BY LORI ACKEN | PHOTOS BY DAVID SZYMANSKI
Sitting across from Trenise Watson in a local coffee shop, it’s impossible not to notice the young woman’s glowing complexion. But, she assures me, that wasn’t always the case.
When she was younger, Watson battled the bumps and blemishes common to many teens. And like many teens, she tried a host of the products that she saw on TV and on drugstore shelves. None made her skin better. Some made it much worse.
Though she was young, Watson says she decided to take matters into her own hands, researching ingredients common to the product lines — drying alcohols, irritating sulfates and dangerous parabens — and realizing that they weren’t just bad for her skin, they were bad for everyone’s skin.
Instead of heading back to the drugstore, Watson headed for her kitchen. She found a banana, which she knew was loaded with potassium. Then an avocado. Reasoning that what was good for her insides could be good for her “outsides,” she got to work.“I whipped those up, and then I did more research to see how much of each I should put in to really make the mask how it should be,” she grins of her first concoction.
For the next decade, Watson pursued a career in banking, but continued to research and refine her homemade skincare products. Cupid gave her efforts a boost too. Watson fell in love with a chemist who happily lent a hand with her all-natural formulations and packaging that would protect the delicate ingredients. Then the couple began doling out samples to family and friends who noticed a marked difference in Watson’s own complexion and hoped to experience the same. Encouraged by their responses, Watson took a handful of products to farmers markets and maker fairs and soon realized that not only were people eager to buy simple and effec
tive skincare products, but creating a line of her own was more than a hobby — it was her passion. Asili Naturals was born.
Not long after, Watson impressed experts on a pair of business-based cable TV shows, who taught her invaluable lessons about defining her mission and branding. She began by setting some stringent goals.
“Ingredients need to be minimum,” she explains. “There’s no reason why we should have 50 ingredients in one product. [And] I decided I wanted the products to be vegan — because I want everybody to be able to use it. And I don’t want to harm animals in the making of any of the products. Products should be healthy, non-toxic and made with plant-based ingredients that are going to actually truly help you and help your skin
Her flagship product, a clay facial mask with spirulina algae, healthy oils and an addictively cooling sensation quickly garnered a local following. “I knew that I wanted to first come out with a clay mask, because I know the importance [of] having that one good mask that’s going to deeply cleanse and help to minimize your pores, and really get in there to detoxify the skin,” Watson says. “I am an avid drinker of spirulina smoothies — it’s packed with nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants. [It’s] really beneficial for getting out all of those heavy metals and pollutants and dirt that we are exposed to every day.”
Additional products followed — scrubs, body butters, soaps and bath bombs — all of them grounded in nature. Watson lists shea butter, coconut oil and rose hip oil as core ingredients.
She is also proud that Leaping Bunny — a coalition of animal protection groups that provides guidance to concerned consumers — has certified her line cruelty-free. “I’m very picky about where I get my ingredients from,” she stresses. “None of our ingredients are tested on animals or have anything to do with animals in the making of the ingredients. I look for suppliers that are also Leaping
Bunny certified, that are also vegan suppliers to get my ingredients right.”
And she’s adamant that other teen girls not suffer the same skin-related turmoil that she once did.“When I struggled with acne, I didn’t feel good about myself, and my self-esteem was very low,”
Watson recalls. “So I really tie that into my skincare line. I want to do more speaking engagements, and really speak to young women about their skin and their confidence.
“The reason why Asili was started was to empower, really empower, and help women and all our customers feel confident and beautiful in their skin,” Watson continues. “That’s why we make these products.”
Find Asili Naturals at Outpost Natural Foods, Beans & Barley, Metro Market in Wauwatosa and online at asilinaturals.com and walmart.com. MKE