To all the skincare gurus — hear us out — sometimes less is more! We caught up with botanist, herbal enthusiast, and founder and formulator of LINNÉ, Jenna Levine. Her ethically crafted skincare line is formulated from superlatively sourced plants and minerals.
Her approach marries the knowledge of human anatomy and herbal medicine. The result is symbiotic products that acknowledge the body’s intelligence, feed the skin, and support the skin through both seasonal and physiological changes.
If you’re looking for a clean skincare line that is both non-toxic and effective or are just curious to learn about some common skin misconceptions, read on!
Q: Share with us about your background in botany and why you created LINNÉ.
A: When I was ten, I started making skincare from natural and edible ingredients for my mother and sister. My sister, then only seven years old, had perfect skin, but she developed cystic acne years later. I had been studying California native plant botany and herbal medicine when she began an aggressive course of Accutane, and I thus decided to focus my thesis work on improving the health of her skin through gentler alternatives.
Within my course, I had been exclusively researching California natives but decided it was time to open my investigation to endemics globally. With my sister as my muse, I scoured herbal pharmacopeia, spoke to numerous suppliers and chemists, and then iterated formulas with a plethora of ingredients until we had the antidote to my sister’s imbalanced, inflamed skin.
This rewarding process organically evolved into an eight-piece product line that addressed other familial skin concerns, from psoriasis and closed comedones to premature aging and keratosis pilaris. We launched in April of 2016 in a hectic frenzy after being named the “next best thing” in skincare by W Magazine. I’m not sure if we have fulfilled the duties of that honor, but we have a recurring customer rate that is more than 2x the industry standard. Our commitment to providing exceptional skincare and services is regularly re-energized by the incredibly generous testimonials of our extraordinary community.
Q: Do you have a consistent daily AM and/or PM routine? Or do you mix it up?
A: I’m very consistent — mostly because I don’t have time to be anything other than efficient in the mornings. I always start the day with scraping my tongue and oral hygiene. Even if I have only a few minutes before my daughter demands my attention, I always proceed with a quick LINNÉ routine. I do not wash my face, but I splash with cool water, pat dry, spritz generously with REFRESH Mineral Mist (the best wake-up call), and then massage my facial tissue with a blend of RENEW Serum and BALANCE Face Oil. If I have an extra moment, I apply our REVIVE Eye Emulsion and RISE Functional Fragrance — both which result in a much more rested disposition and appearance.
Now that we have an extraordinary SPF Barrier Cream, I’ve gotten in the habit of applying PROTECT as a finishing step — if not, it is a hat for me on my way out the door. Before stepping out, I always have a large glass or two of water, followed by a homemade matcha with cashew milk. (Hilariously, one of my daughter’s early words was “MATCHA.”)
Q: How does the natural world support your modern life?
A: While we now can easily spend entire days or even weeks inside, going from building to car to building — for the first 6–7 million years, human beings lived and evolved in a natural environment. Therefore, the physiological functions of human bodies developed in response to the natural environment. It is thus no surprise that our bodies are “at home” in nature. For me, this rings especially true. Time in nature is imperative for my health and well-being.
Even though my formal training and preparation occurred while living in rural California, I founded LINNÉ while living in NY — where I needed it most. LINNÉ was developed not just to benefit my skin, but as my twice-daily nature touch-point.
Q: Do you have any rituals that you practice daily, weekly, or monthly?
A: We are fortunate to live a block from Charleston’s largest park and 15 minutes from the beach. I walk with my dog at least twice daily at either location. I’m not sure if this is a ritual in the traditional sense, but it feels sacred to me.
I would like to be more consistent about lighting candles for Shabbat. While I am not religious, I love this cultural tradition that unites families, invites a time for rest, and spreads light around the world.
Q: Are there any particular foods or botanicals that align with your beauty routine or self-care practice?
A: That’s a hard question to answer, as my response would be without end. As a botany, ethnobotany, and herbal medicine student, I am constantly in awe of plants’ diverse morphology, ecology, and functionality.
The fact that a plant’s unique mechanism of defense, detox, repair, and regeneration can also be effective on humans never ceases to amaze me. It is an extraordinary symbiosis and a reason alone to protect the natural world.
For our purposes, the short answer is “passion fruit!” They are currently in season, and I’m eating at least 2-3 today. I love the taste, texture, and the nutrition they provide. We use raw, organic, passion fruit seed oil in our LINNÉ Bébé collection, featuring CLEANSE, REPLENISH and NURTURE.
Q: Why is plant-based skincare important to you? Can you share about its efficacy?
A: To produce effective and safe skincare, it is vital to understand both skin science and plant science. Our namesake, Carl Von LINNÉ, was both a physician and a botanist. In his time, training in botany was part of the medical curriculum, and every doctor had to prepare and prescribe drugs derived from medicinal plants. Medicinal plants used in the 1800s were fundamental to human health.
Now, more than two centuries after LINNÉ’s death, many believe that natural ingredients are inferior to synthetics and that natural skincare cannot be as effective as cosmeceuticals. However, much of medical and cosmeceutical skincare is derived from the isolation of plant compounds. When a plant has demonstrated bioactivity in humans, it is typical among pharmaceutical companies to attribute that effect to a single constituent, isolate it, synthesize it, and, in some cases, alter it to create a unique molecule that can be patented. This process allows for standardization and profitability and thus has gained popularity in the medical and cosmetic industries.
Whole plant medicine, however, provides unique complexity and a synergy of compounds that is usually safer and more effective for long-term improved health. In immediate life-or-death situations, a fast-acting isolated drug may be the best choice.
However, responsibly sourced, high-quality, plant-based, filler-free skincare is wise for everyday skin protection, correction, and maintenance.
Q: What are some skincare misconceptions?
A: We’d like to myth-bust several misconceptions in the beauty industry. Here are two:
1: You need to constantly switch up what you are using. This is built on the premise that a product only works if it’s somehow at odds with your skin and designed to fix some singular, short-term problem. This marketing ploy was created to promote product discovery and constant consumption. It is frankly not true if you are using real skin food.
Rather than focus on a particular skin ‘problem,’ at LINNÉ, we formulate to support the nutritional needs of all skin. We use ingredients that provide the nutritional building blocks required to perform vital cellular functions. Rather than fighting a problem, we seek to establish balance and harmony. This approach allows us to create fewer formulas that serve a greater range of skin types.
Which brings me to myth number 2: you do not need 15 steps to treat your skin well. Don’t let us stop you if that’s your jam, but there is such a thing as skincare gluttony. Self-care is a vital component of self-love, but more stuff isn’t always the answer. Sure, we love trying a new spa treatment and need our daily dose of greens, but over-indulgence in self-optimization can also have drawbacks. Furthermore, too many treatments, such as over-exfoliation, can cause hypersensitivity, irritation, inflammation, flakiness, redness, and puffiness.
While a luminous complexion is desirable, the “glass skin” craze is potentially harmful. Hyper-smooth, shiny skin that feels like plastic indicates that you may have gone overboard with exfoliation. Also, one should not confuse plump, hydrated skin with swollen skin that is inflamed due to a disruption in the lipid barrier. Truly toned skin maintains a healthy elastin and collagen content, but over-exfoliation can degrade elastin and collagen, making the face feel tight. While some of us may enjoy a thoroughly hands-off approach, those who live in an urban environment may benefit from a weekly or bi-weekly treatment. Whether it be our SCRUB mask or another product, remember to be gentle and that less is more.
Q: We are big believers in managing our mood in order to show up consistently for our family, friends, and colleagues. How does THE FULLEST’s Warm Feelings® saffron latte help support your mood?
A: The color alone is liquid sunshine, and the delicate, slightly sweet flavor immediately puts me at ease. Whether it’s a psychosomatic response or the clinically backed botanicals, I always feel calm and comforted when sipping on Warm Feelings®.