'I grew up in Jersey—Newark; I’m sure you know the airport. But I’ve always had a relationship with the City—I went to Hunter College. But for the past 10 years, I’ve just been doing a lot of traveling. I spent three months in Southeast Asia, six months in Barcelona…Morocco, everywhere. Through that I’ve developed this love for food from every different part of the world, including Brazil, where my parents are from. That’s why the acai bowls are on the menu at Dimes,because I grew up eating those every time I would go. I’ve also regularly worked in restaurants, so food was always a huge interest. Two years ago my business partner and I went to Patagonia and we were complaining about how awful the food was there. It was winter, so everything was imported—just scarce and not fresh. When we came back we were just like, ‘Why don’t we open something with food that we like to eat?’ and we just went for it.
It was originally going to be a juice bar, but grew into sort of an apothecary and a café as well, because the neighborhood wanted food. But the juice bar was my whole thing, because I’ve taken a lot of herb classes and I make my own tinctures, which are herbal extracts. It started off as a hobby, but then I started giving them to my friends and they were like, ‘You need to start making this stuff and packaging it.’ So I did. To make a tincture you basically apply alcohol—I’ve been using vodka—and distilled water to herbs and let it sit for about three months. It’s good to harvest them, which means pressing and extracting the herb from the liquid, in the new moon for gravitational purposes. Each herb has a different ratio of alcohol and water because each herb extracts differently. I have a book that helps me figure it all out.
I like to focus on making ones that help balance my hormones and relieve stress. I have one called Holy Basil, which is good for stress. It’s a sacred Indian herb. I’m obsessed, and give it to all the girls at work. I’ll drink it in a little bit of water and I also have droppers of it. I buy the basil from Rose Mountain Herbs in Oregon. That’s actually where I source everything for the apothecary. They’re really amazing. There is a tincture with Black Cohosh, which is an estrogen balancer, so it’s good for women. I have an irregular menstrual cycle so this is really good to take on and off, but definitely don’t take it when you’re pregnant. That and motherwort have really balanced me out. There’s also maca root powder, which everybody loves. It’s like happy pills—a really serious mood lifter.
My approach to beauty is to keep it simple. I use all-natural and organic stuff. And I just really like what I make, like the rosewater spray; I apply that to my face every day. Dimes sells that and a salt scrub, which both came out of sheer boredom. I went to the beach with a friend one day and I was like, ‘I really need a salt scrub right now,’ and then I realized, ‘You know what? Let’s just make it.’ From there I started playing with different essential oils. Jojoba oil is an amazing natural moisturizer. Safflower oil is fun, too, because it mimics the skin. It retains moisture without making it oily or greasy. Also, the rosewater has aloe, which is another natural moisturizer.
Before I started making my own I would just use the Heritage Store Rosewater Spray that you can get at Whole Foods. Lately I’ve been into Juice Beauty products, and I’m obsessed with Gabriel Cosmetics, a seaweed-based organics line. I have oily skin, and I don’t drink as much water as I should so I’m always dehydrated, especially in the winter. I could actually go a full day without drinking anything except for coffee. That’s horrible [laughs]. So, yeah, I have dry and oily skin. I’m always looking for products that suppress the oil, obviously, but also something that hydrates. It’s complicated. At one point I had to buy a moisturizer for my ex-boyfriend and myself and had to combine the fact that he has really dry skin and I have oily skin because he would only use whatever I had rather than buying his own stuff. I found the Gabriel Cosmetics Seaweed Nourishing Moisturizer at Whole Foods one day so I just bought it on a whim and it’s incredible. I really love that, and I use the Malin + Goetz Grapefruit Face Cleanser, which I like because it’s not too astringent. It’s good for sensitive skin.
I have one of my lip balms in like every jacket pocket [laughs]. I use mango butter,safflower oil, evening primrose oil, and then the essential oils of tangerine, sage, and peppermint. I just make a batch of, like, 100 in my kitchen. It took maybe 10 tries of batches that were too hard or too soft or not hydrating enough. I was originally using almond oil instead of mango butter, but then I realized that some people have allergies to almonds, so I did the mango butter instead. It’s nice and flakey and it melts really well. Once you figure it out, you’re golden.
I played with making my own body moisturizer and that was a fiasco. That was really hard; it’s more of a science, the chemical-emulsifying thing. I really like Malin + Goetz body lotion, but Aesop has the best body stuff. It’s really expensive, but really lovely. I’ll use it in the shower and it just smells so invigorating! For actual fragrance, I like the Le Labo Gaiac 10 [ed note: limited edition, sold out]. I learned that Japanese people don’t use perfume because it’s considered invasive, but what’s really amazing about that is that once it interacts with the skin it just mellows out completely. It’s just a very low-key scent. There’s some cypress in there, which is really nice. Other than that I use lavender oil.
My hair is coarse and oily for sure. My brother-in-law's dad is Guy of Toni and Guy, so I get my hair cut there and use a lot of their products. They always tell me what I should be doing with it, but I’m very unruly and don’t really care. I’ll put some dry shampoo in every once in a while. I have this Lulu Organics Hair Powder, but Fekkai Au Naturel Dry Shampoo is a great one too. I don’t take care of my eyebrows, either. I hate my eyebrows. They’re a mess most of the time, so I will brush them every day and that’s it. They need to be brushed! That’s why I hate them [laughs].
A really close friend of mine, James Boehmer, works for Nars, so he turned me on to their products. They’re my favorite. Sometimes I will do a concealer if I breakout or something. Then I’ll wear a little bit of mascara because I feel like mascara is the one thing that accentuates a woman’s features in a subtle way. You’re not applying eyeliner or visual makeup, but it’s just something that that brightens and opens up your face. I like Dragon Girl for a red lipstick because who doesn’t like rouge? I think a woman in rouge is very sexy.
Other than that, I’m not really that kind of girl to wear makeup. Natural is just who I am, so I just don’t feel like myself if I’m wearing a ton, and I’m so on-the-go that I don’t even really think about it. I wake up at 6am to be at work by 6:30. For three months it was like this, seven days a week. It was pretty crazy. When you’re opening a restaurant, even on your days off you’re doing work. Now it’s nice, though, because I just started taking Thursdays and Sundays off, so I can get back into meditating again. I took a month-long Shambhala meditation class last year, but it’s been a little difficult to keep up with because of my work schedule, and it’s better if you do it at the same time every day. Even if you sit for five minutes, as long as you keep simple and sustain that, it’s really good. I usually do it when I come home to help me fall asleep and to not have lucid dreams. I will stare at the tip of one of the stones sitting in my meditation room and just meditate on that. I used to be a really anxious person, but not anymore. It’s very calming. My evening glass of wine doesn’t hurt, either.”
—as told to ITG
Sabrina De Sousa photographed by Emily Weiss on December 12, 2013 in New York.