We meet up with Johanna Peet, founder and visionary of the recently launched Peet Rivko in a french cafe on Lafayette and Prince. Seated on vintage bar stools, we all order a round of green teas (of course) and talk Peet’s zero-toxin, plant-based clean skincare line. The line takes on a new meaning of natural beauty as it’s free of additives and irritants, making it the perfect paired-back basics regime for sensitive skin (AKA If you’re looking for a clean alternative to your tried and tested Cetaphil, this is going to become your new holy grail).
Peet pulls out a box of her fragrance free Body Oil and our jaws drop; The packaging is incredibly beautiful. Bold black letters tumble down the side of a chic white box in true minimalist fashion. It’s love at first site. After listening to Peet’s story, we learn there is more than meets the eye of this new clean skincare line. Peet injects plenty of thought, heart, and soul into her collection of products.
Peet divulges the details of the brand’s message and how her career in foreign policy unorthodoxly lead to the creation of Peet Rivko. After working in counterterrorism and discovering law school wasn’t the right fit, Peet developed some unexpected skin problems. All of a sudden, her skin became hyper-sensitive. She struggled to find non-toxic products that would keep her skin happy. Her new found skin sensitivity combined with a determination to begin working in a more creative field lead to Peet launching her own products, and this plant-based unisex skincare line was born. Now Peet’s vision is quickly making quite the name for itself with a little help from Peet’s childhood friend and Peet Rivko ambassador, Aubrey Plaza.
We won’t spill all the details for you, and instead will let you read our interview with Peet below. Happy reading!
The Moment: Hi Johanna! Can you tell us a little about yourself and your brand?
Peet: Hi! I’m Johanna, the founder of Peet Rivko – a unisex, natural skincare brand. I always like to mention that I’m from Wilmington, Delaware – I think because it’s such a small state, there’s a lot of pride in being a Delawarean. I launched Peet Rivko this past January. We create ultra-gentle, plant-based skincare for men and women. Clean, daily essentials that look good on your bathroom shelf.
The Moment: What were you doing prior to starting Peet Rivko?
Peet: I actually worked in government and foreign policy prior to starting Peet Rivko. I worked at the State Department in the Counterterrorism office and then went to law school thinking I would become a lawyer and go back into government. Law school turned out to be the wrong fit, and I had this nagging voice in the back of my head encouraging me to pursue a more creative path and start my own business. I decided to take the leap and started working on Peet Rivko full-time after graduation. After almost two years of formulating and product development, we launched Peet Rivko this past January.
The Moment: Your skin care journey really informed Peet Rivko, can you tell us more about that?
Peet: Yes, Peet Rivko was really born out of my own struggle to find gentle skincare products that worked. In my early 20s, my skin became hyper-sensitive and reactive. I’m not sure what exactly triggered the change, but I quickly found that most mainstream brands I was using were far too aggressive for my skin and caused irritation and inflammation.
I began educating myself on ingredients and also slowly began switching over to all natural products. Unfortunately, most natural lines out there were also too harsh for my skin. Ingredients like essential oils and concentrated plant actives were problematic for my sensitive skin and would cause burning sensations or redness. To cope, I began making my own simple, natural skincare products and that’s really how Peet Rivko started. Our products are designed with the most sensitive skin in mind, but work as gentle, daily essentials for any skin type.
What really differentiates Peet Rivko are our formulations – we create ultra-gentle, plant-based skincare that is fragrance and irritant-free.
The Moment: Does the line have any through ingredients? What do you add to PR, and what ingredients are you sure to leave out?
Peet: What really differentiates Peet Rivko are our formulations – we create ultra-gentle, plant-based skincare that is fragrance and irritant-free.
Our products are clean, safe and non-toxic: no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, phenoxyethanol, PEGs, silicones, or petroleum. We follow E.U. regulations for our products and have a list of over 1,400 ingredients that are banned and you will never see in our products.
Our formulas are also free of irritants commonly found in natural skincare products—no essential oils, limonene, nut oils, or oral extracts—so they’re gentle enough for the most sensitive skin.
We have a few signature ingredients we absolutely love, including jojoba oil and prickly pear oil. Our jojoba oil is 100% organic and cold-pressed from the seeds of the jojoba plant. Its chemical structure closely matches the skin’s own sebum, making it a lightweight oil that absorbs easily while adding hydration. Formulating our face oil, I learned that oils vary so much in terms of weight, smell, and texture – and jojoba is one of those oils that feels “just right” and works for so many types of skin without leaving a greasy finish.
I also love prickly pear oil, which is a cactus seed oil cold-pressed from the seeds of prickly pear fruit. It’s high in vitamin E and K, zinc, and amino acids, and restores elasticity and protects against free radicals. My Mom is Sicilian and I grew up eating prickly pears but had no idea until I started Peet Rivko that the oil is such a powerhouse with these amazing skin-reparative properties. You’ll definitely see it in future Peet Rivko products too.
The Moment: Your packaging is such a huge draw and great introduction to the line. How was that designed?
Peet: I knew from the beginning that I wanted to create packaging that stood apart from the myriad of skincare lines out there, and I wanted something that you feel excited to see on your bathroom shelf. We went with a simple, black and white, minimal look because our skincare philosophy is all about minimalism – using fewer products with fewer ingredients – and I wanted the packaging to be unisex or at least not overtly feminine. All of the products are designed for men and women, so you can share with your roommates, partners, spouses, or friends. The design process itself was a multi-step process. We worked with a designer in Brooklyn on the logo, and the falling letter concept for the labels and packaging was created by Ross Gunter who is a genius graphic designer based in London. We’ve been really fortunate to work a number of amazing designers and developers who have helped bring our original vision to life.
The Moment: Skincare item you never leave home without?
Peet: Our Balancing Face Oil. My skin is sensitive but it’s also very dry. It’s deeply hydrating but also very lightweight for a face oil and never leaves me looking shiny.
The best skincare tips are about getting back to the basics: less is more.
The Moment: You work with so many incredible people. What’s the best skincare tip you’ve heard all year?
Peet: Tough question. Honestly, I think the best skincare tips are about getting back to the basics: less is more, wash your face at night, drink lots of water, wear SPF every day, use upward motions when applying moisturizer, and don’t pick at your face. If you did just those things, you would be doing really well.
The Moment: What’s next for Peet Rivko? Considering any beauty?
Peet: We’re working on a few exciting projects. I’m hoping to roll out a mini-store on our website later this fall where we carry other brands that we love and share our values surrounding ethical sourcing, plant-based ingredients, and sustainability. We’ve also gotten a lot of requests for an exfoliator and masks, so both of those are in the works. I never want to create a line that has a million products – daytime serums, nighttime serums, etc. That’s just not our line. We’re focused on creating safe, effective, gentle essentials that make taking care of your skin easy and a daily ritual you enjoy.
Even though a product is “clean,” that does not necessarily mean it’s gentle or right for you.
The Moment: In your experience, what’s the biggest misconception about clean beauty?
Peet: Two big challenges standout: the lack of regulation surrounding the beauty industry and the reality that harsh things exist in nature – so even though a product is “clean,” that does not necessarily mean it’s gentle or right for you.
It’s incredibly confusing for consumers to understand what exactly is meant by “natural” or “clean” beauty. Just because a product is labeled natural does not necessarily mean it only includes “clean” or non-synthetic, plant-derived ingredients. When I started Peet Rivko, I was shocked to learn that the beauty industry and cosmetics are largely unregulated. The U.S. has not passed any major legislation regulating the industry since 1938, and while the European Union bans over 1,300 ingredients in personal care products, in the U.S., we’ve banned 11. It’s scary. On top of that, terms like “natural” or “non-toxic” do not have a set legal definition, so brands can use them however they see fit. This makes it incredibly difficult for consumers to understand what’s in a product and to what degree it includes natural or synthetic ingredients. At Peet Rivko, we define “natural” as “plant-derived” and we list the plant source for every ingredient on our bottles and on our website.
We also want to educate our consumers on the range of natural ingredients that are used in skincare and the fact that harsh things do exist in nature. Many plant ingredients commonly used in natural products—like essential oils, limonene, linalool or floral extracts—are also well-known irritants that dermatologists tell you to avoid if you have sensitive or reactive skin.
The Moment: From your research, what are the most important things/ingredients to look out for when you’re buying clean beauty?
Peet: At a high level, I would pay attention to ingredients (are they clean?), packaging (is it recyclable?), and expiration dates (how long will this last?). Most people don’t realize that makeup and skincare products expire and you should really use them within 1-2 years. When it comes to ingredients, reading the back of a skincare label is confusing! Unfortunately, brands are required to list ingredients in their scientific name, which makes it that much harder to know what’s in a product.
Some quick tips:
First off, it’s important to know that all ingredients have to be listed in descending order according to amount used, so the first ingredient is the highest quantity ingredient in a product. Second, keep an eye out and avoid known toxins, such as parabens, sulftates, phthalates, gylcols, or methylisothiazolinone. Third, watch out for potentially irritating ingredients: fragrance is a big one and can also be listed as “parfum” – as are essential oil derivatives such as limonene, linalool, and geraniol. If you are ever confused about an ingredient, you can always look it up on EWG’s Skin Deep database or don’t be afraid to reach out to the brand directly and ask.
The Moment: What’s on your vision board right now? Personal and brand?
Peet: Personally, there’s a lot of travel on the vision board. I’ve been very restless this summer in NYC, wanting to get out of town and explore. I’d love to take a big trip this winter to Southeast Asia or maybe Peru. Traveling is so important to me and my greatest source of creative inspiration.
For the brand, there are also so many ideas I want to pursue and make a reality. My vision for Peet Rivko is to continue to thoughtfully expand the line with products that make up the foundation of any skincare regimen, but also build a community of customers and supporters that believe in doing business differently. I would love to expand our social impact program. We are a member of 1% of the Planet and donate 1% of sales to local environmental nonprofits, but I would love to expand our network of artisan and non-profit partners and find innovative ways to grow the business and our social mission.
The Moment: How do you define beauty?
Peet: Self-confidence and self-empowerment.
The Moment: What’s in your makeup bag right now?
Peet: Since I started Peet Rivko, I’ve tried to only use natural skincare brands and have noticed that I wear a lot less makeup in general. You’ll always find RMS concealer and living luminizer in my makeup bag. I’m obsessed with both. I have dry skin, and her products are light and really work for me. I also love ILIA for lips. I use Blossom Lady. I also like Kjaer Weiss eyeshadow and cream blush.
The Moment: Favorite wellness spot in New York? In Delaware?
Peet: Jill Lindsey in Clinton Hill (where I live) is amazing. Her store offers a ton of wellness services and she has single-handedly built an amazing community in the neighborhood. I also love Sacred Sounds Yoga on Bleecker. They are one of the few places in NYC that has a Yoga Nidra class, which I love. It’s kind of like napping yoga but I find it really helps with calming the mind and anxiety. The wellness trend has yet to hit Delaware in a big way, but the nature in Delaware is actually quite beautiful. My parents live across the street from a state park with a trail along the river. I love going for a hike or run in the park; it’s very peaceful and serene there.
The Moment: Most cherished moment?
Peet: Spending time with family and close friends. I’m very close to my parents and siblings and cherish any time we can all get together. I also love dinner parties or a BBQ with friends and being surrounded by those I love and think are hilarious and my people.
The Moment: First thing you do in the morning?
Peet: Make a cup of tea, say a morning gratitude prayer, then catch up on work emails. Hopefully after that, I will go for a walk or run before heading to the office.
The Moment: Last thing you do before bed?
Peet: I’ve been desperately trying to use my phone less before bed. I welcome any tips! Right now, I’m reading a lot before bed which feels like progress. So last thing I do before bed is probably read a few pages and then turn off the lights for bed.
The Moment: How do you stay grounded in the moment?
Peet: It’s tough being a small business owner and living in this crazy city. That said, I find exercise really important. I like to run and do yoga as much as I can. I also listen to a lot of podcasts from Tara Brach, a meditation teacher based in Bethesda, Maryland. I love her books and find it really calming to listen to her podcasts while I’m walking to work or on the subway.
Special thanks to Johanna Peet!
Photo courtesy of Peet Rivko
SHOP THE MOMENTThe Best in Clean Beauty