Guided by the belief that beauty is rooted in authenticity, Mckenzie Santiago of Brooklyn Grooming loves creating handmade grooming products for the face, hair, body and beard. Known for their personal connection to customers, as well as for her products' cool, unique scents, the co-founder (alongside business partner Alfredo Ortiz) personifies her company's ideals.
What does wellness mean to you, and how does that philosophy apply to your business? "Wellness to me is an overall philosophy of health. I personally don't like to put chemicals on my body. I think a lot of mainstream brands do have a lot of synthetic things in them. We don't market ourselves as a natural beauty brand, but it's something that's very important to us."
Has it always been important to you? "I grew up in Idaho, so those philosophies weren't imposed on me growing up. In fact, I think I might have grown up a little unhealthy, so I sought out a healthier lifestyle when I moved to Oregon and was surrounded by it. That's what inspired me to start a beauty brand that's completely natural."
Why is natural living so important to you? "Because I don't see a real reason why you should use something synthetic that you know is going to damage you in the long run, versus something that's actually plant-based. You notice a big difference, too, when you use natural beauty products. I feel like your skin loves it."
What's your workout regime like? "I run three or four times a week, mostly I do it for mental health, it really clears everything out. And I do yoga and stretch. I think it's OK to drink and have vices, as long as you can balance it out with something. I do enjoy a glass of wine, but I also run! I try to be as healthy as I can, but I have vices, too."
Does the way you eat also reflect this natural approach? "Yes. I recently became a vegetarian again. [Previously], I was for seven years, and I think I just didn't know how to eat properly because I was tired all the time. I think it makes sense to be vegetarian—it is a first world privilege—but if you have the choice and it's there, you might as well take it if it works for you. It makes a big difference. I've definitely noticed I have a lot more energy. My boyfriend, we hadn't seen each other in five months, was like, 'You look so healthy!' And I felt really overworked, but I looked healthy, maybe because I stopped eating meat."
With a business you're so passionate about, what does your work add to your quality of life? "For me, I'm able to do something that I love. It offers me a little bit of stability, and a creative outlet. I'd go a little crazy if I didn't go to the studio every day. I just love to make stuff!"
How did you start doing this and whipping up all these concoctions? "I had a business before this, more targeted towards women. A long time ago, I was like, 'I can't find products that I would wear. I want stuff that smells like wood, or, something different. I don't want the usual peppermint and lavender that everyone's doing.' So I decided to make it myself. It grew into a business sort of organically, but I was also trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life!"