AA means something very different in Jennifer Brodeur’s world. Dubbed “JB Skin Guru,” the Montreal-born and-raised multi-hyphenate uses the letters as shorthand for the widely accepted phrase that describes potions, lotions and a mindset that is intent on stopping the clock. (Hint: It rhymes with “schmanti-shmaging.”) As an entrepreneur, product developer, educator and expert who is focused on skin, health and longevity, she won’t say the word because it goes against everything she has believed in since she was young. In essence, AA is BS.
As a teenager, Brodeur witnessed a close friend lose her mother to cancer. The disease struck again a few years later, when Brodeur’s god-mother passed away. “It affected me profoundly,” she says. “I was so bitter and angry. I started doing marathons to raise money for cancer awareness, and I realized that we talk about AA all the time in the beauty industry. We tell everybody, you’ve got to AA. But we’re all going to age – you can’t stop that. Why don’t we embrace it and think of how the body and cells work and how we can work together so that we can age gracefully?”
To flip the script, Brodeur’s motto is that aging is a privilege. “Aging is denied to so many men, women and children,” she says. “Every year, instead of thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m getting so old,’ it should be more like ‘Look at me: I’m a year older, and aren’t I awesome?’ We must practice that in what messages we share and how we live our lives with our children and loved ones. That’s where it starts, so we can change the narrative. That’s my goal, and it’s why I never say the AA word.”
Brodeur’s additional epidermal insights also stand out for going against the grain.
She isn’t a fan of exfoliation, won’t perform extractions and doesn’t mind you skipping SPF if it’s a cloudy winter day (gasp!). Brodeur would never shame you for choosing Botox either because she is focused on the big picture. “If you want to get something done, then you go, girl – you get it done,” she says. “But let’s make sure that your body, mind and skin are healthy. The healthier your skin is, the better everything else is going to be.”
Her first-hand experience with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that demands eating gluten-free, makes her especially invested in helping women understand the links between diet, lifestyle, health and self-care. Despite the growing popularity of gluten-free offerings, Brodeur has found it harder to navigate her dietary needs when dining out. She was hospitalized several times last year as a result of food contamination. “Even though I’ve had celiac disease for 18 years, I feel like I’m starting all over again,” she says. “In my situation, celiac disease causes a lot of other things, like arthritis (Don’t miss these 23 natural home remedies.) and premature aging internally, so even though my brain thinks I’m on, my body isn’t following as much. Now, it’s really about making sure that I have downtime and time to read and that I up my water intake – as I say to all my clients – and ensuring that my food is as clean as possible.” Being dedicated to a workout that incorporates Essentrics, Pilates and ballet barre moves also helps Brodeur survive an intense schedule packed with travelling. “I’ve fallen in love with my amazing trainer, Erika, who understands arthritis and celiac disease,” she says. “We work on a lot of stretching. It’s to the point where I think my arms might fall off, but in a good way. It’s changed my life.”
The learning curve.
Today, Brodeur is best known for being the facialist for two of the most powerful women in the world: Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama’s radiant portrait on the cover of her bestselling memoir, Becoming, is courtesy of Brodeur’s magic touch – and her newest plant-based products. The former FLOTUS was among the first to try Lumi, a brightening antioxidant-rich serum and cream duo blended with Nordic berry extract and inspired by Brodeur’s Lapland roots (Lumi means “snow” in Finnish).
Closer to home, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is also a client. While being the skin guru to A-listers may sound glitzy and glam, Brodeur’s story is that of a self-described nerd with a passion for education. As a young woman, she abruptly decided to give up her pursuit of legal studies at Dalhousie University because she was compelled to understand the body, including why food makes skin change. (These are our top 5 anti-aging foods.) With her heart set on teaching skincare chemistry and biology in Montreal, she dove into beauty studies and obtained a bachelor’s degree in teaching. “My dad said to me, ‘If you’re going to do this, I just ask one thing of you: Be the best at it,’” she says. “And that’s exactly what I did. I thought that if I could touch women specifically and inspire them to understand that they’re beautiful in whatever shape, form or way they are, then that is my calling.”
Product development has also played a crucial role in Brodeur’s career to date.
In the early aughts, she developed a professional-use LED light therapy device called Max+ that’s now widely used in skin treatments around the globe. “I’ve always been a very eager beaver – always multitasking,” she says. “I believe in alignment, and I’m really good at seizing an opportunity when I feel like it’s my thing.” That’s how she ended up developing the machine as an entrepreneur with her own team, after proposing the concept to her then-boss at an established company and quitting that job when they declined to create it. It was via Max+ that Brodeur was introduced to Oprah, who was already receiving treatments with “the multivitamin of LED.”
“I think it was destined that it was going to happen, but it wasn’t on the first call,” says Brodeur of their long-standing history. “I had several phone calls before I made the decision to fly out, and even then I was going to work with her aesthetician. That was the deal and then, after just one meeting, it went from that to this.” Brodeur is referring to another pivotal moment, also Oprah-related. In November 2016, Brodeur’s signature skincare product, a nourishing anti-inflammatory face oil called Peoni L’extrait, appeared on the TV host’s renowned “Favourite Things” list. “That was a highlight for me because I’d known her for many years before,” says Brodeur. “She could’ve not talked about me and that would have been OK as well – there’s no obligation or anything. For me, the fact that she requested it – that it came from her – was like my first Oscar.” Here are some more skincare brands we’ve been obsessing over this winter.
Her walk of fame.
The result catapulted Brodeur into the spotlight: Her face, quite literally, was illuminated on screens in Times Square. She is forever grateful for the trajectory, and the experience has led the entrepreneur to many valuable insights. For instance, her rapid rise has instilled a greater awareness of professional strategy.
“With the launch, it was a roller coaster,” says Brodeur. “I don’t even remember what we did half of that year. It’s great when you live it, but then it’s interesting because I don’t think you live it. You just go from one event to the next, one TV show or interview to the next, and then the year goes by and you’re like, ‘What did we just do that whole time?’”
Having surfed the wave of such intense recognition, she is now focused on only aligning with projects that feel right. “Now, everything is about asking, ‘Is this part of our vision and strategy?’” she says. “All of these offers are amazing, but if it’s not part of the DNA of the brand, we decline, which is a challenge. Saying no to people was my biggest lesson of 2018. ‘No’ is my favourite word.” To assess a fit, Brodeur relies on her team. “It’s important to have the right tribe around you to make those good decisions,” she says.
Authenticity shines through Brodeur’s Instagram updates, too.
Under the handle @jbskinguru, she is a breath of fresh air among beauty influencers. You’ll catch her quietly sharing #mondaymotivation while the sun rises on a beach in Sydney, Australia or quotes that resonate with her. She credits Obama with supporting a you-do-you perspective. “I love to be a geek, but it’s something in the beauty world that isn’t sexy,” says Brodeur. “You’re supposed to be super loud and crazy. Michelle and I had a talk once that helped affirm the whole idea that it’s OK to be a nerd. If you own your story and your story is worth telling, then you’re fine.”
Whatever Brodeur’s next chapter holds, it will be inspired by making women feel good about themselves. “That’s why I do what I do,” she says. “I love it when women feel confident, when their skin is changing and they feel great about aging. That’s what I want to convey: love in a bottle.”
What we ask all of our WOW Women…
What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
So many things! I do know this, but I still don’t apply it all the time: No matter what, everything will be OK.
What’s your best advice?
Even though I was successful in my own right prior to meeting Oprah, I always felt that I was an imposter – that one day something would happen and people would say “You don’t know anything.” Once, when I was having a conversation with Oprah, I kept apologizing while talking. I don’t know if it’s because I’m Canadian, but I kept saying ‘I’m so sorry’ and she said, “You have to stop.” That was a moment for me. Stop apologizing, own who you are and don’t dim your lights for anyone. Next, read up on 28 things your skin reveals about your health.