Part scientist, part artist – we sit down with Alitura CEO Andy Hnilo to get to know the accidental entrepreneur behind the beloved nature-made products.
A particular jar of face scrub on my bathroom counter reads “made with 100% naturally sourced exfoliants.” It sounds good, but there’s a catch. The laundry list of chemicals on the back reveals two things: the mentioned exfoliants are only a small element in the greater concoction and “naturally sourced” is a term invented by marketers and lawyers, not dermatologists.
Is there an honest player in the skincare game? Even more, are there products that don’t set my skin on fire like a science experiment gone terribly wrong? Poking around online, talk on the biggest skincare forums point to one brand: Alitura.
Founded by actor, model, and savant Andy Hnilo, Alitura is proud to talk about the ingredients they’re using. Their flagship product, a clay mask developed by Hnilo, boasts only 9 ingredients, all nutrient-dense and curated for both the beauty and the health of your skin. The clay mask’s ingredients are so natural, Hnilo is known to start eating it at skin care conferences, just to prove the point.
Learning online about his infectious personality, love for ancient cultures, and insatiable passion for his craft, we knew we had to sit down with the CEO for a look inside the mind of this skin care genius. An immensely busy Hnilo graciously agreed. He joins the call from his home in beautiful Sedona, Arizona.
“I’m an open book,” Hnilo tells us, right off the bat.
It’s an expansive book, with many chapters devoted to his knowledge of clay. From Calcium Bentonite, to Moroccan Rhassoul Clay, he describes some of the hundreds of different types of clays that benefit the skin, and the clay he sourced out of the Nevada Mountains for the formulation of his mask.
As the ancient stories tell us, God formed man’s skin out of the clay of the ground. Out of this clay, Hnilo has drawn a recipe that restores the skin. It’s poetry – and so is this accidental entrepreneur’s process for developing these esteemed skincare products.
“It’s like making an album,” he tells us, while discussing the progress of his meteorite scrub. It stands to be Hnilo’s magnum opus: over seven years in the making and still far from finished. “I’ve never made an album,” he smiles, “but I can imagine Coldplay has a lot of songs that got left on the editing room floor. A lot of ingredients don’t make the cut.”
This meticulous process makes Hnilo a far better artisan than a businessman, which is one of the many reasons why Alitura’s intentions remain just as pure as their products. “I just love to create,” he says. “I get joy out of finding effective ingredients that nobody’s heard of, all around the world.”
This quest has exposed Hnilo to cultures that have been working with natural ingredients for centuries. “The curators, the sages, the medicine men and women, I love hearing their knowledge and the stories behind the ingredients and their extraction process,” he tells us.
Just like the people he’s encountered along the way, there’s one hell of a story behind Hnilo.
In March of 2011, the now founder and CEO’s life was forever changed. Hnilo – splitting time between modeling, acting, and bartending – was hit by two cars while crossing the street and woke up in the hospital.
“My jaw was out to here,” Hnilo hovers a finger over his shoulder while my co-interview and I grimace.
The process of putting the pieces together again left his face scarred and disfigured. This took a toll on not only his confidence, but his ability to follow his passion as a model and actor. This drove Hnilo to a deep study of skincare, in hopes the blemishes of his accident could be healed.
This would birth a clay mask so good, that the once scarred face of Hnilo was put on a global campaign for Oakley.Slowly, over word of mouth, this got out. Soon, everybody wanted whatever the heck it was that Hnilo was putting on his face. At the same time, Hnilo connected with the legendary biohacking pioneer Dave Asprey, who not only inspired, but empowered him to go into business and found Alitura.
“Dave gave me a chance,” Hnilo tells us. “He’s the reason I’m here.”
Hnilo’s passion for skincare, Asprey’s eye for discovering products that optimize biology, and a market starved for nature made products – the man once torn apart by a brutal accident was now restored, standing in the optimal environment for his genius to thrive.
But like any artist – Hnilo is a man not without demons.
As an accidental entrepreneur, Hnilo wasn’t prepared for the trials that come alongside success “I’ve put myself in situations,” he says, “where I was around the wrong people, going non-stop with work, and pushing myself into burnout.”
When we sat down with Hnilo, he was still fresh off of a season in Las Vegas that had been particularly difficult for him. Sedona seems to have brought him back from the brink, by God’s grace, the love of friends and family, and Hnilo’s longing for a pure life.
“There’s so many sweet, beautiful people from all around the world,” he says, “just sharing love. I was lonely, stressed out, and howling at the moon. I’ve gotten so much love and support. It carried me through, beautifully.”
One thing is clear after an hour of speaking with Hnilo: he’s the kind of guy that you just want to root for. I think it’s because you know he’s rooting for you.
Part ingredient-obsessed scientist. Part tortured artist. A guy on a mission for your face to not just look better, but be better. That’s a look inside the mind of Andy Hnilo – skincare’s most prolific renaissance man.
To check out what that mind’s been cooking up, visit Alitura’s website, here.
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