why is your skin so good

How This ‘Clean’ Candle Company Founder Gets Her Skin So Good

Photo: Courtesy of Carol Han

Back when she was a fashion editor at Lucky and Elle, Carol Han built her skin-care routine around whatever she could grab from the magazines’ beauty closets without paying close attention to what she was putting on her face. Now the founder of digital agency CA Creative, Han approaches skin care with a more skeptical eye. She wants to invest in products that actually live up to their claims and will balance her oily skin, and she’s constantly thinking about factors like ingredient stability.

Han finds herself leaning toward “clean” beauty, although she admits that the use of the term can be “arbitrary.” “Clean means different things to different people,” she says. “I’m not a product developer or chemist, just a picky consumer, so I tend to do a lot of research into a founder if I’m not already familiar with him or her to see what else they’ve done, what their background is, and just get a sense of how they lead their lives — I think the person behind a brand can be really indicative of the quality of the brand itself.” And generally, she tries to avoid synthetic fragrances (“because of the risk of hidden phthalates”), parabens (because some studies have suggested that they may be endocrine disruptors), and chemical sunscreens (because of their environmental impact).

When she was remaking her skin-care routine with mostly clean products over a year ago, Han was struck by the lack of home-fragrance brands that offered cleaner alternatives. So she founded her own company, Nette, in an attempt to pioneer cult-status candles with clean ingredients. “Not to call anyone out, but a much beloved candle brand uses paraffin for its wax — it’s the cheapest wax out there and a fossil fuel,” she says. “And almost no candles offer 100 percent ingredient transparency. Masking your ingredients behind the all-encompassing ‘fragrance’ label seems so old-school, you know?” Her ultimate goal is to become the next Diptyque — “but cleaner and more mission-driven.”

Below, an in-depth look at Han’s mostly-clean skin-care routine for oily skin, including the three cleaners she rotates among, the moisturizing tinted sunscreen she loves, and the resurfacing serum worth every dime.

For the Body

The Dry Brush

“Pre-shower, I give my whole body an invigorating dry brush for about a minute or so, which buffs everything and gets my skin smooth — I think a good, vigorous brush is great for circulation. I find that Goop’s dry-brush bristles are stiff enough to where it really gets the blood flowing, but not so stiff that I feel like I’m scratching myself. It also has a great handle! I’ve tried dry brushes with no handle, and I just can’t get to certain places on my back … maybe I need to do more yoga.”

The Body Wash

“In the shower, I use Goop’s G.Day Ginger + Ashwagandha Energy Body Wash or Necessaire’s Body Wash, which I recently ordered and loved. Necessaire’s whole thing is treating your body like your face with products that are just as good as something you would use for your face. I love that! Plus, their body wash has oils like marula and meadowfoam, which are really hydrating, so you don’t get out of the shower feeling dry.

“When it comes to body washes or bubble baths, I try as much as possible to find products that are considered clean — there’s something about soaking it all up in a steamy situation that makes me feel like whatever I’m putting on my body is really getting into my pores.”

The Body Oil

“Immediately post-shower, I slather on Klur’s body oil, which smells like heaven. It has neroli, orange blossom, Bulgarian rose, and French lavender in it, which creates something fresh and floral but sophisticated at the same time. It has a lot of yummy organic oils in it, like hempseed, avocado, and grapeseed, which are all meant to be deeply hydrating. It feels really nice on the skin, and the fragrance is all-natural and made with essential oils — I know a lot of people take issue with essential oils in beauty products because they can be sensitizing to the complexion and many people have allergic reactions to them, but I find them to be totally fine for the body.”

For the Face

The Cleansers

“For the face, I’ve been using Augustinus Bader’s cream cleanser, Barbara Sturm’s foaming cleanser, and Femmue’s Brilliant Cleansing Gel. All are great. For the longest time, I couldn’t find a cleanser that really washed my face without stripping it dry, and now I have three that I rotate through.

“Augustinus Bader’s cleanser is the richest in texture of the three and retains more moisture. It has lots of soothing botanicals in it, like cucumber water, aloe vera extract, and rose water, which are nice for sensitive skin since they’re meant to calm it. The third ingredient in it is sweet almond oil, which is highly emollient, so it feels nice and hydrating even while it’s cleansing the skin.

“I think the Sturm foaming cleanser gives a slightly more thorough cleanse than the rest, so it’s appropriate when I want a deeper clean. It seems like Sturm’s focus for cleansers is to prepare skin to absorb other products as efficiently as possible, which requires a clean face. There are ingredients in there, like urea and mild tensides, that are meant to clean and gently exfoliate. Plus the foam just feels like it’s working some kind of magic.

“Femmue’s is just lovely and gentle and does the trick when my skin is feeling sensitive. Blueberry fruit extract is the main ingredient in this one, along with aloe vera, so its focus is on antioxidants, which help with signs of aging and give you a cleanse that is very soothing. This is the only one of the three that has a scent to it, so it won’t be for everyone, but I like it and don’t find it irritating. The scent is subtle and comes from lavender oil and jasmine extract. They’re the two last ingredients on the list, so I can only assume that the amount in there is fairly minimal.”

The Exfoliator

“For a little exfoliation, I really like U Beauty’s Resurfacing Compound. I can’t use it every day or my skin gets sensitive, so it’s a two-to-three-times-a-week-thing for me, which actually works out because it’s super-pricey. When I do use it though, I see immediate results: It makes you look fresh and smooth and glowy on Zooms (and in real life)! It’s basically a lightweight serum with some heavy-hitter ingredients like retinol, antioxidants, and vitamins C and E, along with their patent-pending Siren Capsule Technology, which, to my understanding, is made up of molecules formulated to draw damaging elements away from healthy skin. It’s supposed to take the place of all your other serums. To me, it kind of feels like a serum and toner in one. I really like it, but I will say that it is slightly sensitizing to me — maybe the retinol — so I make sure to go heavier on the sunscreen on days I use it.

“I also really like Tina Craig, the founder. She started off as an influencer, and I think that the whole industry gets a bad rap sometimes, but my experience with her has been nothing but positive. I love founder-led brands that are run by people I trust, and Tina is lovely and super hard-working.”

The Serum

“The Victoria Beckham by Augustinus Bader serum is great. It claims to diminish fine lines and dark spots, and since I started using it — I reach for it both morning and night — my skin has felt really happy and balanced, and I’ve definitely seen a difference in the overall smoothness of it. It feels super-luxurious and potent but sinks in quickly and doesn’t leave a trace behind. I’m obsessed. Plus it has no scent, which is nice. Skin-care products that have a strong fragrance freak me out a little.”

The Moisturizer

“I’m into anything that gives me a nice glow, so I layer the Victoria Beckham by Augustinus Bader Cell Rejuvenating Priming Moisturizer over the Rejuvenating Power serum. It’s performance-driven, in that it has a lot of great ingredients that help improve skin over time but also has pearl in it for some instant radiance and illumination. Primers tend to be mostly about visuals and not improvement, but this one has TFC8 technology — Augustinus Bader’s proprietary complex that helps with signs of aging — and it’s rich in amino acids and micro-algae extract, which help with elasticity and collagen production. It also has vitamin B for radiance, papaya enzymes for brightening, and avocado oil for nourishment and hydration. I love a one-two punch in a product. It’s pricey, but it serves two purposes well, and you only need one pump, so it lasts a while. That’s how I justify the cost!”

The Sunscreen

“After my moisturizer, it’s a layer of sunscreen all over. I’ve been using the Saie Slip Tint in shade four lately, and I love it. It provides a sheer layer of coverage that’s definitely lighter than foundation but still works to sort of blur imperfections and smooth everything out. I wish they would come out with an untinted version!

“It’s also really moisturizing — it has hyaluronic acid and argan oil in it for hydration. I find that I don’t necessarily need a ton of moisturizer when I’m using this product. It also has licorice in it, which brightens the complexion.

“Laney Crowell, the founder of Saie, is a friend of mine. I’ve known her forever, and I totally trust her. She was the friend who was talking about organic food, sustainability, and clean beauty before it was a ‘thing,’ and she really walks all that talk. The Slip Tint uses zinc oxide instead of the oxybenzone and octinoxate that’s in chemical sunscreens, which have proven to be really damaging to the ocean. Hawaii, where I went to high school, is actually working on banning the sale of sunscreens with those ingredients starting this year.”

The Extras

The Luminizer

“For an extra dose of glow, I slather on a couple of pumps of Saie’s Glowy Super Gel, which the brand describes as a luminizer. It’s this really light gel-like formula that you spread all over your face for a nice, subtle glow. It has the most addicting scent. I have no idea what it is, but I love it. This is a winter-only thing for me though. I have an oily T-zone, so if I overload it with ‘glow’ products on a hot summer day, it’s a disaster.”

The Blush

“Then the final touches: a sweep of Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Blush Stick in ‘Petal’ on both cheeks for a little color and a swipe of whichever lip balm I can find first — I just ordered Goop’s new lip balm, and I’m excited to try it!

Gucci Westman is my favorite makeup artist, and I love her entire line. I remember seeing her counter in Barneys and just thinking it looked so far-out, like nothing else I’d ever seen: Almost everything came in these minimal tubes and in stick form — blush stick, foundation stick, highlight stick, contour stick. It looked so streamlined, like something from the future.”

The Perfume

“I always end my routine with a spritz of Perfumer H’s Rain Cloud. It’s my holy-grail perfume that I’m obsessed with. It has ylang ylang absolute, orange flower, vetiver, white and amber musks, jasmin, and vanilla bourbon. It’s hard to describe what it smells like, but I would say it’s a sophisticated floral with the undercurrent of vanilla bourbon really shining through. I find it to be such a comforting scent. I like wearing it all day and then still being able to smell it when I go to bed.

“I discovered Perfumer H about a year ago — I think it was through a New York Times article on the founder, Lyn Harris — and I’ve never looked back. Harris is so talented — talk about a girl crush. I just imagine her in head-to-toe Celine and Margiela mixing up oils all day in her chic lab.”

The Candle

“When developing Nette, we called every wick manufacturer in the country to find someone who would make a 100 percent GOTS-certified organic cotton wick. Most of them laughed at us, saying our customers wouldn’t care, it was just something tiny they were literally lighting on fire. I mean, wicks are tiny, but the candle industry is huge. If everyone switched to organic cotton wicks, it would make a difference! Standard cotton farming is so harmful. Also, I noticed that I was tossing all the candles I bought after they were done because the glass was so basic. All the candle brands I was buying used the exact same mass-produced glass from the same company and stuck a cute label on it. I decided to do the opposite and find the most special, gleamy, pearly glass hand-blown in Italy and stick a minimal label on it to let the glass shine and offer people something they would never want to throw out.

“All the Nette candles are so different from one another. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I find myself gravitating toward ‘Another Life’ a lot. I wrote all the descriptions of the candles, and I think this is the one that’s most personal to me. I love the idea of souls that gravitate toward one another again and again through lifetimes until they finally get it right. To me, Another Life smells like that concept — warm vanilla and cocoa grounded with cedarwood and the subtlest, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it whiff of lavender. Like a hazy, sunny late morning with someone you love.

“My biggest candle tips are to trim your wick really short before every burn and let the wax melt all the way to the edges until you have a nice, even melt pool. The first time you light a candle, it takes a few hours, so you should be prepared to hunker down and chill out for a while. Also, it’s relatively easy to get wax out of a jar once you’re done with it — all you have to do is stick it in the freezer overnight and the wax will shrink and should pop right out. Any residue can be given a good scrub with hot, soapy water. I have empty vessels all over the house and use them as bud vases on nightstands, toothbrush holders, and penholders, mostly.”

How This Candle Creator Gets Her Skin So Good