Since founding Monastery, Athena Hewett focuses her energy on seeking the best ingredients to shape her products. She shares her research journey and strong relationships with small producers around the world.
When I start the process of creating a product I find that I typically am inspired by a response that I've had to a particular region of the world. A certain ingredient from the area will grab me and I'll start researching the climate of the area and the plant life that the region regularly cultivates. I also look for the more obscure ingredients that may live there that are usually procured on a much smaller scale.
Attar is an indian word that refers to a product that is ready for wear, a product that does not have to be diluted. It is usually some type of blend of rose and jasmine. I used this name because it was a nice representation of the product but in fact none of the ingredients are actually sourced in India.
I was first inspired to make the Attar floral repair concentrate when a friend came across a type of rose butter on a trip to Africa and brought it back for me. I was intrigued when he emailed me from Africa and told me he thought he had something that I'd like and that it was given to him as a gift by a local, for me. I have found in life that the most amazing things are often not purchased but given as gifts, and I was very excited to try this gift. It did not disappoint. It may have been the most amazing ingredient I had ever tried.
Over the next year we corresponded with the farmer and his lovely family and turned his enfleurage hobby into a profitable part of his farming operation. We now have an entire crop dedicated to the making of the beloved butter. Once we secured the ingredient (I use the word secure loosely as nothing is ever fully secure when dealing with mother nature) I went to the lab to create what is now the Attar floral repair concentrate. I started the recipe knowing that I wanted to make a balm that remedied not only dry skin but also acneic skin or skin that needed healing. This meant that it needed to have healing properties without containing stimulating properties. I love the idea of taking soothing floral ingredients and turning them into an unexpected antibacterial remedy. This lead me to mix the butter with a beloved jasmine concrete that I had sourced from Grasse, France. Jasmine doesn't only smell lovely but has a variety of chemical components that are beneficial to the skin, my favorite being benzoic acid which inhibits bad bacteria.
I rounded out the recipe with two highly absorbable and antibacterial oils, rosehip seed and hazelnut. Both oils are luxurious in different ways and create a beautiful blend to deliver very high levels of vitamin E and Amino Fatty Acids. Rosehip delivers a dose of Vitamin A, natures retinoic acid, which fades dark spots and evens the entire tone of the skin. Hazelnut provides natural astringent properties via tannins, which also help boost collagen, protects the skin from sun damage, while also tightening the pores. I decided that less is more with this product and left out common balm ingredients like Shea and beeswax. I don't have anything against these ingredients I just find them to lend to texture rather than nutritional values, this to me is what makes this product a concentrate. When the rebrand of Monastery started to develop and our photographer Samuel Bradley asked which ingredient had the biggest impact on us, we told him the story of our beloved rose butter and the family that had helped us. We were obviously beyond delighted when he was actually able to travel there.
I decided that less is more with this product and left out common balm ingredients like Shea and beeswax. I don't have anything against these ingredients I just find them to lend to texture rather than nutritional values, this to me is what makes this product a concentrate.