Meet Wonder Woman Alison Carroll, co-founder Wonder Valley
Meet Wonder Valley’s Alison Carroll, a chef with a business degree and olive oil expertise - turned entrepreneur. She co-founded Wonder Valley with her partner Jay - a holistic celebration of the power of extra virgin olive oil with products that support both internal and external health and wellness! Her rich and simple life in the High Desert in California is a true inspiration and we’re thrilled to have her share some of her background, wisdom and rituals with us.
What was the journey that led you to create Wonder Valley?
It’s funny to look back and see how things lined up, but at the time I felt more rambling. I worked in marketing for a few small agencies on the east coast but my love was for food. I had a small catering business in Philly, I staged in restaurants on nights after my job at the best places that would have me, and eventually pulled a rip cord and quit the day job to move to Spain to cook for a few months in a wonderful apprenticeship. I really enjoyed the sourcing with this restaurant the most, working with the food purveyors, foragers, farmers and fishermen each day for the ingredients we used. Around this same time, I fell in love with Jay, my husband and the other half of Wonder Valley. I moved to California and had a vague goal of working in agriculture but somehow using my business degree. I became the marketing director for the California Olive Oil Council in Berkeley and cannonballed into the world of CA olive oil and felt like I came home. This role allowed me to be an educator for retailers, an industry advocate for policy changes, and to oversee the only professional olive oil taste panel in North America for the annual extra virgin certification program of the 400+ olive oils in the state. I learned from the very best and Wonder Valley was born from my time there - working with mentors I made during that time to produce our extra virgin olive oil. From there, the olive oil obsession continued looking deep into its history and endless purposes as this life-enriching ingredient. Which turned into launching a (growing) skincare line. I love that we can really have this holistic celebration of the power of extra virgin olive oil and offer products that support both internal and external health and wellness.
How does your lifestyle influence the products you choose to develop?
Oh, it’s completely coming from my personal needs and observations. It’s a selfish process, ha! I live in the high desert of California most of the year, with my husband Jay, and we live in a climate of dry, intense heat and very hard water. So the development of a clean, unisex, oil-based skincare line started purely with what our skin needed and using our extra virgin olive oil as this binding hero ingredient, which using olive oil for skincare is one of the world’s oldest beauty practices. We formulate the fragrances based on our personal preferences. The process starts from a very flowing, intuitive place and then we delve into the science of making products that are high-performing while still having plant-based, clean ingredients.
One of the biggest things in my lifestyle that influences the brand is living in a rural place for 7 years, between Joshua Tree and a small island in Maine. If you live remotely, part of weekly life is trips to the local dump to dispose of your trash. I found this simple chore to have a huge impact. To feel the weight of my trash and to heave it onto the earth and see the accumulation. Our team spends a tremendous amount of energy and time attending sustainability seminars and trying to find the best packaging solutions with the lowest impact, and really understanding the recyclability of components after the bottle runs out. Our olive oil bottle has been plastic free since we launched in 2014: glass, wood, cork, paper and even that plastic looking wrapper securing the top is actually a biodegradable wood pulp. We see our work designing products in constant motion and not static. So I’d say this is one major way our lifestyle and values influence our product development.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about taking good care of their skin?
Start thinking of beauty products as skin food - you are feeding your fragile and lively microbiome which is your greatest ally for a glowing, healthy complexion. Give it clean products, support its natural functions of healing and detoxing, pay attention when it speaks up with a breakout or inflammation to what deeper causes could be at play (allergies, gut health issues, reactions to products, stress.)
What are your thoughts on aging well and longevity in general?
Holistic - meaning care for my entire body, is how I approach health. The food I eat, the management of mental chatter and stress, the quality of sleep, the vitamins I take - it all supports the same goal. I guess I think about aging as in I want this body to maintain its health, and all the measures I take now are preventative. I personally worry about the toxin levels from my environment, namely microplastics. So longevity to me and aging well looks like discernment now in the products I use, the foods I buy, the water I drink and taking preventative measures for detoxing. To me, it's less about the wrinkles and body changes and more about energy levels and maintaining and supporting vitality.
What is your daily and weekly wellness regimen?
Daily wellness looks like huge amounts of vitamins, a gallon of water, and cooking most of our meals at home. I won’t sugar coat it, I’m not the most consistent when it comes to consistent exercise. Sometimes there just does not feel like enough hours in the day to do it all. So lately I’ve been thinking of all the practices as a tool kit, and I think about what feels best to use today rather than trying to cram them all in. Sometimes that’s Qi Gong, sometimes a walk with the dog, or a bath, or remembering to dry brush, or some free-form yoga outside just stretching and going with what feels good. I feel better moving, and try not to put too much pressure on how long or what type of movement that needs to be. I do notice that if I can start my day earlier, with room for these practices, and not just hop on a phone or computer — I am a lot happier, patient, and handle the day with a lot more ease.
How has your beauty regimen changed over time?
It’s pretty consistent actually - our collection is the core of my daily practices. Always oil cleanses, sometimes exfoliating or a mask. Very minimal, clean makeup (I like Ilia and Kjaer Weiss brands). I definitely have not been the best with SPF care and that’s new for me over the past few years. I am really committing to that.
What is your favorite way to move your body and exercise?
A long hike, ideally with my boys - my husband Jay and our dog Lefty. In Joshua Tree, we have access to national park and preserve land right behind the house into the boulders. In Maine, there’s a number of mossy forest trails nearby to explore.
What do you do to unwind, relax and rest well?
A long bath with all the Epsom salts or our hinoki bath tea or a splash of body oil in it. Anything to make it feel a little extra.
But a cup of tea and reading a few pages of a book usually sets me right on track for a good night’s sleep.
First thing you do when you wake up?
Invite Lefty (our dog) into bed
Last thing you do before bed?
Kiss my husband goodnight
Always a pot of tea
Prefer something warming like a cup of broth with a plate of fruit.
Or a piece of bread if I’ve just baked a loaf with some of our olive oil.
You feel a cold coming. What`s your plan of action?
Take extra zinc.
Make some form of a wellness shot: I cut a lemon in slices and pop out the seeds, put at least half the lemon in the blender (skins and all), a bit of fresh ginger and turmeric and some water and blitz it into a very potent shot.
Life changing book you've read?
For different reasons:
I love Hanya Yanagihara’s writing both A Little Life and her recent To Paradise. Her books split my heart wide open
A more beautiful world that our hearts know is possible brings me hope in darkness.
The good life by Helen and Scott Nearing showed me a way of living that I didn’t know was possible and how to live in harmony in nature and foster community. It’s been a beacon of rural living for us.
A pattern language for designing and rehabbing houses by hand with Jay.
Favorite holistic wellness destination?
Japan! That’s always my favorite destination. Exploring different onsens in more remote areas is a favorite trip and one I can’t wait to do again soon. In the US, Dunton Hot Springs is pretty next level for soaks in natural waters.