After starting to notice the effects many years worshipping the sun was beginning to have on her skin in her early 20s, Amberly Donnelly, founder of Plain Jane Skinbar, began pursuing a passion for skin health. Over the last 10 years, she’s developed simple scientifically-proven medical-grade facial and skincare routines, which have transformed her own damaged skin into bright, vibrant and healthy skin. Knowing women in Vancouver would benefit from this kind of easy, straightforward routine, she created Plain Jane Skinbar to provide an accessible option, not only from a price perspective but also in terms of treatment time and downtime.
We had the chance to try a Plain Jane’s medical-grade facial for ourselves (which we have and would recommend in a heartbeat), and wanted to know more about how Amberly started the business, what a “medical grade” facial actually entails, and how she chose the products she uses and sells.
What led you to launching Plain Jane Skinbar?
I started out working in medical aesthetics for a pharmaceutical company, which gave me the opportunity to go around to [medical aesthetic] clinics throughout BC, most of Alberta and some of Ontario. I personally love treatments where you go in and they’re not trying to upsell you on Botox, filler or laser treatments that are over $1000.
I was looking to design a place that feels comfortable and cozy, still has a clean, medical feel to it, and appeals to a younger female audience. And if you’re only going to spend $100 or $200 you’re still a valuable customer, because that’s all we offer. [If you compare medical aesthetic treatments with going to the gym] it’s not like you go to the gym once and lift 1000 pounds and never have to go back again. You still have to go consistently. So I wondered, how do you make it possible for people to come consistently, it has to be a lower price point.
The other thing I wanted to do when I started this concept was to take the idea of vanity out of it. So many women I know don’t want their husband to know they do this [referring to Botox and fillers]. But when that’s not your focus, when you’re taking care of your skin’s health, you’re really looking after yourself.
Can you describe what sets a Plain Jane facial apart?
We’re very results driven; everything we have is science-based, and something you’d find at a dermatology office. 70% of what we put into the business was buying equipment. Then we wanted people to be able to have these results at a more accessible price point, in a comfortable environment. And we wanted to make things simpler. That was the other thing I hated — when you go to a medical aesthetic clinic and they say, here are 7000 options. What I need to hear is your professional opinion. I don’t want to gamble $1000, I just want you say here’s the one you need for that goal, don’t make me pick.
So the two things that we were really going after were simplicity and accessibility. Accessibility not only from a price point but also from the downtime. And then simplicity. All three facials that we offer are great for everybody. You really should rotate between all three, as they serve different purposes. It’s kind of like when you go to the gym. Sometimes you lift weights, sometimes you do yoga, sometimes you run.
What can people expect when they come to Plain Jane for a facial?
We’re trying to marry a little bit of the spa experience with medical aesthetics. I love when you go to Skoah and you get a facial and they massage your hands and your face. We do the cryo massage before every facial, and then hot and cold towels with eucalyptus. Most places you go in and it’s very medical and down to business.
In terms of the actual facials, I was looking for the intersection of where people are going to get the best results with little to no downtime. The Fractional Facial is the gold standard in the industry and has been the go-to. There’s the Laser Facial, which uses a machine that goes after redness and acne, and in the meantime also deals with reproducing collagen and elastin. And then there’s the Hydrating Facial, which is a really great entry level and restores hydration, puts antioxidants back in, and includes a little bit of micro dermabrasion. Everything we have is backed by science, so it’s not just my personal experience, I have clinical data.
You only sell two lines of skincare products, can you tell us about how you chose them?
I picked Skinceuticals because their sunscreen and their vitamin C are two products that I can’t live without. I don’t want people to ask what I’m using and I have to say, oh we don’t carry it here. I want to sell the products that I use. With Skinceuticals, the research is there, while they do have the medical active ingredients that are needed, it’s definitely a more natural line.
ZO is a more active line so people are going to get really good results from it. Both of these lines are “medical” lines. When you talk about clean skincare, just because something is natural or organic doesn’t mean that it’s clean. Clean is free of parabens, free of dirty ingredients (and yes there are a couple of them in both lines). And because medical grade products are the only products in Canada that are monitored by Health Canada, they are cleaner and don’t have those additives and fragrances. Anything in the drug store, and even things you’re finding in Sephora, like higher end lines that are considered clean, there’s nobody regulating those products.
Can you explain the benefits of a medical-grade skincare line like Skinceuticals or ZO?
If you were to go out and buy a natural moisturizer or you’re putting coconut oil on your face, essentially it signals to your skin below that you’re fine, you have moisture, you don’t need to moisturize. It’s basically putting on a band-aid on and doing the work for your skin, so makes your skin lazy. So when you look a your boyfriend who washes his face with the same bar of Dove soap, doesn’t put any cream on his face and has great skin, that’s because his skin knows he’s not going to look after it, so it has to look after it itself. And while our skin becomes dependent from the things we’re putting on it, when you buy a medical grade line, it penetrates the skin and it tells the cells below you need to wake up and hydrate yourself.
We chat lots about optimizing skin health at Well Daily? Curious to learn about how your hormones might be affecting your skin? Check out our recent article by our women’s health expert, Dr. Bronwyn Storoschuk here.