During college application season, when prospective students are faced with the question of what they potentially hope to do with their lives, that question usually leads to choosing a major. But Joann Zehenni chose to start her own skincare business. At just 17 years old, Zehenni is the founder of Gemini Beauty, a skincare company that takes a natural approach to its products, which are created with fruits, vegetables and teas and are free of gluten, oil, phthalates, sulfate and parabens.
A longtime fan (and customer) of the skincare industry, Gemini Beauty was born of Zehenni’s desire to help her family’s and her own struggle with lupus, an autoimmune, inflammatory disease that is caused when the body’s immune system becomes overactive.
“My family’s struggled with lupus, and with lupus comes extremely sensitive skin, so I got those genetics,” Zehenni said. “I always wanted to have my own skincare brand that targeted people who struggle with sensitive skin, people who want to heal their skin barrier or people who just have that glowy complexion.”
Some of the common skin problems associated with lupus include sensitivity to the sun, dryness and rashes on the face, neck and arms. Zehenni, who has borderline lupus, said she couldn’t use sunblock and continuously struggled to find products for her sensitive skin. With Gemini Beauty, Zehenni hopes to address and remedy some of the skin-related issues that she faced through childhood for her customer base.
“I was so drawn to the skincare industry because I was like, ‘I’ve used these products in a way to help my complexion and help me feel more confidence and comfort in my skin,’” Zehenni said. “One of the philosophies behind Gemini Beauty is helping people find that comfort in their skin. I didn’t have it for so long and I’ve finally gotten it, so I’m a lot happier with [my skin] now.”
Gemini Beauty’s current offerings include three products: the Daily Brightening Moisturizer with Lychee & Cowberry, the Daily Glow Serum with Hyaluronic Acid and the “All You Need” Eye Cream with Cucumber Extract. Prices range from $38 for single products to $120 for the “Original Kit” box, which includes the trio of Gemini Beauty products in a makeup bag with an illustrative fruit-themed print.
Made from pomegranate, satsuma orange, sea buckthorn and mango in addition to lychee and cowberry, the Daily Brightening Moisturizer is “all about brightening your skin and your complexion,” Zehenni shared. Combined with purple and green tea extracts, the lightweight formula promotes an even skin tone and minimizes the appearance of dark spots and discolorations while enriching the skin with antioxidant benefits and deep hydration.
“I made [the moisturizer] lightweight specifically because, personally, I don’t love heavy products on my skin because I don’t like the weight of it,” said Zehenni. “I like having fresh-looking skin and the feeling of ‘I don’t have anything on.’”
The Daily Glow Serum — which is cruelty-free and vegan — hydrates the skin with hyaluronic acid and reduces redness and skin irregularities with Golden Jewels, a gold mineral pigment.
“People always think it’s sparkles,” Zehenni said, “but it’s not sparkles! It’s a cosmetic pigment that is safe for sensitive skin and all skin types in general.” With the Daily Glow Serum, users can add a hint of sparkle and glow to their everyday skincare routine.
As Zehenni built the collection, the moisturizer and glow serum came first and were developed together. “I wanted [the Daily Glow Serum] to accompany the Daily Brightening Moisturizer for that extra glow … I was just dying for that dewy complexion that I saw online,” she said. “I wanted the feeling of intense hydration [and] that I had a healthy skin barrier.”
The third product in Gemini Beauty’s current line is the “All You Need” Eye Cream, a three-in-one product that Zehenni shared that she created with her twin sister in mind. The Eye Cream utilizes cucumber extract and peptides to hydrate and moisturize, while vitamins A and E and hyaluronic acid provides antioxidant support.
In fact, all three of Gemini Beauty’s products are inspired by a member of Zehenni’s family and catered to address their specific skincare needs. Outside of the product line, Zehenni’s family played a large part in the initial creation of the brand — her sister came up with the brand’s tagline, “You’re a Gem,” and helps Zehenni with marketing — and continues to impact it today.
“The moisturizer is for both of my grandmothers, the serum is for my older sister who has lupus and struggles with sensitive skin and the eye cream is for my [twin] sister,” she said. “It’s so cheesy to say, but Gemini Beauty is a part of me. My family made me who I am.”
Zehenni’s passion and excitement about Gemini Beauty and its products is abundantly clear throughout our conversation — and especially so when she when she describes her own skincare routine, which Zehenni says is a crucial part of how she practices self-care.
“I stick to a daily regimen because for me, consistency is key,” Zehenni said. “I don’t have a very long routine: it’s the Gemini Beauty products, and then I love using a chemical exfoliant, a really good face wash, an oil-based cleanser and a milky cleanser. That’s my version of self care, even if it’s two minutes.”
Zehenni’s family’s struggles with lupus has also inspired her to give back, which is the motivation behind the brand’s core value of “Beauty for a Cause.” Gemini Beauty donates a percentage of its profits to Lupus LA, a non-profit health organization founded by Dr. Daniel Wallace, who is the Zehenni family’s doctor. Lupus LA raises funds for patient services including emergency procedures, medical research and fellowships supporting the future of rheumatology and to promote lupus awareness and advocacy.
“As Gemini Beauty grows, I want to help as much as I can,” Zehenni said. “[Lupus LA] been amazing, and I love the organization and everything they do. I was excited to help the community in any way I could.”
Looking toward the future, Gemini Beauty’s product roster is set to grow, with a new line to be released this fall. Zehenni shared that she is working on a “dream product” that utilizes an ingredient from one of her favorite drinks, and for upcoming products, she hopes to continue to create skincare that is made from everyday ingredients, like fruits and teas.
At the end of our interview, Zehenni offered advice to fellow teens who also hope to answer the question of their life’s passion by starting their own business, a beauty brand or otherwise: be sure that you are willing to give all of your time to your company.
“With school, it’s a hard balance … You have to be fully committed. You can’t say your’e going to take a break tomorrow and revisit stuff the day after tomorrow — it’s every day,” Zehenni said. “But it’s so fun. Pursue it, because even though it’s super daunting and scary in the beginning, it’s so worth it!”