By Mary, The Naturalist Contributor
The frenzy of October seemed to end just as quickly as it began, and November’s beginnings have left many of us feeling somber and exhausted in a way we didn’t think possible. It seems now, more than ever, we need a reminder of self care. Years ago, when I frequented yoga workshops, my teacher shared a valuable lesson that remains universal. She taught me that neglecting to care for ourselves will only allow us to give to others from an empty place. When we need to unite and hold each other up, we must be able to give fully and honestly so our energy is doubled, not depleted.
I noticed Maura McGovern shortly after I began working at Cambridge Naturals during one of her weekly shopping trips. Her glowing skin, calm demeanor, and shining brown hair covered by that signature hat were proof enough that she was someone I could learn a thing or two from. Everyone else seemed to know Maura and enjoy her company and inviting conversation. I was eager to learn more about who she was and she did to emanate such confidence in her own beauty and knowledge. Read on for an interview with Maura to learn about her life, her work, and her self care rituals.
All photos courtesy of Maura McGovern. Follow her on Instagram at: @mauramcgovern
When did you first become interested in natural beauty and self care?
Natural beauty is part of my daily self-care practice; a practice that’s rooted in family lessons, and a reverence for bath time. I was born with gills.
Soaking in the tub is great way to honor the body in its most natural and beautiful state. There are definitely times when I don’t appreciate the way my body looks, but a good soak — even on those less than beautiful days — always feels like comfort food.
Along those lines, self-care is (or at least it should be) a recognized food group. The body craves this kind of nourishment; it send clues when too many hours or days pass without proper care. When I ignore signs to take better care of myself, my body demands a Full Stop in the form of Depression. Depression, for me, is rooted in regret. Wishing things happened differently then, so I can feel better now.
Self-care is a return to Now; it’s a homecoming. Because when I focus on the breath; when I consume foods or use products prepared close the earth; when I soak my feet in a basin filled with salty water; when I fill a roasting pan with local root vegetables — I know what Now feels like. It feels good and honest. Self-care is about showing up and believing, instead of saying I don’t have time (for myself).
Before moving on to the next question, I would love to share a few family lessons collected during my growing up years.
I was a quiet and curious child; constantly experimenting in the kitchen, and taking note of how others moved through their lives. This is how I learned. Observation — instead of running up and down a field — was my preferred sport. The guidance to trust a slower pace came from my Nana (Helen), my mother, my father. Their lessons were rooted in all things whole and wholesome.
Helen (pictured above) was a bright lipstick all the time kind of woman. That was her daily beauty indulgence. Her favorite color clothing was red, which she reserved for special occasions. Even if sad, it was certainly a special occasion to deliver her eulogy while wearing red in her honor. But no lipstick for me because I am not that kind of woman. We’re all similar but not the same.
Helen and my mother showed me that beauty can be simple. It took a few decades to embrace my love for simple, instead of chasing Shoulds (should wear red lipstick, should wear heels). My father always encouraged me to do things differently. They all showed me that posture and attitude matter; stand tall and have Faith.
My first paying job included pulling weeds from Helen’s garden, kneading dough for handmade tortellini, and perfecting the art of brownie-making without a measuring cup. She taught me to work (with) the land, to lean in when things get stuck (in pasta maker), and to trust my hands to say a little more or that’s enough.
Every night after supper my mother would retreat to the bathroom to wash before bedtime. She was a Clinique 3-step devotee and I was often the lucky recipient of the gift with purchase. Such magic in those small zip pouches. Her approach to her evening routine was methodical and her bare face was beautiful to me; it was simple. This routine was her version of self-care and now a legacy shared between us.
When it came to mealtime, my father insisted on things like brown rice and lentil stew. Nothing refined or processed was allowed. His approach was considered progressive because when he became a father, he was only 19 years old; a child himself. I often complained about his choices because all I wanted was a package of Oreos instead of fruit leather (gross). This is laughable now because I visit three farmers markets every week.
What’s your daily skincare routine? Does this change with the seasons?
My skincare routine is mostly simple and enjoyable; it shifts weekly and seasonally depending on hormones and weather. Below is an ideal day, but I don’t get overly excited about missing some of the steps and sometimes I add a few more. The only rule is No Rules.
When lived slowly, the morning hours are my favorite. Since I live on the top floor with a mostly sky view, I like to watch the sunrise. It’s such a good feeling to witness the new day waking up. It’s faith in action.
The first thing I reach for is a bottle of Evan Healy HydroSoul* — the smell is such a sweet beginning. After a few sprays, while standing in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to warm, I move through a tapping ritual to get the energy flowing. It’s a self-created hybrid of Qi Gong Tapping and Donna Eden’s Energy Medicine. I also love jade rolling!
For whatever reason, on its own, I don’t enjoy drinking water. But I crave mineral-rich teas, especially Just Herbals Women’s Blend*. Taking various tinctures diluted in a few ounces of water is a swear-by part of the morning. A few favorites: Herbal Moonshine Bitters* before breakfast, Gaia Nettle Leaf* for grounding throughout the day, Good Mood feels for Fall/Winter, and I’m wild about Host Defense extracts*. Because mushrooms; so smart.
This next step doesn’t happen daily; however, on overly anxious mornings, sesame oil-pulling is a mood-changer, among other things.
What happens daily without fail is this: a run or a walk to a park for morning prayer aka yoga shapes. Sure, I love the glow of flushed cheeks. But more than that, the lymphatic system needs to be moved. The lymphatic system is tasked with removing toxins and waste from the body; unlike blood, the lymphatic system does not have a built-in pump. So, by moving our bodies, we help to remove unwanted matter. A two-for-one: radiant skin and a cleaner body. Yes, please.
Save for the shower water, I don’t wash my face in the morning. Post shower, I massage a few drops Evan Healy Blue Cactus Elixir* into my face. Once the elixir is absorbed, it’s all about Mother Dirt from head to toe. Mother Dirt has changed the texture and tone of my skin for the better and an added bonus, I stopped using deodorant. Do you know about Mother Dirt? The AO+ mist* will convince you Rethink Clean, as they say.
My nighttime routine is similar but not the same as the morning; in addition to tea and tinctures, it’s the time of day for cleansing and sometimes a mask or a foot soak. I am totally hooked on Marie Veronique Replenishing Oil Cleanser and and once a week I use May Lindstrom Clean Dirt or a homemade mask. The mask is often a spoonful of honey mixed with chlorella and rose essential oil. A friend recently gifted me a sample of Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Serum — wow, baby soft skin. But when I make time for a guided meditation with Tara Brach, it’s definitely a good night. Tara’s Living Presence with Body Scan is definitely a loyal companion.
Do you wear makeup?
I really love the idea of makeup, especially blush, but when it comes down to it, my routine is simple and applied in a barely-there kind of way. Friends and acquaintances often ask: Do you wear makeup? Sometimes it sounds like a compliment but sometimes I wonder, wait, was that a suggestion?!
My entire collection of makeup fits inside of a small canvas zip pouch: RMS “un” cover-up truly does cover-up night owl tendencies, w3ll Narcissist Foundation Stick because the cult following is on to something, Tata Harper Lip & Cheek Tint is cheerful and easy to apply, Mineral Fusion Blush doubles as a cheek color and bronzer, Tarte Eyeliner is foolproof thank goodness, Hurraw SPF 15 Sun* and Moon balms* are also stashed in every coat pocket, and Plant Makeup Unicorn Balm because when all else fails — unicorns.
How do you typically style your hair?
A secret to most, my hair is thick and curly but I prefer to wear it straight so I straighten it with a wooden paddle brush, a hearty squeeze of Living Proof Nourish Cream, and a hair dryer. It’s a morning meditation of sorts.
During the workweek, I like to get my entire head wet in the shower; it’s the official wake-up call. I don’t use shampoo daily but I always use conditioner. For both, I like John Masters* and recently Josh Rosebrook* (the hair mask especially, wow). A few times a month I massage homemade nettle infused oil into my scalp, followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse.
How do your self care and beauty rituals change while traveling?
Not much, actually. Thankfully most of my favorite products are packaged in small glass containers and I try remember to blend a single serving mask with raw honey or chickpea flour as the base. As much as I love to travel and take photos, it’s often overstimulating in a way that’s not so beautiful. Slowing down at the end of the day with a cup of tea and a mask feels like home.
What has inspired or continues to inspire your beauty uniform?
I am inspired by the spirited women in my life, walking everywhere because I don’t have a car, sitting in sunny spots while watching passersby, but most of all — the intelligence of the land. The land offers everything we need to take care of our bodies. I can imagine, it only asks or hopes that we listen for the clues, follow our instincts, and tread lightly.
What are your top three Cambridge Naturals products?
Even though I cheated by adding an asterisk* next to all products found on the shelves at Cambridge Naturals, it’s worth noting three more just in case you’re hungry: Full Moon Ghee* because it’s pure gold on everything these days — especially Dan’s Brick Oven Bread.* Pro tip: grab a fresh loaf on Saturday mornings because it always sells out. And then wash it down with tea made with Mountain Valley Spring Water; it tastes better, no contest.
But it’s not just the products, it’s the staff and the shoppers. The community is a nourishing one. Some days I move through life as quietly as possible. This is definitely a version of self-care. Some days it’s comforting to have a place to go to talk about products and self-care practices. I’ve been shopping at Cambridge Naturals for 17 years. A home away from home.
To follow Maura on Instagram: @mauramcgovern