In Conversation with Larissa Thomson - ONDA Beauty

Along with co-founder Larissa Thomson, we are celebrating the launch of our products at the beautifully experiential ONDA Beauty, NY. Larissa was born and raised in New York City, with an innate connection to the energy of the city and the people in it. Her exposure to organic beauty and timeless style would eventually guide her to an impressive career in the fashion industry. Through her tenure as a market director for today’s foremost magazines, she has been a leading translator of trends and a conduit of style for countless consumers. With her experienced eye for luxury, Thomson left the magazine business in 2014 and went on to co-found ONDA - a natural beauty destination, dedicated to providing a curated collection of luxury, clean products and intuitive treatments. 


I launched ONDA online in December 2016 but I had the idea about 18 months before that. After leaving a 25-year career in fashion magazines, I knew that I wanted to start my own business in the wellness arena. I really wanted to create a retail space that felt experiential. A place that affected all the senses when someone walked through the door and was somewhere that felt like a respite from a stressful, urban environment. I had been travelling to Mexico for 20+ years at that point and was trying to mimic that feeling I always get when I arrive at my happy place there. It always brings me a feeling of peace, calm and affects all my senses. Curating safe, beautiful and effective beauty products, in the environment I envisioned, became the goal. It felt important to me to offer a trusted retail space, where one can be pointed in the right direction to what they're looking for. Additionally, I wanted a place where you can learn from our educated staff about why it's so important to pay attention to what you're putting on your body. It was also important to have a place where you can source knowledge around the ingredients in personal care products and why what we offer will deliver the results you're looking for. I wanted to take the work out of the equation for the consumer, offering the best of safe, clean and natural beauty in a warm and inviting setting. I think we've accomplished that!


I guess it's all the things that you don't know or can't expect would happen? Those things will always exist and there's just no way to know what lies ahead. When you're taking on something new, it's SO important to stay nimble, flexible and take each challenge as it comes. You should treat these challenges as a learning experience when things don't go the way you wanted. Try to omit the drama and above all, TRUST your intuition, but combine it with practical thinking. Taking out all the ego is essential. You're never going to know everything or what's coming down the road, so play to your strengths; surround yourself with people you trust to complement your skillset; buckle up and try to enjoy the ride (if you can!). Chuck fear right out the window - in my book, it's definitely the enemy of forward motion.


Ha! Well, to be totally honest, I was immediately smitten with the package design, for starters. The colour of the boxes with gold type and the sleek bottles were very appealing! As far as the products, I love the concept of 'natural science'. These products truly utilise all the benefits that flowers, plants and other botanicals and minerals have to offer, backed by scientific research. When I look at brands, what I love the most is the story and the passion behind the brand. What's so incredibly beautiful about Irene Forte is that they grow their own ingredients on an organic farm in Sicily! They're able to utilise all that the Mediterranean has to offer and control the quality themselves. Having control from beginning to end, when you really care about delivering high quality, is a huge plus. It shows the integrity and love behind the brand and its people. The result is a deliciously beautiful, safe and effective product line. It's powered by nature and backed by science, whose global origin is rich with history and lush, potent, nutrient-dense ingredients. 


Well, I always start with the packaging. I'm a visual person, so I always have a strong response to package design, as it's my first point of contact. It's definitely not a deal-breaker if I'm not a fan but if I am, then it allows me to tick that box. And of course, part of this process includes the sustainability of the packaging and materials used. I study the ingredients to make sure that the product or brand aligns with our core values at ONDA, and that there are no harmful chemicals. We look for brands that value sustainability, reducing their carbon footprint, use recycled materials with minimal packaging and share our mission to expand on these sustainable and ethical practices. Once I get to test the product, the scent and feel of it are important. The experience is everything and should bring joy and a respite from every day. Lastly and most importantly, is it effective and does it do what it claims to do? Efficacy and finding results-driven products, wrapped in a beautiful experience is the key.


Well, I think most people will have had a lot of exposure to the summer elements - sea, sun, salt, air or chlorine from the swimming pool. All of that can really dry out your skin and wreak some havoc. Starting to repair that and address the cooler months around the corner would be my suggestion. Personally, I like to get a really good facial at the Tribeca ONDA, once I return from being out at our Sag Harbor location. Having one of our aesthetician superstars assess my skin is a great reset! But at the bare minimum, I would say starting a more aggressive exfoliation treatment is a good idea now that you're getting less sun. Using a good enzyme exfoliator and returning to using a safe retinol can help to remove dead skin cells and work on any post-sun hyperpigmentation. After that, add in and layer some hydrating serums that have natural humectants like glycerin, or maybe a hyaluronic acid serum, to really boost your skin's hydration. Lastly, you want to make sure you have a great moisturiser or high-quality face oil to seal it all in and feed your thirsty skin. A face balm is another great way to give your skin extra hydration and lock all that goodness in.


I'd say our goal is to be able to give the ONDA experience to as many people as possible, in as many ways as possible.


Having been doing this now for about 5 years, it's been incredible to watch the evolution of what we call clean beauty. Brands are finding more ways to become sustainably responsible. Additionally, the knowledge around what botanical and mineral ingredients have to offer is increasing every day and even the idea that synthetic ingredients are all toxic is being reconsidered.  There are now clean and safe synthetics being used. Incredible! All this being said, I think science is playing more and more of a role in the clean beauty arena. Clean and botanically-driven beauty brands are using the benefits of plants, as well as the knowledge of science to create truly beautiful, active and result-driven products and brands. I see this continuing to grow. The combination of botanically-driven and science-backed products is an incredible intersection that will keep evolving. It will continue to bring us better and better beauty products that not only deliver but allow us to take the worry out of whether or not what we are using on our bodies is safe. Hopefully, this becomes the norm!


I actually LOVE this question! I'd say to try to go with the flow, enjoy the ride and above all, trust in your instincts. Have the courage and confidence to believe in yourself and your ideas. DO NOT sweat the small stuff or the drama - it's a waste of time, just keep it rolling! You can't always change the situation you're in but you can learn to change your part in it, your reaction and response. Nothing is forever so keep growing!!

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