Justine Kahn makes serious skincare.
The San Francisco-based esthetician grew up on a commune in Vermont, surrounded by gardens of fresh fruit and vegetables. That experience shaped her perspective—and heavily informed her thinking when she opened Skin Remedy, a pioneering spa for organic skincare.
It was after years of tending to clients’ skin that she decided to launch her own organic beauty concept: The line had to be at once natural and science-based—effective and anything but cookie-cutter. And, so, she created Botnia, a line of organic, live skincare, which can be customized for each person’s unique skin issues and mixed onsite.
Here, Kahn talks about how skin type changes as often as we do:
Live The Process: How did your upbringing—being “raised by hippies in Vermont”—shape your worldview?
Justine Kahn: The culture in Vermont is to live simply and respect the earth. It wasn’t until I left Vermont that I truly understood what a gift it was to grow up in such a nurturing community.
My parents moved to Vermont in the late 60s with a group of forward-thinking hippie kids. They created a utopian community, all sharing in a homestead that supported them. They brought those teachings into my childhood: We always had a beautiful garden, where we grew food and had horses and the responsibility and gifts of nature. In so many ways, what I'm doing with our plant-based skincare is rooted in the values I learned in Vermont—bringing whole plants to heal and comfort the skin, grown with intention and made by hand.
LTP: How did you come to launch your spa, Skin Remedy, and your product line, Botnia?
JK: In 2010, organic skincare was not a thing, for the most part. I remember telling people I was going to open an all organic spa and having them laugh at me. But the truth was that I had been giving facials for a long time with conventional skincare. I wanted to deliver real results at my own spa and use products that were good for the health of the skin. Skin Remedy was born out of my desire to offer my clients a true remedy. I developed Botnia for my personal clients’ skin, using raw botanicals—fresh and alive and mixed at the time of service—much like eating a meal with whole foods. I created the change my clients deserve. It makes complete sense that your largest organ would respond to this approach, and I can't believe we were the first to offer it!
LTP: How did you work with your scientist to make Botnia truly unique in the skincare space?
JK: When I set out to create Botnia, I had spent years in the treatment room watching my clients’ skin and paying attention to ingredients I thought might be good in different applications. But I needed scientific support when it came to putt those ingredients together. I reached out to my friend Clayton, who was a plant biologist at the Carnegie Foundation for Science and a Stanford-trained scientist. Clayton brought his knowledge and background to each of our products, ensuring that our ingredients would produce the results we were looking for. He also invented a complex preservative system for Botnia to ensure our products were safe.
Essentially, he helped me to blend science and organic skincare to offer the kind of results one finds with more conventional skincare, but without all the nasty additives and alcohols. We are a serious skincare line, not a “natural” skincare line. There are so many indie brands in the clean beauty space, but Botnia is not an indie brand. We are a professional skincare company that believes you can have both healthy skincare and real results.
We train every Botnia esthetician to custom blend your facial and the take-home skincare they offer. This way, your service extends beyond the treatment room and into your home. Because the truth is, your skin is unique, and what you are going through today is not what happened yesterday. Fitting you into a box like “oily skin” makes no sense. We take the approach of looking, feeling and listening and then adding specific ingredients to offer you skincare that is truly for you.
LTP: Are there any products, practices or rituals (aside from your own) that keep you feeling balanced and healthy?
JK: Tea! I am obsessed with red raspberry leaf tea. Did you know that raspberry leaf tea has all the vital minerals to keep your body balanced and one serving has over 400 mg of calcium and potassium and 100 mg magnesium? Plus, it boosts energy levels! I love it and it keeps me feeling great all day.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
JK: Ohhh, this is a hard question! There are so many things that happiness looks like: watching my daughter grow, spending time with my husband, offering my clients and the world skincare I'm proud of, watching a seed turn into a flower that I get to harvest. Having two successful businesses and being the best boss I can be to all the amazing people who work for me—and watching those people bloom. I have so much happiness in my life. One of my favorite sayings is, “Happiness comes in moments.” Because happiness is all around us—and taking the time to realize the moments is the hard part.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
JK: There is so much pressure to #self-care these days. I think “living the process” is about reflecting on what in your life is working and celebrating that and changing what is not working, but also being gentle on yourself when you don’t meet a goal or are not able to fit in that workout. Because we are all trying to get through the day and, the more you love yourself and the less you're hard on yourself, the freer you will be to live your process.