Playa Beauty’s Founder Tells Us About Being a New Mom and Running a Business During COVID-19

June 01, 2020
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender | by L'Oréal
shelby wild playa interview

I never thought I, with my frizzy and unruly hair, could achieve natural, beachy, heat-free waves. But Shelby Wild, a fashion stylist turned beauty boss, made my far-off dream very attainable IRL. She founded Playa, a hair-care line that makes effortlessly gorgeous, healthy, wash-and-go beachy hair a reality (think: beach in a bottle). The line epitomizes the laid-back California lifestyle, smells next-level amazing and is something you’ll want to keep stocked in your shower at all times. Ahead, we’re chatting with Wild about everything from being a new mom and her hair-care routine to how Playa is working through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Can you give a little background on your career before starting Playa?

Before launching Playa in 2017, I worked as a fashion stylist in NYC. I started out at Vogue Italia and then landed at Intermix. While it’s a career that sounds glamorous on paper (and in movies!), in reality it’s a lot of 12-hour days stuck in front of a computer. As I advanced in my role, my day-to-day became increasingly corporate. I found myself rushing from my apartment to the office, not even having time to dry my hair before running out the door.

What factors led you to leave your job and start your own hair-care line, Playa?

That evolution in my fashion career is actually what led to my a-ha moment. Because I found myself with zero time in the morning to dedicate to a full-blown beauty routine, I went on a mission to find products that would allow me to wash-and-go my hair with minimal styling. But I kept coming up short. I saw a whitespace for an essential line of hair-care products that worked together to give you effortlessly beautiful hair, without the need for heat styling or sacrificing the safety of ingredients.

After having this revelation and inspiration to create my own brand, I moved to Venice, Calif., and enrolled in an herbalism course to learn everything I could about natural ingredients. I became not only enchanted by the power of plants, but I also fell head over heels for the laid-back California beach life. This new way of living played a huge role in the inspiration for Playa. I tried to bottle that atmosphere of slow living, days spent surfing in the sunshine and the tousled hair that comes with a day on the beach. I spent so much time developing our signature scent, which is designed to be a sophisticated take on “beachy,” with notes of black coconut, orange blossom, fresh sandalwood and Pacific musk. I’ve since moved back to NYC, and I find that this fragrance still transports me back to the West Coast.

The products are all formulated to be safe and of salon quality, which we manage by combining hand-selected oils and botanicals with cutting-edge, clinically active ingredients. It’s a lot of testing on myself, my husband and our team members to get these formulas right.

What's next for your brand?

We just came out with our newest addition, the Monoi Milk Leave-In Conditioner, which is the perfect answer to dry summer hair. We have a few fun products in the research and development phase, and I can’t wait to roll them out soon.

If you could tell your 20-year-old self anything, what would it be?

I probably would have ignored this advice, but I would say to not be so hard on yourself and listen to your gut. Leaving behind a steady career to take the leap into entrepreneurship was incredibly daunting and I had quite a few moments of self-doubt. You’re always your own harshest critic, but through growing Playa I’ve discovered that trusting my intuition is so valuable.

What's been the biggest challenge or lesson you've learned throughout this process?

While there was no way we could have anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic, over the past few months I’ve learned a lot about preparing for these worst-case scenarios. Many things are outside of our control right now, which is hugely challenging, but going forward I think we’ll be better prepared. For example, a few of our bestsellers are currently sold out as a result of the pandemic, and through this we’ve learned the importance of transparency and constant communication with our customers. I think our community has really appreciated that. 

What's been your biggest pinch-me-moment?

I would say the day we were picked up by Sephora! They’ve been an incredible partner and champion of the brand, and it means so much to have their support.

What keeps you motivated?

I actually just “launched” my first daughter, Mazzy. She has inspired me to keep pushing myself to work hard and keep growing my first baby, Playa. I want Mazzy to look up to me as an entrepreneur who chased her dreams and made them a reality. As a new mom to a one month old, I’ve found myself not only with a newfound respect for working moms, but I’ve also been making decisions for Playa with my daughter in mind. What lessons do I want to teach her? How do I want her to approach the idea of beauty? These conversations are so important, and I hope other moms out there discover our effortless, practical, time-saving and hair-healthy line.

Walk me through your daily hair-care routine.

I’m an evening shower-taker. I typically wash my hair every other day with our Every Day Shampoo and Supernatural Conditioner. Once a week I’ll amp things up and use our California Salt Shampoo and Healing Hair Masque. Then I towel dry, spritz the Monoi Milk Leave-In Conditioner from mid-lengths to ends to detangle and brush through with a wide-tooth comb. I then use two small sponge rollers for my bangs and four large rollers for the rest of my hair — I’ve found this is the best way to get beachy waves without using heat tools.

In the morning, I take my hair out of the sponge rollers and spritz our New Day Mist to remove creases from sleep. If things are looking a little frizzy, I’ll re-apply the Monoi Milk Leave-In Conditioner by spraying it on a boar-bristle brush and combing through. I follow with our Dry Shampoo (re-launching in a couple weeks) on my roots for volume, and a touch of Ritual Oil on my ends for extra hydration and shine.

Fill in the blanks. 

My three desert island beauty products are:

Bioderma Cleansing Oil, True Botanicals Nourishing Cleanser and our New Day Mist.

The best part about being my own boss is:

As a business owner, I’m so grateful to be able to choose who I work with every day and grow our passionate Playa family.

A beauty trend I regret trying is:

Applying baby oil while laying out in the sun might get you tan faster, but the damage and risks are so not worth it.

My first memory of beauty is:

Similarly, it was another hard lesson learned. Don’t try bleaching your hair with lemon. Your strands will thank you.

To me, beauty means:

Loving yourself and enhancing your natural beauty.