Nieves Rathbun mixes up small batches of serums and sprays, made from gentle natural ingredients — but without the new age mumbo-jumbo and strange herbal smells. Her skincare line, By Nieves, includes balms, serums and scrubs are multipurpose natural wonders, safe to smooth on skin, hair and lips. In fact, the ingredients are so wholesome, they’re safe enough to eat! We talked to her about her favorite concoctions, and which cooking oils make the best moisturizers.
What’s your story? Where are you from, and how did you end up running a skincare line in Oakland?
My story is long and twisty, starting with hitchhiking through 9 European countries before I was two (not by myself!), then traveling with pack donkeys and living in various communes in Oregon and California, and then finally settling in the CA Gold Country.
It was love that brought me to Oakland, my husband Dan Rathbun has been making music and art in the east bay for years. I chose natural skincare as a career but didn’t imagine I’d have my own company. Some years ago I started making stuff for myself and for my friends and that just slowly grew until I thought I might as well jump in completely.
When you’re creating a product, do you have a mental picture of the sort of person who will use it?
Yes, me! I always formulate with sensitive/acne-prone skin in mind. It seems that this combo is fairly common and if something has tons of goodies in it and it happens to be good for sensitive skin, someone with “normal” skin isn’t gonna be bummed.
I also love to formulate for “label readers.” I love it when people who know ingredients look at the label and start saying things like “Oh, that’s a good thing, oh, and that is too!”
What’s next for you? Any new ingredients you want to experiment with?
I’m working on a moisture/nutrient stick for lips, eyes, cuticles…wherever you need it. It’s going to be in a big honkin’ stick that is so fun to use!
You create a lot of multi-purpose products that can be used in different ways. What are some of the strangest ways you’ve heard of people using your wares?
I had a customer call and say she’d been using the C Perfect Skin as a lube (and liking it) and was wondering if that was ok. I wasn’t sure, so I did some research and got back to her with the info that it was totally fine….anti-oxidants for the hoo-hoo!
Your products are packed with natural — even edible — ingredients. Where do you get your materials, and which are your favorites to work with?
I try to get my ingredients and packaging from west coast suppliers whenever possible. We have a great glass bottle producer right here in Oakland!
One of my favorite ingredients is sesame oil, it’s so humble yet has so many great properties for the skin. Of course, it’s fun to have all sorts of other things with it, that’s where I come in.
What’s your idea of the perfect day in the Town? What would you do, see, eat, hear?
Ooh, good question. Breakfast and a hot bevvie with my neighbors, then a stroll over to the Laney Flea Market find some treasures. Then head up to Redwood Regional with my family and take a nice late afternoon hike…. or walk around the lake with a stop for a slice of Arizmendi pizza. I have definitely not been keeping up on the nightlife now that I have a little guy, but I am stoked to hear about all venues that are rockin’ it.