This week on CREATURES FEATURES we chat with our long time friend, Larissa Gunn about her travels, beauty secrets, Jamaica’s must-sees, and most importantly, her up-and-coming beauty line, Balmyard Beauty.
Creatures Features: Hi Larissa! We’ve always known you as a talented casting director, but now you have revealed this other passion - your skincare line, Balmyard Beauty! How did this come to fruition?
Larissa Gunn: Hmm…its really hard to pinpoint. A lot of different elements of my life started coming together in this very organic way: my beauty and fashion industry experience, talking to models from all over the world everyday about skincare and life, travel experiences, my own skin and health issues and my undying love of the Caribbean… It started out as a casual idea and over a long period of time and a lot of hard work (on top of my full time job as a casting director which I am still doing) became something very real.
CF: What does the name 'Balmyard' mean?
LG: The term ‘Balmyard’ or ‘Balm Yard’ is a historical reference sometimes with religious ties. It is a place one goes to see the Balm Healer for whatever is ailing you, whether that be a health problem or something spiritual. It is a positive place for healing.
CF: When and how did you form this great relationship with Jamaica?
LG: My relationship with Jamaica and the Caribbean first began when I was around 12 years old through music…reggae, then ska, rocksteady, moving on to dancehall etc. I did not actually go to the island until a little over 10 years ago which is when I really fell in love. My first trip was spent at a friend’s house in the hills chopping cane, washing clothes, hanging out with her mom and siblings and falling asleep to the bass of distant soundsystems.
CF: What is your favorite city in Jamaica and why?
LG: Kingston is amazing for music and culture, they have all night street dances and that is where most of the artists go to record. Plus it is the business center so to get anything done you usually have to do it there. But I much prefer the country whether it be up in the mountains or by the sea. Closer to nature obviously.
CF: Can you give us some travel tips – three must-see places in Jamaica; food or drinks.
LG: Rum + Ting. Fried fish + festival. And you must see the whole island, every parish has its own distinct character and landscape. Don’t leave out the other islands though! There are SO MANY beautiful spots in the Caribbean with incredible sights, food and culture. Because the area is such a melting pot, each place has its own twist, that’s what makes it so special. Trinidad + Tobago is so much fun, and I have always wanted to make it to Haiti.
CF: What’s your favorite secret beach in Jamaica?
LG: If I told you it wouldn’t be a secret!
CF: What are some of the ingredients, and where did you source them?
LG: All of the ingredients throughout the line are exceptional, but the most special would be the local dried botanicals that are in the bush baths. We were able to find a source on the island that sustainably grows enough to be exported and make it into our products. Many of these plants grow wild so it was important that we were not putting stress on the environment or over-harvesting as they are so precious. We source as many local ingredients as physically and legally possible (turns out importing/exporting is very complicated!) for the time being before eventually moving production down there. A pillar of the brand is to give back in every way possible to the place that has given me so much; stimulating the local economy and donating to local community organizations.
CF: Have you always known a lot about plants and skincare? Where did your interest and learnings begin?
LG: I have definitely not always had this interest or knowledge. I was pretty tough on my body and skin until my mid twenties when I began having terrible hormonal acne (post NYC party animal phase). Nothing I was using was working and I began to look more into how what I was putting into my body and onto my skin might have an impact. Fast forward to me hiking through the bush with a machete.
CF: What foods do you find most nourishing for the skin?
LG: Water (although I do not drink enough), coconut water, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, ginger, pineapple, lemon, apple cider vinegar..
CF: Is there a gap in the beauty market you have been longing to fill?
LG: Not really..and that wasn’t the reason for creating the line. I think our products, although not brand new concepts, are still very special. A lot of time and love was put in to the formulations to make them distinct and rare in their own way. Beautiful on the outside so each item feels like a special object, but also extremely effective. I wanted to make sure that everything we created I was in love with and I hope everyone else loves them too. Its about simplicity and transporting you to that special place no matter where that may be. Tropical island or otherwise.
CF: What is your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
LG: Listen to music, read and take naps.
CF: Whose style do you really admire?
LG: Spice, Siouxsie Sioux, Debbie Harry, Frida Kahlo, Rihanna...the rebels.
CF: What are you reading at the moment?
LG: Just finished Barbarian Days by William Finnegan
CF: Where else do you like to travel?
LG: Other favorite places include Morocco, Cuba, Mexico City and LA. But the ‘still to visit’ list is long..
CF: What is your most important ritual?
LG: Moisturizing my face and full body..people forget to do the bod but its so important!!
CF: What is another beauty product that you swear by?
LG: Pure cocoa butter
CF: Red, pink, or nude lips?
LG: I love a red lip but it doesn’t work on me, so nude?
Follow the Balmyard Beauty Instagram to keep in touch! @balmyardbeauty