Ancient Egyptians celebrated beauty as a pleasure, a responsibility, and a direct link to the divine. As the world’s original skincare enthusiasts, they were well-versed in harnessing nature’s healing properties: pressing sumptuous oils from olives and almonds to keep skin supple or extracting essences from rose, lotus, and myrhh to elevate the spirit. Five thousand years later, the power of plant-based botanicals endures. In Hawai‘i, two companies tap into nature’s bounty.
Turning Botanicals to Gold
Jurgen Klein’s laboratory is an exercise in eclectic, scientific delight. Housed in a vintage carriage house on his hillside estate on O‘ahu’s North Shore, the working space channels apothecary, fairytale cottage, and proper chemistry lab all at once. Atop sleek countertops, beakers and flasks find tidy place among burets and burners, scales and stills. An array of laboratory equipment lines exterior shelves while an imposing steel apparatus holds court in a far corner.
Across the room, a softer side of science emerges. Orderly rows of glass jars reveal botanical curiosities of all kinds: dried yarrow flower and clover blossoms, powdered spikenard root and nettle leaf. On a nearby shelf, vials with hues ranging from pale honey to deep amber glow with the liquid gold of essential oils. Each distillate is cataloged in neat shorthand and prepped for possible inclusion in JK7, one of the most exclusive —and expensive—luxury skincare lines in the world.
Growing up in Germany, Klein was enthralled by nature, often exploring the forests near his home. It was through his grandparents that young Klein discovered the medicinal power of plants. “I used to help my grandmother process veggies from our gardens and herbs for folk medicine,” Klein recalls. “My grandfather could heal large wounds and broken bones on horses with comfrey and calendula.” Though a chemist by profession, Klein remains an alchemist at heart. “No chemist would exist today without the curiosity and endless trials and errors of alchemists working and discovering nature,” Klein says, citing the works of scholars such as Paracelsus, Jan Baptist van Helmont, and Avicenna who laid groundwork for modern medicine and chemistry.
In creating JK7, Klein has again embraced a botanical challenge: developing an organic skincare line that maximizes a plant’s life force. Having founded the successful organic skincare line Jurlique decades earlier, Klein is no stranger to the meticulous, laborious process required. His dedication to quality in research, ingredients, and sourcing practices remains paramount. Drawing upon his chemistry expertise, Klein scrutinizes a plant’s bioavailability and the ways its derivative interacts with those of other plants. He experiments with these results until a refined, potent product emerges.
Today, Klein, with the help of his wife, Karin, has curated a collection of 21 products. Capturing nature’s power in a bottle is expensive, and potency does come with a price. The signature JK7 Rejuvenating Serum Lotion, a cult favorite among those with tastes for luxury beauty, is priced at $1,800 for a 30-milliliter bottle.
It’s not uncommon to find Jurgen tinkering away late into the night when he and Karin are at their North Shore estate. That’s what alchemists do. Recently, he received a call about his natural skincare from an Australian colleague. “Jurgen, you have not made gold from crude metals,” he recalls the modern alchemist telling him. “But you have made gold from water and natural oils.”
The Promise of the Land
An experience is a collection of a thousand details. For Sue Mandini and Kollette Stith, creators of luxury skincare line Pure Mana, it’s about the intention behind these details.
“We are involved at every level of production, from farming and harvesting to processing and packaging,” Stith explains. At her farm, Mahina Mele Farm, the bounty of its macadamia orchards is transformed into the primary base of Pure Mana’s elixirs. During twice-yearly macadamia nut harvests, the two women can be found under the orchard’s leafy canopy, combing the ground for tawny, spherical nuts. Once sorted, the nuts are painstakingly husked, cracked, dehydrated, and pressed for oil—all by hand. The farm, nestled in the tropical uplands of Kealakekua on Hawaiʻi Island, is the only certified organic macadamia nut farm in the United States.
“We like to say our products are from our soil to your soul,” Stith says. Macadamia nut oil is a recent cause célèbre in the cosmetics industry due to its significant amount of squalene, an organic compound that protects and nourishes the skin. Found in both plants and animals, it is used as a moisturizing base in cosmetics.
“Strangers would ask what we were using,” Mandini recalls of the early days when she and Stith began using home-pressed oil as part of their daily beauty regimes. “Our friends noticed our ‘glow.’” As the compliments continued, the pair realized that the shared interests that had shaped their friendship— motherhood, homesteading, sustainable island living—could also support the creation of a dream business: an organic, Hawaiʻi-based luxury skincare line.
Pooling their skills, time, and talents, Mandini and Stith debuted Pure Mana in 2015 as a respite from synthetic, mass-made cosmetics. Instead of artificial binders, emulsifiers, and colors, the collection takes inspiration—and ingredients—directly from nature.
Today, the recursive beauty of a mandala is found on the collection’s elegant packaging. Specialty violet-flame glass bottles preserve the vitality of the oils. Inside the Soul Serum, ethereal notes of tuberose and Hawaiian sandalwood surround a single, delicate crystal. Such details are among the multitude that go into creating Pure Mana products. For the two friends, each facet is part of a lovely process.
At all-natural and local beauty companies like JK7 and Pure Mana, laboratory, science and the dreaminess of alchemy converge.
“We like to say our products are from our soil to your soul,” says Pure Mana founder Kollette Stith.
Essential oils and extracts are vital components to the rejuvenating products found at HalekulaniSpa.
Creators of Pure Mana, Sue Mandini and Kollette Stith, are involved with every level of production, from farm to the customer’s hands.
Botanicals function as anti-aging, brightening, luminizing, and cleansing agents. They eschew artificial ingredients, opting instead for organics.
Pure Mana uses oil extracted from nuts harvested from the only certified organic macadamia nuts farm in the United States.