Ilana Tel-Oren believes in self-care.
Stardust & Co.(ven)* is her masterfully blended coterie of scents, oils, and natural delights like roses, coffee, clary sage, and rose quartz. Calming and and inviting, Ilana’s scents ask you to slow, and pause. To take a moment and truly relax, offering yourself some much deserved respect and attention.
Ilana responded to Neon Altar’s queries about Stardust & Co.(ven)* and the benefits of taking care of yourself from her home in Long Beach, California.
“Self-Care” is a term that’s steadily permeating pop culture. People are becoming more in tune with themselves and their needs. Why do you think there’s a growing receptiveness to taking better care of our bodies and spirits?
I think we’re living in a time where more and more people are striving for greater purpose and meaning.
It’s not just about work and social life anymore — it’s about feeling good and whole on all levels. It’s no longer fulfilling, especially for those in our generation, to have the same routines our parents did. It’s no longer an accomplishment to say “I’m so busy,” “I’m spread so thin,” or “I only slept for five hours.”
We’re listening to our bodies more and more, especially as we see a rise in auto-immune ailments and food sensitivities. We’re becoming more conscious of what we’re putting in and on our bodies now, and recognizing when stress patterns and anxiety are surfacing.
From my own experience, working in stressful environments, attending school full time and having many restless nights have made me feel devoid of purpose and depressed. “Is this really all there is?” I thought to myself, wondering what was wrong with me and why everyone else seemed so happy.
While I was working in a highly spiritual environment at the University of Santa Monica where I was also working toward a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology, I found that more layers of past and current hurts were surfacing for me to deal with, making that time particularly challenging for me. And when I found out I would no longer have a job in the next month, I started having panic attacks and chronic hypertension that would actually take over a year for me to start to feel in control over.
I knew something had to change. It’s been over a year since then, and since I decided to listen to my body and pursue what felt right. To me, and to many people now, that’s slowing down and letting the universe really guide me. It’s taking an “off day” and being gentle and compassionate with myself when I’m feeling down or not treating my body well. It’s taking time to listen to, play and write about music, to write in general, to make things with my hands like my bath products. It’s feeling grounded and connecting with nature and surrounding myself with people who are on similar paths and who care about me.
And I’m not saying I have it all together. I still have occasional panic attacks and chronic pain from when I had Lyme disease. And some days it feels like I’m back in the same place I started.
The important thing I try to remember is that growth is a process, not an event.
Everyone’s version of spirituality and self-care is so different too. And I think that’s what I like about the term “self-care,” is that it’s really doing what makes you feel good on all levels, whether it’s drawing a bath or having a green juice.
Like many people in the wellness space, your business and offerings were inspired by a personal brush with illness. You’re quite open about this experience. What has sharing your story publicly been like for you?
You know, it took me a while to really connect the dots between what I was creating and how it really came about from my illnesses. But when I did trace it back, I realized that I started taking epsom salt baths as prescribed by my naturopath doctor as a way to relieve the pain and swelling I was experiencing from contacting Lyme disease about three years ago. That was my gateway into bath bombs, and what motivated me to start making my own cleaner, more affordable bath and body products.
I kept my story to myself for a while, only sharing it with my closest friends and family. When I was going through the toughest times of my Lyme disease, the truth was I felt really scared and alone. Going out and even performing day-to-day tasks became that much more stressful as often my knees were too swollen or my hands would seize up while driving. I felt like my close friends were interested and supportive, but I didn’t really feel like anyone understood what was happening and I did my best to stay strong.
It wasn’t until I started reading and hearing about others’ experiences that I felt like I even had any story to tell. And because a lot of what I was working on at the University of Santa Monica was my issue of not being seen, I guess I had a “fuck it” moment while drafting my bio/about section for my Etsy shop. And the support I got and friends who reached out were really heartwarming and made me feel less alone, and really just validated the part inside me that really wanted to be seen.
What else in your life nourishes you? What do you create, absorb, engage with?
Music is a HUGE part of my life.
Although I played classical oboe throughout middle, high school and college, my true love of music resides currently in the indie rock genre. I started my own music blog called “Indiecation” where I write show and album reviews and create playlists as well. I’m also an intern at MXDWN, an online music magazine, of which I’m a music editor. I love seeing live music in the LA area and just talking about it in general.
Self-growth and self-improvement are also really nourishing, as in reading inspiring material like Radical Self-Love, etc. I’m also inspired and intrigued by witchcraft. I recently found out my mom was in a coven when I was growing up, and I thought that was really cool, so now I’m also reading Witch by Lisa Lister. I’ve also picked up crystal collecting, and love finding ways to infuse crystals (mostly rose quartz) into my bath products and self-care routines.
How do you come up with new product ideas? What inspires you?
Natural ingredients that smell really great, my friends, and anyone who’s gone through physical and emotional hardship are my inspirations. I love reading about the unique effects each essential oil has. I choose to infuse lavender, chamomile, clary sage, and bergamot into my current products because of their calming and uplifting effects. And the smell of those oils combined packs a punch against anxiety attacks or moments where one is in need of grounding.
But listening to what my friends’ feedback and suggestions really helps as well. Also seeing what’s out there and how I can put my own spin on it or make it better inspired me to come up with new products. I started with the bath bomb, then added the salts. But I realized I was leaving out many people who only have showers, or perhaps are not as into baths. I started the essential oil roll-on, then added salt scrubs and eventually the rose quartz face spray.
My next project will be a healing balm or lotion to further help with chronic pain.
What advice would you give to someone who feels stuck, unable to break free of a cycle where they’re not tending to their basic needs? What works for you in these periods?
To just be really gentle on yourself, and have a lot of compassion for where you’re at. And just to know that your actions do not define you. It’s perfectly okay to be where you’re at. You’ll get back on track when you’re ready, and it’ll feel really good.
This happens to me fairly often, especially if I’ve had one too many nights out that week and am saying “yes” to way too much. I can get down on myself and feel that I’ve let myself and even others down. What helps me is taking a resting day that really makes my basic self happy. Watch Netflix, eat good food, take a bath, and reach out to a friend who may be in it with me are all helpful ways to recover. And it’s not to say these moments won’t come back, but when I get to the point where I’m just tired of not feeling good, I know it’s time to listen and re-evaluate my habits.
Thanks so much for sharing your insights, Ilana!
X, Suzy Mae
Photo credit for header photograph: Shabnam Ferdowsi