A few short years ago, Shannon Davenport was working as a trend forecaster — yes, that’s a real job title — helping corporate brands get ahead of The Next Big Thing, when she thought… Why couldn’t I just create the next big thing? Davenport had anticipated the boom of the natural skincare industry and spied an ever-widening gap in the market: natural body care. “At the time I just felt like I was not fulfilled working for these huge corporations, giving them all of my energy and my good ideas, and I kind of wanted to take that back,” she tells Nécessité. And thus, the idea for Esker — high performance, plant-based body care formulated around functional essential oils — was born.
Today, Esker is quietly revolutionizing the industry as one of the first — and still only — body care brands on the market offering premium, luxury ingredients (because skincare shouldn’t start and end with your face, right?). But Esker’s success didn’t come overnight; in fact, the brand’s journey runs parallel to that of the plants its formulations are powered by. There was the seed phase — the idea itself — then months of under-the-surface growth. “There was a school of aromatherapy in the West Village and I enrolled in this certification program,” Davenport explains. “Every week we would learn a new oil, understand the botanical side of the plant, the aromatic and emotional side of it, the skincare benefits, the chemistry of it.” The classes opened her eyes to the often-overlooked power of plants to transform the skin. “That was kind of my catalyst,” she says.
When Esker was just a seedling of a company, Davenport worked double-duty; grinding at her trend forecasting job during the day and tending to Esker after-hours. “It was nights and weekends pushing it along and pushing the formulations along until we got it perfect,” Davenport tells us. Two and a half years later — “a semi-stressful two years,” the founder jokes — in 2018, Esker took its products to market: A trio of meticulously crafted body oil blends with three distinct properties: Restorative, Firming, and Clarifying.
Restorative OilBuy Now
“I’m a big fan of the Vintner’s Daughter approach,” Davenport says, citing the skincare company’s Active Botanical Serum — its single SKU. “Make one thing, and make it really, really incredible; make it be best in class, category-defining.” Ask anyone who’s used an Esker body oil (hi, that’s me!), and they’ll tell you that Davenport can consider this mission accomplished.
I’m a huge natural skincare buff, but never treated my body the way I treated my face. My arms and legs would usually get a coat of coconut oil at night (if anything), because I didn’t trust the artificially-scented, chemical-filled body care products crowding the market. But Esker’s Restorative Body Oil changed all of that for me. From the first pump, it felt equal parts uplifting and grounding — no easy feat — thanks to essential oil scents of bergamot (a citrus fruit) and frankincense. But the best part? The oil isn’t greasy at all and it sinks into the skin like a dream.
“That’s what I wanted to do with my body oils: make sure the ingredients were the most beneficial for the skin and the feel was the best — it’s very dry and very silky.”
Davenport shares. “I wanted to make it so that application is really thoughtful. A lot of people sell body oils in bottles with a twist-off cap and I feel that’s a recipe for disaster if you’re a sloppy person, which I am,” the founder laughs.
But Esker goes beyond fragrance, feel, and pretty packaging. The essential oils used are functional, meaning they serve a deeper purpose. The aforementioned Restorative Oil stars carrot seed essential oil, which “is one of these natural skincare all-star ingredient because it’s so nutritive, it’s really healing, and it has all these natural antioxidants in it,” Davenport explains, “so it’s great for healing damage.”
Firming OilBuy Now
Looking for a body care treatment to tackle water retention (aka, lumps and cellulite) from the outside in? Look no further than Firming Body Oil. It’s built around juniper, which helps move anything stagnant in the body. (Think about it this way: Gin is considered a digestif, since it helps your stomach digest and get moving — and gin is made from juniper.) “It’s very detoxifying,” Davenport says of the oil. “Sometimes with cellulite, or when you feel lumpy, it’s because of water retention — so juniper helps everything move, it’s very stimulating.”
The Clarifying formula is also stimulating, but this one helps boost circulation thanks to a potent dose of cypress oil. Since a boost in circulation carries oxygen to the skin, “it’s great for varicose veins and any kind of discoloration,” according to Davenport. “And because cypress is really potent, we added more nourishing, soothing oils, like jasmine and rose geranium.” The result? An even-toned glow from neck to toe.
You might be thinking, Can plants really heal my skin, stop cellulite, and get rid of my varicose veins? Davenport answers with a hearty yes. In fact, she’s so passionate about plants and their healing powers that she’s taken Eskers all-natural message a step further: Every single package is shipped with a packet of wildflower seeds, or “pollinators,” for the buyer to sow. “For me, it’s about giving respect to how we use plants in our life,” says Davenport. “Natural beauty is made possible by the ecosystem, and a big part of that is bees and butterflies — they’re these beautiful touchstone species, and they’re in trouble.” It’s true that the populations of monarch butterflies and wild bees are shrinking, which can be attributed to a number of things — global warming, fewer wild areas to pollinate, pesticides. But since Esker’s products rely on these species to pollinate certain plants, Davenport wanted to find a small way to give back.
“I was reading about it, and one thing I found was if you can plant more colorful wildflowers, places for them to pollinate, it goes a long way,” she tells us. The founder lives in New York City and admits that in the city, it’s easier said than done to plant wildflowers; she suggests throwing the seeds in a window box or a rooftop planter if you can, or sprinkling them in your front yard (if you have the luxury). “Sustainability can feel overwhelming,” she says, “but there are small things — and if you can pick a few small things to do, they all add up.”
Dry BrushBuy Now
So what’s next for the brand? “This year, we’re working on another tool for the body,” Davenport teases. Esker already offers a dry brush — a tool that’s been around for roughly 5,000 years, but has seen a recent surge in popularity — to exfoliate the body and aid in lymphatic drainage. “It’s ancient and popular because it works,” she says. “So I think we’re going to have another body care tool — not a brush — but it’ll be another relying on natural materials. It’s something I haven’t seen out there, and I’m excited about it.”
While you eagerly anticipate Esker’s new offerings, shop the brand’s foundational functional body oils below.
Photographer Credit: Keith Williams