Short bio/ Cultural
background / upbringing :
Mara Chevalier (41), is the founder of the COAL SPINE botanical cosmetic brand. Besides being a botanical formulator she gained her education through 3 different art academies in three different art departments and three different countries/cities. One would think that 3 is her lucky number, but this is not that story.
She was born in Belgrade, Serbia with a multicultural Yugoslavian background as an only female kid to parents that raised her and her brothers in an unorthodox manner which set the ground for a life full of curiosity and learning.
Recently she moved to the French countryside with her husband of 12 years who is an artist, writer and musician, where they are in process of reconstructing a 17th century-old stone house by themselves to make it their permanent home, with farming land, COAL SPINE Alchemy Lab, music, pottery and photo studio that is facing river not further than 15 meters away.
Star sign/human design:
Sun in Gemini - Moon in Aries - Virgo Rising / Generator
When did your love for Botanical Cosmetics begin?
Early on as a kid. I could be blaming David Bellamy’s tv shows and his insatiable passion for chewing every plant he ever encountered, but in all honesty, it’s my mum's library of books and passion for natural healing and the lifestyle my parents brought us up with that was detrimental in the process. I would spend hours either with books or in nature. I understood that there is complete alchemy in everything that surrounds me. The botanical world is this limitless universe that no matter how much we try we cannot copy.
It will always prevail and win, reinventing itself. And that fascinated me enough to practice it every day in some manner, enough for my benefit. Where today I can extend that to others.
What is the secret to healthy skin?
Habits. They influence our future. As do calmed mind and low levels of stress. I cannot offer a cookie-cutter solution or a silver bullet as we all have an authentic biological identity and our life circumstances that influence our overall health. One thing is essential to know: skin is like a message board of whatever is happening within, either a physical ailing or anger, fear and the other spectrum of joy, calm and safety. And none of this can be bottled. Topical solutions like creams and oils work but they are just a small percentage of the work necessary to reach healthy skin as a result. What I can stand behind is that nothing beats the few basics like healthy Sun exposure, clean water, not depleting yourself from nutrients, movement, dry brushing, oil cleansing, good breathing habits, a good laugh and natural products. You don't need everything that is out there on the ''shelfie'', you are going to do a great favour to your skin by narrowing it down to 2-3 products adapted to your skin's needs so your skin can continue doing its job.
Is it possible to cure hormonal acne?
I wish I could give a straight answer, the topic is far more complex than a simple yes/no answer. But let's be clear hormones are here to stay and they will fluctuate and change as time passes and when they are affected by various life circumstances ( stress, fear etc ). It is a good idea to get familiar with them. In these cases, work with an endocrinologist and do all the necessary tests to know exactly what is going on before starting any protocol either following western medicine or a holistic/alternative approach of healing. Regardless of the test results, some lifestyle habits might be due for a change: do not deprive yourself of nutrients, don't stress out your system with over-exercising so find a gentle way of movement, move your lymph with gentle body massage. For a while sticking with one product only by all means natural in the form of the oil, for example, seabuckthorn and/or castor oil as a base and do regular gentle cleansing with it, without any other product after cleansing. This will be your only moisturizer. Don't use drying and products containing alcohol on your skin no matter how tempted you are. Ditch the coffee and introduce nettle tea for its healing minerals. Like a fountain of resources and learning I always look towards Rachelle Robinet who shares herbal solutions for hormones, Alisa Vitti whose blog section of the site is full of information and lastly Amanda Montalvo who is Health Nutritionists. All of them have good information either on their site, newsletter or Instagram accounts. For lymph massages, the @stopchaisingpain Instagram account is full of good info. Remember skin care products are a small percentage of what makes your skin healthy.
How many Coal Spine products do you have on your shelf? Which ones do you use daily?
I have them all. I have stock only for personal use to be safe so that I never run out. I even keep oils on my writing desk and use them to take a break and do some palm inhaling. Though I would not use more than 3-4, regularly. And those would be :
Botanical oil n°0, something I would never stop creating and using.
It's my head-to-toe saviour that I use for oil pulling, wound healing, cleansing and moisturizing. It saves my skin during house reconstruction/restoration. The two of us = friends forever!
Oil n°2 next in line during the day is refreshing and lightweight, regardless of the season.
Oil n°4 is warming and relaxing and perfect for the nighttime ritual.
Moon Soap n°2 - White Smoke, is something sweet and mellow that is perfect for unwinding in the evening after a hard working day and n°1 - Materia Prima, is perfect for waking up with confidence and vigour, especially during the cold season.
What do your meals look like?
As always I take great pleasure in making food, it’s also a signal that I can take care of myself which is a success that I am grateful for. Every meal is homemade and depends on time, season and ingredients available, which are mostly fresh from our garden or local farmers/neighbours/friends. We have both been vegetarian for many years so our eating culture is predominantly plant-based with additions of cheese + eggs. Summers are full of fresh fruits and salads with minimal to no cooking while colder seasons ask for a fire stove and warm soups and baked dishes. I developed a great love for autumn because it's a chestnut season and our forest is full of chestnut trees and every soup tastes better with them. Since we moved to the countryside food never tasted better and every day is a feast.
What habits or rituals do you try
I came to the point where I learned to keep my habits and rituals malleable, to keep the complexity of life that holds polarity and nuance. Life is so messy and multidimensional, so being stuck on doing one thing in only one way without flexibility leads to rigid and funless life without learning or being open to what it means to be human in its full range. After 20 years of disciplined rituals, I decided to deconstruct and redesign what rituals or habits mean to me. I’ve stopped the practice of journaling that I did since high school, and I’ll get back to when it doesn't feel like being on autopilot or internal monologue which cuts me out of connecting and communicating in real life. I still practice cold and heat exposure, use functional mushrooms and wake up early enough to start the day with me first, oil pulling + dry brushing + body oiling/massaging (morning+evening) it helps the aching body after a day of reconstructing the house and it keeps immunity in check. There are always hours spent on COAL SPINE and learning. Then we have those rituals that are seasonal like harvest, preparing the harvest for the winter and sharing it with those we know, summers are for biking to village centre at 8 am to play petanque with young and old at the riverbank, canoeing down the river for 4 blissful hours before returning to continue work on the house. Life in the countryside is filled to the brim with activities every day and the river waterfront that is 15 meters in front of our house gives immediate relief to a busy day.
Contemporary Women that inspire you:
A playlist or music you like to listen to:
All the music good and bad choices can be found here
Books that left a mark on you :
Podcasts you listen to?