How May Lindstrom’s Extreme Sensitive Skin Led to A (Luxurious, Beautiful) Booming Business

Smooth May Lindstrom’s The Youth Dew oil across your face, and your skin instantly feels deeply moisturized and soothed—miraculously, without feeling the sense of weight you can get with many ultra-hydrating oils. Instead it sinks right in, plumping, calming, and smelling faintly, gorgeously apricot-ish.

Most people with sensitive skin would stop right there, at the word scent. Fragrance can be behind many of the skin issues caused by conventional beauty products (chemical sunscreen ingredients are other big culprits), so people with sensitive skin have learned to avoid practically anything that…smells like anything. In response, some conventional beauty companies have resorted to “masking fragrances” that can make a product smell like nothing even when they do actually contain fragrance ingredients.

Lindstrom, who developed severe chemical sensitivities, eczema, dermatitis, and allergies as a young girl and still suffers from them today, remembers just touching the soap by the sink at school and having a reaction. “My hands just started burning,” says the beauty entrepreneur and former model. “I grew up on a very hippie-ish farm, and my mom had always just made potions from plants and clay for us to use, so it was at school that I first discovered I had intense sensitivity issues.” She credits a family tendency toward skin problem: “We all have the kind of skin that, when out of balance, simply bleeds and blisters,” she says. Beyond the obvious physical difficulties her chemical sensitivities caused, they made being a teenager incredibly tough: “Girls bond over beauty,” she says. “I wanted to go to Target and get a face mask with everyone else, and if I did I’d end up with a blistering rash that would look like radioactive spiderweb—kids would be scared of me.”

As she got older, dermatologists tried everything from antibiotics to bleaching treatments, none of which worked. Though she’d always wanted to become a chef, she was discovered as a model and spent 10 years in what she calls an “accidental” career as a successful model, dodging plumes of hairspray and removing makeup as quickly as she could to avoid reacting. The all-natural concoctions she brought on set with her to both take off makeup and protect her skin from it were handmade, experimental potions she made herself, inspired by her mother.

Her career evolved into makeup artistry—a 10-year gap in your resume as a chef is pretty devastating, career-wise—Lindstrom began using her homemade skin care oils and balms on clients, and sharing with the stylists, photographers, and models she met on set—and people began demanding some for themselves. “My kit looked more like a painter’s arsenal,” she says. “For years I had formulated to meet the needs of my own skin, and I researched and experimented to meet other types of skin conditions. I loved the challenge and reveled in seeing the impossible become possible.”

For the majority of her clients—models—the needs were different. “These were genetic lottery winners,” she explains. “Beyond being overstimulated and sensitive from work, their skin was pretty healthy. What they got from my products was this incredible glow and radiance.” Lindstrom started thinking bigger: “I wanted to create a larger ripple of change, something to insire a new relationship to our skin.” She began thinking about creating a company.

Lindstrom went back to how she felt as a young girl—not just wishing for products that would treat her seriously troubled skin, but also wishing for the glamorous, fun, female-bonding aspect of beauty. The result: A combination of truly gorgeous products that feels anything but medicinal, with wildly luxurious textures, packaging, and yes, even scents. Lindstrom goes beyond nontoxic into nuturturing oils like The Youth Dew for face and her body-coddling The Good Stuff (it leaves your skin calmed, supple, incredibly moisturized and with a subtle, sexy gleam). Regular treatments with her Problem Solver mask deal with breakouts like no other regimen; not only is her Blue Cocoon balm the best emergency skin treatment there is, it is also one of the most hydrating formulas in existence.

The idea that the most powerful skin medicine might not feel or smell awful, but might actually be as luxurious and glamorous as it is soothing is, at this point, still counterintuitive. But—in Lindstrom’s shiny, simple black jars and bottles—it’s a welcome reality.