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Less is More with Skin Owl: A Journey to Healing from Adult Acne

There is a movement happening in the green beauty world; one that so many are connected to on an emotional, and physical level, a movement that will help us understand how to heal from what seems like one of the biggest skin concerns out there, adult acne. One amazing green beauty leader helping to spearhead this conversation and in turn creating change in the clean beauty industry is Annie Tevelin, founder of SkinOwl.

Annie and I caught up recently about the magical ingredients that jumpstarted her own path to healing from acne, and how SkinOwl came to be..

When you first healed your skin from acne, do you feel like it was specific to the products you were using or a combination of the foods you were eating, supplements you were taking etc.?

This was before green beauty was having a moment, before it was even really a category. There were all these granola/crunchy type brands, but there just wasn’t anything like there is now. To be honest If this was around when I was going through acne, I don’t even know if there would have been skin owl because maybe there would have been options out there for me, but there weren’t. I was a makeup artist for Lancôme at the time and I was layering product upon product on my face, and between foundation, concealer and powder, with what they were formulating their products with at the time, it was the perfect storm. So, my skin totally freaked out. I would say products were responsible for getting me into the situation I was in, and products in general were responsible for getting me out.

I definitely think there is something to be said for less is more, I have always come from that perspective. I’ve always told people why don’t we scale down your regimen, a lot, and just go in with one product for a week and then add another one. People would always look at me like, “no these products are supposed to help these issues”, and it just so much more complex than that. It really is about bringing things back down to basics and scaling from there. I threw away everything I owned. I started making products in my kitchen and went back to school for cosmetic chemistry. I learned all there was to learn about ingredients and what works, instead of what was marketed to me as working, and I learned a lot about oils. That was the beginning. The Geranium oil was the first product that actually healed my skin. I used what is now the Geranium Beauty Drops on my skin and it got rid of my acne in 40 days. It was really crazy, I couldn’t believe what was happening to my skin. I had a Facebook group at the time called SkinOwl and I shared it with the group, asked who was interested in trying this my before and after photos and people freaked out. People were PayPaling me, I didn’t even have a website, it was just so green, it was just basic. From that point on people feel in love, it started healing peoples skin so I decided to create a brand.

That’s so cool, I really resonated with how you described the “perfect storm”. You said you worked for Lancôme, that used to be one of my things, in high school and college. I would buy all the designer products, MAC compressed powder..and all these other products, and try to hide things running away from what it was that I was experiencing. The fact that designer products caused your acne and green products healed you from it, is so powerful. It really has so much to do with the environment that you choose for you skin. That’s just amazing to hear.

It was a fluke accident, I had no business of starting a brand because I didn’t have any experience. To be honest it as the beginning of the social media era, people weren’t so inundated with information yet, people really wanted to listen to what I had to say. The Facebook group was so active it went from 16 to 1600 in the course of 4 months, it was crazy!

When I talk to different skincare providers, they tell me I have surface grit and should be exfoliating more. So I started to do research about this and there seems to be a a big gray area of too little/too much. What are your thoughts on this?

So many people have been asking about this lately. I think that exfoliation is one of the main causes of breakouts. The skin does not need to be exfoliated as much as people think it does. I get it, who doesn’t want a product that says brightening, resurfacing, or radiance boosting. Every 28 days your skin naturally sheds. The exfoliation that you think your skin needs is usually from a lack of moisture, this is the last thing you should be doing when you are dry.

Steaming your skin can get rid of dryness, products with hyaluronic acid can get rid of dryness. Jade rollers and all of those things can help. Exfoliation should not be happening with anyone with acne. If it’s Keloids under the skin or actual angry red surface acne, everyone needs to put their exfoliators away until further notice.

It’s not an easy concept, it’s actually a running joke with one of my best friends that she is constantly trying to take her face off. Every product she has is rejuvenating, one of those key words, then she will have skin issue so I’ll ask her to send me her product she is using and somewhere in the ingredients is something that has snuck in that is exfoliating. It’s addictive.

Steaming, who would’ve thought steaming would do the trick for something like that! I get mixed up in the medicine cabinet of all things that are still green beauty and technically ‘good for me” but still maybe too much?

It’s this weird world right now, because when I was little we didn’t have access to these types of products. When you’re living in a world where Instagram is making these products look so amazing. The accumulation of trying and seeing all these products is what’s creating acne. It’s hard to tell someone to scale back and just use one product for a week, no one wants to do that, I don’t want to do that. It’s hard to go up against where there are new products every single place you go.

I have clients that I do a Personal Acne Journey with and we create a system for them, and it can be a struggle because people want to try new products instead of focusing on clearing their skin.

Keeping it simple, it’s so hard for us to minimize all the time!

I get it, who wants to do that it’s not fun. There is magic in a new product, there is hope in a new product. And that might be the one product that you haven’t tried that could save your skin, but I think it’s really important to first scale everything back and get to know your skin again.

What's your regimen like now, what are you using?

I am curious about the SkinOwl bars. Why did you go for bars instead of a liquid cleanser?

When I had acne, a bar is what cleaned up my skin. At the time, I used a black charcoal bar was Erno Laszlo, it was that and the Geranium Beauty Drops that were 100% responsible for getting rid of my acne. I always said if I was going to create a cleanser, as counter intuitive as it might be, I wanted to do a bar. It was about creating different bars that would made skin react in a different way. Tomato is an amazing oil, same with Turmeric, when you use enough of it it’s amazing for brightening, when you use enough of a concentrated ingredient, it actually does something to the skin. Plus, I found that there were a ton of bars that had coconut oil I them and that was why people were breaking out! It was important to me that people had a different bar, a different choice, All of our bars are formulated without coconut oil. That was a big game changer.

Right! So much Green Beauty makeup has coconut oil in it too! It’s trying to take over. I don’t love it.

It’s so strange to me. I am not against coconut oil, much like jojoba it acts like a wax, it doesn’t penetrate it sits on the surface of the skin, kind of like a surface protection, there is an emollience to it, both are completely comedogenic. I stay away from jojoba and coconut oil on the fact in in certain percentages. I use olive oils, but the percentages I am using and the type pf comedogenic properties I am using are completely different that coconut oil. Coconut oil is good on the ends of the hair, oil pulling, to cook with it is great, but definitely not on the face.

Do you feel like acne and hormonal acne can be treated the same?

I look at it the same way in terms of scaling back. Especially someone with cystic acne that’s hormonally caused is my favorite customer bc there is so much hope in terms of what I can suggest and things they likely have never tried. It’s hard to go up against hormones with product. I encourage everyone to see an endocrinologist or naturopath and get their hormone panel done. In general, you might test once a month but because of the ebb and flow depending on your cycle you can test once per week and see what your hormone levels are in a month. The beauty chef speaks to hormonally balancing foods, there are some bio-identical plant derived things used to balance hormones that can change everything. I can talk a lot about this but it seems like a great place to start.

Portland, OR