More Than Skin Deep


Story by Sandra S. Soria

Photographs by Alexandra Grablewski

WANT A REAL EYE-OPENER? Grab your bottle of body lotion or face cream and a magnifying glass and take a good, hard look at the ingredients list. There is some crazy scary mystery stuff on there. And none of it was working for Adina Grigore. Literally…didn’t do a thing for her skin issues. So the holistic nutrition expert kicked all the lotions and potions out of her life and started from scratch, ultimately arriving at this conclusion: less isn’t just more, it’s everything.

Now she’s built a popular brand on that credo. Most everything in the S.W. Basics line gets the job done in five ingredients or less. What’s more, the number and type of ingredient used is listed in can’t-miss-it type that’s stamped front and center on her company’s cool, apothecary-inspired packaging. And these aren’t just any ingredients—Adina is devoted to using certified organic, fair trade, sustainably grown raw materials. She’s our kind of gal. So we recently had a convo with her to learn more. Here’s how it went.

What led you down the path to more natural skin care?

So two things: One is that I’ve had really sensitive skin my whole life. I was
just covered in rashes all the time. I spent a lot of time thinking: “Why am I
so frustrated? And why is nothing working?” Then, the second catalyst for me was that I went to a holistic nutrition school, where I was learning about how much food affects what’s happening inside the body. “Oh, here’s how healthy olive oil is. Here’s how good for you sea salt is.” So I was like, well they must have the same properties for your skin. So, I started researching and experimenting. I kept everything really simple, partly because, you know, I’m not a chemist. And it worked; my skin got better and I thought, “Oh, this is so strange. Why is this not more common? Why aren’t products just five ingredients or less?” So then I was like, “Oops. Guess I have to do it.”

So clearing up your skin must have seemed like a minor miracle for you?

No joke. But you know, of course, I’m not the person that invented the concept. One of the most common things that people say to us is, “Oh, my grandmother uses olive oil on her skin.” Or, “My grandmother has been trying to get me to use rose water. She thinks that I should use that and nothing else.” So, really it’s just traditional knowledge that is not necessarily that common anymore. But I was shocked, because I didn’t know that. So when I started using natural stuff, I thought, “Wait a second. Why is everyone not still doing this?”

And why do you think that is? Why are we so chemically oriented in skin care and beauty products these days?

It feels like you’re getting more value, I think, in a product that has a really complicated ingredient list and that works fast. I think companies do want to provide value to people, so they’re like, “Look at this amazing face wash with 50 ingredients, and all of them are good for you. You’re going to look in the mirror after one use and you’re going to notice a difference.” And I think that’s gotten a little bit carried away.

Why is skin treatment so important to our overall health?

First of all, because how our skin looks is so indicative of how we feel about ourselves. And second, what you put on your skin is also actually affecting you internally. Your pores are portals in a way. There’s still conflicting research about this, and I think there needs to be more. But we’re much more aware that “Oh, if I eat McDonald’s every day I’m going to feel bad. So, I’m not going to do that.” And the same is true for skincare. If you put something on your skin every day that’s the equivalent of McDonald’s, you are affecting your health negatively.

What is the worst thing we can do for our skin?

My answer to that is pretty personal and I don’t want to be judge-y, but I think going and getting treatments where needles are put into your skin or where you are actually peeling off the top layer of your skin is too intense. I mean, “Why would you do that?” I think retinol is too intense. I think Accutane is too intense. Generally, I feel you should not be completely in the dark about what you are doing to your skin; you should fully understand what you are doing. Do the research. To me, the most dangerous thing is to kind of be like, “I’m just going to do this, and I’m not going to worry about figuring out what the consequences are.”

What can you tell us about the importance of essential oils? Why do you think they’re all the rage?

To me, they’re important because I really look at them as plant medicine. Historically, obviously, they’ve had monumental impact throughout time. I think they sort of fell out of popularity because they require a lot of education. And I think there’s a lot of misinformation because people are buying an ingredient that is like medicine, and it can be very harsh if not used correctly. But now we have information more available to us. You can simply Google, “How do I use lavender oil?” So you actually know how to use them, and you realize you feel the difference when you do. That’s what’s making them popular again.

Nighttime Dandruff Treatment

1 tablespoon jojoba oil

3-6 drops lemongrass essential oil

2-4 drops lavender essential oil

1-2 drops tea tree essential oil

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and then transfer to a small bottle. Apply directly to your scalp with your fingers, rubbing in using circular motions. Leave on overnight. Shower and shampoo in the morning. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 year. Makes 2-3 uses.

The Ultimate Oil Cleanser

1 tablespoon avocado oil

1 tablespoon rosehip seed oil

5-10 drops carrot seed essential oil

4-8 drops bergamot essential oil

Combine all of the ingredients and store in a 1-ounce sealed glass bottle or tightly covered glass bowl. Use a quarter-sized amount on wet or dry skin, rubbing in circular motions. Follow with a soapy face wash. You can store this product for up to one year, and it will make about 24 uses.

Sweet and Spicy Body Scrub

1 cup demerara sugar

1 tablespoon carrier oil

10-20 drops nutmeg essential oil

5-10 drops ginger essential oil

Combine all of the ingredients in a glass bowl. Scoop a generous handful and apply using circular motions to wet arms, legs, back or stomach. Rinse thoroughly. Store scrub in an airtight containerfor up to six months. Makes about 12 uses.

Adina’s Advice


Check your cupboards. Don’t even go to the store. Start with basics such as olive oil, coconut oil, sea salt, or apple cider vinegar.

Head to the natural grocery store. Start checking out other raw ingredients. Experiment with unrefined oils you might use for cooking—sesame, avocado, coconut. It’s a really nice way to see that oils are good for your skin, but also to find which ones your skin really responds to. Then find a natural clay of any type—earth clay, bentonite clay, French green clay. And now you’ve got the basics to make a mask.

Get a whiff of essential oil. Go to the section of the store with those
little bottles of essential oil. Open and sniff. Pick two or three that you really like. Start adding them to your main ingredients. Play a little. Dilute one with apple cider vinegar, add in some sugar— and now you’ve got a body scrub.