When Lulu Organics first debuted its Hair Powder in 2007, it was something of an anomaly—a non-aerosol, talc-free dry shampoo made from organic, yet highly effective, ingredients at a time when organic skincare was something of a novelty (Horst Rechelbacher’s Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients notwithstanding). A decade later, the brand has expanded to boast a full line of beauty products, including hair oil, lip balm, face serum, cream deodorant, soap, and more, in a variety of evocative scents.
Lulu Organics was founded by Linda “Lulu” Aldredge after a decade of working in the fashion magazine industry as an art director and graphic designer in New York City. Over the years, she had studied herbalism as a hobby and would often forage for edible and medicinal herbs on her land in upstate New York, boiling them down to make herbal medicines and beauty products. In 2007, Aldredge became inspired to leave her corporate publishing industry career and start her own beauty company that produced simple, pare-down products with safe, food-grade ingredients and no preservatives that were as effective as they were natural.
Its first product was its Hair Powder. Dispensed salt-shaker style, the formulation is a blend of white clay, rice powder, corn starch, and natural scents, such as lavender and clary sage, jasmine, and patchouli and amber. Through word-of-mouth, the powder quickly became a hit, garnering the brand raves in the likes of Vogue, Elle, Allure, and Marie Claire, and it was later picked up by monthly beauty box company, Birchbox. (Actress Amanda Seyfried is even a fan.) It doesn’t hurt that it looks pretty on a bathroom vanity—the packaging features Aldredge’s gorgeous illustrations.
In 2010, Aldredge moved from New York to Minnesota to pursue a romantic relationship. Though it ended, she liked it here so much that she decided to stay, and her brand has become a fixture at makers’ markets in the Twin Cities area as well as boutiques, salons, and co-ops around the state.
Recently, Lulu Organics debuted two new products for 2018: Lavender and Clary Sage Calming Balm and the unscented Big Stick Lip Balm. I spoke to Aldredge about the evolution of the brand, how she formulates her products, and what the Lulu brand has in common with Minnesota.
What led you to create Lulu Organics?
I had worked in fashion publishing for about 15 years and I was craving a change. At the time, I happened to be taking a lot of courses on herbalism and I was raised super hippie so a holistic lifestyle was a big part of my personal life. I started to make products for friends and they were a huge hit so I threw together some branding (I’m a graphic designer) and reached out to a few friends who had stores, such as Opening Ceremony. The Hair Powder was literally the only thing I made for years. But there was such a need for it on the market, the business exploded.
Why did you decide to stay in Minnesota after first moving here?
After having lived in both San Francisco and New York for a combined 20 years, moving here was a revelation. Being able to buy a house and run a business effortlessly has kept me here. I also really love the sense of community and social mindedness of Minnesota—it really falls in line with my personal values. The quality of life is definitely tops for me and my community of friends and peers. New York has a real dog-eat-dog vibe and Minnesotans are quite the opposite. It took me awhile to acclimate but I really cherish that now. Minneapolis is, in my opinion, the best kept secret in the lower 48!
How do you feel the Lulu brand connects to Minnesota?
I think that when I first moved here my brand was very New York–identified, and I was quite shy to reach out to the business community. But after living here for seven years, I feel my brand is very connected to Minnesota and all my new products are inspired by living here. I’ve also gotten really into working the local markets with my boyfriend (Jim Bovino of Topos Ferments) who is a local fermenter. I find that connecting directly with my customers and hearing their thoughts have helped me immensely in growing my brand.
How and where do you formulate your products?
We make everything in-house with the exception of our soap, which is made by a couple in Iowa. I design all the products and produce them with the help of my little team. And this year we started growing all the herbs we use in our formulas. I’m an herbalist at heart, so all of my products start with a specifically formulated herbal infusion that treats and strengthens the hair and skin. For instance, our Cream Deodorant started with a jojoba and coconut oil base that is infused with rosemary, horsetail, and comfrey. All our other raw ingredients are sourced from fair trade wholesalers from all over the world.
What do you think sets your Hair Powder apart from other powders on the market?
Outside of being talc-free, we feel pretty strongly about using organic, non-GMO cornstarch. It might sound fairly easy to find, but in America it’s next to impossible to source. And our Hair Powder is 100% aroma-therapeutic, fragranced with only essential oils and absolute oils, nothing synthetic. It not only works amazingly, but the scent can ground and invigorate depending on which fragrance you are drawn to.
What more can you tell me about the two new products, the Big Stick Lip Balm and Calming Balm?
The Big Stick I created after suffering the brutally dry Minnesota winters, where my lips would crack and the sides and my cheeks would burn after being outside. I wanted something that would specifically nourish and protect my skin from the harsh cold. It starts out with an olive oil infusion of marshmallow root, comfrey, and calendula herbs that are known for their healing properties. I then add coco butter, shea, and beeswax. It’s a very unassuming product but I think it’s one of the best products we make. The Calming Balm was inspired by the chaos we are all living under right now. I really felt like my market customers were seeking something that would ground and soothe their frazzled nerves. It’s a simple product with very few ingredients and it’s 100% aroma-therapeutic, made with our signature Lavender and Clary Sage scent. You dab it on anytime you’re craving some downtime like a restorative yoga class or meditation, even before bed and it helps with the calming of your nervous system.
Do you have anything else exciting in the works this year?
We’ll launch some colored Hair Powders, a tooth powder, and maybe a household cleaner for the home with our version of Thieves Essential Oil, Resistance Oil, which is naturally anti-bacterial and has a multitude of uses. http://www.luluorganics.com/products/thieves-oil-15ml
Where to shop: Twin Cities retailers and salons including Honeycomb Salon, Haus Salon, The Hive Salon, and Lakewinds Food Co-op; online at luluorganics.com; and opening day of the Linden Hills Farmer’s Market on May 20. Visit luluorganics.com/wheretobuy for a full list of retailers.