Studio Visit with Monastery, Athena Hewett

The master esthetician at work in her independent boutique spa....

We recently visited master esthetician Athena Hewett in her leafy San Francisco neighbourhood, where she works from her Monastery studio and boutique spa. Born out of Athena’s frustrations that many skincare products were causing or worsening the skin conditions her clients were trying to heal, Monastery is a 100% natural skincare company, where all ingredients and products are personally sourced, formulated, and tested.

Athena’s passion for natural skincare began with childhood visits to Greece to visit her maternal grandmother. Gathering herbs, creating healing remedies, and bringing her awareness to the idea of working with the body rather than against it. We're proud to host the full collection in store, and to also welcome the newest product to the line, the Universal Balm...

— We are most intrigued by your travels and wild harvesting rituals, are you able to share a story, or two, about some of these experiences doing so?

The last wild harvesting that I did was actually in New Zealand for kawakawa. My sister had been telling me about this ingredient for some time. She lives on the north island above Auckland and we went on a walk to an area where it grows wild right alongside the ocean, about 1km from her home. We gathered it and made an infusion of oil that next day, which is basically just soaking the plant in oil at low level heat for like 10 hours. We turned the infusion into a balm at some point later on my trip and I smuggled some home to the US. Kawakawa is great for healing wounds, eczema, bites... anything really.

— What is a new or recent discovery for you?

Cold pressed mango butter. It's not that new to me, but I have been working with it a lot recently, so it's very top of mind. It is just so lovely. It has a matte finish, soaks in quickly yet it is super moisturizing. We just launched a new product called Universal Balm and I use this as one of the base ingredients. I also sourced a beautiful farm raised sandalwood from Hawaii for this product and I'm very pleased about getting to use it.
Images by Greta van der Star

— How did you come to name your business Monastery? What does this word or visual represent for you personally?

I love this. It IS a very odd name for a skincare brand isn't it? I was trying to think of something that represented my heritage. I am half greek, half kiwi, and I was looking back at old pictures of NZ and Greece from my childhood for inspiration. I came upon a picture of a Monastery that I visited with my mom in Greece when I was about 10 years old and I loved the picture, the picture brought back so many beautiful memories. The memories felt like the same thing that I would want to evoke in a spa brand. Ritual, reflection, calmness, beauty... the smell of incense.

— Can you tell us about your space and how this serves you as a brand and practitioner?

We took deep inspiration from Greece, specifically Greek monasteries. The space is very minimal and I think this helps all of our team to slow down and clear our minds. We hope that it does the same for the clients.

— What are some of your personal rituals, outside of skincare?

I'm very into taking candlelit baths. I use it as a time to reflect and relax. I often create a unique essential oil blend that matches my mood, which can serve a source of inspiration for later formulations. I also bike ride. I don't know if bike riding is technically a ritual but I really try to avoid using a car as my daily transportation. For me, it seems to be important to be in the elements when I go from place to place. I think it keeps my senses awakened and keeps me appreciative of mother nature and her ever changing moods. I used to dislike what is considered poor weather but the more time I spend outside the more I can see the beauty and excitement in all of it.

— Are you able to give us some Monastery collection combinations to suit the following:

1. Post-sun skin revive:
The Aloe Hyaluronic Gel with the Gold Oil layered on top is the perfect post-sun duo. The Aloe is nice and cooling with the ability to deliver hydration via hyaluronic acid and aloe vera, while the Gold comes in to heal, and rehydrate more intensely with its raspberry seed oil, rosehip, and xeomynic acid found in sandalwood nut oil (is the most anti inflammatory ingredient in the plant kingdom).

2. Gentle skin healing and nourishment:
I think my favorite product for everyday healing would be the Rose Cleansing Oil because of the balancing effect on the microbiome. Cleansers often get overlooked especially as healers or products that can nourish but I think they are actually the most important products in the entire routine. A cleanser is the first thing you use. It's the first thing that your cells are coming in contact with, what you do with that first step lays the groundwork for the rest of the routine.

3. Brightening tired or aging skin:
My go to brightening remedy is our retinol Rei at night followed by our healing and protectant balm Attar and then, in the morning, mixing our AHA gel called XX with our Gold Brightening Oil Serum to create a brightening bespoke cream. Doing both of these back to back is not something I do all the time but it's super effective for creating a glow when you need it!
The healing and protectant balm Attar by Monastery Skincare
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