Late one weeknight I discovered When Life Gives You Lemons. In my typical half-hearted scrolling of Instagram’s explore page, I happened upon a photo of a very cool looking bottle of foundation — a little edgy but still super chic. I had to click on the photo. The feed I found was full of gorgeous photos, with a made-for-me bio that almost caused me to drop my phone: “Makeup x Skin Care. Clean + for acne. Vegan + gluten-free. Cruelty free..” Wait…makeup for acne?
Anyone with adult acne who wears face makeup knows the ritual: Conceal, foundation, conceal, shit you can still see that bump and that other one too, foundation, conceal, okay I’ll just stick to the darkest corner of the bar. Then, there’s the dread of getting home to take my face off and do my skincare routine, hoping and praying to the Acne Gods that putting on those makeup layers tonight won’t cause a flare up tomorrow, and going to bed with the pit in my stomach — God, I hope not.
Face makeup is a double-edged sword for adults with acne. The desire to make blemishes disappear coupled with the anxiety of a potential skin hangover from wearing the products is a perpetual loop of breakout and re-cover. Into the middle of that loop is where Lemons steps in.
Launched by tech guru Nita Sederholm in the fall of 2020, Lemons was born in order to fill — of all things — a hole in a data set. Originally the founder of a tech hivemind called Cocoon Beauty Engine, a database of 40,000 people who log their reactions to their skincare routines and what they’re missing, Nita spotted a massive gap in an otherwise packed-to-the-gills industry. “I’ve been in advertising my whole life, and I always felt like there had to be a better way to do things,” she said. “There has to be a way to know not only how a singular product works, but how they interlock. When you have acne or eczema, everything connects.”
Akin to dominos, skincare and makeup have a ripple effect. Most foundations for acne-prone skin are packed with ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, both harsh drying agents. They’re also full of ingredients that typically aren’t non-comedogenic (AKA they clog pores) to get the best coverage. The cycle continues.
“The industry is built in a way that treatment is its own category and coverage is a totally different one,” Nita continued. “It’s different people building both products, building both areas. Bridging those two together isn’t easy and hasn’t really been done before.” Designed as an extension of a skincare routine, Lemons isn’t meant to be in its own category. Through an Oil-Balance Booster Primer made with marine algae and hyaluronic acid and their Hi-Function Foundation built with niacinamide to strengthen the skin barrier, the company combines the best of skincare and coverage.
Lemons also exists to combat the mental health portion of acne, Nita very openly discusses the way that having acne can affect self-esteem — and why healing both our acne and our mindset is so important. “We’re always being fed beautiful skin images, even brands that cater to all skin issues, only show specific skin,” she explained. “It’s a massive contributor to anxiety and self-esteem issues.” Acne is still so often portrayed as something that only teens deal with. The women in giant photos in the windows at Sephora don’t have pimples. The lack of true acknowledgement that adults suffer too leads to so much shame. Nita and Lemons are here to kick that shame’s ass.
With thirty shades across the range, Lemons is truly designed to cater to everyone. Participating is as easy as sending a DM to the brand on Instagram. Nita herself picks the color samples that arrive in our mailboxes. The hand-picked aspect is the cherry on top of a sundae that already feels custom made just for me. Beyond the photos on social media, talking to Nita made me feel seen. “We know that we can’t change your skin, or make it airbrushed and flawless,” she said. “We’re here to remind you that everything you need, you already have.” She’s right. Now I just have another tool in my belt to help me remember that.
Learn more about When Life Gives You Lemons right here.