Her Struggle With Acne & Lyme Disease Lead Her To Launch A Revolutionary Skincare Brand

According to recent statistics, approximately 85% of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience acne at some point, and adult acne affects up to 50% of women in their 20s and 30s. As June marks Acne Awareness Month, it feels important to discuss the fact that acne is not just a personal struggle but a widespread issue affecting countless individuals, particularly women.

One woman who has been extremely close to this issue is Mackenzie Jorns, the founder of Protea, a revolutionary skintech brand dedicated to transforming the way we approach skincare. Mackenzie has battled hormonal acne since being diagnosed with Lyme disease at the age of 20. Even as an adult, her cystic acne continues to be triggered by hormonal imbalances. Through her own experiences, Mackenzie has found solace and control by working closely with estheticians in virtual consultations.

Her journey to finding peace with her appearance and managing her acne led her to launch virtual skincare consultations at Protea. It is the first-of-its-kind platform that allows people to meet with estheticians virtually and get personalized guidance tailored to their unique skincare needs.

Mackenzie’s story is a testament to the importance of seeking professional guidance and addressing the underlying causes of acne. Not only is she literally creating a solution through her own company, she is also utilizing her social media channels to be open and vulnerable about her personal struggle, as a point of relatability with her customers.

We had the opportunity to speak with Mackenzie about her founders journey, debunk some myths about acne, and discuss the ways she is helping Protea customers find confidence again.

Can you first tell us about your own struggle with acne, and what you learned about this issue?

I have battled hormonal acne since being diagnosed with Lyme Disease at the age 20. But even as an adult, my cystic acne continues to be triggered by hormonal imbalances. I learned how important it is to feel good in your skin no matter what it might look like. Feeling good in your skin and having clear skin don’t have to go hand in hand and it’s a misconception that took me a long time to fully accept.

I spent a majority of my adulthood letting acne undermine my confidence both personally and professionally. I remember leading and presenting in meetings with tons of male executives and thinking to myself “Does my acne make me look too young to take me seriously?” I felt like everyone was only focused on my acne instead of what I was saying. Now, I try my best to not worry about it, but I am human.

I like to use my acne as an internal barometer. Whenever I have a flare up, it’s because something is off with my health. I focus on how I feel and if I feel healthy, centered and energized then I can feel confident I am caring for myself in a positive way.

Acne disproportionately impacts women, especially in their 20s and 30s. What kind of education is missing about this aspect on a wider scale?

There is a massive gap in education when it comes to what actually causes acne for each person. What is going on internally in your body directly affects your skin and is often left out of the conversation when people are getting treated. Our society is so quick to treat acne only topically and most dermatologists just jump to treatments before trying to get a handle on what’s actually causing the acne. Even my own dermatologist always suggests I go on accutane, but I don’t believe in masking what my body is trying to tell me as it could lead to a larger problem down the road.

Instead, I have worked hard to figure out what is actually triggering my acne, from my Lyme Disease, hormones, and nutrition and I work to balance it all out. I don’t need my skin to be perfect by outdated standards, I just want to feel comfortable, confident, and healthy. I started Protea to help to bridge the education gap that I think is so clearly missing in the beauty industry. 

How did you launch your brand Protea?

Through my journey with Lyme Disease, acne, and growing up in a mixed race family, I have experienced so many missing gaps in the beauty industry. In my case, I found peace with my appearance and learned to manage my acne and that started when I started working with estheticians who had backgrounds and knowledge with my skin type and health concerns. But I didn’t always have the time or budget to see an esthetician when I needed to, let alone finding an esthetician that fully understood my skin and health.

After talking with friends and family, I realized I was not alone. It led me to launch my company Protea, with a line of holistic products as well as virtual skincare consultations. Protea is the first-of-its-kind platform that allows people to meet with estheticians virtually and get personalized guidance tailored to their unique skincare needs. I have a background in tech, but I’m a non-technical founder, meaning I’m not a career programmer or engineer, so I found technical people who could help execute my vision. 

What did you feel was missing from the market, and how does Protea address those gaps?

Confidence and conventional beauty standards do not have to go hand in hand and while the beauty industry has started to shift a bit, at its core the industry is just starting to skim the surface of really changing the narrative around “feeling beautiful”.

Protea’s mission is really all about filling in the knowledge gaps for people so they can use skincare products that will work for them and in turn boost the way they feel about themselves. While we have a line of holistic products, our virtual skincare consultation platform allows our estheticians to recommend any products they feel are best for you, your skin, your health, and your budget. Protea is more than just a platform to meet with an esthetician or another company to buy skincare products from, we aim to connect people with education and a community of supportive, like minded people who know that beauty starts on the inside.

We actually are about to launch a membership community that we will educate on everything from diet, debunking beauty myths, and offer real time responses any time of day from our vetted and licensed estheticians, so whether you are wondering what cleanser to use for your skin type, looking for a more affordable version of your favorite moisturizer or wondering what the difference between under eye creams is, you can get a response, fast without having to book an appointment.

How have you connected with new customers and other acne-sufferers by sharing your personal story on social media?

I post often on Instagram, Facebook, and recently TikTok and share real photos and videos of my own acne and my own experiences around feeling confident in my skin, even when it is not perfectly clear, and never with a filter. Every time I do, it solidifies my company’s mission even more. Those videos and photos get the most engagement of anything and customers and followers share their own journey and ask for advice. There are so many people that have struggled with acne or other skin conditions and it is important to find self-love and confidence exactly as you are. 

As June is Acne Awareness Month, what do you want people to be aware of and become more informed about?

I am so glad that there is a month to bring awareness to the topic of acne, but I hope that the messages our company shares around feeling good and confident in your skin last year round. We want anyone with acne to remember that your confidence is not tied to how clear your skin is. And to those who are lucky enough not to struggle with acne, that they educate themselves and don’t let acne factor into their judgment of anyone else. 

What are some of the most common acne myths we need to dismantle?

That your skin should be “squeaky clean” and you get clear skin by cleaning your face with astringent cleansers. Also, that either going on birth control or accutane should be the first resort of clearing acne. 

When a customer discovers Protea for the first time, what kind of professional help do they receive in terms of finding the right products?

After booking a skincare consultation, clients are prompted to answer a comprehensive intake form that takes into account not only the person’s current skincare routine, but also their health history and nutrition. Skin concerns presenting externally can oftentimes be tied to external or internal causes, which our estheticians help uncover through the detailed intake form and during the virtual consultation to provide more comprehensive recommendations. Our estheticians also follow up each consultation with a writeup of all their suggestions and recapping the conversation for the client to reference forever. 

How do you hope Protea will have a lasting impact on future generations who will experience acne as they grow up?

By providing people with a safe place to get information to support their skincare journey. We are here to help people feel more confident in their skin and as long as people have skin we’ll be here to help!

To learn more about the brand, Mackenzie Jorns’ personal journey with acne, or to book a consultation session, head to the Protea website. You can also follow them on Instagram and Facebook.