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Slow and Steady Beauty with Dahlia Devkota

11 months ago by

Photos Erik Melvin

It started with a library card.

As a child, Dahlia Devkota would spend Sundays at the public library with her father. “I would go and check out books on natural beauty,” she begins when asked about early beauty rituals. “I was probably seven; I was obsessed!” While Dahlia didn’t initially recognize beauty as a career path, this youthful ritual foreshadowed her future endeavors in many ways.

Born in New York, Dahlia primarily grew up in the South and the Midwest but made her way back to the city to pursue a career in journalism. She ultimately landed a coveted beauty editor role at Allure before moving to W (where she first began her career in their fashion closet). As an editor, Dahlia garnered a thorough understanding of the modern beauty landscape. At a certain point, Dahlia became slightly disillusioned with the space and yearned to push her storytelling abilities in new directions. “I was getting into wellness and holistic health, and it was not ubiquitous at that time. I was forging what was considered a weird path, and I wanted to do really weird stories. I think it just wasn’t coalescing with where I was,” Dahlia explains. “But I love writing, so I started taking screenwriting classes at NYU after work. I started directing—I still have a couple of documentaries that are in pre-production that I’ll finish at some point in my life—but besides the beauty stuff, I really love telling stories.”

Career pivots aside, Dahlia’s lifelong passion for beauty has endured. Now she’s lending her storytelling prowess to Editrix—her new brand that combines ancient intelligence and functional beauty to support the skin’s microbiome. “I’ve always been pursuing a very naturalistic way to have my own rituals that make me feel better,” Dahlia adds. “I think Editrix is the culmination of me wanting something for myself in a bio-hacking way, too.”

Editrix, which means “female editor,” draws on Dahlia’s editorial roots and features her elevated design sensibility. Case in point, the brand’s packaging, which resembles coffee table books. “Inside, there’s a glossary,” she adds when asked about language considerations that went into translating Editrix’s mission. To that end, education was top of mind for Dahlia. “I wanted every touchpoint of the product to lend some sort of education,” she explains. “If science can go luxury and upscale, I think we did it.”

Beyond aesthetic details, Editrix is also anchored by extensive research and development. The brand’s core products are centered around ritual and rehabilitation and include the Demigod Ayurvedic Cleansing Oil, Deuxième Postbiotic Fermented Cleanser, Superare Microflora Barrier Film, and Bakterium Delirium Skin Education Serum. “I’m half Nepalese, and because my dad’s very entrenched in Ayurveda, in holistic health, I really do think that’s where a lot of it comes from,” Dahlia explains. “And [in] a lot of my formulations, the bacteria is very much supported by ayurvedic medicine as well. That’s why I say this is functional beauty, but based in ancient intelligence—it’s the ancient intelligence of plant medicine, but also of the bacteria.”

Dahlia also attributes Editrix’s inception to another family member. “My light bulb moment was really through my sister, Dr. Suzanne Devkota—a doctor of the gut microbiome,” she says. During their many “sister trips,” Devkota would accompany Suzanne to conferences and end up meeting with her colleagues. “And because I’m a journalist, I would ask them questions,” Dahlia adds. “It was the spark that I needed to bring full circle my previous life as an editor and really want to tell this new story of how we can affect the natural mechanisms of the skin through all this science that had not come out yet—and is still really not out.”

With patented formulations and support from one of the world’s leading microbiologists, Dahlia intends to educate customers about skin functionality from the inside out. “When we started R+D, I didn’t realize that bacteria produce so many amazing beauty ingredients,” she adds when asked about unexpected discoveries. “Bacteria, especially those that come from your own skin, produce amino acids, vitamin B, lactic acid, and salicylic acid—all of the things we synthetically put into bottles are naturally being produced by your bacteria. That, to me, was so profound.”

Initially conceived right before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dahlia envisioned Editrix would follow a more straightforward trajectory. However, “it became very clear [that] no one was financing anything at the beginning of COVID.” Still, Dahlia contends that these challenges led to building a more authentic business—and product. “I had to self-finance the entire endeavor. That made it grow a little bit slower,” she reflects. “But in some ways, it was the best gift because I was able to have the time to incubate this on my own with my small team.” Dubbing Editrix’s assortment as “liquid couture,” she also notes that “There’s a much easier way I could have done this… It’s a very slow and labor-intensive process to grow the bacteria in a lab and pull out the postbiotics. But there’s a symbiotic relationship you get from these bacteria that you can’t synthetically reproduce.”

When all is said and done, can Editrix be regarded as slow beauty? For Dahlia, the answer is a resolute yes. “It’s about quality,” she adds. “I believe in trusting ourselves, trusting our skin, trusting our intuition, trusting our gut. It’s getting back to that.”

While Editrix’s chapter is just beginning, Dahlia’s story endures—because for this entrepreneur, beauty is anything but skin-deep. It fuels her heart.

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Let’s talk about the facts and fictions of the skin microbiome. What should people be aware of?

The skin has its own ecosystem with its own built-in immune system, and it communicates with the microbiomes of the entire body. Many people think the skin is just this first line of defense against the outside world, but the skin actually has its own intelligence that can cause inflammation on its own. It doesn’t need the brain, it doesn’t need anything else, it does it all on its own through its immune mechanisms, and that is dictated through the bacteria on your skin. It’s a collection. We have trillions of bugs living on our skin. We collect them as we age… It’s a very symbiotic relationship between bugs and us. The bugs teach our immune system how to function, and without them, we have a lot of problems.

Part of the reason I thought there was a gap in the market is so much of what we do to our skin in the name of beauty is actually causing the problem. So the bacteria on our skin is actually vital for most of the mechanisms for skin health and anti-aging, but so much of what we do kills it and removes it. It paralyzes it, basically. We put handcuffs on our bacteria through all the chemical confusion that it has to go through, so it’s not able to do its function. That’s why there’s a huge epidemic of dermatitis, adult acne, eczema, psoriasis—these things used to be very rare, and now they are ubiquitous…

[For me], it’s really about re-educating the consumer on how the skin functions. It doesn’t even have to be my products—if you know how your skin functions, you’re going to make different choices with what you put on your skin.

How does one know it’s time to change or address their skincare regimen?

Well, if anyone’s using a cleanser, and if they don’t know the pH balance of their cleanser, that’s probably the first mistake. The skin has something on it called an acid mantle. This acid mantle is imperative for skin health. It is where your microbiome lives. The acidity is what kills pathogens on your skin and is what makes beneficial bacteria bloom. It’s just a collection of sebum and sweat from your body.

Most cleansers are alkaline—so the moment you wake up and wash your face, you’re basically destroying your acid mantle. Thus, you’re destroying your microbiome and essentially removing your protection: your UV protection, your anti-aging protection—everything. So that very first step is the most vital. I think most people make that mistake.

The problem is, as we age, the skin naturally gets more alkaline. Just like we lose collagen, just like we lose hair, the skin gets alkaline. And as you get more alkaline, the biodiversity of your skin goes down, and then your skin health goes down. That’s why we’re prone to wrinkles, dryness, and all of this stuff. So just the simple step of bringing acidity back to the skin can completely revolutionize it.

Often, people believe that if they do X, things will happen in X amount of time, or they’ll see a certain level of result. What should we think about or talk about more regarding the relationship between time and skincare transformation?

I think skin transformation is really dependent on what you’re doing, right? A big part of my ethos is stepping away from overdoing skincare—I think that actually sets your skin up for accelerated aging. My whole philosophy is to get your skin back to its native intelligence, support your microbiome, support the acidity of the skin, and watch your skin take care of itself.

What does wellness mean to you?

Wellness to me is freedom. I think we can get so caught up obsessing over what other people are doing or over our beauty rituals, or workout schedules, or kids… To me, wellness has come to mean freedom from all that and a certain level of contentment—just being confident [and] cool with the way it is. That’s sort of how I feel about my skin, too. If you can trust it, it’ll just get back to some sense of equilibrium. And that’s true I think of life.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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