My name is: Dara Kennedy.
I’m known for being: Founder & CEO, Ayla.
I'm talking about: The Ayla Sea Soak.
You can find it at: Our brick-and-mortar Ayla studio at 1825 Bush Street, San Francisco and aylabeauty.com.
Before I created this line, I was: A brand strategist and beauty product developer and marketer.
What inspired me to launch it was: The Irish seaweed bath, which has been a therapeutic ritual for generations, a panacea for ailments as varied as rheumatism, water weight, sluggish circulation and cellulite. I found that seaweed baths provided the single most purifying experience I could get at home, a detoxifying treatment that felt much more multi-dimensional and deeply restorative than the Epsom salt baths I’d tried for the same purpose.
And when you think about it, it makes sense: seaweed’s natural function is to filter out pollutants in the ocean, sweeping out excess acidity and CO2 in the water while supplying nutrients to sea life. In a hot bath, salt water helps seaweed coax out what your body needs to let go of and replace it with essential minerals.
I’ve always wanted our company to be the type of business that prompts people to think deeply and differently. I’d been looking for a way to create more of a link between the products we sell, where they come from and what that means for us and the planet—and this was the perfect opportunity. It’s a great way to witness how powerful just two ingredients from nature can be when they’re as pure and as potent as possible.
How it works is: The Sea Soak is designed to be a profound way to witness the power of individual ingredients in their natural state, at the highest level of quality and at the peak of freshness—as close to a spa treatment as you can get without having to leave your house. And its ritual is intended to take a little work, to remind you to think about where the ingredients come from, what they do for you and what they do for the planet.
First, you dissolve the salt in hot bathwater to create a saltwater base that mimics the sea. Then, you pour your sun-dried kelp into an organic, un-dyed, biodegradable cotton pouch (hand-stitched in San Francisco at a female-owned sewing factory that pays fair wages) and let that steep in the salt water, like you’re making a tea. In hot saltwater, the kelp releases circulation-stimulating iodine, detoxifying chlorophyll and anti-inflammatory fucoidan to give you an intense, yet relaxing, detoxifying and remineralizing experience.
The hot saltwater will kick off your natural sweating process on its own. But as your bag of seaweed steeps, that saltwater will also extract specific nutrients from the kelp that are known to kick the body’s detoxification processes into gear.
And the anti-inflammatory gel you’ll squeeze out of your organic cotton gauze bag is like a freshly made, incredibly potent hydrating serum that’s not only a boon for skin conditions like eczema and acne, but also positively marvelous for dry hair and scalps.
We’ve recorded a couple of meditations to take you through the ritual, too. One is a walk through the ritual the way that I do it (including a scalp and face massage, as well as a silent meditation), and the other is a wonderful awareness meditation recorded by my meditation teacher, Andrea Ferretti.
What makes it special is: We found ingredient partners who go above and beyond to provide the highest quality seaweed and salt in the most sustainably-minded way. Our kelp, carefully and sustainably hand-harvested by our beloved seaweed forager, is as fresh as it comes: it’s sun-dried in the California desert after being chopped into pieces that allow its detoxifying alginate gel to release in a hot bath. Our salt, which our salt artisan greenhouse-evaporates from the pristine waters off Big Sur after it’s been filtered nine times, is so prized for its incomparable saltiness and purity that it’s the salt of choice at restaurants like Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn.
With those two powerful ingredients, we recreated the Irish tradition with a treatment that was more luxurious, easier to clean up, extra potent and made with both extra care for the environment and extra love for our home state of California.
One thing you can’t miss is: We donate a percentage of our Sea Soak sales every year to Reef Check, an incredible “citizen science” nonprofit that educates and empowers anyone who’s SCUBA certified to help with marine conservation efforts. In the state of California, Reef Check was instrumental in helping the California Ocean Protection Council to establish Marine Protected Areas and provides them with data on an ongoing basis to monitor the health of those important coastal ecosystems.
This is a meaningful partnership for us because Reef Check conducts studies that directly monitor the ongoing health of California’s kelp forests. Our partnership allows us to give back in a way that is connected to the very resources we use and also provides us with a way to stay as informed as possible about their health.
My favorite secret detail is: We sourced, printed or made as much of our packaging as possible in the Golden State, and each element of the plastic-free Sea Soak packaging is recyclable or compostable. And when you’re done, your seaweed is in a pouch that you can use to make compost tea (which your houseplants will love). You can also compost the whole thing or empty the pouch and till the seaweed directly into your soil. Seaweed makes for a fantastic fertilizer, and it’s a beautiful way to bring the ritual full circle and give back to the earth when you’re done with your bath treatment.
For me, “clean” or “conscious" beauty means: Beauty that is thoughtful and real; beauty that is not just about self-care, but also inspires connection with others. Our Sea Soak, for example, is not only a deeply restorative treatment, but also a love letter to our beautiful state of California and its natural, untouched beauty—and a reminder to us all to protect the Earth’s natural beauty, everywhere.
I think that, if a product or an experience can change how you feel and how you think about yourself for the better, that’s wonderful. But if it can change how you think about the world, that’s truly remarkable.
One ritual you can practice with this line is: Use your Sea Soak before bedtime, on an evening when you have a little time for yourself; let your seaweed steep for a good half hour, and then soak in the bath for a good half hour or longer. Be prepared for intensity: its fans have likened its effect to that of an infrared sauna, a deep-tissue massage and “how I feel after the hardest workout I’ve ever done.” And afterwards, you’ll likely have the deepest, most restorative night’s sleep you’ve had in recent memory.
It can help you live your process because: The Sea Soak is something that we think so many people can use: more than ever, our team talks to people dealing with skin, hair and health challenges that are directly related to stress, whether that’s caused by the pace of our lives, the environment or both. This treatment is designed to encourage a body that is healthier and more resilient, which will set the stage for more vibrant skin (and it’ll probably help your other products work better, too).
And the process of soaking in these two ingredients—thinking about the fact that they’re doing for your body what they do for our ocean, and feeling more connected to those ingredients than you would if you were simply applying them to your skin for a second—is meant to be not only the gift of a much-needed pause button in your busy life, but also an experience that brings you closer to nature in a way that most beauty products can’t.