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Toni began her career in her kitchen on Hondo Mesa, almost twenty years ago, with handcrafted soaps made from wild crafted Artemisia ( common Sagebrush to you), from Taos.
In time, Toni who is an Ayurvedic Herbalist, developed a Bath and Body line which grew to include a Spa System and eventually, a Skin Care line, cleverly named 2 Shea.
Her kitchen operation moved first into a shared space, and then into a factory space of its own. Desert Blends of Taos was up and running and soon Toni opened up her sweet, eponymous retail outlet on Bent Street (which now houses Chocolate & Cashmere.)
As if providing amenities for the former Fechin Inn Hotel and El Monte Sagrado Resort and Spa, wasn’t enough, Toni began formulating Private Label Spa Protocols for other resorts besides El Monte, including the Tamaya Spa at the Hyatt Regency and the Inn of the Five Graces – both in Santa Fe.
Then Whole Foods picked up her Desert Blends Bath and Body line and things got really busy. Too busy for Toni who missed her time spent walking in the foothills, gathering botanicals and feeling the Earth energies beneath her feet.
One thing led to another, but after two decades in Taos, with two grand daughters quickly moving from a crawl to a walk, Toni decided it was time to pack up her caravan and return to California to be a full-time grandmother. The commute was proving to be a big hassle and whenever she came back to Taos after visiting her family, she found she was missing the girls terribly.
Almost seven years have passed since she moved back to Sacramento (where she grew up), and ever since, her loyal customers have continued to purchase her products either online, or here in Taos, at Cid’s.
Toni still comes back twice a year to harvest the botanicals she uses in her products, but last year she made a decisive shift in direction.
Her decision to rebrand her line was twofold; firstly she felt it was out of integrity to continue calling it Desert Blends of Taos since she no longer lived here, and secondly, since returning to the root of her awareness of plants and how they heal, she’d gathered so much more knowledge and information that she was eager to share.
Re-branding the bath and body line was a cinch. With the help of Cowgirls Graphics, she changed the name to DB Taos (the product line is infused with local botanicals including Desert Sage), and having new, green (in every way), labels designed for the upcycled bottles.
Oshara had been simmering beneath the surface for years before appearing on the labels of her new glass jars.
“Oshara were the seed gatherers,” she told me when I called her last week. “They predated the Anasazi, and in fact the Oshara logo, comes from a twenty thousand-year old, clay vessel.” She exclaimed.
“The seed they brought with them when they migrated South,” she explained, “was amaranth.”
“It’s not yet included in any of my formulations,” she told me, “but I am working on a product, using it”
Oshara replaces (and improves on), Toni’s discontinued 2 Shea line, and promises big benefits visible almost immediately, due to the living enzymes from the nutrient rich seed oils that are the foundation of its formula.
“The seed oils are where it’s at now,” Toni said. “They provide all you need in terms of natural retinoids, collagen, peptides and fatty acids, to improve the texture of the skin. They’re even used in some of the korean skin care routine and products you can find, they’re that good.”
“These seed oils also give natural UV protection in that they act as a filter almost, filtering out the sun’s harmful rays while allowing the beneficial Vitamin D to get through the dermis.”
She told me about a friend who has long used her products, who went for a spontaneous hike here in Taos one summer day. She had forgotten to bring sunscreen and all she had on her skin was Toni’s face cream and body lotion. It was mid day and the sun was blazing. She didn’t have a hat and was certain she’d be a little sunburned by the time she returned home.
She was not.
I too have had this experience while using Toni’s products and in fact I have used them exclusively now for as long as she’s been making them. Not only do I not burn, but I receive constant compliments on my skin even this late in the (proverbial) day!
With the inclusion of these rich seed oils, Toni has created a niche for Oshara which is aimed at women of all ages.
“I don’t believe in anti-aging,” she said, “it’s just silly – of course we are going to age – but we can age beautifully while lovingly caring for ourselves and our skin.” So whether this mean using products like quicksilver gold anti-aging formula, getting botox to tighten the skin or even create a skincare routine that can provide the skin with regular moisture, there are many ways that people can help reduce the signs of aging.
The idea for Oshara first came to her during walks along the riparian, collecting seed pods from the matrix of plants growing along the streams and Acequias that crisscross Taos valley.
“I’ve included the Native (to Taos) rose hip, primrose and burdock in the mix, ” she told me, “along with jojoba and aloe, other desert cacti as well as calendula, camomile, pumpkin, carrot and tomato seed oils.”
“All of them provide micro nutrients that penetrate deep into the epidermis,” she explained.
I’ve always seen Toni as the living embodiment of an ancient Alchemist, adding a pinch of this, a dash of that to her bubbling cauldrons of roots, stalks and leaves; turning wilted plant matter into a golden elixir that might not deliver eternal youth, but will give your skin a youthful glow everyone will notice.
So if you are a fan of Toni’s skin care products, and have been lamenting the lack of 2 Shea on Cid’s shelves, fret not. Cheryl Kaladas has been a long time champion of Toni’s Desert Blends line, and has not only taken its re-branding in stride, but has continued to support Toni’s efforts to bring quality, affordable skin care to all, by placing them front and center at Cid’s.
This Valentine’s Day, I will be joining Cheryl at Cid’s in the HABA department, to introduce you to Oshara. A few of you may recall that I worked for Toni at her shop on Bent Street for many years. Fewer still may know that in another life, I trained as an aesthetician (Institute de Beauté Paris), and then worked as a makeup (print and film), artist for years. I still occasionally do makeup for Weddings and Special Events and can be booked via Salon X in Taos.
That said, I swear by these products and will be happy to share everything I know about them with you, on Wednesday at Cid’s!
DB Taos and Oshara are available at Cid’s in Taos.
Photograph of Toni c/o Toni Leigh, product photographs by Mike McClintock (Farmer Mike’s Naturals.)