We are told that pain reminds us we’re alive. It is a vital sensation, and as complex and diverse as each human being. But by god, when muscle aches and chronic pain does set in, well, it hurts.
As an extreme sports enthusiast, pain was an everyday situation for Jun Lee. Injuries brought on by Muay Thai and surfing led to a shoulder surgery. It was during her recovery that the former art curator decided that she’d had enough of traditional pain relief solutions like prescribed medications, combined with camphor-based rubs and patches.
“Because of pain medication, I got so nauseous and sick that I fell and had to have a second surgery on the same shoulder,” she says. “I always thought I was invincible and tough, and I paid for it, unfortunately,” she adds.
But, she is quick to point out, “something really beautiful came out of it”.
Unable to work while recovering, Lee sought out natural ways of healing. Out in the seaside town on Montauk, where she spent summers, she experimented with herbs and whipped up healing balms. Her test subjects were her friends, but soon enough, people were buying her homemade balms fresh out of her kitchen.
She then launched EiR NYC, which creates natural alternatives for pain relief. The name, pronounced “air”, is that of the Norse goddess of healing, and Lee’s balms and salves are so good that they double up as nourishment for the skin — and spirit.
Lee started out by experimenting and making healing salves in her kitchen.
One of EiR NYC’s early products, Cooling Butter, remains its hero offering. It reads nothing like your typical ointment for pain, and contains elements more commonly found in beauty products. It is a blend of shea butter, coconut oil, vitamin E oil, peppermint, lavender, tea tree, rosemary, and arnica-infused olive oil. Arnica is a natural pain reliever that stimulates the body’s healing process. Lavender helps with minor burns and insect bites, and adds to the product’s spa-like scent.
Since its launch in 2013, the brand has grown from recovery products to include suncare, face and body products, all stored in chic containers. Another top-seller, inspired by Lee’s love for the ocean (she still surfs regularly) is Surf Mud. This is a cocoa-based sunscreen with zinc oxide that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Soon, a shampoo bar and an aftershave serum will be added to the mix.
Keyyes catches up with this indomitable spirit.
The launch of EiR NYC coincided with you reconnecting with your spiritual side. What was it about this connection that helped with launching the brand?
As a child, I grew up going to a Buddhist temple with my grandmother. I loved being around my grandmother and her friends, witnessing their devotion as they prayed and chanted. When I moved to the US at age 15, that stopped being part of my routine. When I was looking for all the ways to heal and recover, I found a monastery in the Catskills in upstate New York and it brought back fond memories of my childhood, so I went and kept returning.
One day in winter, a nun was pouring tea and burnt herself. Her hand turned scaly and red, and she was in so much pain. I realized that I could whip up an anti-inflammatory balm with arnica and lavender that would help with the pain. The next day, her hand stopped hurting and it looked so much better. This incident gave me the reassurance that I had something good going on with my brand.
Now, she’s often the first person to test my products and is the inspiration behind many of them, like the Rolling Liniment Heat Rub, which helps soothe tired muscles from long hours of seated meditation.
What are some herbs that are good to have on hand for common ailments?
Comfrey — I’ll always keep it around for tea in case I develop a scratchy throat. Thyme is also an antiseptic. If you feel like you’re coming down with a cold, have thyme and water; it’s so soothing. I also keep nettle on hand to make a nourishing tea. It’s one of the herbs that my herbalism school teacher uses often.
What are wellness trends will take off in a big way this year?
More than what’s in a product, many people are concerned with what’s holding the product.
Green packaging is a big trend. We have started working with the Package Free Shop in Brooklyn, which stocks lifestyle brands and is making a positive environmental impact. There are no plastic containers in their store, and everything is recyclable and refillable. We can’t ship anything to them using plastic, not even plastic tape. They would refuse it.
What are the spots in New York you recommend to go to for relaxation?
There are many spas in NYC, but Great Jones Spa is where I feel most relaxed. It’s so serene and has a full array of spa treatments. I grew up going to Korean bath houses, so I really love the spa culture.
I also love visiting Onda Beauty. It’s a warm and inviting clean store that I can spend hours in. They also have all these beautiful crystals that you can play with and get calm.