Live Purely with Allison Evans & Kelly Love
Live Purely with Allison Evans & Kelly Love

Allison Evans and Kelly Love of Branch Basics: Back to the Basics of Clean Living and The Power of Pure

The fresh scent of clean and toxin-free laundry is more than just pleasing to the nose - it can be powerful enough to improve your health. This week, Elizabeth welcomes Allison Evans and Kelly Love, co-founders of Branch Basics, a plant-powered cleaning company. Allison shares how removing toxins from her environment and switching to a whole-food diet healed her polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) symptoms. She and Kelly discuss the impact of chemicals on our bodies and minds, as well as tips for reducing toxic exposure at home through diet, cleaning products, and more. Allison and Kelly share their personal favorite cleaning products and provide some great tactical tips to detox from the toxins without feeling fearful or overwhelmed.


    Elizabeth Stein 00:00
    Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, founder, and CEO of Purely Elizabeth. And this is Live Purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey.

    This week's guests are Allison Evans and Kelly Love, co-founders of Branch Basics, the clean product brand on a mission to help people create healthy homes and experience the power of pure. After being diagnosed with PCOS at a young age, Allison removed all toxic chemicals from her environment and began eating real whole foods which resulted in her symptoms completely disappearing. Her healing journey inspired her to co found Branch Basics with her friend Kelly, who is an advocate for using food as medicine and advocates that switching to a pure natural lifestyle is powerful, even for those who consider themselves healthy. Through co founding Branch Basics, she's experienced just how much our everyday choices impact our quality of life, and is passionate about helping and educating others. In this episode, Alison and Kelly share all about their wellness journeys that led to starting Branch Basics. They provide such a wealth of information on the effects of chemical and environmental factors, our physical and mental health, and how to best rid them from our daily lives. We talked about their favorite clean products, ways to get rid of toxins, where toxins are coming from in the first place, how to best detoxify and so much more. I am such a huge fan of what they are doing at Branch Basics. Keep listening to learn more. And if you want to try their products, which you absolutely should use code LIVEPURELY for 15% off at Enjoy.

    Kelly and Allison welcome to the podcast. As we were just saying, as we were getting started, this has been a long time coming. But it's so wonderful to finally connect. I've been such a huge fan of yours for many, many years. You're in every room in my house I think and it's just a pleasure to talk to you guys.

    Allison Evans 02:25
    I love that so much. You're only in one room of my house, you can take over a lot of my pantry. But I feel like Elizabeth that your product, like you feel famous to me, because I've seen your face for so many years, seen all your products. And I've been telling my girls because we've been trying to do this podcast now for a couple of months. And it keeps getting canceled for various reasons. But she said to me the other day my daughter was like, when are you going to talk to this girl in the back of the granola? So everyone, like my whole family's hyped up about the fact that we're finally coming to live with you.

    Kelly Love 02:55
    Thank you for having us.

    Allison Evans 02:56
    Yeah, absolute pleasure. Well, you guys have such an incredible story. And certainly so many founders have amazing stories. But I love those that have this wellness journey and this real why behind it. And you certainly have had that. So I would love for you to share and start off. Bring us back to the beginning. Allison, what happened with your health and what eventually led you to connect and start Branch Basics?

    Allison Evans 3:24
    Yes, very good question. I would say we're not we don't have the typical cleaning product, company story. So it really started in high school for me. I was diagnosed with severe polycystic ovarian syndrome. And I had 1000s of cysts on my ovaries. According to a sonogram taken here in Houston by fertility specialists.

    Elizabeth Stein 3:48
    How did you first know just like a for maybe quick for people who don't know what PCOS is? What is it? And how did you first know that you had it?

    Allison Evans 3:54
    Well, what's really hard now is that there's so many people that have it and the symptoms can range. In fact, people can have PCOS and not even have cysts, which makes very little sense. But I actually had no symptoms. I had my first menstrual cycle at 13. And then I just never had one again. And so my mom was finally like we have got to go in. Of course I'm thinking oh, this is great. I started my period but then I don't have to deal with it for five years. Well, it's not so great. So I was symptom free. And I remember the doctor saying that usually people are 40 and fat and have facial hair, like there's like four F's and I was like okay, but I had cysts everywhere so I was literally handed birth control. I was told there was nothing that I could do. I remember specifically saying is there anything that I can do like not eat or eat or not do or do? Nope, it's genetic. Some people have it some people don't. But you will not be able to conceive naturally and so just come back when you're ready to conceive and until then just stay on birth control. So I just owned it. These are the days like I didn't question anything like if there was someone in a white suit jacket and I identified with it. So fast forward to college where I met Kelly, my best friend and now business partner. And that is when my health took a really big downturn. So I had pain in my upper back that ended up going down to my lower back. I was on painkillers and muscle relaxers. I was getting steroid injections, I was losing motor skills. I remember I went to get a carton of milk back when I drank like conventional cow milk out of the refrigerator and it fell to the floor. I felt like my body was just I was losing control of my body. So I traveled the country in college. And the last thing that someone said to me, a doctor said to me here in Houston actually was it looks like early stage MS. So at that time, I am on a slew of drugs. I really have no help. I have no agreed upon diagnosis. I guess I should say I have no hope. Because there was it was just about drugs and what we can do to keep you symptom free.

    Elizabeth Stein 6:00
    What was your mental world like at that point?

    Allison Evans 6:02
    Oh, horrible. I mean, absolutely horrible. I mean, I was in a sorority and doing the whole college thing. But like, inside, I was so scared. I've been with my husband since high school. So thankfully, he was with me through all of this. And I'll never forget asking him like, kind of jokingly, because that's just my personality. But I was very much trying to hide my fear. But I remember saying like, would you still marry me? Like, what if I can't walk? And he said, “Yes.” That's good. I can walk. This is very good. But Kelly, watch this entire process. And so my aunt merrily comes into the picture around my sophomore, junior year of college. And she starts asking me questions that nobody else had. And this is my aunt who lives out in the hill country, doesn't have a cell phone, doesn't have a medical degree doesn't. And I'm thinking, okay, for the first time, though, your questions are giving me hope. So she's asking me, Where were you living when the pain started? What are you eating? What's your three day diet diary? What products are you using to clean your home? Clean your body? And as much as I wanted to think she's crazy, I'm like, wait a minute. Like, if there is something here, I can do something because so far everybody has asked me, “What's your family history? What are your symptoms? What other drugs are you taking?” there was nothing that I could actually do. It's so merrily explained about how the environment, the genetics loads the gun, your environment and your choices pull the trigger. And so we have so much more control. And if we would look at the things that we put in, on and around our bodies, we would see that most of the time we're standing in our own way. Our bodies know how to heal, but every single day, for most of our entire lives. We are putting things in, on and around ourselves that are keeping our body from functioning the way that God made it to. So I made some changes as much as I could while being in college, but enough to where I was able to taper off of hydrocodone and antidepressants. I mean, I was starting to incorporate real food, I got rid of Splenda and 100 Calorie packs, all the things that I thought were so healthy. Windex, the candles, the dryer sheets. And Kelly is here, my roommate, my best friend. And she's like, wow, I mean, there's a shift here. And so we decided to go live with Marilee that summer after we graduated in 2008. And that was the summer that our entire lives changed. We go out to her home and her home is completely free of synthetic fragrances and pesticides. It was probably the very first time in my life that I've been in a home that was that clean. And Merrilees like, “Okay, we're going to wake up in the mornings, and we're going to juice. Do y'all love juice?” I’m like, “Yes, we love orange juice.” She’s like, “No, celery, kale, ginger.” Okay, here we go. This was 2008. I mean, this was before the whole craze. So we're eating real food, I mean real food and chopping. And I didn't even know how to chop an onion at that time. So after eight weeks, I'm a completely new person. I mean, my mind my energy, the pain is gone. And I go back to the same fertility doctor, I'd been to six years later. After several months of living this way, leaving Merrilee’s, joining the real world but still eating clean food and living in as clean of an environment as possible, all the cysts were gone except for a couple. So I no longer was diagnosed with “PCOS”. My period ended up coming back naturally, I have conceived my fourth child, I'm pregnant right now. For me, people can deny a lot but you can't take someone's story away. And so for me, it's like I wanted a megaphone and a mountain because I experienced something that I felt personally and I knew that this information could help people. So I'll let Kelly take over. But essentially, that's how we got started. And that's why Branch Basics, in its very core, is a company that wants to educate people to keep people from one day saying why didn't somebody tell me this? And then we just use our products as a vehicle for that message.

    Elizabeth Stein 10:00
    That's amazing. It's such an incredible story to hear, as you just said, like, it's one thing to know. But when you hear these personal stories, it's so empowering for people. Thank you for sharing. Kelly, I'll let you take over.

    Kelly Love 10:15
    Yeah, so I was the “healthy one”. And all of a sudden, I'm like, well, first, before we even go to Merrilee’s, I'm like, this makes so much sense. Like, of course, what we eat every day and put on our bodies every day affects our health. Why have I not realized that all these harmful chemicals are in these things. So my eyes were open, I was so intrigued and wanted to learn more. And when we went live with Merrilee I described myself as healthy. I'd grown up eating conventional food and products use conventional products, but I was fine. It's like the typical narrative. And all of a sudden, without even trying to specifically target any of this, my painful menstrual cramps are gone, my body odor is gone. My dry, itchy eyes, and headaches and muscle aches are gone. And I was just like, wow, we all just think we're fine. Because we don't even realize how much better we could feel. And this is not to say that, like, if I wouldn't have changed course, like, would I be fine in 5 years or 10 years. So I was just like, I want to tell my family, I want to tell my friends, I want to tell the world about this. And so we convinced Marilee to let us try and put her brain on the internet. And we started off blogging and talking about all the different things and the best water filter that Marilyn found and air purifier and just talking about using food as medicine, and it was pretty overwhelming for a lot of people we knew. And they were like, where do we start? And we just kept coming back to start with cleaning products. It's an easy swap, like you don't have to think about it multiple times a day like food. Once you make the switch, you're done. And we have this concentrate model that can help replace dozens of cleaning products at one time. And so at that time, we were actually using a product that's similar to ours now that Marilee had used with her son, but we were not able to be fully transparent with that formula. We were selling what we were selling and we wanted to offer full transparency to our customers. And we're like, we can't tell people to go read ingredient labels and not be fully transparent with what we're offering. And so we took the really daunting, scary risk of pressing pause on the business and trying to create our own formula. And that took about two years. But I'm so glad we did. Because now we love our formula even more. And we really didn't know if we were going to be able to meet all of our specifications of efficacy and safety. But we did and it's just been awesome. So we relaunched that formula in 2017, and Marilee has just been such a just a secret, powerful weapon. Because her experience, and I can touch on that. But her experience has led us to be super, super picky with our ] formulation process. Because anyone can go to a lab and say, “Hey, I want a green cleaner.” And they'll give you kind of the standard list of sustainable ingredients. But we had super specific knows in our brief, that most scientists would say, “Oh, those ingredients are fine.” But because of Merrilees history of working with people chemically sensitive for 30 years and chronically ill and because of her experience with her son she's been able to know like, and get ahead of the game on which ingredients actually can cause an immune reaction or skin irritation or whatever. So our product was is actually completely non-irritating to the scan, which is unheard of. Our testing facility couldn't believe it. And so, circling back real quick, Marilee grew up sickly more so than Allison. Was always sick, was always on medication, always missing school, spent tons and tons of money, her parents said, on doctors. And at 23 had exploratory surgery to try and figure out what was wrong with her because they couldn't really figure out what was the cause and was told she needed a kidney transplant and that she would likely never be able to have children without help. And thankfully merrily rejected that and refuse to believe that that was the only answer and ended up coming across Food as Medicine throughout everything in her pantry and fridge. Completely went all in, was able to save her kidney, get pregnant. I mean, just had a total transformation just from food alone, knew nothing about environment and products. So fast forward, her son is healthy and strong, all of a sudden gets exposed to high levels of pesticides, like playing in a field that had just been sprayed, and it rained and he's playing in the water. So it gets all this exposure to these pesticides at 10 years old. So he goes from being a athletic, coordinated, intelligent little boy to not being able to spell a three letter word or walk straight line. He was going to be a bubble boy for the rest of his life, his brain and immune system would never recover. And again, Marilee just refused to believe that that was the only way. She was determined to get her son back. He was the canary in the coal mine and showed her how much these chemicals in the products that we bring into our home, affect us and pollute our air. She thought about the grocery store aisle. When you walk down the aisle that has the cleaning products, you know you're on that aisle and those bottles are sealed and closed, and you can smell them. So all these products that we have around our house, they impact us. And so it wasn't until she cleared everything that he was able to sleep inside because he was having to sleep outside, he was that sensitive. And he fully recovered and went to the US Naval Academy, first homeschool student there and graduated top of his class. Like brilliant, fully recovered his brain. So that's how she started consulting getting on this path of just these chemicals affecting us. And we just don't realize how much they're impacting us until we removed them.

    Elizabeth Stein 16:50
    That's an incredible story. And I think you touched on this too, you have on the one hand where this extreme example of being exposed to toxins and the effect that it had on him and on you, Allison. But then for you, Kelly, which I think is probably for a lot of people, you're just living your life, and you think that how you feel is normal. And whether that is you're having brain fog or stomach issues, or so many different ways that it manifests in one's body. And then once you take it out, realize, wow, I didn't realize that I was living this way and how much better I feel. So curious what do you guys hear from your community have some of those ahas and how people feel from taking and removing toxins out of their environment?

    Allison Evans 17:32
    Yeah, it's like, just because it's common doesn't mean it's normal. Everyone feels this low level, like we all just think, oh, it's the time of month that means that I take Mydol, I'm stressed or something happened or I'm exposed to something I have a headache. I think we have a lot of the feedback we get is about headaches, I would say skin irritation, hormones, but I was gonna say more extreme would be like, haven't been able to get pregnant, I've miscarried several times, haven't carried to term, ended up taking your course, ended up doing all the things, I've read through all of your blogs, I just had my first baby. And here's her picture. I mean, we've actually gotten several of those. And that's been so heartwarming. Even more like my husband is a professional runner, and didn't have anything to do with switching the products in the house. But he is now running like a much faster mile, beating his old times. And the only change is his lungs. I mean, people that thought they had asthma their whole lives, had been on inhalers every day, all of a sudden, oh, maybe it wasn't asthma, maybe it was the fact that I was spraying all these cleaners or had a housekeeper spraying all these things or breathing them in my sheets. So I think it's those that have been really fun. There's a ton of hormonal shifts that we see in people. And that can manifest in so many ways. We have a customer who reached out that had seven year old twin girls, and one of them was having early pubic hair. And the doctor basically said, “There's nothing you can do about it. We'll just keep taking hormone panels. Just to make you feel better, we're seeing this a lot.” She's like, okay, thanks. She calls me she's like, “I know you're gonna say something else. I have already been using Branch Basics. I've already had the organic mattresses, we eat organic food. Alliston, I don't know what else I can do.” And I said, “Get every synthetic fragrance out of your house.” So this is all taught in our course and all of our blogs. This is an example of how it's not just about the product, you can buy our product. But if you're not actually getting rid of the things inside your home, it's like your product, Elizabeth. Like you can eat healthy breakfast, but then if you're like having Domino's and McDonald's for lunch and dinner, it's not going to work, you’re not going to see the results. It turns out at that age, all these girls are given these smelly stickers and bath bombs. I mean, the synthetic fragrances infiltrate everything. She went to the room and she's like, “I pulled out so much stuff.” And within just a few months, the pubic hair had fallen out or hormone levels were normal, just like her twin sister. I mean, it was an incredible story. The body knows how to heal. And as Marilee says, when it comes to hormonal issues, it's actually one of the easiest and quickest ways things that you can heal. Even things like endometriosis, which a lot of people are told, oh, we can't do anything about that we have to go have surgery, we have to get us removed. But even though these plasticizers, which are found in synthetic fragrances are everywhere, they're ubiquitous, they actually leave the body very quickly. So once we remove them, there's so much healing that can be done in a pretty expedited manner.

    Elizabeth Stein 20:45
    Yeah, it's incredible. And I think, as you're saying, like a really great tip for people listening is if you're going to the doctor and being told like this is just normal, or just take this pill to get on birth control, whatever it is, to always do your homework and not just settle for those answers, because in most cases, there's an alternative.

    Kelly Love 21:12
    And I want to bring up a point. Allison, when you said twin sister, I think a lot of times people think, oh, well, if that was the cause, then we would all be impacted. If it was fragrance, then the twin sister would have the same symptoms, since they are living in the same room and around the same products. And I think that a lot of times can hinder us from thinking that the stuff that we're exposed to matters. But I mean, just like Erin Brockovich the movie, they're all exposed to the same water, and they all had different symptoms and different time being in their lives that those symptoms came on. So I just want to empower people to go against that thinking that, oh, if it was that, then there's definitely a clear, direct correlation to everyone. Everyone will be impacted the same way because that's just not how it works. We're all different. And we all have different constitutions. Some people can detoxify these chemicals more efficiently than others can and so we are all impacted in different ways.

    Elizabeth Stein 22:15
    So let's touch on as you're talking about phthalates, let’s go into some of the definitions of some toxins. What are phthalates, microplastics pfas, and then dive into that and go into more specifically, there isn't the home after that.

    Allison Evans 22:25
    Yeah, that's a great question. I think the first thing we always tell people, because it's not as daunting, like the word fragrance is easy to identify and spell. I guess you could also say parfum. But if you read that on a label, get it out. And people, it just looks so innocent. I mean this Elizabeth, it's like, we don't realize there's over 3,100 chemicals that can be categorized under that one word, and this is one of the things that Marilee is really trying to help people understand. Like, we cannot live by the old toxicology, mental model of the dose makes the poison, which basically says just a little bit of this can kill a rat in the lab. And so as long as we stay under that we're at the LD 50 or 50% of that, we're totally fine. Well, yeah, that's for that one product. But if you have a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, now science is showing with epigenetics that even that very little bit, in fact, Kelly loves this analogy, but one drop in an Olympic sized pool can turn on and off hormone function, then affect your genetics. And so we always tell people, like if you see something at the end of a product list, don't think it's just a little bit. Because it really does matter. If you go through all the products in your home, and you take everything out that has the word fragrance on the back, you've already done a huge shift in your home air quality. So there's really not a fragrance that's been tested that doesn't have endocrine disrupting properties. So I also talked to a lot of older women or men and they're like, “Oh, well, we're kind of over that whole stage.” I'm like, “You're over the whole thing?

    Elizabeth Stein 24:19
    Fragrances are everywhere. I was just visiting my dad and he had fragranced trash bags. I was like, “Oh my God, you have to get this out.”

    Kelly Love 24:30
    I will say those are terrible. But the hard thing about this sometimes that people have been around them for so long, they can't even smell them anymore. So they're not strong to them. So it’s difficult to challenge people like okay, just get it out and put it in a box and just get it out that you don't have to throw anything away. But allow your body to get away from it so that you can then start to smell it again. And then people realize how strong they are.

    Allison Evans 25:00
    Unmasking. And then I would say in terms of cleaning, specifically to just looking at the preservatives. So we always tell people, you want every ingredient to be rated either a 1 or a 2 on EWG skin deep database. So we do utilize that a lot. And we always tell people start with the very last ingredients. Well, first of all, if there's not an ingredient list, get it out. That is a number one red flag. They're hiding something, just trash it. But once you see a product with an ingredient list, there's no fragrance in it, but go to the very end of the ingredient list. And if you start with those, you'll it's just make it expedites the process, because those are usually the most toxic ingredients. And those are usually the preservatives. And so you can type the very last ingredient into the EWG. And if you get anything over a 2, we tell people to get it out. Unfortunately, even these non toxic products are using preservatives that are actually EPA registered pesticides. So you have the Isothiazolinone and own family like Methylisothiazolinone, which is used in most of the non toxic green cleaning lines that we've all heard of that I won't mention. But like I said, even in a small amount, I mean, that pesticide can turn on and off genetic expression, and specifically pesticides love lipid dense areas. And the fattiest part of our body is our brain, which is why pesticides are connected to things like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, behavioral disorders and such. Once you've gotten rid of the products without the ingredient list, taken out the fragrances and then gone through those last few ingredients in the EWG, you're not going to be left with any products in your home. There are a few products that actually fit the bill in terms of meeting those standards. But the amazing part is that they work. I mean, we don't have to have these toxic ingredients to have a clean home. And in fact, we have really been trained to think we need a different product for a different everything. And we have to disinfect everything. And it's just not true. Because when we disinfect, we're actually killing the germs. And even the CDC says the best way to address germs is by removal so that you're not actually killing the good and the bad bacteria in your gut, you're just getting rid of the germs and maintaining that healthy microbiome.

    Kelly Love 27:27
    And a lot of times people will just look at the front of the bottle where it says like no phthalates, no parabens, but we really encourage people to turn around and look at the actual ingredient list, like Allison said. So you asked about phthalates. They are a group of chemicals mainly used in plastics, plasticizers. Like, it's not going to necessarily say phthalates in the ingredient list, you know. And so that's where like the fragrance comes in where it's an easy word to look for. And it actually hides all the phthalates and the carcinogens and different groups of chemicals. So always look for the actual ingredient list.

    Allison Evans 28:00
    Yeah, satellites are the chemical that makes those fragrances actually adhere and stick and last, which is why something like a very pure essential oil is not going to last in linger in the air as long because they usually have all the phthalate properties.

    Elizabeth Stein 28:18
    So when you as you were saying that you don't need multiple different cleaning products or multiple different rooms. How did you guys come up with the idea of the concentrate? Because it's genius certainly.

    Kelly Love 28:28
    Yeah, it was because of what Marilee had used with her son, she could use few products around him that he that he wouldn't react to. The concentrate model allowed her to clean everything with just pretty much one product around. And so when Allison and I started using that, we were like, wait, this is genius. This is amazing. This is so simple. But it took a while for a lot of people to wrap their minds around using the same thing on their countertop as their toilet, as their fruits and veggies, and baby. I mean, I literally wash my babies with the same thing that I wash my toilet with and it works and it's great. And my clothes and my face and my apples. Thankfully, the whole minimalist movement helps people be more accepting to the concentrate model.

    Elizabeth Stein 29:29
    What's your favorite hack when it comes to using your products? I recently used the booster to clean a pair of very dirty shoes. And it was beautiful to see how well it worked. What are some of your favorite ways that you guys use it or that your community uses it?

    Allison Evan

Mix & Match
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