Shocks of Love: Aromatics for Awareness
This Colombian Immigrant Is Launching a Self Care Line That Brings Color To The Wellness Industry
Covered in rainbow refractions, Juan Felipe Rendon settles pondside at a table lined with iridescent basins of essential oils.
The aromatic mist emanating from custom-blended sprays infuses the forest air as Rendon offers a series of individualized aromatherapy sessions from morning to dusk.
The sessions took place at Activation Residency, a weekend-long residency for underserved new and emerging artists. The residency, held in upstate New York, welcomes participants from places as far as Berlin, Los Angeles, and Arizona to explore synergies between activism and healing. This year’s residency also served as a soft launch for Shocks of Love, a new aromatherapy line aiming to enter the next dimension in self-care.
Shocks of Love is a queer Latinx-owned, environmentally-conscious brand of hand-blended aromatics that hold everyday pleasure and awareness rituals in mind. The products are responsibly sourced, organic-certified, and paraben-free. And yet, Shocks of Love is more than a product — it’s a self-care service that transcends standard scent lines and advocates for widespread healing while clapping back at an often homogenous and white-centric wellness industry. Though the line is for everyone, it especially centers on Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) individuals, who experience disproportionate trauma and erasure in the wellness industry and the world.
Having previously struggled with depression, Rendon began exploring somatic healing through yoga, meditation, dance, and, eventually, aromatherapy. “I’m advocating these things because I’ve seen them change my life completely,” explains Rendon, who began studying aromatics after receiving a homemade oil from a mentor in 2017. “I was practicing blending oils, attending classes at Enfleurage and the New York Institute for Aromatic Studies, and spending all my disposable income, all while running a technology and analytics department at A24.”
As a Colombian immigrant, Rendon is invested in challenging conceptions around immigrant achievement, representing a new generation of entrepreneurship. “My Colombian heritage is rooted in movements towards green consciousness,” Rendon explains. “My grandfather was an agronomist and horticulturist; he designed, planned, grew, and tended to gardens all over Medellín.”
With plant healing in its cultural lineage, Shocks of Love embraces the ancestral origins of aromatherapy. “When I attune to the oil, when I attune to the plant, when I attune to the blend, it’s beyond knowledge — it’s intelligence,” says Rendon. “[Aromatics] is really powerful because it’s what ancestry feels like: complete home. That’s what excites me about aromatherapy, and I’ve seen it for myself and others―you can commune with home.”
“When I attune to the oil, when I attune to the plant, when I attune to the blend, it’s beyond knowledge — it’s intelligence.”
Rendon hopes Shocks of Love will help individuals heal through the power of smell. Often, for people of color, personal memories merge with generations of racialized oppression, so healing trauma often depends on holistic somatic practices like sense engagement. “Institutions, especially in this country, propagate violence against [people of color] and those difficulties reside in our bodies, where we store our emotions,” says Rendon.
Aromatic healing as a tool for effecting awareness is core to Shocks of Love’s mission: “Aromatherapy is an incredibly powerful tool for centering through the body and healing the psychological and emotional divides that people of color are unjustly more susceptible to,” Rendon explains. “We have no choice but to humble down to smell. You can’t trick it — it cuts straight into your limbic system.”
Photo: Candelaria Velandia
JJ, a Brooklyn-based artist, has come to depend on Shocks of Love as a part of her healing and self-care practice. “Being a queer, Black artist, every day I choose me, and having a spray that reminds me to step into my personal power is priceless,” JJ tells Supermaker. “Shocks of Love is an integral part of my daily ceremony; [it] is my secret weapon.”
Beyond personal healing, Rendon believes Shocks of Love can also cultivate far-reaching social progress. “If we’re going to bridge gaps, we have to incorporate more love into [how] we approach difficult, sensitive issues,” Rendon says. “We have to heal by reclaiming pleasure and removing conditioned and oppressive narratives around being worthy of pleasure.”
Part of this healing, Rendon says, includes challenging rampant white-centric, heteronormative, and binaried branding and production in the beauty and wellness sphere. Shocks of Love is “a container for the multitudes of identities,” explains Rendon. “[We’re encouraging] conscious identity-building and reclaiming traumatized aspects of identity.”
Peter, a Latinx musician of bouncekisses, says he felt affirmed after receiving a customized Shocks of Love blend. “Most colognes and perfumes are incredibly binaried,” Peter explained. “To have someone truly match my essence in a scent was a beautiful and powerful way to express my truth.”
Photo: Tonje Thilesen
For Rendon, these testimonies reify Shocks of Love’s tagline, “Aromatics for Awareness,” which means seeking conscious community-building that rejects catch-all brand narratives. “I don’t think it makes sense for every company to be involved in every conversation―that’s a danger of capitalism,” says Rendon. Shocks of Love is adamant about authentic engagement: “It’s about having the wherewithal to know when to be in the conversation and when not.”
Already, Shocks of Love is influencing BIPOC community and art spaces, as well as corporate settings looking to integrate holistic wellness strategies. By subverting traditional wellness models and expanding understandings of pleasure and healing, Rendon sees his products as a catalyst for wide-reaching change.
And, ultimately, that’s what Shocks of Love advocates: “First, we share [awareness] with ourselves so we can get those benefits, then with other folks that may or may not have it, to continue building these movements,” concludes Rendon.“Shocks of Love stands for creative empowerment in community. We create our realities. We can affect them. [These] personal sprays and perfumes just happen to be the vehicle.”
- Ivanna Baranova
- Tonje Thilesen