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Meet Conscia: Water + Plastic-Free Shampoo + Conditioner Stones

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Photos Courtesy of Conscia

In honor of Plastic Free July—a global movement asking each of us to be more conscious of our plastic consumption—we’re talking to an inspiring, Portland-based mama, Nicole Brown, who has made Earth-friendly living a year-round experience.

After two decades as a hairstylist and owner of Tailored, a top salon in S.F., Nicole became acutely aware of the water and plastic waste in hair products, so she created a solution: Conscia. The brainchild of Nicole and her longtime client Victoria Heldt, Conscia shampoo and conditioner stones are not only absolutely gorgeous, they are made without water and plastic packaging and harness the power of natural, high-performance ingredients.

Want to know more about the brand and the mother behind it? Read our interview with Nicole Brown—who is also mom to 7-year-old Maureen (Reeny)—below!

What was the moment that you knew you needed to create Conscia?
“When I opened Tailored Salon in San Francisco, sustainability was at the forefront of my mind. With the ongoing drought in California and an ocean full of plastic, I wanted to be part of the solution. When I couldn’t find any products that met my standard of sustainability, I decided to make my own.”

What was the 3-year process like to bring it to market? 
“Creating a product from scratch was definitely not an easy process, especially since there isn’t a product like our Conscia stones on the market. I tried to be intentional with every choice we made—the ingredients, packaging, sourcing. It took a lot of R&D to find the right ingredients that would provide the efficacy of a salon-grade product while also being all natural and sustainable.”

“I started by taking a natural formulation course online, which helped me to understand the composition of shampoos and conditioners from a formula perspective. I probably made 50 versions of the initial formula to get the ratios right. We needed the stones to be dense enough to withstand sitting on the shower shelf, but also able to easily dispense product onto the hair and scalp. I would send each iteration of the product home with my clients at the salon for testing and gather their feedback. I played with clay and Play-Doh to determine the best shape—one that was both aesthetically pleasing as well as ergonomic that would fit easily in the hand. My best friend is a chef and helped structure the production process, as making the stones is a lot like baking.”

“Once the process was finalized, I approached many manufacturing facilities, but had no luck. It was the start of the pandemic and most facilities had transitioned to producing hand sanitizer. After 9 months of searching, I decided to manufacture the stones in house. They are all hand-made by our team. In many ways, this was a blessing in disguise as it allows us to have complete control over the quality of our products.”

Tell us more about the ingredients in each stone.
“It was important to me that every single ingredient found in the stones serves a purpose. There are no filler ingredients. I chose active botanical powder extracts for each of our three key formulas—Hydrate, Heal, and Fortify—based on their functional and healing properties for the hair and scalp. It just so happened that the combination of ingredients created beautiful and complimentary colors throughout the product range. Similarly, I chose a different cocktail of essential oils for each formula based on their aromatherapy benefits and they created really unique scent profiles for each formula. Hydrate is a little bit citrus, Heal is floral, and Fortify is more earthy and woodsy.”

In addition to your “baby” Conscia, you are raising a 7-year-old daughter. How do you teach her to live in an Earth-friendly way? 
“I try to lead by example in all of our daily habits. We compost, use glass or aluminum containers, powder toothpaste tablets, cloth napkins, and drive an electric car. When we go to the beach, we pick up trash. My daughter uses Conscia stones, and I have explained to her why I created the brand and what’s at stake for the planet. She attends a Waldorf school, which helps reinforce those principles as well.”

What have been the keys to juggling business ownership and motherhood? 
“Something I’ve been focused on is making sure that I remain present. With my schedule now I have less time to spend with my daughter, so I want to make sure that I’m really engaged when we’re together. I definitely have workaholic tendencies, but I do try to listen to my body. When I feel overwhelmed or anxious, I try to take a few minutes for myself. Her dad is very helpful and takes on all parental duties when I’m in San Francisco. I’ve learned over the years that I need reliable partners (both personal and professional) to keep everything moving forward.”

How do you carve out time to be creative?
“I probably don’t carve out as much time as I should, however I try to use my work as a creative outlet—cutting hair, formulating products, brand ideation. Conscia is really an extension of my business partner (Victoria) and I, so we channel our creativity through it. If we’re not inspired by something we’re working on for the brand, we question it. If it doesn’t look like a piece of art, it’s not part of the brand. I also spend a lot of creative time with my daughter—she’s always working on something. I use those moments to really connect with her and her passions. When I feel creatively or energetically stuck, I listen to my intuition and spend time in nature. I love walking new routes, getting lost in the trees, staring at the waves, and listening to the ocean. I also really enjoy sound baths. The Sound Bath app has a huge selection to choose from and it really helps me reset my energy.”

For readers looking to live a more plastic-free lifestyle (during July and beyond)—what advice would you give them?
“Start small. At Conscia we truly believe that making small changes in your everyday routines has a ripple effect to the world at large. As you run out of your daily household items like dish soap or hair care, replace them with no-waste (i.e. plastic-free) alternatives. Be conscious about all of your purchases—ask yourself what is this made of? What is the life cycle? Where will it end up when I’m finished with it? Just the awareness alone can make a huge impact.”

Okay, speed-round! Early bird or night owl?
“I was a night owl until I had my daughter. Now I’m an early bird and get up before she does.”

Caffeine routine?
“I take one cup of Pu-erh tea every morning. If I need a boost mid-afternoon, I’ll make matcha green tea.”

Favorite local places in PDX to go solo or take your daughter?
“My favorite restaurants in Portland are Shalom Y’all, Farmhouse Thai, Harlow, and Montelupo Market. My favorite spots to spend time outside or doing activities are Forest Park, Tryon Creek, Westmoreland Park, The Circuit, and Mt. Tabor. My favorite cultural spots are Powell’s bookstore, Portland Art Museum, White Space, and Blackfish Gallery.”

Favorite or current books you’re reading?
“I tend to gravitate towards books that I can grow from, ones that help me better understand myself and others. I’m currently reading The Way of Integrity and Happy Days. One of my favorite books is Women Who Run With Wolves.”

Best piece of business advice?
“Listen to your gut and do what’s best for the business even if it’s a tough decision.”

Best piece of motherhood advice?
“Be present and really see your child for who they are, not who we want them to be.”

Your go-to, busy-mom recipe?
“Quinoa bowls and rice and beans mixed with different ingredients.”

What excites you most about motherhood?
“Seeing life through her lens and having your heart be so full.”

What makes you most nervous?
“So much about the state of the world: the climate crisis, women’s rights, and the divisiveness that has taken over the culture. For the sake of my daughter’s generation, I wish that we could all start seeing each other as brothers and sisters and not as enemies.”

Head over to Conscia.life to learn more about Conscia. PLUS: all July-long, Conscia is giving away a summer-friendly petite set of stones when you buy a full set of shampoo/conditioner. Just use the code PLASTICFREE at checkout. You can also score 15% off of your purchase with the code MOTHERMAG15.


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