Peet Rivko, a skincare company focused on natural ingredients for sensitive skin, is charting new territory in the world of modern wellness. As a new member of West Elm’s LOCAL program, Peet Rivko’s line of thoughtful, plant-based skincare that can be used by anyone is revolutionizing how we think about our health and its cost to our environment.
In the beginning, Johanna Peet came up with the idea for the company out of frustration. A scramble to find something – anything – that wouldn’t irritate her skin lead to a breaking personal reckoning with the beauty industry. As a law student, Johanna found that seemingly every skincare product out there had some sort of additive — even if it was “natural” — that was irritating to the skin and unnecessary. “To cope, I began studying the labels and ingredients of everything I used,” she says. “I was disturbed by what I learned: brands I loved were chock full of harmful synthetics and toxins linked to everything from endocrine disruption to asthma.”
The truth is, complicated is not always better. Peet Rivko strives to cut through the noise and deliver something beautifully and uniquely simple with a holistic plant-based, hypoallergenic skincare line. Its minimalist branding is evident in the overall approach of the brand: simplicity is best. With thoughtful sourcing practices, American-made packaging, and a lot of trial and error over the years, Peet Rivko wants to give you everything your skin loves — and nothing more. With commitment transparency and a price point that is accessible, Peet Rivko is the long-term skincare staple you’ve been missing from your routine.
We’re excited to announce Peet Rivko as one of our new West Elm LOCAL makers! We sat down with Johanna in the beautiful FABR Studios, her go-to partnership pop-up space in Bushwick, Brooklyn, to chat with her about what’s it like to be an entrepreneur in the beauty landscape today. Shop the full collection now on westelm.com and read the full interview below!
Photography by Lindsey Swedick.
Hi! I’m Johanna Peet, founder of Peet Rivko.
How did Peet Rivko come to be? What were you doing prior to starting your own business?
I started Peet Rivko in 2017 right out of graduate school. Before starting the company, I was working in foreign policy at the State Department. I love international affairs and diplomacy and went to law school to continue on that track. Never in my wildest imagination did I expect to start a skincare line instead of becoming a lawyer. But I had a little voice in my head curious about starting my own business. At the same time, I was increasingly unhappy in law school despite doing all the “right things” on paper.
For years, I had been making simple skincare products on the side –– my skin is ultra sensitive and I couldn’t find natural products that were fragrance-free and plant-based and gentle. One day it just clicked that this could be an actual business and that even though I was studying for something very different, I could still forge my own path. Through the encouragement of friends and family, I decided to take the leap and start Peet Rivko. We launched with three core products: our Gentle Cleanser, Daily Moisturizer, and Balancing Face Oil. All three formulations are non-toxic and plant-based yet free from irritating ingredients like fragrance, essential oils, nut oils, and florals.
Tell us about Peet Rivko’s mission to provide gentle, non-toxic skincare essentials. Why are clean skin products so important?
What really distinguishes our products is the fact that they are all fragrance-free. Our products have a smell to them but we never added synthetic fragrance or even natural ingredients like essential oils. Most people don’t realize how irritating fragrance – natural or synthetic – can be for the skin. It’s why dermatologists are always recommending brands like Cetaphil or Cerave; they are gentle, fragrance-free products that won’t cause inflammation.
With Peet Rivko, our aim is to create effective, simple products that even the most sensitive of skin can use. But really, they are products any skin type can enjoy. Even if your skin isn’t crazy sensitive, it benefits from taking a break from harsh or super active products. For example, if you’re using an acid exfoliator on a regular basis, try using a gentle moisturizer afterward or a gentle cleanser to prep. Everything in moderation.
I never want to shame and judge someone who is not using clean skincare products (we’re all doing the best we can!), but I personally really believe in the power of natural and clean products. The science behind plants has come so far in recent years that you can really find highly effective products without parabens, sulfates or petroleum-derived ingredients. For us, it was a no brainer to use plant-based ingredients and core to our mission of creating as sustainable a line as possible.
What’s been the hardest and the most rewarding thing about being a small-business owner?
One of the hardest things is the unpredictable ups and downs of owning a small business and being your own boss. On any given day, you can have incredible highs and successes and the next second, you get an email saying that your order is going to be months late. It can feel like a wild roller coaster ride, but you have to find a way to balance and manage both extremes. Over the years, I’ve gotten much better at finding a sense of calm and purpose that helps me navigate the journey.
On the flip side, one of the most rewarding things is having a chance to work with other incredible men and women as part of a growing team. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have found partners – employees, freelancers, and other brand founders, that I trust and truly enjoy working with day in and day out. It’s also incredibly rewarding to make a tangible product that is new to the world and would not exist except for your effort and vision. I think that’s pretty cool.
What do you love most about living + working in Brooklyn?
Brooklyn is an incredibly inspiring place. The diversity of people, food, and experiences is unlike any other place I’ve lived. Spending time upstate has only made me appreciate the borough that much more. I love that I’ve also built a great community of other female founders and creatives who I can work with during the day and also lean on for support as I build Peet Rivko.
Tell us about FABR studios and how you use the space.
FABR studios is a hidden oasis in Bushwick designed by the mega-talented Bretaigne Walliser, Thom Dalmas, and Eli Fernald. All three are architects and FABR is home to their design practice as well a few other local architects. We’re lucky enough to work out of the space and have hosted several events there including the pop-up series Casa Sur.
What does a typical Saturday look like for you?
I split my time between Brooklyn and upstate New York and, in the summer, I try to be upstate as much as possible on the weekends. On Saturdays, I love going to the Hudson Farmers’ Market and cooking a big lunch at the house with veggies and fish from the market.
These days, we’re also super busy doing work in the garden and in our apple orchard. I try to spend an hour or two catching up on work emails in the afternoon and in the evening, we love to grill at home or go to Gaskins, a favorite restaurant in Germantown, NY.
What’s your piece of advice for women entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
Do as much as you can before you leave your full-time job and take the plunge to go all in. There can be a romanticized notion of the entrepreneur that only works on their startup and raises millions, but it’s equally impressive to work on your business while you still have financial security. Once you get started, don’t be afraid to share your idea and ask others for help! Ignore the haters and surround yourself with people that make you feel empowered and excited about building out your vision.