Jenna Levine - Q & A with FOUNDER


FOUNDER JENNA LEVINE

WHAT LED YOU TO STUDY BOTANY AND HERBAL MEDICINE?

I grew up in a medical household. My father is a surgeon, and professor of medicine and my mother is always up to date on the latest wellness and healthcare trends. She is an incredibly talented cook and fed us a delicious, clean, high quality ingredient-driven diet that we embraced even as small children. Both my mother and father engaged us in their perspectives on health, which included discussions on anatomy, medicine, and diet and led us outside to exercise, enjoy fresh air and natural surroundings. Such influences led to my studies of nutrition, alternative medicine and botany. In hommage to Carl Von Linné, the eminent Swedish botanist and physician, who made tremendous contributions to science and the classification of botanical species, I have named this skincare brand LINNÉ. 

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR STUDIES?

I completed my undergraduate degree at Middlebury College in Vermont where I was influenced by the active outdoors lifestyle and culture of environmental stewardship. While there, I was involved in various sustainability and ecological initiatives, including campaigning for carbon reduction, maintaining the organic vegetable garden and studying plant-based remedies with a local herbal medicine doctor. Later on, while living in the Bay area, I completed a certification in California Native Plant botany and Herbal Medicine. I also explored alternate forms of healing through studies in anatomy, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, massage therapy and yoga. Such education has contributed to my holistic approach to skincare that incorporates techniques as simple as massaging products into the skin to increase penetration and improve circulation.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO LAUNCH YOUR OWN SKINCARE LINE?

Even as a child I made homemade facial products from edible items in the kitchen. My mother often highlighted the benefits of the culinary ingredients she used and I began to take interest in how they could also be used topically. I would craft recipes from such simple household staples such as almonds, oats, apples, and honey and I would test the final products on my sister and my mother.

Post college, and throughout my certification course in California Native Plant Botany and Herbal Medicine, I continued to formulate skincare products, only this time, the ingredients included wild botanicals with potent chemical compounds. To start I created products to improve my dry, psoriasis-susceptible skin and moved on to develop treatments for my younger sister who wrestled with both dry and acne-prone skin. After several iterations and trials, I designed a product that made her skin look noticeably better. I started to share the products with others and made additional ones based on pervasive needs, namely breakouts and pre-mature aging. Incorporating user feedback, I was able to fine-tune my formulas to offer what has become LINNÉ.

HOW DO YOU SOURCE YOUR INGREDIENTS?

Like my mother, I love to cook and enjoy procuring the highest quality and freshest seasonal ingredients from artisanal producers. I particularly like to shop at farmer’s markets where I can choose from heirloom organic varieties and learn from the vendors about their products.

I apply the same principles of discrimination when sourcing my skincare ingredients. I always ask incisive questions to better understand the origins of the material that I’m using. There are so many variables when using natural products – species variety, growth location and conditions, whether or not pesticides and fertilizers are used, the time and means of harvesting, the process by which the plant is converted into an oil or extract, the conditions of storage and distribution, and the potential adulteration by secondary traders – so being natural alone isn’t good enough. I source only the finest ingredients from the most reputable suppliers. The majority of the ingredients I use are organic or sustainably wild-harvested. Sometimes, however, I choose ingredients that are not certified organic, but are safe, clean and responsibly farmed, to save consumers significant cost.

WHY DO YOU USE NATIVE PLANTS?

Native plants have evolved to survive their particular climate, whether subjected to extreme drought, strong sun, or fungus and bacteria-loving damp, dark jungle. Unlike plants that are tended carefully in a nursery, plants that grow in the wild have adapted strong defense mechanisms to protect themselves from their harsh environments. This struggle leads to a concentration of active compounds that we extract and employ to protect ourselves from environmental stresses and degradation. 

We additionally support the maintenance and sustainable harvesting of wild plants as we promote species diversity and aim to protect traditional practices and wild places by giving them economic value. 

WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR KEEPING SKIN HEALTHY ON A DAILY BASIS?  

For me it’s all about balance. I take care of my skin by eating cleanly, exercising, getting enough sleep, and trying to keep stress to a minimum. Reducing stress isn’t always easy (especially when you’re starting a business) but stress is a major ager, inside and out, so I value making time to relax by getting outside, laughing and dancing with friends, preparing a nourishing meal, and pampering myself with wholesome products.

But just because I prefer a green juice to an ice cream doesn't mean I’m into deprivation. Indulging oneself is important, but there is no doubt that my skin suffers after a long night of partying! After all, the skin is our largest organ; it is an incredible layer that connects our inner composition to the outer world. How we treat our bodies is expressed in the health of our skin and conversely what we put on our skin affects our inner health. On those naughty nights, just make sure to wash your face. It takes only a minute and will keep your skin youthful for years. I also think hydration is the key to radiance. I drink a lot of water and am liberal with my serums and oils. Lathering my body with nutrient rich products is such a fast and easy way to experience pure, harmless luxury!