Every time you shop for cosmetics you’re surrounded by a sea of green. Promises of gentle, organic skincare that will return you to your pristine, healthy state are ubiquitous. Confused by the labels, how do you choose the product that is actually naturally best for your skin? Unfortunately, it may be that all these wondrous products are nearly identical and not very natural at all.
This is the mantra of Deborah Burnes, CEO and Co-Founder of SumbodySkincare,and author of Look Great, Live Green and Natural Beauty Skin Care. Burnes entered cosmetology school following her career as a model during which, posing for surrealist painter Salvador Dali drove her to develop an appreciation for makeup and fashion. But for the young model cosmetology school was not a lesson in beauty trends, but rather the beginning of her conversion from a makeup enthusiast to a leading authority in skincare.
This “passionate love affair with skin”, as she affectionately describes it, started the entrepreneur’s fruitless search for transformative, natural beauty products. “Everything was just chemically filled,” says Burnes reflecting on the nineties, a decade obsessed with silicon-based products and pore strips— a painful application used by all relatable girls on all favorite TV sitcoms.
Burnes, disillusioned by the contemporary skincare market of the nineties launched Sumbody, a natural product line designed to transform skin with its fast acting and organic formulas manufactured by the CEO herself. To a modern consumer, a commitment to creating pure skincare is perhaps the most enticing quality. However, Sumbody began advertising in 1999 long before anyone was concerned about what was in their face wash.
"Everything is about results and solution driven, luxury driven, skin transformation. I think that is the true story with beauty" - Deborah Burnes (Photo Courtesy of Sumbody)
“We never really had the conversation on our packaging, on our labels or anywhere about being a natural or organic brand,” Burnes contemplates. She recognized the benefits of all-natural skincare years before it captured the market’s imagination, “At the time I started, it wouldn’t have worked. I really wanted to create this modern, fresh, cutting edge, highly effective skin care— but if I had done too much advertising with that it definitely would have come off too hippy.”
“We never really had the conversation on our packaging, on our labels or anywhere about being a natural or organic brand. At the time I started, it wouldn’t have worked" - Deborah Burnes (Photo Courtesy of Sumbody)
Despite (or possible because of) the company’s limited campaigns broadcasting their all-natural formulas, Sumbody was an immediate success, “Everything is about results and solution driven, luxury driven, skin transformation. I think that is the true story with beauty—that’s what we’re ultimately looking for,” she explains, “And, as it so happens, being natural helps you get there faster than the chemicals.”
Following the establishment of Sumbody and the publication of Burnes’ first book in 1999, like-minded members of the beauty industry began advocating for conscientious advertising and healthier products. And as all trends do, the organic beauty movement captivated everyone. But Burnes knew that there was little or no credible information behind this trend, “It was all the rage, everybody was looking into it and were like, ‘Hey natural skin is actually effective and does amazing things.’”
However, Burnes insists that this superficial interest in “green” products is not actually changing the beauty industry in any substantial way. “It became such a comedy of itself,” she groans, “Everything is supposedly all natural and organic, but we’re greenwashing the planet—and everything is still filled with chemicals.”
Although there has been an increased demand among consumers for organic beauty products, most brands continue to use the same formulas— disguised behind green advertisements boasting organic properties and natural compounds. The number one factor that sustains these false proclamations Burnes argues is a lack of knowledge regarding manufacturing among brand creators. “I believe that people have the highest amount of integrity to think that they’re creating an all-natural, green brand but they have to buy into what some chemist is selling them,” Burnes reflects, disclosing that almost all of our favorite small, “indie” labels are actually manufactured by the same three labs. “It breaks my heart when I look at their ingredients and I have to tell them that their brand isn’t any better than what’s already out there.”
Despite these companies chasing the zeitgeist Burnes maintains that the only way to have created and sustained Sumbody’s success was controlling every aspect of the line and preserving brand transparency, “As the chemist behind all our products, I make each and every formula,” she states, effortlessly naming the sources of each ingredient in her line. “Being the chemist, having our own manufacturing facility and sourcing each and every ingredient really makes us unique and our products extremely powerful.”
While typical beauty companies have altered their brands various times since their launch to match contemporary trends, Sumbody has largely remained unchanged. “When it comes to skin, it doesn’t change. Skin hasn’t changed, skin is the same,” remarks the CEO, “If you really know skin, and know what you’re doing, you really don’t need to change that much.” And although you won’t find Sumbody entering the contest between the major labels over who’s the greenest, the company continues its mission from the beginning to be environmentally friendly, “We don’t have any secondary packaging. When we started the company, we had three stores as well. We still have bamboo floors and recycled lumber. All of our plastic is PET and is recyclable, and we use glass whenever we can.”
“Being the chemist, having our own manufacturing facility and sourcing each and every ingredient really makes us unique and our products extremely powerful” - Deborah Burnes (Photo Courtesy of Sumbody)
Burnes took the next step in promoting a truly environmentally conscious line, with the publication of her second book Natural Beauty Skin Care: 110 Organic Formulas for a Radiant You!In 2016. With recipes, tips and tricks to creating DIY skin care products Burnes aims to both contribute to the no waste movement and, “empower women so that they can make effective and transformational products in their own home.”
In 2018 Deborah Burnes fulfills the same role that she did when she started 20 years ago. The CEO of Sumbody is still a leader to those concerned with what they’re lathering on themselves, providing an honest and clear path to organic skincare.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."