Adina Grigore is the Founder & CEO of S.W. Basics – the coolest, most no-nonsense natural beauty brand out there. She is also the author of Skin Cleanse and Just the Essentials, which are both amazing reads for anyone looking to learn more about simple, DIY skincare and beyond.
In this interview, Adina tells us about the importance of making time to do nothing, her views on work-life balance as a business owner, moving out of NYC and how it’s been great for her well-being, her less-is-more skincare routine, her favorite everyday essential oils, as well as sustenance, exercise, stress, and much more. This is such a gem of an interview!
Adina is also offering GK readers a 15% discount code on all S.W. Basics products. Just use code GK2018 at checkout :)
— Is routine important to you or do you like things to be more open and free?
I try so hard to find a routine for myself but am terrible at it. My personal experience is the more I stick to a routine the better I feel, but I rebel against doing that constantly. Running a small company is a huge obstacle to having a real schedule though, I’d have to fight very hard to get some consistency. At the same time, no consistency is also bad for business. In other words, I’m working on it!
— What do your mornings look like? If they differ from day to day, describe your ideal morning.
My hubs and I wake up and let our very annoying but very cuddly cat into the room to hang out with us. We have coffee in bed and talk about our plans for the day. Then I either head to the office or get set up at home on my computer to start with work. I’ll get a couple of hours of work done before I have breakfast or do anything else.
— Do you have any bedtime rituals that help you sleep well?
So many! I like to shower at night because it calms me down, we regularly listen to meditative podcasts, we diffuse essential oil blends with lemongrass or lavender or jasmine, we try to read but usually don’t last beyond a few minutes. I’m also glancing at my phone until the moment I pass out, but this is another thing I’m working on! (There are so many things.)
— Do you have any kind of mindfulness practice?
I do TM off and on, but especially on airplanes and when I have anxiety at bedtime or before a scary meeting. I’m a big Tony Robbins fan and will pull up videos or recordings of his when I get in a funk. I like short stories, podcasts, and sometimes even a good instagram post will remind me to snap back to reality.
— Describe your typical or ideal meal for each of these:
Breakfast – I mean if we’re talking ideal it’s like an egg biscuit sandwich. But I don’t typically eat that, I eat eggs with greens mixed in or overnight oats with chia seeds and maca and all the gross healthy things.
Lunch – Usually a chopped salad covered in so so much dressing.
Snack – Purely Elizabeth granola!
Dinner – Adam does all the cooking, my faves are his sourdough bread, and he makes a “salty pasta” that has chickpeas, greens, artichokes, olives, feta, and lots of olive oil.
— Do you partake in caffeine and in what form? If not, what is your drink of choice in the morning?
A very, very small amount because I’m super sensitive to it. I love the taste of coffee so I fill a mug each morning that’s half coffee half Ripple, then I drink two sips and stop. Literally every day. If I need more caffeine later, I switch to green tea or black tea or chocolate, but that’s rare.
— Do you have a sweet tooth and do you take any measures to keep it in check?
I am one giant sweet tooth and nothing else. I have diabetes in my family and am already experiencing blood sugar problems which is SO sad! I’m trying to cope with greek yogurt + fresh fruit ice cream that we make in a blender or a small amount of granola with unsweetened almond milk. It’s really, really hard.
— Are there any particular supplements, herbs, or tinctures/tonics that you take regularly and find to be helpful with your energy level and general wellness?
I take a probiotic, a prenatal, fish oil, and sometimes digestive enzymes.
— Do you exercise and do you have a particular exercise routine that you repeat weekly?
I’m currently injured from a very intense family game of kickball. (It was worth it.) I’m doing PT which literally every human should do, it’s so enlightening. When I’m better I’ll rotate between running, hiking, lifting weights, yoga, and high intensity stuff.
— Do you find exercise to be pleasurable, torturous or perhaps a little of both? How do you put yourself in the right mindset in order to keep up with it?
I hate working out, even though I used to be a personal trainer. I have to change what I’m doing constantly so that I don’t give up. I motivate myself by beating my brain into remembering that it sucks to get less mobile and functional as you age. The more you work out the better everything is. But also, my moods are significantly better if I work out, so I just have to get started and then I quickly understand it’s worth it.
— What is your idea of beauty – external, internal or both?
Basically the opposite of everything that we focus on these days. I’m super into people who seem like they’re really owning who they are, like they don’t get bogged down by what other people are thinking… people who just do what they want. Plus nature, the most beautiful thing of all time.
— What is your skincare approach – face and body?
Less is more, a la S.W. Basics. I barely do anything, I wash with water most of the time, wash my hair with a natural shampoo every few days. I’ve gotten really into baths with sea salt, shea butter, and essential oil. That’s about it!
— Are there any foods, herbs or supplements you find to be helpful to your skin/hair/general glow?
Well as common knowledge would confirm, prenatals are amazing! But “glow” comes from leading an overall healthy lifestyle–your food, your emotions, your environment. That all contributes way more than any supplement.
— Do you have any beauty tips/tricks you’ve found to be especially useful throughout the years?
Conditioning and brushing my hair less often than I used to has made my hair better and better over the years!
— Do you practice any consistent routines in order to avoid stress?
I chill a lot on my couch ha. But also meditation, lots of deep breathing, and constantly working on my perspective. It helps me to take things one day at a time and remind myself that I’m in a life I’m choosing, and I love it even if it gets stressful!
— If stress cannot be avoided, what are your ways of dealing with it?
It’s a little bit of a binge/purge. My most stressful times are travel, when I have back to back meetings and events and lots of air travel which is hard for me, I’m still getting used to it. I try to tack on some time to my work trips to stay extra and do absolutely nothing alone or with friends. No joke I’ll sit all alone and order room service and watch TV, or I’ll make a friend do that with me.
— What measures do you take when you sense a cold/general feeling of being under the weather coming on?
I pound supplements like Wellness Herbal Resistance liquid, vitamin C, I take lots of hot baths. It rarely works but I refuse to give up. I usually take it as a sign that I need to rest and hydrate, two things I’m not great at.
— Do you strive to maintain a healthy work/life balance or do those things overlap for you? What is your approach?
They definitely overlap, at least for now. If you start a business, it takes over your life. So it’s about learning to treat work as if it is life, meaning it can also be fun and fulfilling and even relaxing sometimes. Sometimes.
— Describe the actions you take or mindset you try to tap into in order to stay on track with your self-care practice and being nice to yourself?
I lean extremely heavily on the people in my life. I have friends and family and coworkers I know I can call and have my ass kicked in the sense of getting me to snap out of my downward spirals. They encourage me and give me huge pep talks. Especially my husband, who really deals with the brunt of it. I’ve done lots of therapy too, and have my therapist essentially on speed dial.
— What do you consider to be the single most important change you’ve made to your routine or lifestyle in terms of wellness?
Moving out of NY! I lived there 15 years and it was hugely beneficial to me in so many ways, including that I started the business. But for me, NY is not a city geared towards wellness, and now that we’re in Colorado I can really feel the difference.
— How do you deal with periods characterized by a lack of inspiration or procrastination?
I just deal. I get really angry with myself and then try to relax and wait it out, without becoming unproductive. I take a break if I need to, but then I try to refocus on why I’m doing all of the things that require me to stay inspired.
— A book/movie/class that influenced your view of self-nourishment or self-care.
I studied at Integrative Nutrition and feel that everyone should take a program like that just for themselves. It’s sad how little we learn about self-care, you really have to seek it out. IIN taught me so much about food and politics and how personal wellness and nutrition are.
— We love that you strive to use the fewest possible, great quality ingredients for S.W. Basics products. Is it difficult to formulate such simple but effective products, or does that part come to you naturally? Tell us a little bit about your process.
It’s a lot more difficult than it looks, but I am a perfectionist. I don’t want the products to feel like any sort of compromise on what people are used to using, so I spend years getting some of them right. Now that it’s been 10 years since I started formulating, I’m pretty good at knowing what ingredients play nice together, and I can quickly find ingredients I like. From there I do a lot of tweaking and changes and testing and conferring with our manufacturers. That’s when it gets complicated and takes some time to get right. The simplicity makes it easy to DIY (which is also what we want our customers to do!) but I want a long shelf life and nice consistency. That’s harder.
— How do you approach sourcing the ingredients for S.W. Basics products?
We find a lot of people at trade shows, some of our sources reach out to us which is the BEST, and others we have access to through our manufacturers, especially as whole ingredients become more common and trendy. Luckily for us, it’s not that hard to get your hands on some amazing shea butter and sea salt these days!
— What are some items your customers are most excited about at the moment? Do you have a product that you wish got more attention from your customers?
We just launched single ingredient packets, and people are especially into the Charcoal which baffles me because it’s the messiest product of all time. In our main line, the Oil Serum is getting more and more love, people really flip out over it. I’m so into our French Green Clay, I want everyone to try it! It’s gentle and soft and leaves you so soft. Same with the Aloe Very Powder, it’s magic!
— We recently read your new book, Just the Essentials, and loved it so much! What are some of your personal favorite essential oils and how do you like to use them?
This changes a lot but I am so into citrus oils like lemon and orange, I use peppermint to calm me down when I travel, I use lavender a lot because it just works, and I’ve been diffusing woodsy oils like cedar and pine in the house to feel like I’m outside even when I’m not. I also love to layer our Functional Fragrances like a freak, I’ll put on four in a row all over my upper body.
Fun and Inspiration
— What is something you are particularly excited about at the moment?
The Winter Olympics! I’ve never really watched before (Florida girl here, didn’t even see snow until I was like 11) but damnnnnn. Those guys are whole other level it’s mind blowing. Talk about motivation to stay active. Maame Biney is my spirit animal, I really need to get some SW into her life.
— What do you do to unwind or treat yourself?
TV and movies! Adam and I love the Alamo theater, and we do a thing at a home that we call Girl/Boy night. It’s a chick flick plus an action flick. Highly recommended.
— A book/song/movie/piece of art to feed the soul:
Book – Anything by George Saunders!
Song/Album – George Harrison What is Life. Kill me with this song it’s so good.
Movie – Every human being should go see Phantom Thread.
Piece of Art – Storm King in upstate NY is pretty amazing all around. Also one of our first employees just left to pursue art full time and she’s doing some work based on how the art world and the beauty world are similar. She’s super inspiring and everything she does is so interesting. I’m real proud of her. People can stalk her here.
— Is there anyone you would like to hear from next in this interview series?
Megan Abbott! She’s a life coach and a business coach and a just all the things coach. She’s one of the people I lean on to stay inspired and out of my head. Every word that comes out of her mouth is a gem, and every answer to these questions is something I’d really want to hear!
Photos by Liz Andrien / this post contains Amazon affiliate links