DIY Turned All-Natural Beauty Brand, KLEI Beauty

Valerie Smith started Klei Beauty in May 2018, but she started making organic beauty treatments long before that. She remembers, “When I was in middle school and I came across my mom’s magazines or heard people mention the benefits of putting avocado on your face or blending egg yolk and oats into a mask, it was something fun for me to create on my own. I made beauty products at sleepovers and my mom was really supportive of me—as long as I cleaned up my own mess.”

Valerie fulfilled her dream of working in the fashion industry but felt miserable with how her career was going and wanted to get back to something more creative. She laughs, “Klei was a self-care brand that was also my personal form of self-care.”

In May 2018, she quit her job to run Klei full time. The brand focuses on waterless clay mask formulations with a long shelf life, no toxins to spoil, and a fun DIY component. It is a personal project with universal appeal, “I have sensitive skin and find things that work for me, test them on my friends and family, and go from there.”

In addition to simple ingredients, conservation is an integral part of her mission. “Seeing the amount of waste in the fashion industry is kind of disgusting—samples and large batch production, all for products that might not sell or get used at all. The biggest thing for my products is not having water. It’s this precious resource that is used in everything, but people never think about the fact that if they try out a cream and use it twice and throw it away, they actually wasted a lot of water in the product and its packaging.” In stark contrast to the lengthy chemical names and elaborate packaging of many popular beauty products, “Every Klei ingredient is food grade and biodegradable. You can compost it and it’s not going to pollute the water stream or sit around in a landfill for a hundred years.”

“I want to make products that make me happy and are good for people and the environment. I thought back to a dry, DIY face mask that my mom had when I was growing up, and I used to love using it. But all that was out there were these traditional clay masks with no other ingredients, and you finish using it and it leaves your face feeling tight, dry, and maybe you get the oil out but you’re also itchy! That’s where I got the idea for creating masks that have moisturizing powders, botanical ingredients like rosehip seed powder, chamomile, exfoliants from fruits, that sort of thing. I took the bigger picture and boiled it down to the ingredients it would take to make that product.”

From her middle school spa days to launching an all-natural, food grade beauty brand, Smith’s mission centers on setting aside meaningful time to relax. “After launching with masks and a couple of scrubs, I wanted to create a product that fit into a beauty routine in a different way. I love hitting reset and boiling some water and putting a towel over my head and slowing down and opening up. I wanted to create this floral, aromatherapy experience that opens up your skin and gives you a moment. I also have customers who like to use the tea from the steam as the liquid for the clay masks, elevating the waste-principles of Klei and making a really nice fragrant clay.”

To this day, Klei is a form of self- care for Valerie as much as for her customers. “It’s literally just me — I bootstrap this whole thing and it’s a (very) small, female-owned business. I still work out of my apartment, but I actually found artisans in Michigan to work with me on scaling my recipe. It’s been cool to work with American manufacturing and bring some business to this company and to other talented artisans!”

Learn more about Klei Beauty:


John is the managing editor at CAUSEBOX and a traveling writer who lives on the road with his dog, Hank.