When I began assembling Beautyologie late last year, reaching out to fair trade, ethical and sustainable beauty brands to share my mission and gauge their interest for joining the platform, I didn’t consider how many extraordinary people I would become connected to around the world. Jene Roestorf, founder of LUXE Botanics is one of these women.
Born and raised in South Africa in a little town just outside of Johannesburg, Jene enjoyed a childhood in the bush which she recalls sharing with lots of monkeys who would break into the kitchen and steal butter. “There would also be deer and moon geese everywhere,” she says. “We had this hammock in a tree outside my bedroom. I used to go and read on it and there was a resident chameleon that always used to come down from the tree and hiss at me like he was saying, ‘Get off my hammock!’ It was so cute.”
Having access to this kind of nature was normal to Jene and provided her with an incredibly relaxing way of growing up especially during the time of apartheid. For instance, if you needed to treat a scraped knee, a sunburn or a bug bite, you would simply find the closet Kigelia tree, pluck off one its long sausage-shaped fruits and apply its aloe vera-like gel directly to your skin. Looking back, though, she realizes that not having access to Western extravagances like cheeseburgers or tons of toys or American TV shows was not normal. “My childhood in the ‘80s was probably similar to someone’s in the U.S. in the ’50s and ’60s,” she says. “That stuff is so foreign to me.”
Free from many of the western world’s distractions, her family relied on their self-motivation turning them all into highly successful entrepreneurs. To this day, Jene’s father runs his own business since she was a baby and her mother is an award-winning architect, which is why Jene initially studied architecture. However, her interest quickly dwindled and was replaced with a passion for nanotechnology, which she received a master’s in from university in Australia.
Jene worked for a reputable government organization in Sydney that helped doctors fund clinical trials in dermatology and oncology for several years. “It was just the most incredible kind of firsthand experience of what life-saving medicine can do,” she explains. Based on her stellar work ethic, Jene was promoted to Singapore and pulled into a management role where she unfortunately witnessed years of incredible research being ignored simply because it wasn’t seen as profitable. “It was horrific,” she says. “At that moment, I realized I didn’t want to be part of this.”
A vacation back to Africa’s awe-inspiring landscape of Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania helped clear her mind after leaving her role in nanoscience and gave her some perspective on what was truly important in her life. It also served as an “aha” moment she didn’t anticipate. Jene’s love for science and desire to use her training to change lives was clear, but she realized she wanted funnel it in a way that would allow her to go back to her African roots and help its disenfranchised communities.
This is where I circle back to the magic of the Kigelia tree I mentioned earlier.
Jene comes from a long line of women who all suffered from bad complexions. “My mother, grandmother and great-mother, we all had horrific skin,” says Jene. “I grew up with my mom always watching me and waiting to put me on antibiotics or Accutane. I was on Accutane six times until my early 30s.”
Amongst her group of friends, Jene was always the one in the know about skin care products and its ingredients. Makeup? Not so much, but when it came to the truth about peels, lasers, what ingredients worked and what didn’t, Jene was “that friend in the group.” So, between her life-long skin struggles, her scientific background and a knowledge of the power of Africa’s indigenous ingredients, Jene embarked on a journey to create what is now known as the award-winning skincare line, LUXE Botanics.
She does this by harnessing the planet’s most transformational botanicals from her home continent like Kigelia from Malawi and Marula oil from Kenya as well as Camu Camu from Brazil. What makes this story even more important to Beautyologie’s mission is that Jene focuses only on the ingredients that can be ethically and sustainably harvested while meaningfully supporting local farmers and giving back to local communities.
For instance, the Marula oil sourced for her Hydrating Line is wild harvested and cold pressed by Maasai women who Jene was connected to through the Leaky Foundation, an organization that creates opportunities for rural African people to earn money. Gathering marula fruits allow these women to earn enough money for food and clothes for their children for one year. Marula oil has a tremendous economic impact on the African communities where it is collected. People are now able to live a higher quality of life, invest in their local economy and give their children a brighter future.
Another fair trade alliance Jene created is for the Kigelia she sources for LUXE Botanic’s Corrective Line. It’s certified organic, organically grown and hand-picked by the local community in Malawi to protect and preserve the biodiversity of the region.
And finally, the Camu Camu berries sourced for LUXE Botanic’s Brightening Line, hail from the organization called Fitovida. This group primarily focuses on the biodiversity of the Brazilian biome by training local harvesters to maintain sustainability of natural plant resources in the Amazonian regions, while simultaneously assisting its local communities by providing employment opportunities.
As if that’s not enough, Jene makes sure that proceeds from every purchase of LUXE Botanics products are donated to Buy1Give1 which offers educational opportunities for African women and children.
With the rising trend in consumer activism fueling the beauty industry to re-evaluate its ethics, ingredients and its impact on the world, Jene has made a name for herself as a leader in this new frontier on intelligent beauty activism. Kudos to her for being recognized this year by Byrdie as one of “15 Women in Beauty and Wellness Who Have Inspired Us This Year.”
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, my Beautyologie journey has introduced me to many individuals around the world who have inspired and encouraged me to follow my passion. The work that Jene does to 1) help people’s skin issues, 2) give the ingredient producers a fair and ethical source of income and, 3) help the planet, makes Beautyologie’s mission to enlighten consumers about making ethical, informed decisions with their purchasing power all the more important.