My sister-in-law Deb grabbed the lotion bottle out of my hands and threw it in the trash. She handed me a few pieces of raw cocoa butter and said, “Go get to know your self.” I rolled my eyes. I had no idea what she meant. I looked at the cocoa butter and tried warming it in my hands. It didn’t melt and it tugged at my skin but slowly I was able to work it onto my body. The overnight transformation was remarkable. Scales and flakes had healed, bumps and irritations had calmed, and my dry yogi feet felt nourished. It was the best moisturizer I had ever used. But there had to be an easier way to apply it. I wanted it to glide on smoothly – no harsh rubbing.
As a former bakery owner and pastry chef, I didn’t know skincare, but I knew food. So I brought cocoa butter into my kitchen and dug into my pantry. I blended in my favorite base oils: sweet almond, apricot kernel, avocado, and fractionated coconut. I worked with a local sculptor to create a stone shape that fit perfectly in the palm of your hand. And I discovered that I could make my cocoa butter stones melt on contact with skin in a way you have to feel to understand. I started sharing my kitchen creations with friends as “skin food” and was told they looked edible. They were.
I spent almost two years developing Body Stones – natural, simple, and in my kitchen. I’ve learned that cocoa butter is an incredible natural preservative (hence no moldy chocolate) and that moisturizers don’t need added preservatives, synthetics, or other chemicals. We are completely plant based, packaged in sustainably farmed, re-usable bamboo canisters. And we’re beautiful.
Deb’s message was simple. Whatever you put on your body, you may as well be putting in your mouth. And when you take the time to feel your skin, touch your body, and know yourself, you feel better – about yourself, your body, and your life.
Body Stones are my daily ritual, my self-care practice – and I’m so happy to share them with you. Applying a Body Stone is like putting on armor, a self-care body shield. It’s magic. Confidence boosting, power-fueling magic. And that is what this is all about.
How are your spirits?
Overall, pretty good – everyone in my family is healthy and safe, and I’m so grateful for that. The stories you hear…my heart goes out to those who have lost friends and family members, and I am in complete awe of the healthcare workers, the heroes, that are showing up with such tenderness and love. I’m incredibly proud that we were able to partner with Donate Beauty and send over half of our Body Stone Mini stock to hospitals across the country. Our Body Stones are deeply moisturizing and perfect for healing over-sanitized hands. I’m also happy we were able to offer them a small moment of self-care during this difficult time. On a more personal note, I definitely have had a few stir-crazy moments, but I’m a true Cancer, the crab of the Zodiac, and I love my shell, my ‘nest’. The first week of quarantine it occurred to me that my husband and I have never had a full week of consecutive dinners together. Now we’re working at opposite ends of the dining room table and sharing a meal every night – and I love it. This has definitely been one of the silver linings.
What does your stay-at-home life look like? Where are you, and is anyone with you?
My home and our production facility, the ‘Butter Atelier’, are in Brooklyn – at the epicenter of the crisis. In early March, my business partner and I made the call to shut down production to keep our workers safe. Everyone is working from home, and we have been able to, and continue to, compensate our hourly workers fully during the downtime. By mid-March, my husband, our nanny, and I decided as a team to leave the city; we’ve been living in a small town upstate near the Hudson River ever since. My husband and I are both founder CEOs – I, of Kate McLeod, and he of the popular dating app Hinge. We are so grateful to have childcare at this moment. I am not under any illusions; we could not do all of this – maintain our marriage, run our businesses, take care of ourselves, and give Ollie the love, attention, and care he deserves – alone.
Getting into more specifics, this situation has reminded me of the importance of routines. Grounding and stabilizing, routines are necessary, and it is hard when they are completely upended. Even with help, it took a while to establish a new working from home schedule, but we’re getting there. Ollie and I have a cozy, in-bed breastfeed around 7:00, then we share a little breakfast, and I am on my yoga mat by 8:00 streaming The Daily Vinyasa’s online class. I fiercely protect this hour in my day-to-day schedule – it is my time to move, my time to breathe, my time to just be me. Before Ollie arrived, my husband and I would practice together a few times a week – that tradition had disappeared, and now it’s returned. Our mats are set up at right angles to one another straddling the couch and coffee table – in high plank, we’re basically nose to nose.
I am and will always be a mommy but this morning practice – maybe because we’re at home and not in a public studio – is playful and so much fun. It’s a chance for us to be ourselves and enjoy one another. After yoga, I get washed and ready for work and then take a 30-40 min’ morning commute’ – a walk around the neighborhood with Ollie strapped to my chest. Incorporating a morning and evening commute to cap off the ends of a ‘work from home’ day was a game-changer. It’s so easy to get stuck in a screen and then move right into bedtime, dinner, family check-ins, or whatever the next thing may be, and then the day is over and you haven’t moved, you haven’t had fresh air. Going for a walk…I can not put words to how lovely it is. Other new routines I’ll be holding onto: my husband and I listen to The Daily while we prepare eggs and coffee, we’ve started FaceTiming with family a few nights a week, and have been participating in virtual community events such as Daybreaker and Touchpoint (they’re lovely and a lot of fun!) The other major shift is that I have returned to cooking nightly meals. Before making Body Stones, I was a pastry chef and I love to cook.
Feeding friends and loved ones has always brought me tremendous fulfillment but it is hard to find the time with all of life’s other commitments. This forced me back into the kitchen and I’m hugely grateful for that. (The other bonus here is that Ollie has one of those clip-on counter seats. He watches everything. I thought he was going to be the pickiest eater – up until a month ago he basically wouldn’t touch anything except for my milk and he was beginning to refuse bottles – now he munches on mushrooms, coconut yogurt, greens – loves broccoli stalks – he even takes sips of my absolute favorite drink: G&T’s Enlightened Gingerade Kombucha.
When and how did you originally become interested in clean beauty? //Tell us the inspiration behind Kate McLeod
I truly stumbled into this by accident. My sister-in-law took a bottle of lotion out of my hands and asked me if I knew what I was putting on my body. I didn’t. I had never given it much thought. She handed me a chunk of cocoa butter and told me to spend some time with myself. She also prompted me to explore what was actually inside many of the products I was purchasing. Once I jumped down that rabbit hole, there was no going back.
Cocoa Butter is a very stable fat with a high melting point. In other words, in its raw, natural state, it doesn’t just glide right on to the human body. But it is a phenomenal – in my opinion, the best – moisturizer. It is deeply nourishing, soothing, and healing. I wanted to see if I could enhance the application process. I was a pastry chef for many years; I didn’t know much about beauty, but I did know how to work with chocolate. I melted the cocoa butter down in a double boiler on my stove and started to play with it like I would a ganache. I added in my favorite base oils and eventually brought in essential oils for scent. For years I poured the mixture into jars and would scoop out chunks with a spoon after the shower. This quickly turned into a self-care practice that fundamentally changed my life.
When my husband and I were getting married, I wanted to share my most beloved ritual with my most beloved people. I knew no one else was going to dig it out of a jar so I tried pouring the mixture into my old silicone baking molds. I made canale, financiers, and madeleines – the first version of the Body Stone was born. No bottle, no pump – just you, the Stone, and your skin. It was then and remains today about sharing this self-care practice. Taking a moment, an intentioned moment, to put your hands on your skin, to touch your body is like putting on armor, a self-care body shield. It’s magic; confidence-boosting, power-fueling magic. And that is what this is all about.
Which Stone do you recommend for pre- to postpartum for women?
Simple, Mama Stone! This one truly does it all – just like a mama. It only has our five core ingredients – no essential oils – which means it is scent-free. This is an important point – essential oils are strong, they’re meant to be – they’re medicinal. Even diluted, I personally would not put them on a baby nor on a pregnant belly. (And when I was expecting, I could not stomach anything with a smell – Mama Stone was perfect.) This one goes with you from pre to postpartum – itchy belly, nourishing areas of the body that are expanding (i.e. EVERYWHERE) perineal massage, to an edible, food-grade, baby-safe nipple balm. I also use mine to give Ollie an after the bath baby massage – but my all-time favorite use is for personal massage and self-care. Pre coronavirus, I used to bring it to my favorite massage therapist, now I ask my husband to give me a backrub. That is what is so special. It is practical and safe and can be used on everyone in the family, but it can also be something just for the woman that is mama; a ritual to feed her heart and soul.
Which Stone do you recommend for couples?
The Naked Stone. Like the Mama Stone this one has no essential oils – so it is safe for everyone in the family. I frequently get asked what is the difference between the Naked and the Mama Stone. The only difference is that the Naked Stone uses unrefined cocoa butter. So while there are no essential oils in the Naked, it has the natural aroma of cocoa with subtle hints of vanilla and bourbon. I’ve always loved chocolate; I’ve always loved cocoa butter. So for me this Stone is warming and comforting and deeply, deeply soothing. And no essential oils means that it can be used on your most sensitive bits. My business partner recently coined the term ‘quarantine frisky.’ haha…this doubles as a sensual lubricant and… it’s amazing.
What does wellness mean to you? When do you feel like you’re really healthy and thriving?
Wellness to me is a total state. It has more to do with my level of awareness than what I am eating and how I am moving. I am well when I am aware. You can work out, you can eat well, you can have a laundry list of ”self-care practices but if you are just going through the motions, approaching them from a ‘checking off boxes/to do’ mentality…then they lose their power. I thrive when I live in the moment. I thrive when I am aware of what is alive in my body, of how I am feeling. I am healthy when I am aware of my emotions; when I am aware of the stories I have a tendency to play in my head. This might sound cliché, but wellness is living mindfully; it is awareness. Applying the Body Stone – the physical application – I drop in. That is why this practice is so meaningful to me.
Can you tell us a bit more about the CBD stone?
This one took a long time to create – it was very hard to find a CBD supplier MADE SAFE would certify. Our CBD is full-spectrum, food-grade and hails from the hemp fields in Kentucky – my husband’s home state. Each Stone has 100mg. It’s powerful. For the scent, I was originally playing around with a complex bouquet of peppermint, lavender, grapefruit, and eucalyptus, but eucalyptus on its own is amazing, so I decided to keep it simple and stop there. Whenever I need a reset, I turn to this Stone. It helps me breathe, clears my mind, and really soothes away aches and pains. This is also the Stone I give to my father (and have sold to so many people for their parents and grandparents this past holiday) for aches, pains and minor arthritis.
Have you introduced any new routines or rituals since staying home?
- 7 AM – feed Ollie & journal – I have always done this but have added in burning a little palo santo – it’s a simple way to cleanse a space (so needed while #WFH)
- 8 AM – My favorite yoga teaching couple is broadcasting live at 8 AM and 5:30 PM daily The Daily Vinyasa’s
- 9 AM – My husband and I go for a morning walk – our morning ‘commute’ – when we come back into the house we’re in work mode. We turn on The Daily, I pour two cups of coffee and blitz them in the Vitamix with coconut oil, and we both open up our devices which we put away at the end of the day.
- 2:30 PM – I love this one…since I’m working from home, I get to breastfeed Ollie! It takes 20 to 30 mins out of the afternoon, but it is one of my favorite moments of the day.
- 6:00ish – evening ‘commute’ – I put away the laptop and take a walk around the block. The movement and the fresh air feels amazing.
- 7:30 PM – bedtime. Eight months in and I still don’t have this down to a solid routine but one thing has always remained the same, Ollie and I dance to his bedtime song, Van Morrison’s “These Are the Days”.
- Post dinner FaceTime – with family, with friends, with community
As a small business, you’re experiencing a very new reality that is intense and challenging. What’s your best advice for productivity?
Setting up daily routines. I normally speak about ritual. I believe there is a difference between ritual and routine – for me, that difference lies in the intention behind the action of the former. My rituals are sacred; they stoke my soul. But my routine…my routine keeps me sane, keeps me grounded, and keeps me functioning. On a more practical note, I also purchased a monitor and stopped working from bed or the couch. Sitting at a table and looking up instead of down at a screen, it’s been revolutionary.
Which Stone do you recommend for babies or children?
The Naked Stone – it’s a ‘stone’ that smells like chocolate that a child can rub on their body. I bet you I can get your toddler to moisturizer. And moms, it’s food-grade, essential-oil free – I don’t think it’s too tasty but no worries if they eat it!
Lastly, who is your Mother Muse?
There are so many mamas in my life that I love and look up to, but the biggest part of my mama-journey has been learning to trust myself. Birthing Oliver was an incredibly empowering experience. It taught me the value of true surrender and led to me stepping into my full power as a woman, as a mother. I transitioned out of the little girl. I feel a bit self-conscious saying this, but right now, I am my own Mother Muse. I am proud of the decisions I am making, of how I have changed, and of how I am showing up for Oliver, for Justin (my husband), and for myself.