If you could spin the globe and pick any place on Earth to put down roots, where would it be? For proprietor of Gradient, Dimitri Allouch, and his wife Gwendolyn it's Salt Lake City. After spending time in Singapore, Gwendolyn and French-born Dimitri decided it was time for their next adventure, and—longing for a spot with a drastic change of scenery and all four seasons—they aptly selected the distinguished grid of SLC. The pair each have family here, as well as an affinity for the “dynamism of people here…and how [that] reflects on the community as a whole,” which, frankly, we couldn’t have said better ourselves.
Luckily for us all, Dimitri brought with him both a knowledge and passion about skincare, and, together with his business partner Erica Bruin, decided to open up a brick and mortar spot near Downtown. As Gradient is all about inclusivity, we were recently invited to step inside this boutique of serums and dreams to peruse the goods and take in a bit of epidermal wisdom while mixing our own face masks, sipping tea, making tonics, and inhaling heavenly candles (with scents created by Dimitri himself).
Ahhh…this stuff is good for what ails you.
First things first—what’s in the name? The name Gradient came out of an early discussion on all the variations in skin types (and challenges) and how to provide for their individualized needs. We all have different skin and it changes over time. By customizing your skincare, we can answer the specific needs of your skin today and adapt it to evolve with the needs of your skin. This system also allows us to offer products using little to no preservatives, and stick to the most natural and safe ones.
How did this salve-y operation get started? Gradient is a concept store in customized skincare opened in early 2020. We wanted to introduce our respective brands (HEXEH and Yellow Yarrow Apothecary) as well as the work of some local artisans and artists. Erica is trained in botanics and passionate about natural skincare, and I’ve been working in skincare for years, seeing the good and not so good of the industry. We thought that we could go beyond our own brands and implement some of our ideas in a joint project. We wanted to create a more natural and simple approach to skincare with customized products—some of which you could even make yourself in-store. This idea of customization is really at the core of Gradient.
Skincare is everywhere, and it seems like there was a rise specifically in 2020. What makes Gradient products so unique? I’ve been working in the skincare industry for several years now, and have come to a deeper understanding of its mechanisms. How products are made by most skincare companies is quite simple: a lot of cheap ingredients, mostly synthetic, a small amount of “star ingredients” for marketing and claims purpose, and all of this loaded with strong preservatives to keep the product stable on shelves for years. It’s all wrapped in shiny (generally non-recyclable) packaging that often cost more than the actual raw ingredients used. On top of that, most of the formulas are made to work on most skins, which makes sense business-wise for those companies, but not necessarily for the users who need to navigate a very complex market to hopefully find products adapted to their specific skin.
The solution I wanted to implement was to go back to some basics: offering more natural ingredients in a less-is-more approach, adapting our formulas to each individual, and compounding the products fresh on demand.
How did you learn about scents and lotions (and how did you know they were going to be so damn good for this climate)? One of our best sellers at Gradient is the HEXEH brand hand lotion. When I arrived in Utah from humid Singapore my skin went through a radical change and I needed to find a way to repair and protect it. I am extremely picky when it comes to the quality of a hand lotion, and I needed one that would moisturize and protect my skin in this (very) dry climate without leaving the greasy feel generally associated with heavier moisturizers. I think here we have struck the right balance. When it comes to the scents and perfumes for HEXEH, I grew up near the city of Grasse in the south of France. It’s a small city but the world’s historical center of high perfumery. That’s where I developed the love for fragrances and the art that surrounds their making.
What have you got in store (both literally and figuratively)? We offer a wide range of products in our store, from herbal tea blends and CBD products to artisanal incense and perfumes. But the main things we are getting to be known for are our customized, DIY skincare products. Our custom facial oils, toners, and clay masks are getting a lot of attention recently. The two main brands we carry are:
HEXEH: the perfume and skincare company I started a few years ago. We offer home fragrances (incenses, room sprays, candles), perfumes, and skincare (body lotion, hand lotions, dry shampoo).
Yellow Yarrow Apothecary: Erica works with botanical ingredients that she grows herself here in Utah, for the most part. She also offers a wide range of CBD products, including her amazing Cayenne & CBD Salve for pain relief and bath salts for relaxation.
All our products are handmade, most of them here in SLC. To reflect this attachment to handmade, we built most of the store out of raw lumber that we processed in the traditional Japanese technique, Shou sugi ban. We have a lot of new products that will be launched by the end of the year: micellar water, cleansing oil, lip masks and lip scrubs, deodorant, serums and more.
Gradient | 50 S Rio Grande St