Indie Lee is a woman who exudes a very grounded sort of joy, minus any of the eye roll-inducing talk we have come to expect from some of her fellow ‘clean’ skincare brand founders. (There’s a touch of the upstate New York hippy, to be sure, but she’d be the first one to chuckle at that assessment.) She approaches her work and her life with common sense as well as curiosity, both important traits that are seemingly rarer now than ever. She is also down to earth, honest, and brave; not only is she a brain tumour survivor who now lives with the daily difficulties of an autoimmune disease, but she sees the importance of seeking out the grey – or maybe that should be the colour – in life, of not falling into the trap of only looking at things in terms of black and white. Indie shares with us why ‘clean’ beauty means so much more to her than getting het up about specific ingredients, and her strong belief in the importance of taking care of yourself not only by listening to experts and following good science, but also through learning to trust and love your own body.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee

“Just because something is labelled ‘clean’, you may still react to it.

Mine is only one of the skincare lines out there, and I may only have one product within that line that is right for you. You don’t need twelve steps all from one brand, and no one brand can be all things to all people.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee

There is so much fear mongering around at the moment. Everyone is litigious and vipers are just waiting for you to say the wrong thing.

Even though my brand is botanically based, I am not personally against synthetic ingredients. Minerals, salts, even water can be good or bad for your health depending on how much or how little you ingest. We need to approach ingredients sensibly, and avoid throwing around the phrases ‘toxic’ or ‘non-toxic’. Just look at peanuts! Entirely natural, something commonly ingested, and yet literally toxic for some people to the point of being lethal. We can’t rely on umbrella terms and apply them to all situations.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee

As a brand that sells globally, we follow whichever country or body sets the most stringent standards regarding the ingredients we use so that we can then sell to all markets; at the moment, they are the ones set by the EU. For us, ‘clean’ is not about avoiding or including certain ingredients in a blanket way; it’s about our entire outlook, and a huge part of that is our environmental footprint.

Sustainability is key to our entire manufacturing process. It really is more detailed than you could imagine – we even need to consider what is used to clean the vats our products are made in. In terms of our packaging, at the moment 20% of the glass we use is PCR (post-consumer recycled), and we are working towards 40% of the plastic we use being PCR. Of course, the packaging still needs to be compatible with the product, and some products are easier than others to house in more environmentally-friendly packaging. Our current challenge is looking into what we can do about our single-use pads.

Indie with daughter Emily

 

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee

I am not the judge and jury and am not here to call out other brands. I am very much an 80/20 girl, in terms of making the best decisions I can the majority of the time, while also acknowledging that, for all sorts of reasons, that’s not possible to do all of the time.

We have to remember each one of us is different. This isn’t a cop out – it’s a reminder when there’s just so much judgement out there. People have a tendency to take one thing they read as gospel and not think about where the information is coming from or who it’s intended for. Knowledge is power, and then what you do with that power is your choice. For instance, I can give you skincare advice from my viewpoint, but if your doctor is telling you to do or not do something, well… I’m not a doctor! We have to follow the science and listen to people who know the most about any given issue, not just keep regurgitating sound bites.

Indie being honest about the need to head back to bed during one of her autoimmune flareups.
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee

For me, the purpose of living is about connecting with and empowering one another.

I try to be appreciative of every experience I have. If I have a bad day, I look in the mirror and say to myself that it’s ok not to be ok. Women need to shout this, as we’re not being heard, even by ourselves. And, of course, men feel it too.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee

I am all about gut health as one of the keys to overall health.

Seamus Mullins is a chef who has written books about easing his severe autoimmune disease by focusing on gut health, and they’re really helpful resources. I find myself particularly motivated to eat a non-inflammatory diet after my own flare ups. I balance how I feel with medications, food, and even certain topicals that can really do the talking, like my beloved I-Recover Mind & Body Gel. (Ed. note: when my own autoimmune issues flare up and leave me hot and aching, I too have find this product to be such a cooling, calming aid that it’s earned a permanent spot in my bedside drawer.)

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee

Self-care has somehow become associated with self-indulgence, when it really should be about exactly what it says – taking care of yourself.

The skin is our largest organ, so it’s not just about taking care of the portion of it that’s on your face. I love dry brushing, massage, and reflexology. Keeping your skin barrier’s health intact is essential, so pay attention to what you use to cleanse your skin. I love oils *Dry oil spritz* to help maintain the barrier’s integrity, and for the beautiful aroma so many of them have. Make taking care of your body a ritual. Be slow, take your time, massage your skin, pay attention to your heart rate. Tune in to yourself. We get so uncomfortable with our bodies, to the point that they are often a source of embarrassment, so use this time as a real opportunity to connect with yourself.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee

As a Buddhist, my physical location isn’t so important to me as how I feel spiritually. It may be easier to feel more grounded when your body is in nature, but you can still be in a super urban environment and Zen yourself out.

Having said that, I am definitely my happiest when I am by the water. It’s rhythmic, and it energises me. Otherwise, I love seeing the changes in my garden each season. And I love just spending time hanging out inside the house, too, haha! I really value the element of play, and value being present, and both are easy to miss out on. My family and I all got closer during COVID – it brought a moment of pause, which helped us to realise we already have it all.”

Zenning out at home with pup Miley
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee
IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @indie_lee

Interview and story by Zoe Briggs. Images, including main header image, via Instagram @indie_lee.

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