You could say that sisters Tia and Aja Blanco are children of the world.
Their father was a lieutenant commander in the US Coast Guard, so they spent their childhood moving around every several years, exploring some of the most beautiful coasts in the world: Oregon, Puerto Rico, San Diego, Laguna Niguel, and Hawaii. This nomadic lifestyle gave them a glimpse into just how diverse the world really is. It also led them to an unconventional direction for the natural, vegan skincare brand, called Dear Self, that they founded together.
“At its core, Dear Self is centered around love. Love for your skin, love for yourself, for the animals, and for the environment,” the sisters tell Kinder Beauty.
Growing up all over the world made family incredibly important, but it also instilled a need for self resilience, too. Dear Self, they say, is kind of like writing a love letter to yourself.
“From the very beginning, we knew we wanted our brand to encourage self-love. We noticed that our self-care routines were often riddled with negative self-talk, whether we were criticizing our appearance, because we had a few pimples, or a wrinkle was coming in, whatever it may be. Everyone goes through it. So we came up with this idea of naming each product after an affirmation,” the sisters said.
They took an attestation approach to Dear Self, inviting the customer to embody their inner-strengths while caring for that outward-facing expression of it.
“Each product is named after an affirmation such as ‘I am beautiful’ or ‘I am a goddess,’ to really encourage our customers to practice self-love during their skin care routines,” Aja says.
That commitment to self love extends to the “all-one” concept—that the world they spent so much time getting to know during childhood is connected to each and every one of us. We’re not just experiencing the planet; we’re part of it, too.
“We try our best to minimize our use of plastic,” Aja explains, “so we have opted for glass bottles, plastic-free bubble wrap, and biodegradable packaging. A tree is also planted with every purchase of our reusable makeup remover, ‘I Am Infinite.’”
Tia, 23, is a professional surfer (she’s been surfing since age 3). She went vegan about seven years ago. She’s become an outspoken animal rights advocate in the years since, using her platform to help reduce animal suffering. Aja, 26, took her career in another direction, surfing through the lower Manhattan streets while earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Business from NYU. “I love weaving together all my knowledge of business, psychology, design, and computer science in a practical product-driven way,” she says.
Despite the close bond, working together as sisters has its ups and downs, as one might expect. Aja says it’s because they have no filter with each other. “[We] are sisters and super close, sometimes it’s a blessing and other times it’s a curse.” But, she says, at the end of the day, “I don’t think we would have it any other way. We make the best team.” It’s all about balance—something as a surfer, Tia knows all too well. “We compliment each other extremely well,” Aja says. “We both have very unique strengths that we bring to the partnership and we know each other's weaknesses.”
Tia and Aja say they were always obsessed with skincare and beauty products, making the pivot into launching their own brand a natural progression of that love.
“I had a background in Business and Tia has an amazing platform being a pro-surfer and vegan activist, so we knew we could potentially be this sort of powerhouse as ‘Sisterpreneurs,’” Aja says. “So we sat down one day, made a business plan, and just went for it. Full force.”
They were on to something. The natural skincare market was valued at more than $34 billion in 2018, and it could exceed $50 billion by 2025.
Natural Products That Work
Part of their skincare obsession stems from both sisters having sensitive skin. And while there are more vegan and cruelty-free brands available today than ever, many weren’t effective in offering relief for sensitive skin. A surprising number of brands recommended by dermatologists and other medical professionals for sensitive skin still test on animals (maybe effective for sensitive skin, but not sensitive hearts).
Ingredients matter, the Blancos say. And they’ve made sourcing a priority.
“We always choose the highest quality ingredients and we source locally [in and around Los Angeles]. Our hero ingredients are rose-hip and sea kelp, powerful anti-aging and anti-sun damage super-stars, packed with Vitamin C, E, and A and a ton of antioxidants.”
One of the fan favorite items is “I Am Gleaming.” The sisters describe it as an all-around perfect moisturizer because it’s not too light or too thick. “It doesn’t leave a greasy residue, it smells amazing, it’s suitable for really sensitive skin types, and it has anti-aging as well as sun-damage reversing benefits since it is packed with so many vitamins and antioxidants.”
The vegan products are all free of parabens, sulfates, and synthetic dyes and fragrances.
“We also believe your skincare routine should be powered by self-love,” Aja says. “Not only do we care about your skin, we care about the animals and the environment. And we want to remind every one of our customers just how beautiful, capable, and strong they really are.”
Kinder Beauty is proud to partner with Dear Self. For more information on Dear Self, check out the website, here.
Jill Ettinger is an LA-based writer and editor focused on vegan and cruelty-free living.