On Beauty

A New Three-Piece Beauty Line for Sensitive Types

Johanna Peet (left), the founder and C.E.O. of the new skin-care range Peet Rivko.

“If you look at my LinkedIn profile, it might seem surprising that I started a beauty brand,” admits Johanna Peet, the founder and C.E.O. of the new skin-care range Peet Rivko. To date, the 32-year-old’s résumé includes working as a staff assistant to the head of the counterterrorism bureau for the U.S. Department of State and studying human rights and social entrepreneurship at New York University, where she earned her J.D. and M.B.A. “But the idea for a beauty company was always in the back of my mind,” says Peet, who has been mixing up gentle, plant-based remedies for the last 10 years, as an alternative to the “harsh and synthetic ingredients” found in many mainstream lotions and oils that irritated her sensitive complexion. In her final year at N.Y.U. in 2015, Peet dreamed up Peet Rivko, a pared-back, unisex collection of daily essentials that launches today with a calming cleanser, moisturizer and face oil.

But Peet’s foray into beauty hardly comes as a surprise to friends and family back home in Wilmington, Del., who have sampled her botanical cure-alls over the years. Her best friend, the actress Aubrey Plaza, remembers dipping into more than a few honey masks. “Johanna and I have known each other since the fourth grade — our moms are best friends, and we both come from families with three sisters,” she says. The back-to-basics ethos behind Peet Rivko immediately appealed to Plaza, who serves as an adviser to and ambassador for the brand. “I think it’s always a struggle for me to maintain healthy skin when I’m constantly being touched and having new products put on,” says the former “Parks & Recreation” actress. “You want to try them all and then sometimes, you end up using too many things in combination that will irritate your skin, even if they’re natural-based.” Peet Rivko, she says, is like a palate cleanser: The line’s products are free of allergens and additives but still luxurious.

Keeping the formulas (and the steps to apply them) as minimal as possible was a top priority for Peet, who runs the beauty start-up out of her Brooklyn apartment, and is well aware that she’s not the only green brand in the borough. Peet Rivko, though, is carving out a new niche as a “next-level natural,” she says, meaning that it steers clear of fragrances, common toxins and preservatives (parabens, sulfates, phthalates, silicones and petroleum, among others) but also many harsh botanicals, such as essential oils, limonene, nut oils and floral extracts, which Peet discovered firsthand “can be problematic for those with hypersensitive skin.”

“Getting the texture right for a moisturizer is very difficult without using synthetic ingredients,” says Peet, who distilled the final blends of all three products with a small, family-run laboratory in Los Angeles — testing the shortlist of ingredients for all skin types — and spent months hunting down a natural preservative system that would give the range a two-year shelf life. The nonfoaming Gentle Cleanser relies on organic aloe vera, soothing comfrey and green tea while the Balancing Facial Oil is infused with cold-pressed, antioxidant-rich avocado, jojoba and prickly pear oils, the latter of which Peet is particularly obsessed with for its healing capabilities.

Up next, Peet plans to launch a face exfoliator and body-care items, but she wants to keep the line streamlined and uncomplicated. “You can still have your brightening serums and retinol creams, and that’s great,” she says. “But these are your everyday basics.”