Melisa Kahne knows a thing or two about beauty — her way of life, in fact, has been dramatically shaped by the world of cosmetology, and not always in the best of ways.
For 17 years, she ran a typical salon, selling beauty products and performing skin and hair services both on her customers and herself.
“I was never sensitive to any scent or chemicals at all,” Kahne said.
Suddenly, after what was supposed to be a normal hair treatment, Kahne’s body started rebelling.
“For months, I started having reactions. Eyes burning, nose burning, esophagus burning. My lungs started burning,” she recalled.
Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her until she had a near-fatal reaction to some chemicals at a dentist’s office. They called it a “severe multiple chemical sensitivity,” which prevents her from using any products with synthetic chemicals or scents.
Basically, Kahne said, being around all the chemicals in her salon was creating a “body burden”, and all it took was that last hair treatment to “[push] my body over the barrel.”
Unfortunately, many products labeled as “all natural” and “organic” didn’t help — her body was now so sensitive that it would react to the slightest presence of synthetic chemicals. It even got to the point where customers at her hair salon couldn’t come in wearing perfume or hair products.
One doctor compared her to a canary in a coal mine.
“I cleaned out my beauty cabinet… I couldn’t use pretty much [anything],” Kahne said. “I had to donate every piece of clothing because I couldn’t get the fragrance out of my clothes from my previous laundry detergent.”
But like a real businesswoman, she turned weakness into strength, and little by little, created recipes for products that she could use.
“Over time, I started having people say, ‘Wow, your skin is looking great, what are you using?’” Kahne said. Given that she already had to make these products for herself, Kahne figured she might as well make money doing it, which led her to open Kanary Naturals around 2016.
“I source 100 percent organic, natural ingredients that have zero synthetic ingredients,” she said. “I cross-check everything on the EWG (Environmental Working Group corporation) to make sure that it’s not a human carcinogenic.”
The first year of operating Kanary was the hardest, given all the research and training Kahne had to go through, unlearning all the things she thought she knew about the world of beauty and learning how unsafe many of the products people habitually use are.
“I didn’t know to dig in deep and really research what I am using on my client. What am I applying to them? What am I applying to myself? What am I breathing?” she said. “Now, I have a complete holistic way of caring for people’s skin without using any toxins.”
For example, Kahne just finished getting trained on how to apply henna to fill out eyebrows.
“A lot of people are doing the microblading, which is basically tattooing,” she said. “So the Henna brow will shadow in their eyebrow and actually stain their skin, and it will give them the effect that they have a full set of eyebrows for up to four to six weeks.”
That, of course, is less than the three years a microblading treatment will last you, but some microblading treatments use inorganic ink, which can cause issues.
“Most inks used in microblading and permanent makeup are metal-based and therefore contain iron oxides,” reads Organic Permanent Makeup’s blog page from June 15. “These inks may cause allergic reactions and could be detrimental to your health.”
Kahne is also finishing up her Gua Sha training.
“It’s compared to botox. Botox, you’re getting botulism injected into your skin,” she said. “This is just a holistic way of doing skin care… they can get these series of facelift facials, and the Gua Sha stone, with the massaging techniques, the cupping techniques, will actually tighten and lift their skin for weeks. That’s a really popular thing right now. And it’s all nontoxic.”
Kanary Naturals is located at 1619 Cole St. in Enumclaw.
ADVICE FOR UP-AND-COMING BUSINESSWOMEN
When it came to offering advice for other women looking to make headway in the beauty industry, Kahne had several nuggets of wisdom.
The biggest, though, was about being knowledgeable — really knowledgeable — about the entire process the products you buy, use, make, or sell go through.
“Get to know your vendors and don’t just believe what you read,” she said. “Actually do the research on your own. Ask for a safety data sheet. Make sure that every ingredient that your buying, you know how it’s processed. You know where it’s coming from.
“Stay loyal the quality of your products,” she continued. “Never take the shortcut of, ‘I’m going to use this product because it’s half the price.’ Always stay true to the quality and integrity of the ingredient.”