Paula Hoss’s life is all about balance.
On any given day she is a mom to 6-year-old Juniper and 4-year-old Rowan; an owner of chickens, an entrepreneur helping women feel good in their skin; and the leader of a 12,000-plus online community celebrating mental health, natural wellness and authenticity.
Hoss, 37, is five years into owning and operating a Kingston, MA-based business that produces all-natural skin care like oils, face masks and spot treatments.
She supports finding alternatives to chemically-enhanced products and is vocal about her desire to clean up her life — from what she puts in her body to the products in her home. But she’s also treated chronic migraines with cosmetic Botox, tried every over-the-counter acne remedy under the sun and isn’t afraid to use a little bleach and Lysol when nothing else will do.
It’s in that kind of balance that Hoss, owner of the CLN + DRTY, says she’s found her sweet spot.
“It’s all about figuring out what works for you and your family,” Hoss said. “I think there is a lot of pressure out there saying ‘If you’re going to do natural — do it all the way.’ I did feel a lot of pressure, and I kind of had to come to my own realization that I can have a natural skin care line and also use conventional diapers instead of cloth on my children.”
Hoss launched the CLN + DRTY skin care brand five years ago with a single product: the Luxury Anti-Aging Oil, now called the R&A Oil. At the time, she said clean beauty wasn’t a mainstream idea and all-natural products were considered a compromise — you could use them, but they weren’t going to work as well as more traditional options.
“There’s a lot of talk now about how natural products work as well or even better than traditional products, and there is also a lot more acceptance of combining natural products with conventional products,” Hoss said. “You don’t have to go all in if you don’t feel comfortable with it. If you want to use retinol or prescription-grade products or get Botox or fillers — good for you. We’ll be here with a natural option as well.”
Calling a product “natural” legally means nothing — neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the United States Department of Agriculture have any regulations or standards on the term. To ensure the ingredients in their products are up to snuff, CLN + DRTY relies on the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group. The organization ranks chemicals on a 10-point scale — the more processed, the higher the number — and the Kingston brand sticks to ingredients that rank a one or two.
When she started the brand, Hoss was on maternity leave from her community outreach job with the marketing team of Lululemon. She was struggling with cystic acne for the first time in her life and was desperate for reprieve — something she wasn’t finding with big-name brands and traditional chemicals.
“Being pregnant, having a little one, I really wanted to find more natural alternatives,” she said. “So I just started playing around with it and being my own guinea pig and my skin really started clearing up. My tone, my texture, elasticity even.”
Six months later, CLN + DRTY had grown so much that Hossnever went back to her full-time job and today the brand sells about 40 different products meant to embrace natural remedies and help customers with all kinds of skin issues. When Hoss launched her first product, she said she felt like she “won the lottery” if five sold in a single day. These days, a good day for the company means moving 200 units.
In addition to making and shipping products, the now-three-person CLN + DRTY team also leads a large online following of customers — about 50 percent of whom live in New England — with a similar set of priorities: optimize your health, go natural when you can and support other women.
“We are very against this ‘natural shaming’ or ‘clean shaming.’ People want to take their wellness into their own hands, especially over the last year, and they also want to be knowledgeable,” said Hoss, who still produces the products herself with two full-time employees. “They don’t want to go blindly and buy the same thing their mother and grandmother used — people are way more educated about what they put on their body and it really empowers them to not only have a company that does that, but to have a company they can connect to one-on-one.”
CLN + DRTY’s most popular products are the R&A Oil, (Goodbye) Acne Blemish Stick, the charcoal scrub and mud-like face masks. Most products come in multiple formulas — each tailored to a different skin type — and the company this week launched a series of regimen boxes to serve as a pre-packaged skin care routine. There are four boxes, one each for normal skin, sensitive skin, combination/acne-prone skin and dry skin.
Products range in price from $10 to $136 for a full skincare regimen and are available on clnanddrty.com.
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.