Interviews

Clean Market Founder Lily Kunin on Entrepreneurship, Natural Skincare, and Eating Her Way to Clear Skin

Harry Hargreaves

In The Path™, we spotlight different women making a difference in the fashion, beauty, wellness, and medical aesthetics industries. Here, Clean Market founder Lily Kunin shares her road to success.

 

If you’ve never met Lily Kunin, you’re probably convinced that she has a couple dozen clones of herself roaming around New York, or that, at the very least, she has a secret identical twin living and working under her name. That’s because at just 30 years old, Kunin has launched seemingly as many successful wellness ventures as there are candles on her birthday cake. 

Kunin’s entrée into the world of functional healing was nearly a decade ago. She was working in education at the time, and constantly got sick and felt perpetually rundown. She tried conventional medicine and even Eastern practices, but nothing really made her feel better — until she gave up gluten. Heavily influenced by the several chefs in her family, Lily grew very interested in the connection between food and wellness, and she decided to go back to school to become a holistic health coach. 

She also thought she’d hop on the increasingly popular blog bandwagon and started the food blog “Clean Food Dirty City” on the side. When Instagram launched in 2010 and Kunin began posting content to the new social media outlet, her blog really took off. Her following grew dramatically — to over 116,000 followers — and soon enough, she was given a cookbook deal. It was also around this time that she accepted a job with Parsley HealthSM, a medical clinic in New York, where she shadowed doctors and health coaches, learning about every facet of functional health (we mentioned, she was busy!). 

 

When she left Parsley in late 2016, Kunin headed west to the epicenter of all things wellness-related: Los Angeles. She spent the next year gathering all the knowledge and inspiration she could as she molded the vision for her next venture, a comprehensive, brick-and-mortar wellness destination. “My vision for it was always in New York,” she says. “I wanted to create an oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city — and selfishly, an oasis for me.” Kunin returned to the East Coast in the fall of 2017 and immediately began planning. 

 

Nine months later, she opened Clean Market™, nestled on the Upper East Side between an Equinox and a SoulCycle. The space is expansive, with every CBD spray and collagen powder you’ve ever spotted on Instagram on display in the retail shop up front, and a seemingly endless menu of matcha, bone broth, and smoothie bowls available in the café across the room. Walk towards the back, and you’ll enter what can really only be described as a millennial day spa, complete with IV drips and infrared saunas. “It felt counterintuitive to be running around the city to all these different establishments on a quest to eat healthy, explore the best treatments, and pick up supplements,” explains Kunin. “I wanted Clean Market to be a trusted space that provided everything in one location.”

Harry Hargreaves

Clean Market has become so successful that Kunin will be opening a second location, a 2,748-square-foot spot in the Financial District’s Brookfield Place, in fall 2019. She’s also leased spaces for Clean Market in the Greenwich Village and NoMad neighborhoods, both of which will open in early 2020. It’s safe to say that Kunin is working on taking over the New York wellness scene, one cryofacial and superfood smoothie at a time, and she shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. Here, she speaks with Spotlyte about her journey to the top — and the saunas, skincare, and facials that paved the way.

Spotlyte: When did you first become interested in beauty and wellness?

Lily Kunin: I first became interested in beauty when I was a teenager, and I had to go to the dermatologist for my acne, which is when I started to really take care of my skin. My migraines later got me into the wellness space, because I was determined to get to the root of why they were occurring and what I could do to prevent them. Growing up with chefs in my family, I was always comfortable with cooking and the idea of using real ingredients. As I started cooking in my own household, I tried to integrate what I learned growing up.

Spotlyte: How did you go from health coach and food blogger to opening your own holistic wellness destination?

LK: I never set out with the goal of becoming a health food blogger. It all started when I was sharing my healthy recipes and at-home cooking ideas online, and it evolved into a lifestyle. I always aspired to work with functional medicine and to be able to create some type of experience in a retail setting.

Spotlyte: You notably transitioned from living in L.A. to New York around the time of opening Clean Market. What was that like, and why did you choose New York?

LK: I lived in New York for six or seven years before I moved to L.A. for a year — that year was more of a hiatus and learning experience. It was great to explore the health and wellness scene in L.A. and gather inspiration for Clean Market. But my vision for Clean Market was always in New York. Not only are our partners NYC-based, but also having lived in New York for so many years, I always felt the strong need to open up a space like this in the city. 

Spotlyte: What have been the biggest challenges you've faced since opening Clean Market last year? How about as a leader in the wellness space more broadly?

LK: One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced since opening is being able to scale our team’s communication as fast as the business’s growth. We went from a team of two to a team of 40, so we’ve had to adjust and expand our communication as we go from a little startup to a medium-sized one operating multiple locations and pop-ups. 

Looking back, the mistakes we made early on led to the greatest learning experiences. The wellness industry is generally filled with very supportive and mission-oriented leaders, and I view being in the wellness space as collaborative, rather than competitive. We are creating this wellness community together.

Harry Hargreaves

LK: Always keep it simple. Make sure you listen to your body and get back to basics. What works for one person may not work for you. And being confident and feeling beautiful truly starts with feeling good on the inside.

Spotlyte: What is your philosophy when it comes to anti-aging?

LK: As I enter my thirties, I haven’t fully explored my philosophy on this topic. But my advice for people interested in exploring wellness and beauty with this intention would be to do whatever makes them feel good. Whether it’s internal or external treatments, different serums, and so on; it’s entirely different for everyone. I believe in focusing on what you can do internally as it’s much harder to bandage what is going on internally with serums and treatments. 

Spotlyte: What's your personal stance on injectables?

LK: It depends entirely on the person. I’m definitely intrigued by injectables and would be open to exploring them one day. I think keeping it simple and maintaining a [subtle] look when it comes to injectables is the way to go. 

Spotlyte: Have you ever done any other cosmetic treatments?

LK: I have always been obsessed with skincare. I do monthly facials, and some incorporate more microdermabrasion and microcurrent technology. We also have LightStim® LED light therapy facials at Clean Market now, which I’m obsessed with, and I’m currently looking into peels and lasers with my dermatologist, Dr. Marnie Nussbaum

Spotlyte: What are the biggest challenges you face with your skin? How do you address them?

LK: The biggest challenge with my skin has always been acne. I’ve found that my skin is a lot better when I’m consistent with my diet, and if I have more dairy or alcohol than usual, I tend to break out. If I’m using a heavy duty sunscreen, I break out, but it’s better than too much sun exposure! Because my skin is so sensitive, I find that when I’m using the same products and getting consistent treatments, my skin is at its best.

Harry Hargreaves

Spotlyte: What's your daily skincare routine? 

LK: In the morning, I use True Botanicals® Clear Nourishing Cleanser and Clear Pure Radiance Oil, then CV Skinlabs® Calming Moisturizer and True Botanicals Everyday Sheer Coverage SPF. At night, I use the True Botanicals cleanser and oil again and add in the Repair Serum, then I finish off with Eminence® Organics Willow Bark™ Booster Serum. I also alternate between Joanna Vargas’s® Exfoliating Mask and the Eminence Organic Probiotic Mask and use the Lightstim for Acne LED light at home.

Spotlyte: Where and whom do you trust with your skin? 

LK: Dr. Nussbaum is wonderful for acne treatment. I also regularly get cryofacials and use the infrared sauna at Clean Market, which definitely help the quality of my skin and reduce any breakouts I might have.

Spotlyte: What advice do you have for people looking to make the plunge into holistic health and wellness? 

LK: Start with small changes and do your research in order to avoid buying anything you don’t need. Quality over quantity. Take it one step at a time, and know that your wellness habits will benefit you in the long run.

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