My Story: Up Close With Crystal Rowe, Founder of Natural Skincare Line jELN

Photography by O’shane Howard. Creative direction by Josef Adamu of Sunday School. Design by Danielle Campbell.

Welcome to My Story, our weekly series championing creatives of colour and their paths to success.

Meet Crystal Rowe, a Toronto-based model and founder of jELN, a handmade, made-to-order skincare line formulated with sustainably-sourced raw materials and essential oils, and that works day by day to keep its packaging eco-friendly. Rowe was inspired to start her own skincare brand after using harsh dermatologist-prescribed products to clear up a skin condition she suffered from. Years of research and mixing and testing natural concoctions from her kitchen eventually led to the birth of the full jELN line, which officially launched in 2019. Here, Rowe shares, in her own words, her brand’s journey.

On breaking into the beauty business:

“It started back in 2010. I was in my last year of high school with some skin condition I couldn’t figure out. I started going to a dermatologist that I got my doctor to refer me to because I couldn’t understand it: It wasn’t acne. I just knew that if I touched it would show up in other areas on my face. The dermatologist said it was a small form of warts and gave me a bunch of topical creams that didn’t do anything. When I finished high school, I was still dealing with it and my dermatologist eventually prescribed me something that cost close to $400. It ended up burning off the spots, but I was left with terrible scars. I really wanted to get rid of these scars, but I knew that there wasn’t going to be a fast fix. I ended up looking into natural ingredients, raw ingredients and essential oils and the benefits they each have on the skin. While researching, I came up with an oil, which I still carry and use today called Rich. It’s my staple that I’ve been using for years now to help with scaring and pigmentation issues. And as the years went on, I just realized how important it was for me to keep it natural personally. If I can help just one person with my brand jELN, then I’m happy because it definitely helped me. It’s been a great journey so far.”

On her brand name:

“jELN stems from my middle name — a name that comes from my great grandfather who passed. I just took out some of the vowels. I really wanted to keep something family oriented with my brand. Also, my favourite product, Rich, comes from my family’s maiden name.”

On jELN’s eco-conscious efforts:

“We just switched over our plastic lids to aluminium lids to keep packaging more eco-friendly with our glass jars. We’re trying to keep our materials to recyclable aluminium, glass and paper. We also have a recycling program: if you have six empty glass jars, then there’s a discount offered on your next purchase. Right now, the program is only available within the GTA and I do the pickup. Eventually, I would like to expand the program outside of the GTA.”

On her future vision for jELN:

“I call it a self-care house. It’s a storefront where customers can walk in and it will have all things self-care: products, massages, a gym, therapy. It would be a go-to getaway spot. I really enjoy making my products with my hands but with where I see my brand going and growing, I’m going to need to produce in higher quantities and at a faster pace, and am going to need more than a couple of helping hands. So, right now, I’m looking into getting products made in a lab.”

On the impact of the global health pandemic and Black Lives Matter Movement:

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I was nervous that business was going to go down because it hadn’t even been a year yet since I had launched the brand. I thought everything was going to just plummet, but it didn’t. During quarantining and with everybody at home, there has been an influx of support, and the major influx I’ve seen has definitely been from the Black community. But I’ve also seen brands, like retailers — brands that likely wouldn’t have answered my messages and emails before — being more open to speaking with me. I’ve also been able to speak with beauty brand founders that have been in the business longer and have become mentors. I think people and companies are just opening up more in general: Realizing where they went wrong and how they can do things differently moving forward.”

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