The other day, I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Melissa Lenberg, founder and owner of Citrine Natural Beauty Bar – a high-end non-toxic beauty store located at the UNION shops in the Biltmore Fashion Park here in Phoenix. The premise of her store is to promote healthy choices while exuding the most luxurious and glamorous aspects that all beauty products should have. It is her firm belief that women no longer have to choose between the two!
To say that Melissa is passionate about all things green beauty is a complete understatement. She lives and breathes it and is more than happy to share her wisdom and advice on skin care, make-up and non-toxic living with anyone coming through her door. She sure was gracious enough to share it with me!
HH: How did your journey begin?
ML: I am from Arizona and when I was 18, I moved to LA to work as a professional make-up artist. Originally, I had gone to beauty school to become a professional hair stylist but noticed that I wasn’t really able to hold and maneuver a blow drier. It was then that I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a pretty serious auto-immune disease. But I was 18. Like most people at that age, I didn’t really care or paid too much attention to it. I ignored the signs but started to feel increasingly worse.
HH: What made you switch to non-toxic beauty products?
ML: I first got into green beauty by paying attention to what I ate. After a while that really made me feel better. And then gradually, I transitioned my make-up and beauty products to non-toxic ones as well, you know, to use on myself, and started to feel the positive effects it had on my health.
HH: How did Citrine Natural Beauty Bar come to life?
ML: So, in 2012, I had just come back to Arizona and started working for my family’s business. It was just a job and I knew that it wasn’t anything that I was passionate about. I had been here for a while and was wondering whether I should stay in Phoenix or move back to LA. During this time, not knowing what to do, I took a trip to Sedona where I found a beautiful piece of citrine crystal. That to me was fate. I knew that the store concept here at the Biltmore was opening in November, my birthday is in November and citrine is the birth stone of November. I saw that as a sign to stay here and move forward with my business. Citrine is also the stone of abundance. It exudes happiness and that’s my goal with this store. I want to make women feel happy when they come through the door, feel abundant. I think that’s what sets us apart. Also, I feel like I truly know my customer. I have worked as a make-up artist as well as in retail for many years.
HH: What advice would you give to women who are just starting out with green beauty?
ML: Most of my first time customers that come here are usually in a panic. They feel like they need to toss and replace everything all at once. And hey, if you have the means – go for it! But I don’t think that’s necessary. I say go slow and replace one product at a time as you run out. Anything that touches your skin should be switched out first – skin care, body lotion, foundation, then lipstick. Lipstick is huge because us women do ingest it. Sometimes I have women in my store – usually the ones that are just accompanying a friend who is inquiring about a certain product – who are afraid that that the brands we carry won’t hold up to the department store brands in terms of effectiveness and level of luxury. And that’s absolutely not true! Take the Kjaer Weis foundation for example. It is just as luxurious and effective as a Chanel foundation, maybe even more so, but without any of the harmful chemicals. These women say “I’m good with Chanel and LaMer”, so I just plant seeds here and there and mention in passing just how unhealthy some of these products really are. These are the women that usually come back a few days later and want to learn more.
HH: In your opinion, which products are worth splurging on and which ones are OK to save on?
ML: I’d say splurge on foundation and skin care. Really pay attention to the active ingredients here. Save on things like body lotion. That really just has to be hydrating.
HH: Which one is your all-time favorite product?
ML: Just one? Oh gosh…I’d have to pick a few! The Honey Mud by May Lindstrom is one of the best products ever. It doesn’t really have any active ingredients in it but it is a total treat for the skin. Also, the Tata Harper Rejuvenating Serum. I swear it got rid of the parentheses around my mouth! I also love the Kypris Antioxidant Dew which is made right here in Arizona. And again, the Kjaer Weiss foundation. It is just the best!
HH: What type of product is your “desert island” must-have?
ML: Mascara! I am a lashes girl. My favorite one is the Perfekt mascara we sell at the store. It is not all natural but does not contain anything harmful either. I used to be a huge fan of Diorshow mascara because it gives you those awesome lashes. Perfekt is just as good as Diorshow but does not contain any of the toxic ingredients, such as formaldehyde.
HH: Which cool new “under-the-radar” line have you recently discovered that you would like to sell in your store?
ML: Well, it’s not really under the radar but I love Kypris! It is pretty new as it has been sold in-store for just about nine months. Before that, it was only available at holistic doctor’s offices. And Kjaer Weis! I think her products do not nearly get enough recognition.
HH: What does your daily beauty routine look like?
ML: My beauty routine is complicated [laughs]! I can tell you though that I do not believe in facials. I have only had two in my life and I did not like them. I feel like facials only give you short term effects and can really irritate your skin. I see monthly facials like going to the gym once a month. It’s nice but you don’t get long term results. But that’s just me. I love masking! I say invest in two good masks – one exfoliating, enzymatic one and one moisturizing one. Then pick one day to consistently mask every week and you will see results. Besides the Honey Mud, I really like the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask. It decongests your pores and gives you an instant glow. I use it every time I have an event or something going on the next day. The only thing you’ll be missing from a facial would be the extractions. But they can really irritate the skin, too. Plus, if you mask regularly maybe you won’t need that as much in the first place.
HH: What would you recommend for breakout prone skin?
ML: Breakouts are typically caused by one of three things – stress, food, or hormones. If caused by hormones, it’s best to treat the breakouts externally as well as internally. As a topical treatment, I really like the Kypris Clearing Serum or Moonlight Catalyst. Internally, I always recommend taking DIM [Diindolylmethane, a compound identified in broccoli] supplements. You can buy them at health food stores or online. We also sell a supplement by Jane Iredale that contains DIM. It naturally helps balance hormones and control the skin’s sebum production. Everybody that I have told about DIM has come back and said it totally worked! Just be careful – there might be a brief detox period first.
HH: Do you have any weird beauty hacks you swear by?
ML: Hmm…nothing really weird. Maybe that I put castor oil on my lashes to condition them. This also works for eye brows. Or you could use coconut oil instead.
HH: You mentioned eating a healthy diet. Do you still eat clean? What is your favorite beauty food?
ML: Yes, I absolutely still eat clean. My favorite beauty food is probably vegetables. I could live off a plate of vegetable crudités from True Food Kitchen that’s right next door to us.
HH: What are your plans for your business going forward?
ML: The store and our team has grown so much that we are literally bursting at the seams so we will be moving into a bigger space here at the Biltmore this October. We have moved once before and the new location will be even bigger. We’ll also have an upstairs now where we can host our classes and workshops and ship all of our online orders. Another exciting thing that will be happening very soon is a Citrine brand skin care line. At least that’s the preliminary name. I haven’t quite decided on the details but it’s all coming in 2016.
Thank you, Melissa, and good luck with your future endeavors!
If you are in the Phoenix area I highly recommend you check out Citrine Natural Beauty Bar for yourself. It’s a gorgeous, highly curated store featuring only the most iconic brands green beauty has to offer. If you do not live close by, you can order any of their products online. Citrine ships worldwide 24/7! And if you have any questions regarding brands or products, Melissa and her team are very knowledgeable and always open to give a consultation in person, via email or phone. Instagram is also a great way to connect with them – just join the conversation with 9000+ of their closest friends.
Photo Credit: Melissa Lenberg and desertlivingtoday.com. This post includes affiliate links. Please see the general disclaimer for details.