M.S SKINCARE’S NATURAL BEAUTY GURU, ON SOURCING RESPONSIBLY, THE ART OF RESEARCH, AND THE PERILS OF EXPECTING PERFECTION
BY BETSY LOREDO PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
For a skincare and lifestyle brand that is crafted so meticulously, it may seem a contradiction that its maker wants you to know: It’s just fine to be less than perfect. That philosophy is both a natural consequence and component of Anit Hora’s journey to becoming an expert herbalist and entrepreneur. Her own pursuit of excellence has earned the borough-based company shelf space in coveted retail outlets like Anthropologie and Free People as well as boutiques here in the city and around the country yet it’s her willingness to evolve, to learn and change over time, that’s taken her so far.
Hora’s line of natural beauty products, under the name M.S Skincare, is comprised of ingredients so pure and thoughtfully curated that it’s not a bit of an exaggeration to call them “luxury” items. To achieve such a level of quality, though, has required years of experimentation and refining, and, since the business launched in 2012, Hora has personally selected every ingredient. The company began business under the name Mullein & Sparrow the latter word a nickname given to her by her mother (“You know, the little sparrow just hopping around everywhere,” she explained with a smile) the first word for the first remedy she learned about while attending a class on herbalism.
“That’s a kind of magical story,” she recalled, excitement bubbling. “There was this teacher with a basket of herbs. She told us, ‘You have to reach in and pick one. Whatever you pick is the one that you need.’” A sceptic, Hora had never heard of the one she pulled out: mullein. Turns out, its properties make it a boon for anyone suffering from asthma, like Hora. “That was amazing!”
That moment of serendipity fueled a continuing passion for matching a natural solution to a health or beauty concern. (“How we can use what’s around us to heal ourselves,” she detailed.)
It’s a skill that was honed with more coursework. First making remedies solely for herself, Hora next opened a shopfront on Etsy, beginning with tinctures and teas, but young women enamored with her “purity” approach started asking for beauty products as well. Leaning on training to develop new formulas, she turned to handpicked sources for quality ingredients. Highly selective, she also wanted to ensure that all their farmers were getting fair pay.
As the beauty line evolved, its name did, too: Mullein & Sparrow became M.S Skincare, a reflection of a contemporary, purified approach. Holistic and cruelty-free, its lines tackle other social-consciousness issues, too. “We’re big on sustainability,” she explained with pride. “I won’t use bubble wrap that’s not biodegradable. All my packaging is recyclable, and I don’t want to use paper that’s being used for the first time,” adding that glass bottles and jars are also used for their sustainable qualities.
Asked what advice she’d offer other budding business owners, Hora paused. “What entrepreneurs need to know,” she said, “especially female entrepreneurs because we tend to be such perfectionists is that it’s okay if you mess up at first. Just put a version out there and fix it as you go along. I think that’s something men do all the time, but what we women do is think it needs to be 10% more perfect and then we can put it out.”
Don’t wait for perfection, she warned, or it’s easy to be late to the party. “Wouldn’t you rather be in the market before somebody else has already built an audience you wanted?” she asked. “I always say, ‘Just take the leap.’”
An avid traveler (a South American backpacking trip kicked off her interest in herbalism), Hora suggested one critical item fellow trekkers should bring along.
“I give them the face wash mantra,” she said with a grin. “Because you can use it as a face and body wash, and you want as few products as possible. It’s going to get the job done.”