For Johanna Peet, less is more.
As a young adult, working at the State Department in Counterterrorism, she began to experience reactions to the harsh synthetic actives in skincare. After researching and discovering the potential harmful effects of many common ingredients—linked to everything from endocrine disruption to asthma, she began crafting her own products. Ultimately, faced with the question of whether to remain in government or take a leap and create her own beauty business, she decided the time to try was now.
After two years of formulating, in January 2017, she launched Peet Rivko, a plant-based line of non-toxic skincare products that even avoids reactive ingredients commonly found in natural peers. For sensitive skin, Rivko knew the offerings needed to be clean of even essential oils and fragrance. Ultimately, every element is conscious and simplified, from the stripped down regimen to its minimal aesthetic and transparent ingredients.
Here, Peet explains why nature is core to both her brand and her personal happiness:
Live The Process: How did your prior experience lead you to or inform your transition into skincare?
Johanna Peet: I started Peet Rivko while studying law and business at NYU. Before grad school, I worked at the State Department in the Counterterrorism office. I was definitely on a very different career trajectory. After working for several years in foreign policy, I went to law school thinking I would become a lawyer and go back to into government. At the same time, I had this nagging voice in the back in my head encouraging me to pursue a more creative path and start my own business.
For years, I had been making my own simple, gentle natural skincare products as a way to cater to my sensitive skin. While I was in grad school, I slowly began researching about the industry, ingredients and how I might turn this side hustle into something more real. During my last year, I basically decided that it was now or never: I could take the leap of faith and pursue something totally different or I could back into government and always wonder what could have been.
My previous work definitely had an impact on the type of company we have built. I care passionately about human rights, the environment and sustainably, and this translates directly into our sourcing practices, how we design our products and the suppliers we choose. We are meticulous about our ingredients using organic, fair-trade, responsibly sourced ingredients in all of our products and we use only 100% recyclable materials for all packaging. We have also partnered with 1% for the Planet and donate 1% of all sales to local environmental nonprofits.
LTP: What separates Peet Rivko from the pack?
JP: I started working on Peet Rivko in the fall of 2015, and we officially launched the line in January 2017. It took almost two years to formulate and perfect our products.
So, what really differentiates Peet Rivko are our formulations: We create ultra-gentle, plant-based skincare products that are fragrance and irritant-free. Our products are clean, safe and non-toxic with no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, phenoxyethanol, PEGs, silicones or petroleum. Our formulas are also free of irritants commonly found in natural skincare products—no essential oils, limonene, nut oils or oral extracts—so they’re gentle enough for the most sensitive skin.
We believe strongly that less is more and fewer products—with fewer ingredients—means a simpler, more effective routine. Each product is meant to serve as a daily essential: your go-to cleanser, a moisturizer that can be used morning and night and a face oil for extra hydration without any greasiness. Our line is also designed for men and women, so it’s easy to share with your partner or roommate.
I love all of our products, but I’m particularly obsessed with our Balancing Face Oil. It’s really lightweight, but leaves your skin moisturized and super soft. It’s a mix of three oils: jojoba, avocado, and prickly pear. All are organic and completely unrefined and cold-pressed. My mom is Sicilian and I grew up eating prickly pear in the summer, but it wasn’t until I started working on Peet Rivko that I discovered that the seeds can be cold-pressed into this amazing oil that is chock-full of antioxidants and skin-repairing vitamins. It’s one of those ingredients I’d love to use in all of our future products.
LTP: What’s the biggest misconception people seem to have about natural skincare?
JP: I think it’s really hard for consumers to know what exactly is meant by “natural.” Just because a product is labeled “natural” does not necessarily mean it only includes non-synthetic, plant-derived ingredients. One thing I was shocked to learn when starting Peet Rivko was how unregulated the beauty industry is. The U.S. has not passed any major legislation regulating the industry since 1938. While the European Union bans over 1,300 ingredients in personal care products, in the U.S., we’ve banned eleven. It’s kind of terrifying. On top of that, terms like “natural” or “non-toxic” do not have a set legal definition, so brands can use them however they see fit. This makes it incredibly difficult for consumers to understand what’s in a product and to what degree it includes natural or synthetic ingredients.
At Peet Rivko, we define “natural” as “plant-derived” and we list the plant source for every ingredient on our bottles and on our website. We also want to educate our consumers on the range of natural ingredients that are used in skincare and the fact that harsh things do exist in nature. Many plant ingredients commonly used in natural products—like essential oils, limonene or oral extracts—are also well-known irritants and problematic for those with sensitive skin.
It’s incredibly exciting that natural skincare is becoming more mainstream. My hope is that, as the movement grows, you will see more consumers and brands pushing for smart regulation of the industry and greater transparency about what’s going into our products and onto our bodies.
LTP: In addition to using your line, do you have any wellness rituals or practices that keep you feeling balanced and healthy?
JP: It’s definitely essential to find ways to stay centered when you're launching a business—and living in NYC. For me, nature is most grounding and it’s important for me to feel surrounded by nature or plants on a daily basis. I live near Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn and love going for a run there or, on a good day, making my way over to Prospect Park. I also love going upstate to the Catskills and exploring the parks and cute towns nearby.
I’m a big believer in meditation. I also listen to Tara Brach’s podcasts on a weekly basis. I discovered her meditation classes when I lived in Washington, D.C., and I've been a devoted follower since. Her books are all great too.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
JP: For me, happiness is all about balance and perspective. I love living in Brooklyn, but I need a good dose of nature. There’s a park near my parents’ house in Delaware that is one of my favorite places in the world because it’s so scenic and quiet. I also live for a good laugh, so being with close friends—ideally around tacos and ice cream—is basically nirvana for me.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
JP: I think it means doing your best to be a kind and honest person while embracing all that life throws your way. It’s about accepting what’s outside of our control and doing our best to live a joyful and intentional life in the areas where we do have ownership.