Vanessa Johansson: Creating Beauty
She speaks about plants with such reverence and beauty, it’s easy to get lulled into a two-hour musing of all things nature. From outside her window, the snow-capped view of Mount St. Helen’s looks like it is risen majestically from the saturated green landscape surrounding the property. I’m speaking with Vanessa Johansson, resident alchemist and CEO of Rainshadow Labs, one of the country’s largest and most ethically minded natural beauty companies, about what keeps her inspired, and thoughts on the beauty industry.
Smoothing on a gorgeous, hydrating serum or soaking in a beautiful bath of natural sea salts, we all have some method of self-care to keep us nurtured from the inside out. When she started Rainshadow Labs over a decade ago, ethically sourced ingredients were not at the forefront of the beauty industry as a whole which seems almost inconceivable now.
As the creator of some of the world’s most recognizable natural brands, Vanessa remembers a time when only a handful of companies were interested in her natural-product mindset. She was basically marching alone, in the gorgeous setting of St. Helen’s Oregon, to the beat of her own plant loving tune. Now – the most powerful cosmetic companies are coming to her for advise on how to convert their labs to mimic what she has been doing all along. “Once you know something you can’t un-know it” she says. We’re talking about when she first started learning about the harmful effects of chemicals in skincare. She drank up all the information that she could get, and trained with revered shaman and Native American’s to go back to the earth and learn a more natural approach to health and healing. Skincare is her vehicle but the real intention is to simply get plants and high vibrational ingredients into the hands of people. As she said, “the result is glowing, youthful skin, but I’m really just trying to open people up to the power of these plants as healers”.
One of the most appealing elements of Vanessa is that though she talks about plants with almost religious reverence, she has a girl’s girl attitude and wit. She’s very much of-the-world and aware of the many facets that it takes to be a successful woman in business. “I’m really into the art of negotiation – studying the FBI’s negotiator’s tactics and Ivy League professor’s take on negotiating” she says. She is aware of how your physical environment affects work, so she keeps green juice on tap for employees, and a teepee on site for evening get-together. This sounds very much on-trend and almost Silicon Valley-Meets-Skincare but this has been the regular happenings at Rainshadow Labs for years.
After years of manufacturing for other companies, Vanessa created a line called Numerology Skincare which is filled with nutrient rich ingredients which act as a repair system that helps rehydrated, tone and balance skin into a beautiful glow. We chat about ingredients, work-life balance and more below:
NK: With so many women drawn to the wellness industry in skincare and nutrition-based companies it’s interesting to see the major change the industry has taken with women at the helm of brands. In a relatively short time – everything has changed and moved towards more of a respect of the natural world. It’s a major shift in thinking which has created a major shift in product creation, revolutionizing and changing billion-dollar industry for the better. This is a pretty major ode to the power of women. I love the balance of femininity and strength and how this relates to daily work. How do you find balance in your business and stay inspired? What do you do for self-care?
VJ: This is an amazing time and industry to be in. The industry that I’m in, when delved into goes far beyond vanity and superficial elements. Self-care has never been so important for the health and balance of the human body and phycology. With technology and the excessively fast-paced world that we live in, it is easier than ever to lose focus…to lose the plot of one’s story. Being outside in nature, reflecting and going inward is key to keeping a focus on your life and goals.
Proper skincare is an excellent way to unwind the environmental damage happening to our faces, which makes us feel happier and most importantly, more open-hearted. When we like what we see and how we feel, we behave better altogether. I have a few things that I do for self-care that really tend to my personal being and in effect, help my business as I’m more open, engaging and inspired. Here are a few elements:
- Weight lifting. I have become aware that vitality is the quality of beauty that is truly captivating to me. Thus, inhabiting a strong body has become paramount to my beauty routine. I am able to literally hold myself in a way that allows for truly elegant and juicy meeting between myself and my life
- Intentional solitude. I am an avid student of integrity, of knowing what I actually feel as I am feeling it is paramount. Intentional solitude allows me to court myself daily and allow the shy features of my soul to make an appearance in the stillness that I cultivate.
- Learning. Studying plants is essential to my leaning and growing. Plants re-educate our cells and bring us back to the original blueprint of life in general. I eat them, read about them, distill them, infuse them in my life and home and body.
- Cold water plunging. Our nervous system is our information portal to the world around us. Cold water plunges and cold showers are excellent daily practices to grow the nervous system and become a biological system capable of receiving and transmitting more light and energy. I practice this daily.
NK: What are your favorite ingredients to work with? I know it’s hard to choose, but what are the strongest attributes and characteristics of your two favorites?
VJ: Lavender is such a universal equal opportunity plant. It is one of the few that appeals to most everyone and is medicinal and therapeutic for every constitution. I’m uncertain as to why it is so. But it is so. Other plants are more particular, meant for more exact seasons and times and useful for more specific needs and issues. Yet Lavender helps in all things and hinders none and supports every other plant to be excellent as well. It is a plant for all people who in these times is a plant that we all need more of. Lavender calms and soothes everything. For human beings our true essence is peace and joy found through presence. This is lavender medicine. It calms and relaxes and soothes so that peace can be felt and expressed.
Rosemary | Rosemary is the Country Doctor of the plant world. Used as an antiseptic in WWII…..it handles itself with kindness and strength both. Just like the good Country Doctors of yore, Rosemary brings the medicine when all other resources have retreated from the inhospitable terrains of life. Rosemary carries the fire within its green succulent body. The sacred fire within Rosemary plants brings the circulation and life back to otherwise damp flaccid biology. Rosemary tones and rubs the tired coldness out of a thing and restores life and heat into it. Rosemary wants your own inner fire to spark and glow. It ignites the inner flame of your cellular matrix and restores the rosy glow of vibrancy. Rosemary is the tonic that cures what ails you when the fire has died down too low. Whether Rosemary finds its way into your chicken soup, bathtub, or hair wash, the end result is the signature bright bold and warming medicine of this plant. From restoring hair color to curing respiratory infections, Rosemary will wrap you in its warm hardy embrace in the loveliest of ways. My winter baths are always infused with a few drops of Rosemary essential oil. Thank you Rosemary for your hardy and healing warmth and light. Your medicine keeps the fires burning through the darker winter months. Both lavender and Rosemary are hardy enough to grow uncultivated and pretty much where they please. They don’t need much care. They just give and give of themselves for the love and healing of life. I love these humble and often overlooked plants.
In the world of superstar ingredients, beyond these two humble and hearty and generous plants, I have come to trust in and rely heavily upon Plant Stem Cells. The Numerology Skin Care product line is heavily infused with Plant Stem Cells. Plant Stem cells are intelligent. They are not one directional like ginseng or Valerian or Echinacea. Those plants stimulate or depress. They only always go in one direction. Plant Stem Cells on the other hand are apoptogenic. They are able to somehow assess the territory that they are introduced into and apply themselves in whatever manner is necessary for wholeness to be expressed. Human biology, and all organic life for that matter, is always seeking wholeness. PSC are a powerful and elegant ingredient that are readily bioavailable to our skin. They become whatever form of matter is required for the skin to fully express its original blueprint. Beauty is the obvious result. Think of PSC as bricks. Wherever the skin has holes in it, so to speak, plant stem cells fill in those holes to fortify the entire castle. They are smart and savvy and fluid and flexible and they show up in your skins expression basically overnight when applied in a properly formulated product such as Numerology skin care products happen to be. Collagen grows, wrinkles fade and blur, plumpness and tone are restored, clarity is visible in the skin tone and the scaffolding of the skin is rebuilt. Everything sits more nicely and tightly on your face and neck and décolleté when Plant Stem Cells are applied. Unlike many other brands, we do not rely on stem cells from mammals. Always and only from plants and flowers.
Vanessa has created a brand and niche in an industry that went from essentially barren to flourishing. Outside the lab where she creates skincare, some of Oregon’s most beautiful, commercially untouched land is abundantly growing and thriving, ever-changing and adapting. This is a setting where creation of skincare is playing an elegy to nature and all of the beauty inherently within us. Now more than ever, is the time for self-care, inspiration and taking right-actions into what you find inspiring and fulfilling. With that mindset, success, with either career or self, will evolve in its own way, as Vanessa say’s “ever higher and upward”.