Apiece Apart Woman: Emma Allen
Photos: Sadie Culberson
If you’ve been to one of our Apiece Apart stores you’ll know that one of our mainstays is Everyday Oil, created by North Carolina-based Emma Allen, whose very simple, high quality, multi-tasking and no-fuss line remains our staple. Emma was born in rural South Carolina and lived in New York before moving most recently to Asheville, where she now lives and works. We visited her at home and in the Everyday Oil studio for a conversation on impulsivity, intuition, and how wellbeing begins with listening (and often involves saying no).
Our health is determined by what we put in our bodies just as much as what we put on our bodies. What are some of your holistic tips for nourished skin (particularly during winter)?
Drink water! I am constantly amazed by how many people don’t hydrate; this is the most important thing you can do for your skin. I know a good amount of people who are willing to do a lot of health-related things that take a lot of effort, but really resist the idea of drinking at least 64 oz of water a day. Research shows that once someone is chronically dehydrated, they stop feeling thirsty. Once you hydrate consistently, your body will start to trigger thirst and drinking water won’t feel like such a chore. If this is you, try it! I recommend carrying a water bottle and tracking your water intake to make sure you get what you need. In the winter, hydrating with herbal tea keeps it cozy. This will help so many things in your body it would be silly to list them. Almost anything that is problematic is helped by hydration.
What misconceptions do we have about oil and skincare?
I think that so many people are much more comfortable with the idea of using oils now, internally and externally, but one misconception that comes up a lot is that all oils are more or less the same. There is such a huge variation between different oils in skincare and how they balance with one another, so if you have tried some that didn’t work for you, don’t give up!
What’s the difference between intuition and impulse? Can you share a story or recent moment(s) involving either?
For me, intuition is a really positive guiding force and impulse is quickly acting in a moment, based upon intuition. I am working on a project right now with some friends, and it’s a really intimidating undertaking. I feel so much intuition around it being the right thing, but we have talked a lot about the need to take that leap of faith to get over the initial, frightening hurdle of doing something big and risky.
That term 'leap of faith' is something that I have been thinking about...how in so many ways we can feel all the intuition, we can think things over and plan, but it takes closing your eyes and jumping off the cliff to make it happen. I think a certain amount of impulsiveness can be a tool in that regard. I am working on finding the balance between the two.
Makes you dance, lifts your mood, brightens you?
I love listening to reggaeton when I run and the artist Dani Fine wrote a song for Everyday Oil that makes us all smile.
Makes your emotions swell (maybe inducing a cry if the moment’s right)?
When I am melancholy, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album is the best.
Transports you to a specifically nostalgic moment of your past?
Putting on the Cranberries album "No Need to Argue" brings me right back to these amazing feelings of middle school and early high school. If I listened to that and smelled Clinique Happy at the same time it would be like teleportation. The Strokes and The Walkmen and Pavement teleport me to freshman year in college, and there are so many albums that feel like bookends to times in my life.
Mellows you out, calms your nerves?
I love “Gentle Reminder to Self” by Dani Fine when I need a moment.
Do you put on when you want to dial in and focus?
I listen to classical music when I need to concentrate. As a little kid my dad had a whole wall of cassette tapes of classical music in his office. I remember asking him why and he said studies show it improves focus.
Is perfect for playing in a dining moment? When you envision your “perfect” dining experience what is the soundtrack?
Sometimes I play instrumental music from the country that the food is from while I cook, which might be so dorky but makes me happy.
In your opinion, what’s the best way to initiate change?
I think about this a lot, and I’m not sure I know the answer. But I do feel very confident as time goes by that change within yourself does create influence around you and ripple out. I have some people in my life who have shown me by example how to be a more generous friend, how to give openly, how to support without expectation. I think parents are most effective when they lead by example, and generally as people we get a lot from the influence of those around us. I feel change in myself through the example of others, and I’m really grateful for it.
What would you set out to do if you had no constraints?
Most of the things I think about are entrepreneurial, I can’t really stop thinking of ideas I want to do all the time. But outside of that I think I would want to work on evidence-based practices in governing. Encouraging the implementation of policies and systems that pro-actively work towards a more egalitarian society, based on studies and neuroscience rather than the (often) arbitrary policy decisions that are made today. A simple example of this would be using mentorship and therapy for juvenile offenders instead of incarceration, using science-based evidence about which is truly more effective in creating positive change and safer societies.
Something I’ve learned to say NO to is:
I have learned so much about trusting my intuition! I am naturally a very open person, and I have had to learn that I don’t have to have a concrete reason (something spoken or written) to create a boundary towards something or someone. I have learned that unspoken energies are just as important to listen to, and that saying no does not have to be a judgement of a person or thing. This second piece is releasing the guilt of saying no, and it has saved me so much time and grief!
What is one cultural touchstone that has changed your life and why? (A film, book, work of art, song/album, etc.)
Joseph Campbell and the book Pathways to Bliss changed my life, and I often give that book as a gift to pass that on.
Five years ago I wish I had known:
To not talk about ideas too much – you lose the chi.
When you feel overwhelmed, unfocused, or uncreative what do you do to get out of your head?
I have had Ashtanga yoga in my life for about 8 years now, and I come back to it whenever I need it. It has been really important in some of my hardest moments and has gotten me through a lot. Also going for a run and swimming in water!
I think that there are a lot of stressors in life that require release, and I categorize ways you can get that into 'light' and 'dark.' Dark ways are smoking, alcohol, drugs, etc. Dark release ways lead to more of the same; they are a very temporary source of release. Light ways are exercise, yoga, meditation, nature…light ways of release lead to more light. So about ten years ago I worked really hard to invert my release habits to light ones, and that has helped me so much.