Founder, Jenna Levine
When I stumble upon a new skincare or beauty brand, I start with Why. “Why did this Founder have to create this brand?” More often than not, there’s a compelling story that captivates me, and I immediately want to share it with the Beauty Heroes Tribe. But, when I first discovered LINNÉ Botanicals, my first question wasn’t Why?; it was How? I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how this founder created a brand so luxurious, with formulas that were as unique as they were effective. LINNÉ Botanicals was unlike anything else I’ve come across. In fact, when I first applied this month’s Hero product duo, PURIFY Face Wash and ACTIVATE Body Wash, I told Jenna Levine, the Founder of LINNÉ Botanicals, that I simply could not choose between the two! They were both Hero worthy and I felt they both deserved the spotlight. So, in the first time in Beauty Heroes history, we celebrate a double feature Beauty Discovery that is pure, effective and unique.
Through several conversations and meetings with Jenna, one thing is abundantly clear. She’s not interested in playing by the same old rules. For her, it’s not enough to be clean and pure. A remarkable product is the result of pristine agricultural conditions, from soil to seed to sustainability practices. (We’ll explore this topic in depth in this month’s Ingredient Intel, so stay tuned!) Her passion for ‘process’ started in the kitchen. Her mother was a ‘domestic chef’, so Jenna learned from an early age how to source ingredients, mix, blend and prepare delicious recipes. This led her to work in a farm in the Pyrenees mountains, later harvesting grapes and vegetables in Northern California, and eventually landing in a native plant and permaculture immersion program at the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas where she completed a certification in Regenerative Herbalism and Native Plant Botany. Today, her passions for science, agriculture and beauty collide in the most beautiful way. LINNE Botanicals is formulated with whole, native plants harvested at peak picking time from their native environment to ensure that each formulation promotes species diversity, environmental preservation and ethnobotanical continuity. Inspired by Carl von Linné, the Swedish botanist and physician responsible for our classification system of botanical species, LINNÉ Botanicals pays homage to Jenna’s many masters that came before her and formulated to meet the demands of any chic, modern, clean beauty lover.
I recently caught up with Jenna in New York where she shared insights, inspiration and a bit of science education, just for our Tribe. Meet Jenna!
What inspired you to create your brand?
There were a few key influences:
- Growing up cooking
- My father, who is surgeon
- My mother, who was always making things and experimenting in the kitchen
- Greta Breedlove’s Herbal Home Spa, a book I received at age 10
- Studies and work experience in botany, herbal medicine, permaculture, ethnobotany, native plants, nutrition, cooking, farming, yoga, massage.
- Oh, and my sister’s acne and my psoriasis!
How did you learn the art of formulating?
Through culinary recipe creation, studying phytochemistry and herbal medicine, experimentation and working with herbalists and skincare formulators.
When it’s time to create/develop a new product, what is your process?
Research, research, research : ask what people are looking for, why it doesn’t already exist or how we can make it better, seek out the best ingredients for the job, sample tons of ingredients, experiment with ratios (within their suggested min/max range), make a hundred iterations until we get something solid and then refine it until we are satisfied.
What’s been your biggest discovery in terms of the creative process?
There are infinite ways something can be made and beyond research, clinical studies and testing, making effective synergistic products requires intuition and a emotional connection to your ingredients and process.
Do you have a mantra? Tell us how this came to represent your brand.
I started making my products for my family and I only want the best for them. I make each product, as well as other business decisions, with great care. I try to think in terms of longevity even when making temporary or quick decisions. The brand itself has now become a family member. I feel like I have to nurture it in the same way I would my little sister, for example, who inspired me to make my first product.
Do you have a favorite ingredient? What do you love about it?
I have so many favorites but I clearly love the Shiso plant – it is the brushstroked image that adorns our boxes. I first discovered shiso in Japanese cuisine and instantly fell in love with its aromatic profile. Its clean taste complements sashimi so well but it wasn’t until later that I appreciated why it was served alongside raw fish and seafood dishes. Shiso leaf has traditional been used as a garnish as a possible antidote to food poisoning. Many cultures beyond Japanese use it to preserve and sterilize other foods. Extract of the leaf have shown antioxidant, antiallergic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and tumor-preventing properties. The seed oil contains many of the same properties as the leaf and additionally is an impressive source of omega-3 (ALA) fatty acids. We use the seed oil in our BALANCE face oil and SMOOTH body balm specifically for its moisturizing, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities.
What inspired you to create your brand?
I started making skincare when I was 10. I have always worked with plants as a farmer, florist, cook, and designer. And for years, as an amateur, I studied herbal medicine and alternative healing modalities. But it wasn’t until my certification course in native plant botany and herbal medicine that it all came together. I had to establish a thesis and I decided to be practical and look no farther than the needs of my immediate family. My sister was suffering from acne, my mother was poisoning herself with toxic skincare products, my father had his own unique type of breakouts from wearing a surgeons mask and I had psoriasis. I started making products for the people I loved and I began sharing them with more friends and family. Before I knew it I was putting together a line of products and had many folks eager to spend money to have more. It all happened rather organically.
Can you share some of the details on how you source your ingredients sustainably?
I work with responsible manufacturers and suppliers who work intimately with the land and have a sense of environmental stewardship. When farmed, our ingredients are sourced organically whenever possible and we even prefer to use responsibly-harvested wild plants. We specifically love using ingredients sourced from trees as they actually benefit from pruning and their maintenance can be very beneficial to overall forest health. When we use bark and sapwood, such in the case of our palo santo essential oil, this is collected from remnants found on the forest floor. We also love supporting species diversity and often source our ingredients from their place of origin. This sometimes has the added benefit of protecting wild-lands and the people that maintain them. It is also of great importance to us that working conditions and wages are fair, and that there is no potential bodily harm from working with our ingredients. Furthermore it is important that our ingredients are biodegradable and have no negative effect on waterways or aquatic life.
What’s your workspace like and a little bit about your team?
My office is a bit of a jungle. Light is pouring through one large window while the other is shrouded in a tangle of creeping vines. Growing in ceramic planters (that i made myself), I have many plants along the windowsills and anchored in various parts of the room. There are lots of experiments happening on my desk. On shelving units you will find products stacked neatly and wooden boxes overflowing with R&D ingredients. There are piles of books everywhere on various subjects such as permaculture, dyeing with plants, ecology, fermentation, plant propagation, mushroom pharmacology, anatomy, wild plant identification and aromatherapy. I love curating an office that feels full of activity and inspiration. Its a good place to house small experiments but I never make final products in here. Conversely when I make product, I use a sterile environment, with expansive work space, and nothing but my equipment and ingredients in reach. I do love listening to music while I work and my playlists have serious range. Though I do find there to be a pervasive theme of strong female vocalists while Im preparing a new batch. My mother Linda is my only regular teammate at this time and she is the most loving, generous, thoughtful, hardworking woman. Remarkably its been amazing for our relationship to have this project together and frankly couldn’t do it without her.
What’s next for your brand?
This year our goal is to continue to increase brand awareness, introduce a couple more products, engage in some brand partnerships, and revise our packaging to make it even more ecological.
Do you have a creative muse?
I get really inspired by spaces actually- and they can anything from a river valley to a highly designed room.
Do you collect anything?
Spices, olive oil, plants, tinctures and we have a strong rock/crystal collection thanks to my fiance Duncan.
Where might we find you on a Sunday morning?
Depends on the time of the year and how early ;) Duncan and I are big on snuggling when we dont have to rush out of bed. We love to be outside so this summer you might find us out on Duncan’s sail boat or hiking in Vermont. In the fall you might find us walking through New York to meet friends at a fun brunch spot before visiting a museum. In the winter we are ideally skiing, or if the weather is brutal, making fires, reading books and listening to music. We also love to cook so if you are lucky you’ll find us in the kitchen preparing a feast ;)
How do you relax?
Exercise like yoga and pilates help me generally feel more relaxed and balanced. I also love long walks alone or with family and friends. I love to cook, work with clay and do other art as a form of creative catharsis. And to really relax I love a good massage, facial or reflexology. Chilling on the couch with a book or great movie is also a regular mid-week go to. I’d like to say I meditate a lot but I don’t. I am excited however to try acupuncture later this week as Ive heard its very meditative.