Nowadays, a brand’s ethos can be as impactful as the product itself. A prime example: Olio E Osso, a Portland-based beauty company that focuses on using sustainable practices to create clean skincare and makeup. Founded by Paola LaMorticella, the brand’s nourishing and versatile formulas have already earned their popular balms a “cult-fave” status among beauty editors. Yet it’s their dedication to supporting local communities and collaborating with non-profits that really sets Olio apart. I chatted with Paola about her journey with Olio, her views on sustainability in the skincare industry, and how she defines clean beauty.
I grew up in the woods with amazing artist parents — not exactly off the grid but very close. We didn’t have a television and it was before most people had computers in the home. I was surrounded by art, books and art supplies. What we didn’t have or couldn’t get, we made.
As I grew up I became obsessed with pop culture and the media I wasn’t exposed to when I was younger — specifically what makes people feel good about themselves and empowered. I started working with a great costumer at eighteen and was styling commercials by twenty. I’ve been a costumer and stylist now all over the world for over thirty years and am mainly mentor taught. About twenty five years ago, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing makeup artist who took me under her wing. I loved how makeup and wardrobe affected people, how they can be tools to help support a person’s psyche. I started splitting my time between makeup and wardrobe departments as I was drawn to the synergy between both departments, all along making or tweaking things that I couldn’t find but needed.
Years later I had my son, Romeo. He had horribly sensitive skin as a baby. The doctors kept prescribing different steroidal creams and ointments that all had a petroleum base. It would help some of the symptoms, but also caused a whole new set of issues time and again. I decided to try and make something on my own that would help soothe and heal his skin. I wanted to try to make a formulation that only had ingredients I knew and trusted, as well as something that was portable and easy to use.
Olive Oil was an obvious start for me. As an Italian, I have always used olive oil for almost everything. It is a natural humectant, super nourishing, and easily accessible. I also knew I wanted to use beeswax, which is also a natural humectant and naturally protective. When you use so few ingredients it has to be exactly right as there is nothing to hide behind. It had to be soft but have staying power, be easy to use, and above all be supportive and healing. I worked on the formula for months.
I found myself using my own formulas not only on my son, but also on clients. They loved it as well, so I started making extras to give to them and other makeup artists. The responses were so positive that I started experimenting with color pigments for clients who didn’t dig “makeup” — I could hardly keep up with demand. During this time I met my business partner May Albano through our designer Joanna Bean Martin, who was helping with our initial packaging. Before I knew it Olio e Osso was born!