Meeting Jean Seo, The Charismatic Owner of Evolue in Beverly Hills
After freezing-cold days in Berlin and rain showers in New York City I finally arrived in sunny Los Angeles– happy to be traveling, but not so happy about the effects it was having on my skin. That had to be changed, and I was looking for an eco-conscious, yet sophisticated beauty boutique with organic and natural products.
Evolue in Beverly Hills was recommended to me by a dear friend with similar values and appreciation for products that find their origin in nature. I was delighted to meet Jean Seo, who welcomed me with beautifully glowing skin and a laugh that seemed to be contagious. She was ready to answer my questions about products that are more than just beautifiers. Evolue’s ingredients are sourced from gardens, and I am delighted to share Jean’s personal insight.
GC: How was the idea of having your own store– the idea of Evolue– born?
JS: I just graduated from UCLA, and I was doing research for my masters. My sister had battled with bad skin and always had to cover her acne. Every month, she asked me for money and every month she spent it on a new skin care line, hoping to find a solution. My sister has super fair, very thin skin and all her life she suffered from acne. Eventually I said, “I will find a skin care line for you that will finally work” – I studied that, I can research anything – and I did find a line for her, which was called Arcona. Six months later she said, “Look at my face! I’m not wearing any make-up!” and she told me that she never left her house without make-up on since she was 16 years old. That was a huge change and that was when I realized: I am onto something. Obviously she is not the only one with that condition, so in that way she inspired me.
GC: What would you say differentiates your store from other natural shops?
JS: There is a book called What The Dog Saw and it says that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything, and I think I started before anyone else here. In early 2007, I moved to Beverly Hills and opened the first eco-luxury boutique in the country – before that all eco stores were smelling like Patchouli. They were kind of hippy and definitely not luxurious. And since I started so early I am ahead of everybody else.
GC: How do you curate products for the store?
JS: I am the face of the store, so I have my various ‘test-bunnies’ with different skin types: dry skin, oily skin, acne, rosacea who are willing to test the products for me, according to their skin type.
I only believe in things that work. For example, yesterday I tried an eye cream that was kind of sticky on my eyes for three hours. Who has time to sit around for three hours to wait for the product to work?
I have received tons of product samples; nowadays I do not even want to receive the product before I have reviewed the ingredient list. If I see already that there is cheap oil in there, I am dismissing the product immediately. Also, at this point my test bunnies have become quite picky!
Evolue offers a wide range of organic and natural beauty brands including Tata Harper, Nuxe, and May Lindstrom. Jean proudly showed me another special find, a soap bar made out of 40% donkey milk. (Yes, donkey milk.) The soap is made in France by Laboratorie Paysane, a company with a small donkey farm run by a mother and her five children. The product is, as expected, all natural and hormone-free, processed using a special cold method. As a result, the soaps, which are made with raw ingredients, can be formulated to provide an abundance of benefits without drying out the skin.
As a lover of all natural beauty products I got one soap bar to try out later on: “Donkey milk,” I whispered to myself while I stood in front of the bathroom sink. Rather hesitant towards the main ingredient, my curiosity of how this product would feel on my skin and the legend that Cleopatra, icon of beauty, took daily donkey milk baths, won me over. I began to foam the soap bar and lathered it on my face.
The luxurious feel was amazing. The soap felt incredibly purifying, and left my skin with that particular clean feeling that only soap can achieve. Rather surprised at my enthusiasm, I realized later on that my sensitive skin did not feel dry, but nourished and softer than usual.
After all the knowledge Jean has gathered over the years, it is inevitable that she would create her own skin care line measuring up to her standards: Evolue Sensible Skincare.
I tried the Resurfacing Grains, which is free of parabens, sulfates, and drying agents. It gently removes dead skin-cells and deep-cleans pores and is also safe to apply on the skin when one is gluten-intolerant (a hot topic, especially in Los Angeles these days). The print “tested on actresses not animals” speaks to Jean’s standards while underscoring her sense of humor.
I mixed the grains with the Evolue Toner, applied the paste, and after exfoliating, my skin immediately felt a sense of relief. Even though my skin is very sensitive I experienced no redness, but more importantly it looked and felt incredibly refreshed.
Aryeta Gashi, aka the “girl that likes to play with colors”, has worked at Evolue for six years now. She showed me the make-up selection and gave me a consultation fitting to my skin type. The RMS Beauty line was especially impressive to me: The concealer not only covered small blemishes but had a healing and soothing effect at the same time, turning it into a “double weapon” for flawless looking skin.
The highlighter applied the way a perfect highlighter should: glitter free and leaving a beautiful yet subtle and sheer glow. Aryeta then chose the shade “magnetic”– a taupe metallic hue with a hint of mauve, fitting to my blue-green eyes– and “sacred” as a popping lip tint. (As the name suggests, the lip2cheek colors double function as a cream blush as well.) All four products come in handy pots, making for east application. (Ever since I tried the RMS Glowing Set, it has become a staple in my nomad’s beauty bag.)
Of course, touting natural skincare in a city obsessed with style and glamour makes places like Evolue all the more unexpected and worthwhile. A visit to Jean Seo’s Evolue Store in Beverly Hills is a must in our book, whether you’re a native Los Angelina or simply a traveler looking to bring the health, nourishment, and well being of plants back into your beauty routine.