selfmade on Wefunder 2023
Selfmade integrates psychology and dermatology to improve mental wellness through emotional regulation and self-care. The team has developed skincare products that tie into routines to improve mental health, merging psychology with dermatology. We sat down with the selfmade team to discuss the concept of psychodermatology, problems plaguing the beauty industry, and more.
In your own words, how would you describe your company and the concept of psychodermatology?
Selfmade is an emotional well-being brand that works with mental health practitioners to translate psychodermatology science into everyday products. We lead the category with a unique market opportunity and challenge, “How do you merge physiological and psychological care seamlessly and credibly with consumer products?”.
Ultimately, I saw a need to reclaim a space to reimagine the definition of beauty based on a secure attachment with ourselves rather than external validation. Our mission is to create the tools, products, and conversations that change how we care for ourselves and increase emotional intelligence.
selfmade uses the medical discipline of psychodermatology to attach new habits to existing routines: skin care. The average Gen Z person averages 30-45 minutes daily participating in skin care routines. We habit stack and incorporate emotional care into existing self-care routines to effectively link mental care and physical well-being, with less lift and time commitment than if we were to create a new, separate habit. We develop each product and content touchpoint as a therapeutic practice with mental health experts and community members to craft emotionally healthy brand experiences that counter internal and external stress.
From our inception, selfmade was born at the intersection of our mental health and the politics of beauty. From our community’s lived experiences, we know that beauty is political. The way societal expectations drive our decision-making around our bodies, emotions, and appearance directly affects how we show up in the world. It affects how we see and love ourselves, and therefore, it affects our mental health.
Between the confusion around the amorphous definition of “clean beauty,” consumer/industry outrage to the unending onslaught of celebrity brands, and the fall of influencer-led brands, we can see the consumer trying to navigate the noise post-truth era back to home base – facts and science.
The power of psychodermatology is that this is a discipline of medicine and research that has existed for over a decade. Historically, it studies the interaction of our psychology and physical manifestation from a psychiatric disorder perspective. As our world has become more stressful and we’ve been jolted into a mental health crisis accelerated by the pandemic, we are sick as a society, and it is showing up on our skin, hair, and bodies in a way we haven’t experienced before.
Psychodermatology is vital because it educates us about the long-standing and inseparable connection between our nervous system and skin – which come from the same layer (ectoderm) when we are an embryo. This means we have some control and path to taking care of ourselves when we feel our most uncertain and out of control due to external factors. And the way forward is understanding our emotions is the care and attention we need to care for everything between our physical and mental health. Suppose we can understand what happens on our skin (acne, moisture barrier loss, inflammation, etc.) is triggered by cortisol releases in our body because of stressors. In that case, we can put self-judgment aside and learn to care for our needs. That self-validation is essential and is the moment we are hellbent on creating for our consumers with selfmade.
What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?
Growing up, I never had a deep understanding of mental health. It wasn’t something that was talked about openly in my family or culture. So, when my own mental health crisis hit in 2015, it hit me hard. Looking back, I could see the signs that I overlooked. The excessive worrying, perfectionism, the sleepless nights, the constant negative chatter in my head, and the feeling of impending doom. But at the time, it seemed like something to push through, ignore, or make light of.
I was working in the beauty industry at the time, and the pressure to be perfect (or cover up “imperfections” and “flaws”) was immense. I was surrounded by ideals of beauty and perfection that were unattainable and unsustainable, which played a significant role in my relationship with my mental health and sense of self. I put myself under enormous pressure to fit into a mold that wasn’t even possible. Thankfully, I had access to health insurance and an incredible therapist, even though I was reluctant. But I was so miserable I had no choice but to dive into therapy and self-work, and then I started to recognize how my anxiety and depression were affecting my body and skin. The more I struggled, the more it showed in my appearance. Dark circles under my eyes, massive amounts of dandruff shedding and flaking, hair falling out, breakout after breakout, muscle tension and pain, and general exhaustion.
It was a rude awakening, but forced me to start paying attention to the mind-body connection. Trauma, stress, and emotions can profoundly impact our physical health. At the same time, my hair was falling out, I had massive amounts of dandruff, my skin was breaking out, and my muscles were constantly tense. Not to mention inherited, generational trauma, and epigenetics. Understanding how our thoughts and feelings affect our bodies was the first step in my transformation. I started to delve into the psychology of human behavior, attitudes, and patterns. This led me to understand how our attachment, ability to tap into resilience, and the power of vulnerable intimacy are vital to our humanness. Equally, having dysfunction in these areas triggers anxiety and a stress release in my body. I also had to learn what real self-care practices are (vs. self-maintenance), like being mindful of my body when I feel discomfort, taking showers, doing dishes, and taking my medication. I began recognizing when I felt overwhelmed and learned to manage those emotions more healthily.
As I started to work on healing my body and mind (or even examining what healing is), I also began to recognize how much our culture perpetuates a particular narrative around beauty. Racial and gendered inequity were at the forefront of my mind, and I saw how beauty standards were based on white, thin, Eurocentric ideals. It was empowering to recognize this. I decided to create a platform to break down those barriers and champion a more inclusive perception of beauty where it’s defined as a feeling and relationship to self.
Being vulnerable and confronting my inner conflict wasn’t always easy, but it was necessary for my growth and transformation. Traveling around the world was a significant part of that journey. It’s hard to describe how much it changed me to see the world in all its beauty and challenges. But it profoundly impacted my perception of myself, my confidence to bet on myself, and my desire to give back to the world.
My mission is to encourage others to explore their inherent worth and recognize the power of self-awareness. If we don’t first understand ourselves and our experiences, how do we express ourselves and meet our needs? We have the choice to live authentically and cultivate meaningful relationships, but it starts with recognizing that we are all human, and we all deserve to be seen and heard.
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You took some time to travel the world before starting your company. How did your travels influence how you built and run your business?
Deeply and expansively. Every person must travel the world solo. There is something about flinging yourself into the unknown and not just surviving but thriving that is a whole other level of self-trust and confidence beyond the everyday.
My most significant takeaway was the power of empathy. See people live, hear their experiences, experience their humanness, and see yourself in their stories. Pursuing self-worth is not a solo game, it’s a call to engage with humanity. It comes to us when we look closer at our relationship with ourselves and others. And knowing we are a work in progress is powerful.
I had the privilege of traveling worldwide for a year — 11 countries and 16 states. Technically, I did a bit of a U-turn. I made it to New Zealand, and something in the universe called me to Sri Lanka. It was the best decision I made.
I acknowledge it is a privilege to leave a stable life to wander about. I visited my homeland for the first time, Vietnam, where I visited my dad’s childhood home. The experience was unexpectedly emotional and added to my immense sense of privilege. I won the DNA lottery; I could be these young women who stand in front of me serving me pho on the side streets, and it spurred in me the question, “What do I do with that privilege? How do I take the tools people get inside a therapist’s office, bring them to the real world, and make them accessible to all people?”
It gave me the self-trust to take a risk and bet on myself. I remember having conversations with my partner where he said, “Do you want to continue taking bets on other people, or do you want to take a bet on yourself?” And I replied, “I 110% want to take a bet on myself.” And so, that was the beginning of me pulling away from what I “should” be doing, according to society — which is climbing the ladder, making lots of money, — to, “I’m going to take a bet on myself and this is going to be scary.” Whether that is traveling the world or starting a business.
What do you see as the biggest problem plaguing the beauty industry?
When I founded selfmade, I saw a significant white space in the personal care market that was inaccurately co-opted by the self-care industrial complex. While many brands focused on beauty and physical appearance, very few addressed the mental and emotional aspects of caring for yourself. I recognized the need for a brand prioritizing self-exploration and self-worth over societal beauty norms.
Furthermore, I noticed a gap in the representation of diverse communities and the representation of thoughts, stories, and lived experiences. Many brands catered solely to a specific demographic, ignoring the needs of marginalized groups. I saw the potential to create a brand that represented and uplifted underrepresented communities and promoted intersectionality in every aspect of our business.
Through selfmade, we address these issues by offering products that support self-exploration and empower individuals, particularly BIPOC. By critiquing societal norms and promoting inclusivity, representation, and self-exploration, we aim to help individuals build healthier relationships with themselves and ultimately positively impact each other.
Can you walk me through what a routine with your products might look like? How do you combine mental health, rituals, and habit stacking with skincare?
Our post-pandemic era bodies and brains are chronically stressed, which has left us in a state of dysfunction, and we have to evolve how we care for ourselves. I built selfmade with mental health experts to learn how to get back into our bodies and reduce disassociation with a social, mental, emotional, and physical approach. We use psychodermatology as a lens to view our skin as a window to our internal world so we can better define needs and meet them, rather than defaulting into a feeling of shame when our appearance is so tied to our sense of worth by society.
Self-care rituals many of us practice every day, especially when it comes to our skincare, I realized that these were all emotionally-charged practices already. So, I started to think about how we could integrate mental health and emotional sciences into the formulation of products We asked more questions: How could we create something that supports you inside and out? Something that makes you feel whole? How can we create something that supports your emotional wellness just as much as your physical well-being? These questions and ideas fueled the creation of selfmade. Once I had an idea, I validated it with about 20 mental health practitioners to ensure it could address the problem we were solving.
Like an onion with many layers, selfmade Infuses physiological sciences with behavioral and social-emotional concepts (awareness, compassion, and engagement) that have been researched and proven to lead to healthier decision-making. Our products and rituals are developed with mental health experts to improve reflection, education, and emotional regulation, which help manage stress.
Interoceptive Awareness will start infiltrating our consciousness as more experiences with wellness products, conversations, and practices will be centered on helping folks gain awareness of inner sensations and internal bodily states. This is important as we feel a lot, all the time, and sometimes all at once. Even when we are numb, emotions and sensations still exist. So, as we get tired of dissociating our minds and feelings from our bodies, interoception is the eighth sense that helps us make meaning of physical sensations when we have certain feelings.
When we can close our eyes and tap into feeling the physical sensations as the hair on the back of our neck stands up, each shallow hiccup of oxygen enters our lungs, or shallow breathing and the neurological sparks fly when your heart skips a beat. That pulsating energy may be love at first sight, or it might be anxiety in a new environment – only you and your eighth sense can tell and create meaning for ourselves as a template for future emotional responses and behavior patterns
That means we develop our products as tools that spark curiosity in the pursuit of emotional intelligence and self-worth where we already are: at our vanity, shower, or nightstand.
- Slow sensory beauty for safety in skin/body: By positioning our products as tools we can leverage to trigger a sense of calmness, we can let the body know and understand, “Hey, it’s safe right now.” Then, that allows our body permission to relax, restore, and rest. This also impacts not just our physical health, like digestion, but also our mental health, so we may feel relaxed enough to allow play to improve the quality of our lives ultimately.
- Interoception in ritual: Many of us don’t live in our body and disassociate, whether from trauma or negative experiences that make it feel unsafe. A connected sensory experience makes us present in our bodies. It makes us present about our mental state. Instead of just pushing it to the side, we acknowledge it, making us intentional about what we’re doing. to ourselves. Our relationship with ourselves is the relationship we will have the longest.
- Habit stack positive emotional vocabulary when we look at ourselves in the mirror: One of the first steps to self-awareness is expanding our emotional vocabulary, which is why each product embodies a tried and true human psychological concept: attachment, resilience, and intimacy.
- Habit stack self-reflection when we pick up the bottle: As we continue to pile on the stresses of modern life in a pandemic, war, monkeypox, and war on repro rights on the rise, we tend to sink back into the survival and safety part of our brains – the amygdala—flight, fight, freeze or fawn. The best way to move back into self-regulation and de-escalate stress/cortisol is to ask ourselves a self-reflecting question to move to our prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making and processing. In honor of this easy de-stressing tactic, each package has a question to ask that relates to the product platform. My favorite one is the Self Disclosure Intimacy Serum, which asks, “What do you feel when you touch yourself?”
- Psychodermatology as the habit link: Our product philosophy revolves around psychodermatology to bring awareness to the point where our emotional and mental well-being affects our skin and body function. That body and mind axis is critical to understanding the internal and external stressors that bring us out of healthy homeostasis, triggering stress, which in turn shows up in our skin (acne, dryness, inflammation, sensitivity).
- Address stress physically and mentally in our typical skincare application to work with our bodies and mind rather than against it. Our products have ingredients that target damage from chronic cortisol on the skin and our behaviors that exacerbate stress and increase habits to increase beta-endorphins in the skin to lower inflammation
- Active ingredients, functional ingredients, and adaptogenic platforms lower stress enough to allow our natural care mechanisms to trigger and enhance the happy and love hormones that already exist in us
- Self-touch as self-care: physical contact to increase serotonin or bodily movement, unleashing dopamine for a natural glow
- Self-reflection and conversations create opportunities for communal beauty rituals and release oxytocin to enhance a sense of belonging
- Prioritizing homeostasis and health rather than “looking good” or image-focused. Knowing that the goal of mental health and therapy is emotional regulation and management, it intersects with our skincare since the goal is healthy homeostasis and physical regulation.
- Skill building: Self-awareness is the self-reflective inventory and moments of mindfulness that helps us know our needs emotionally, mentally, and physically and the stimuli, thought, and behavior patterns that affect those areas.
- Products as tools: Self-care is the work in between feeling “out of whack” from stimuli to get back to our point of equilibrium.
- Ritual: Emotional intelligence and interoception is the ability to do all of that work as a habit.
Being in a healthy homeostasis allows our bodies and skin to do what is naturally intended to do to take care of us.
Wall Street has Morningstar, S&P, and Bloomberg
The equity crowdfunding market has KingsCrowd.
You have some very exciting plans for product development in the coming years. Can you share your goals and how you see your product line developing?
The cool thing about centering mental well-being rather than beauty and appearance is that we can figure out incremental innovations where folks already have self-care habits throughout their day rather than just vanity. We also can play and experiment with areas of mental care that relate to sense since that relationship is so strong – smell, taste, sound, sight.
We focus on growing our community and accessing emotional well-being products/tools, resources, and conversations. We’ll also be launching our fourth cohort of the Junior Advisory Board as a fellowship to continue mental health activism through beauty.
Lastly, we have been working on our mission of propelling self-worth and emotional intelligence rituals through a digital space. This is what I’m most excited about.
selfmade is currently raising on Wefunder
About: Olivia Strobl
Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.