OSEA founder and ‘chief seaweed officer’ Jenefer Palmer comes from a long line of healers. In fact, her grandmother was one of the first female chiropractors in the world, who always told her granddaughter, Always read the label. She took the advice to heart when working as spa director at Murrieta Hot Springs, which at the time was a premier holistic destination spa. But what she found came as a surprise: Many of the most expensive products used inexpensive and sometimes dangerous synthetic ingredients. Palmer now uses 100 percent natural marine-based organic ingredients in her products, which are carried at luxury spas around the world. We caught up with her on a recent visit to Soft Surroundings, St. Louis’ exclusive provider of OSEA products.
Why is it important that your products be organic?
Up to 70 percent of what you put on your skin is absorbed, and the average woman uses 10 to 12 products. Our products are naturally derived, and we do that because there are so many new synthetics out there and we don’t know their effects individually, much less combined. Our seaweed comes from Patagonia, which are the most pristine waters remaining in the world. I travel there for a month every year for the seaweed harvest. I’m very involved with the formulation, because someone’s got to be there to make sure that we get the best seaweed—it absorbs the good, bad and the ugly from the water around it so it’s important to keep a balance.
Why is seaweed so good for the skin?
It’s a rich source of vitamins, enzymes, amino acids and trace elements of different types. To me, seaweed is the most obvious ingredient for skincare because it feeds the skin. One of the species we use is known as Gigartina Skottsbergii, a red algae that is an excellent moisturizer that also boosts collagen. We also use Undaria Pinnatifida, which is a brown algae that inhibits hyaluronidase and collagenase, enzymes that break down the hyaluronic acid and collagen in our skin; as well as Macrocystis Pyrifera, an anti-irritant that helps heal sun-damaged skin and reduces wrinkles.
What would you suggest for women who want to protect their skin from the signs of aging?
Younger people are becoming interested in anti-aging, which is great. I definitely recommend products with active natural ingredients because you will see the results. The best way to protect skin from the sun is physically—with hats and glasses, rather than just sunscreen.
How does your family history play into your company?
My grandmother had always told me to study the healing arts, and so I studied acupressure, shiatsu and different forms of bio-dynamic cranial therapy. But then, while I had been working on this, a beginning chiropractic student ruptured my fifth lumbar disk. I couldn’t do anything for three or four months; and when I recovered, I managed to get a job as a spa director, without ever having been in a spa before. I used to wash my face with water, and that was it. To this day, I have two tubes of lipstick—that’s my entire makeup collection. But as a spa director, I was expected to create treatments for our clients. I learned that some of the most common ingredients were things that could cause contact dermatitis and irritation. So little was spent on the products themselves compared to the marketing and packaging! I was crazy enough at the time to think that I could do it better.
It took me 10 years to learn about formulating the products I wanted from seaweed. It was only later that I connected it to my grandmother, who was a chiropractor and at one point, she tore a ligament. She had a dream that the ocean would heal her—she’d had a dream that the Titanic would sink before it happened, so her dreams had a lot of ‘street-cred.’ She said to carry her down the street and put her in the water, and that would heal her. So I grew up in a family where the mythology told me that the ocean is a source of healing.