If you follow Vogue, Goop, NY Times, Domino and other publications you have probably read about Marie Veronique, which seems like a relatively new name in the skincare space (it was to me). In fact, Marie-Veronique Nadeau has been crafting her small batch organic skincare line in Berkeley, CA since 2002. As the market for natural skincare has blown up so has Marie’s profile, especially with last year’s launch of a trio of serums she created in conjunction with facialist Kristina Holey. Kristina found she was constantly tackling skin issues among her clients, Marie created targeted solutions meant to address acne, rosacea, dermatitis, aging and more. (They have since expanded the collection.)
Marie is part of a new genre of skincare experts who apply the same laws of science (she was a chemist) other major beauty companies use but coopts them to create organic solutions (something many large beauty companies forgo for cheap alternatives and profits); she likes to talk about the skin’s microbiome (something you will hearing more and more of) and how to create its balance. (On her site you can deep dive into useful information and solution options for skin issues.) Marie is also fantastically outspoken, self-deprecating, funny, inspiring and pragmatic. Here she shares the product every woman over 30 should use, the four-legged friend who motivates her, and why trying to turn aging into a positive, and attempting to put it off with cosmetic work, might be a waste of time.
Please introduce yourself and describe what you do: Mother, grandmother, reader, writer, inventor, political activist, cat lover.
You are both a trained esthetician and a chemist (and once a chemistry teacher) and your daughter, a bio-medical engineer, works with you. How much does science play a part in organic skincare? Well, science should be informing formulation whether you are using botanicals or synthesized ingredients or a combination. Formulation for efficacy is the new watchword in the skincare industry, which means you define your actives, know their properties and design for stability and delivery into the skin. It takes a lot of science to make skin care products that work. Gone are the days when you just threw some botanical extracts together, added a pleasing scent and relied on terms like “natural” “organic” and ”clean” to market your products.
Organic skincare has grown by leaps and bounds. Why do you think this is? Has the science behind it changed, or just our perception and now acceptance? Good question. Skin care is evolving, and it’s interesting to see its progression. We went from a long period (millennia) of “natural” treatments—like rubbing mutton fat into your skin to moisturize it, actually not a bad treatment. Natural by necessity was followed by a brief blossoming of lab-generated products in the 20th century, around the same time plastics hit the scene (not a coincidence). These products contained a lot of artificial preservatives, conditioners and fragrances, many of which induced allergic reactions and were implicated in other health problems. Gradually people made the connection between bodycare products and health issues and began to demand alternatives. The alternative movement that emerged in response was beset, particularly in the beginning stages, with hiccups; natural oils can go rancid, botanical extracts can cause allergic reactions, alternative preservatives (phenoxyethanol is a good example) may contain hidden safety risks and so on. Which brings us to your question about science—yes, it is changing, but in ways that benefit the consumer. Advanced technology and ground-breaking research in areas like the skin microbiome will result in the development of safe products that perform on a level with, or even surpass, the good results consumers were getting with their heavily synthesized products.
What sets Marie Veronique products apart from others? We’re biomimetic, meaning we imitate the Grand Master, nature, in all things. On the less meta level we formulate using active ingredients that studies show improve skin quality. Our formulation strategy is based on good science, meaning it looks at the formulator’s holy grail of challenges: stability, maximizing ingredients’ activity and delivery.
Talk a bit about your line of products in conjunction with Kristina Holey. How did they come about? What do they add to your own line of products? Kristina has a loyal cadre of clients who come to her as their last hope in resolving their most difficult skin problems. She uses a combination of therapies and looks at the whole person, including diet, medical history, hormonal issues and so on.
Where she had a treatment gap was in recommending topical solutions for people struggling with serious and seemingly intractable problems like adult acne, rosacea, perioral dermatitis, or a combination thereof. Topicals that worked for those conditions just did not exist. Our product line was born out of our desire to deal successfully with the most challenging skin issues her clients faced.
Biggest mistake you see that women make when it comes to skincare: Probably over-cleansing, over-exfoliation. Your skin really does know how to take care of itself, and over zealousness can often set up a succession of skin problems that could well have been avoided by interfering less, and trusting to nature more.
Your advice to women on how to choose the correct products if they can’t consult with you. It’s still best to contact us directly! We have a senior esthetician heading our customer service and they work directly with me and Kristina to get the best advice out. Skin is not as straightforward as it may seem and we are there to work through it with our customers together.
Are there any must have products every woman should include in their skincare routine? For every woman over 30, retinol, unless pregnant or breastfeeding. For people of any age, a Vitamin C product that you pair with your zinc oxide sunscreen—another must-have.
The beauty industry in America is trying to change the aging conversation—instead of focusing on stopping signs of ageing, they are trying to encourage women to age gracefully. What are your thoughts on women and ageing? How can we make it a more positive conversation? You assume there is a positive spin we can put on aging, but what if there’s a reason we don’t have many adjectives associated with aging that aren’t pejorative in some way? The reality of old age is physical and mental slowing, and the pain of one’s losses–hair, teeth, bodily functions and so on may be tempered by Alzheimer’s if you’re lucky. Of course the chief consolation of old age is that there is a cure for it.
On the positive side, finding youth attractive is hard-wired, probably because firm skin and supple limbs broadcast fecundity. If you’re young, enjoy it. If you’re not, you can at least retain your dignity and ‘age gracefully’ by evading the trap of cosmetic/surgical intervention. Its purveyors will try to convince you their procedures will hide the appearance of physical decay, but the only person fooled in such cases is the one falling for the spurious claims.
Three words that describe your company: Imaginative, Inventive, Hardworking.
Three words that describe you: Realistic, Sarcastic, Morose. Sure you only want three? I can go on.
Looking back, what came easiest for you when you launched your skincare collection? It came as a surprise to me that no one was doing the things that seemed obvious to me, but the ease with which I was able to get people to accept new ideas was also a pleasant surprise.
Hardest part of starting out that no one warned you about? Oh, so many things. How hard it is to stick to one’s convictions leaps out at me. There were so many people trying to convince me that I’d be rich if I just did X, when X involved compromising my integrity.
One of your attributes that helps you succeed: Being skeptical. Very important.
Best career advice you received I didn’t receive this advice, so I offer it in response to this question: Don’t listen to advice, however well-meaning. They don’t know your heart, only you do.
Your advice to a new entrepreneur or someone starting out in your field: Stay true to your ethical standards and work with good people who share them. A good team is everything.
What has been your biggest success? Being still alive to enjoy it. Success comes as a pleasant surprise to me, not least because it so infuriates my detractors.
What has been your biggest dud? What did you learn from it? The failures have been many, and what I learned is the importance of learning. Learning is paramount, and should never stop.
What motivates you? My cat, Fat Eddy. She makes me get up and feed her.
What’s next for your company? More microbiome research. Ground-breaking stuff.
Life goals: A best seller on the NY Times fiction list at the same time as a best-seller on the non-fiction list. I don’t know if anyone has done that yet.
Daily goals: To get through each day without injuring myself.
Favorite inspirational/motivational read: I read a lot but I don’t read the same thing every day. Tout est transitoire (Everything is Transient) is all I can come up with by way of a mantra. I think Baudelaire said it.
Daily rituals: The usual; reading, eating, sleeping etc.
How do you unplug: Refreshing mental blackouts every once in awhile.
Hidden talent/hobby: I am trying to draw the public’s attention to my manifold talents. So far my literary talent remains hidden to all but a select few. Hopefully that will change with my next book. But writers always say that.
Favorite charity: Our company priorities are supporting women and science, (women in science!), Heifer Project International, EWG. We also give volunteer days to all of our staff to encourage supporting the causes closest to their hearts.
Do you collect anything? I collect microbes. Actually, we all collect microbes all the time, we just aren’t aware of it. I like that about these tiny bugs. So sneaky.
Biggest splurge you don’t regret: Time misspent in France. Je ne regrette rien.
Favorite small indulgence: Popcorn.
Album currently on repeat: Ravi Shankar, Edth Piaf, Rolling Stones.
Scent that brings back memories: Cement freshly rained on.
Lucky charm: I have a sheep locket.
Favorite hour of the day: Crepuscular.
Follow Marie Veronique: Instagram.
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