Kristina Holey has long been one of the most sought-after facialists in California's Bay Area thanks to her holistic approach to skincare. After noticing that many of her clients were struggling to find non-toxic skincare products, she teamed up with chemist and formulator Marie Veronique to develop a line of their own. The collection launched last fall, under the name Kristina Holey + Marie Veronique, with three serums, and has now been expanded to include a cleanser, toner, lipid complex, and mask. Here the duo explains why they launched their brand, how to use essential oils properly, and more. We suggest you take notes.

How did you decide to launch your brand?

Kristina Holey: We first created our three serums together—the intensive repair, the barrier, and the B3—in response to my clients' needs. Marie and I wanted to put something together that was really going to address unwanted issues like acne, rosacea, and dryness in a more therapeutic way than what we were always seeing through dermatology practices. We started by giving our serums to my clients, and the response was very positive, so we thought, maybe we should get this into the world? Because they’re fragrance free and the preservative system is really specific, they're great for people with hypersensitive skin or intolerant skin. After launching the serums, I felt like we still needed a cleanser without fragrance, and we still needed a complete skincare system that would support the skin in the same way that the serums do, which is what we’re launching now.

What are some of the problems your clients had with skincare products already on the market?

Kristina Holey: We found that the essential oils are problematic for a lot of our clients. We obviously love oils, and think that essential oils can be amazing, but we’re trying to address what is changing in the skincare industry. All of these people are showing up with these imbalances [like acne, rosacea, dryness, sensitivity], and we think it is directly linked to essential oils. So we tried to cut that out so we don’t have to guess.

But essential oils aren't all bad. How do you think they should be used?

Kristina Holey: With the rise in popularity of essential oils and heavily fragrant oils there wasn’t the education that went on alongside of it. If there are very small amounts of essential oils in a product and it’s formulated appropriately, that product could be okay on its own, but you have to look at the system of how the products and their respective ingredients are or aren't working together on your face. If you are stripping the skin every day with an abrasive cleanser and then using glycolics, for instance, an essential oil isn't going to fit into your routine. It’s a different story if you’re working to constantly support the skin's microbiome and make sure that everything is in balance, and then you use a little essential oil. That’s a totally different thing. What we’re trying to do is bring back the focus to the ultimate goal of great skin, and try to help people create regimens that are going to give them the results that they want.

How would you suggest using essential oils?

Kristina Holey: Essential oils are medicinal and they do have interactions with the body that can be very positive. I don’t think we should just disregard essential oils, but let’s be really intelligent about the use. Why are we using oils? What is that providing for the skin? We're trying to compensate for the daily removal of oils, or perhaps a natural imbalance.

Marie Veronique: If the essential oils are in a formulation, particularly if it’s an oil blend, they're the least important part of your blend. It's better to make something that is going to make your skin healthy and at the end of the day say, "Does it smell okay? Fine." [Our products] are really about making something that promotes better skin function, keeps your skin healthy and supports its ability to carry on with its processes that it knows very well how to perform left to its own devices, as long as you’re supplying all the nutrients it needs.

Kristina Holey: Our line isn’t just about being fragrance free, that’s just a perk. Our real goal was to re-educate people about hydration and moisture and nourishment of the skin. We started realizing through my clients that common practices--stripping down your skin with a cleanser and then applying a water-based hydrator, and then sealing it with a cream is meant to nourish your skin--weren’t working.

How do you recommend using your products?

Kristina Holey: A lot of my clients like double cleansing, where you then saturate a cotton pad with the toner and then use that as a final step to the cleansing process, and what that’s doing is hydrating the skin and reseting the pH and prepping it for the serum. Our serums are what we call the supplements or the vitamins. There’s the anti-inflammatory Soothing B3 Serum ($90, credobeauty.com), that is also hydrating and soothing. It’s been really effective for rosacea, dermatitis, even hormonal acne flare ups. Then the Intensive Repair Serum ($90, credobeauty.com) is more for people who have stubborn, sensitive breakouts. It’s a little bit more exfoliating, and it pairs really well with the retinol. The last stage is moisturizing with the Triple Lipid Complex.

Marie Veronique: It’s 50 percent ceramides, 25 percent cholesterol, 25 percent free fatty acids. We want the pH of the skin to be at a certain range, between 4.5 and 5.5, and ratios of the lipids should be right. All of us start worrying about aging of the skin, so that’s what this is about, it’s about anti-aging.

Kristina Holey: You can think of it as a skin booster, to reset it. You can use it once or twice a week for 20 minutes. If you just got off a long haul flight you could sleep with it on. You can get creative with it. Marie sleeps with it on every night, and I use it twice a week.

What has been the most interesting thing for you about launching a brand?

Marie Veronique: It’s interesting that as skincare evolves into skin health, skin wellness, we are taking a closer look at everything we do and revising how we think about it. Like the mask: it used to be that when we talked about a mask everybody thinks exfoliation. This isn’t an exfoliator at all. It actually resupplies the nutrients that your skin needs rather than taking them away. If you think about the skin all by itself, it is a marvelously complex system that is supplying everything that you need while you’re sleeping so that your skin can function properly. What’s the first thing you do in the morning? You take all that away. The skin is very resilient, and it’s a hard worker, and it never stops even though we cruelly abuse it day after day. It comes back and it keeps trying. But we make the job harder when we’re using the products that aren’t designed to help the skin along. That really should be the idea. It’s not what you like. It’s what your skin likes.

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