the Wonderland Organic facial oils for $13.99 to find out which one is right for you. Learn more at