The first thing that strikes you about Muri Lelu’s Indica face oil is the bottle: topped with a sleek black dropper cap and inscribed with the brand’s name in white modernist typeface, it stands apart from the hippie-dippie clichés that tend to crowd the shelves of hemp and cannabis beauty products. The second is undoubtedly its intoxicating scent. “I didn’t want it to smell like lavender or rose water, I wanted it to smell like a fresh flower,” says the co-founder of the recently launched brand, who goes by the pseudonym Muri Lelu. “And by flower, I mean bud. Weed.”
Named Mauvaise Herbe after the French for weed, the night oil was made with the bedtime ritual of cannabis lovers in mind. It serves as a soothing elixir to the skin, packed with all the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory goodness (cannabinoids, flavonoids, fatty acids) now associated with cannabis—in this case, full-spectrum organic indica extract or hemp. There are a few other bioactive plant extracts thrown in for good measure, including jojoba oil, rosehip oil, and licorice extract, a natural skin brightening agent. Still, it’s the evocative aroma—spicy, earthy, with the suggestion of something sweet—that makes Indica oil the kind of stress-relieving sensory experience we could all use right now.
The brand’s founders are all first-generation American women with roots in France, Egypt, and Belize. For the moment, they’re keen to avoid individual identification to both maintain the power of the collective and achieve a bit of allure. “When I initially started working with folks in California, I was walking around with a bottle of oil made from pure marijuana,” says Lelu, a working Brooklyn mom-of-three and self-proclaimed connoisseur of cannabis. “I brought it to my friend Sarah who is a partner in this, and she was like, you cannot have something that smells like bong water. People will not want to apply this to their face!” Instead of using extracts from the plant itself, Lelu and her cohorts set out to replicate the molecules that make up its fragrance, or what’s known as the terpene profile, with the help of a perfumer in the South of France. The resulting alchemy includes notes of black pepper, nutmeg, and clary sage, as well as cypress and petitgrain, an extract derived from bitter orange trees that has a characteristically herbaceous smell. Potent without being overpowering, the oil has a pleasing aromatherapeutic effect, lingering long enough to gently grease the wheels for a good night’s sleep.
Lelu had originally hoped to launch the brand with beauty products containing THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, though the legal complications around distribution have put those plans on hold—at least for now. “We view this as a cannabis brand, not really a CBD brand,” she insists. “But no, in case you were wondering, this oil would not get you high even with THC.” The complicated ethics of the cannabis industry are not lost on Lelu, who works as a lawyer by day. “You have millions of people in jail and then you have John Boehner investing in cannabis companies,” she says. “There’s sort of disgusting incongruity there that needs to be acknowledged. We don’t shy away from that.” It’s why the brand is committed to providing long-term support and donations to organizations such as the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit working for criminal justice reform, and National Expungement Week, which aims to give those with Cannabis-related convictions a fresh start.
In the short term, there are new Muri Lelu skincare products in the works, including a Sativa serum due out this summer that’s a hydrating pick-me-up to be applied in the morning. Unlike Indica, which is known for its sedative properties, Sativa is energizing by nature, and that’s reflected in the way the serum smells: piney, citrusy, and bright. As Lelu tells it, their mission is to maintain the integrity of the plant from the seed up. “Really at its heart, cannabis is a flowering plant,” she says. “I just want to capture that inside a bottle.”