Episode 100: SkinTē’s Bassima Mroue on Life with Endometriosis

Episode 100: SkinTē’s Bassima Mroue on Life with Endometriosis

Overview

Bassima Mroue is a Lebanese-American entrepreneur with over a decade’s worth of experience working with heavyweights like Nike and Spanx. As a board member of the Sara Blakely Foundation, she is an active supporter of female empowerment — as she so beautifully demonstrates in her 2012 TEDx Portland talk. Passionate for developing purpose-driven brands, inspiring women, and destigmatizing self-care, Bassima calls upon her diverse professional experience to revolutionize the way we approach beauty and wellness from the inside out…because, as she can attest, the revolution begins WITHIN. Diagnosed with endometriosis and living with chronic back pain and finding herself at odds with traditional healing methods, she turned to naturopathy…where her doctor (and now fellow co-founder) suggested she try ingesting collagen for gut healing and pain management. Bassima struggled to find a tasty way to do so…but also found this approach to be life-changing. And so, SkinTē was born: a “perfectionist formula made with collagen peptides, real brewed tea, super herbs, and fizz.” Ya know…a fun way to get your collagen, day-to-day.

Takeaway

Transcript

Bassima Mroue SkinTē Nike Sara Blakely Foundation Spanx Uninvisible Pod

Lauren: All right, guys, thank you so much for joining us. We're here with another wonderful guest today, Bassima Mroue, who is the co-founder and CEO of SkinTē, which we're going to hear all about today. Bassima has lived with invisible illness, which in part inspired her to start the company. And we're going to dig right into it. Bassima, thank you so much for joining us.

Bassima: Of course. Thanks for having me.

Lauren: Oh, it's a total pleasure. We've been trying to make this happen for a while and we have lots of mutual friends. So it's been really nice to connect with you. And I figured we'd start from the very beginning. Why don't you tell us when and how you first realized that you were sick and what your diagnoses were? 

Bassima: Yeah, of course. So you know, my invisible illness, I would call stage four endometriosis. But I also had to get back surgery. So I think it's two of them, I think both qualify. The one with back surgery was the first one where I had major sciatic pain. And the reason I call it invisible is because you try to hide all that from everyone in your life. Because it feels exaggerated. People kind of go, “Oh, it’s just back pain.” Or, “Her leg hurts.” When I first started feeling like I had this pain, I would go from one physical therapist to another, who would all say, "It’s just your muscle. You don't need an MRI. You don't need any of that.” And I can't believe that I listened to them for two years, because it really messed with my head. And then when I forced the issue and they saw the MRI, they were like, “Oh, wow, actually the bulge is hitting your sciatic nerve. And you really do need surgery.” So during those two years, I kind of thought it was a lot in my head, and did everything I could to suppress the pain. The second one was endometriosis, which I've had all along and just felt like the symptoms were normal. Like, it's just what women go through. Because I guess I didn't really know any better. And I finally had a gynecologist discover it when I was working in Atlanta.

And he kept saying. “You have endometriosis.” And I kept saying, “No, I don’t." 

Lauren: But at least you had a doctor who knew what he was dealing with. 

Bassima: I was so in denial. And then when we did the surgery … it was a five-hour surgery, it was stage 4 endometriosis. And I could not believe the difference before and after. But I definitely consider it invisible because no one knew. I would keep doing all these different diets and anti-inflammatory foods to make sure that I was able to deal with the pain, and naturally did things, but really didn't give it a label. 

Lauren: Well, I think especially with endometriosis, because you require laparoscopic surgery to even confirm that you have it … in which case, you're also probably having a lot of endometrium removed, which for some people can create a lot of relief, but not always. It's an incurable disease; it's just going to be about management long-term. Of course, these things are invisible. Obviously, anything relating to women's health is completely internal. So that's something that nobody is able to understand unless they're in your body. And with back pain, I honestly feel like I've dealt with chronic pain of all sorts and back pain is some of the worst, and some of the most common. So do you even know where that came from, the back pain? How you got the disc issues? Were you in a car accident or something? 

Bassima: Great question, because I'd love to be able to say it was some accident. I think it was stress in my lifestyle. I really think people underestimate that part of it. I was working at Nike. I had an amazing ride with Nike; I was traveling all over. But I didn't really care about my health. And I really mean that. I've always been health conscious. But what I mean is, it came secondary to my work and my job. You know, sacrificing sleep, being on a plane every week, all of that, in the name of the job.

And it was all on me. I can't blame anyone else. I never hit the brakes.

I never really thought about what I should do to maintain my health while I was doing all of that. It was just go, go, go. So I think it was my lifestyle. 

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. And when you don't stop to even consider your own pain, the minute you do stop, you kind of go: Oh, my God! I definitely can relate to that. So what steps did you take to control your health at this point once you'd had your diagnoses? 

Bassima: I was doing things along the way and didn't realize it. The anti-inflammatory diet … actually my business partner, Dr. Amy Bader, saved me with that. She's a naturopathic doctor, she's amazing. And while I was at Nike, just a few years into my career at Nike, which ended up being 10 years, she put me on the anti-inflammatory diet. And the funny thing about that is, it really helped me remove inflammation, but it kind of masks the symptoms of endometriosis and back pain. Because when you are anti-inflammatory, it actually helps you manage pain very well! I was doing that for years. To your point, back pain just makes you fast forward to your grave. I mean, it sounds awful. But it does. And people who have had it, understand when I say that.

Lauren:  Yeah, you just feel hopeless.

Bassima: You feel hopeless, and you’re, like, I can't live my life. You're anti-social, you don't want to go out, you feel like you've aged 100 years. So, I started to look at things like massages and self-care as my number one priority. I was doing everything I could from a diet and lifestyle standpoint to help, but at the end, I had to get the surgery.

Lauren: And with the endometriosis, did having the surgery help with your pain management? 

Bassima: It actually tremendously helped me. I felt like a brand new person. But to your point, it never goes away. So you do it, and then you're aware that maybe 10 years from now you might need another one, or that it's slowly coming back. But for me personally, it was successful. I would say all these were a blessing in my life, because more than anything what they did is help me prioritize my health and self-care.

Which I think is number one, and it really changed my mindset around what it is to live your life and how to live it. 

Lauren: Absolutely, yeah. And so much of what you've built with your new company is about that and about embracing wellness in your lifestyle — which we're gonna get to! I'm wondering, along this journey to getting these diagnoses, having these surgeries, remediating your chronic pain, did you discover that you needed a personal advocate at any point? Or were you the one who had to step up for yourself in every case? 

Bassima: You know, that's such an amazing question, because I consider myself a very lucky person; I have amazing friends and family. The truth is, I'm my own best personal advocate, because no one's going to do it for you. But my partner, Dr. Bader, gave me some tools, which really helped me and it’s why I ended up partnering with her. Friends and family were supportive. But at the end of the day, you're living with yourself. You know your body better than anyone. I think you have to be your own personal advocate. I became my own biggest cheerleader, and that meant committing to myself, self-care, and taking care of myself. Against or above anything else, it really didn't matter what it was. Because if I don't do that, then I can't help others. I can't do my job well. So it comes from within, and I think you have to take accountability yourself. It takes a village. So I definitely reached out to different doctors, and I talked to friends about it. It takes a village, but you have to start with yourself. 

Lauren: Yeah. You mentioned that you were overworking yourself, and that a lot of chronic stress could have triggered a lot of these issues. What does a typical day look like for you then? What did it look like when you were just getting on with life? And how have you adjusted to make your day look different now as you manage potential issues? 

Bassima: Yeah, you know, what's funny … I work less, but smarter. And with a startup, there's that typical entrepreneur myth where you're kind of like, okay, I'm going to work 24/7, I have no life, I'm in the garage. And it really does feel like that some days. But the reality is, I've decided to do it differently. And what's interesting is, at Nike, I did work very, very long hours, but I just neglected my health.

Now I think about life differently; I think about fitting work into my life, not life into my work.

So it starts with my health, and then how does work fit in. That means things like creating a culture where people spend the hours any way they want. If I want to go in the middle of a day and get a workout, or a massage, that's just as important for my work. Because if I'm healthy, I'm more productive at work. So my mindset has changed. It's so much more integrated. Like tomorrow, I have a massage; the day after, I have a trainer that I will work with. All those things became more important. Even as an entrepreneur who put all her money into the company, whatever I earn, which is very little right now, goes, honestly, 80% to self-care, training and good food. We’re not closing purses right now till this company’s …

Lauren: But you're on your way, and you're doing really well with it. And you guys have got some awesome partners. It's very, very exciting.

Bassima: Very exciting, yep.

Lauren: So, it sounds like you had to have, in one case with your back pain … you had to convince doctors to believe you. With your endometriosis, a doctor had to convince you. What about these situations in which you've been forced to validate your pain to other people? How have those looked? And how have they played out? 

Bassima: It's such a good question. Because starting in high school when endometriosis hits you … you start with the hormonal imbalances. When I was young, I had major hormone problems. And I always felt weaker. And I always felt ‘less than’ all the ones around me who were so athletic and just seemed perfectly fine. And I think they make you feel like it's in your head or you're just weak. So when you voice, “Oh, my God, my period is so heavy,” it's a little bit of the … um, she's just weaker. Versus, oh there's this person who's out there playing basketball; they're strong, and they're dealing with it. So I remember feeling more insecure. It was nothing overt. I wasn't bullied; I wasn't teased in that sense. But it's a nuance, and it's something you sense from people. And now I feel so differently. One of my surgeons, he was incredible. He's the one who is my endometriosis surgeon. He's one of the best in the country. He said something interesting to me. He said, “Bassima, you're the type of person where if I took a knife and hit your skin, you would say nothing. And if I dug deeper, and you bled, you'd say nothing. But if I hit your bone, you'd say ouch.” He said, “Don't wait until the knife hits your bone. Vocalize it sooner.” I think as women we suppress it. And we think we’re the only ones, and we don't want to come off like whiners and victim-y. So I think those are kind of experiences I had when I was really young and was having major hormone problems. And now I feel completely differently. Now, I feel more educated and confident. And I tell younger girls to not apologize for how they're feeling and to really vocalize it. 

Lauren: I mean, it's interesting too, because with these issues of women's health, we're taught to suppress, suppress, suppress — even just your periods if they're normal. And then to be additionally suppressing pain and discomfort and heaviness, and everything like that that's associated with endometriosis. That's got to be really hard. But it's amazing that you had that doctor who said to you, “Say something sooner!” 

Bassima: I can't believe I’m going to tell you this. But I was at a company … I won't say the name … where I was right before I was going to go get stage 4 surgery. My hormones were out of control. I knew that I was kind of reacting in a weird way to someone. I'm usually really cool. I'm very passionate, but I knew I was anxious. And my reaction to someone wasn't right at a peer level.

So I went up to him, and I said, “You know what, I think my hormones are out of control right now.” And he looked at me in complete disbelief.

And I said, “Well, I'm sorry that I came off that way. I really didn’t mean it. You're not doing anything wrong. I'm aggravated on the inside.” And he gave me the biggest hug, and said, “I can't believe you just told me that. I so appreciate it. And it's so cool that you're so in tune in your body.” And I said, “Yeah, I'm about to get surgery. And I know, things just aren’t okay. So apologies for how I reacted.” I didn't need to get that specific, but I knew it was my hormones, because I've learned a lot about hormones. Men have hormone fluctuations, too. It's not just women. There's just this whole thing about women being hormonal, and then they're emotional. And oh, my gosh, and so don't bring it up. Men are hormonal, too. And so I think to be a little bit more free with that is okay. And I took that chance. 

Lauren: It sounds like you were also very fortunate that you shared that with a man who was open to it as well. Because you could have had a totally different reaction if it were the wrong person. 

Bassima: That’s very true. And it showed how amazing it can be when they are understanding.

Lauren: Yeah. It's amazing to me, too, that with your back pain, these doctors just kept putting off even calling for an MRI. It's just the most basic way to cover your bases. And they made you live in pain. 

Bassima: They kept saying, “MRIs are very expensive, and we like to wait until we've exhausted all other options.” So they experimented with me for that long, and they think it's in your head! That's the thing with the invisible illnesses — they often make you feel like you're a little crazy. Or you’re exaggerating. And I learned a lot from that. 

Lauren: Do you think that if you presented differently, say, if you were a man … We know that you present as a cis woman. Do you think that your experience would have been different?

Bassima: I do, actually. In general, if you look at studies, just even in interviews, men tend to be more overconfident. And women, even if they have skills that are stronger, downplay it. I think now walking into a place, I'd be, like, “I want an MRI now.” And I'd have a level of confidence and I'd be very stern about it. And I wouldn't apologize for it. But I do think back then, I wasn't really sure. So I was a little bit more insecure. And I was like, okay, maybe I'll try these different things they're making me do. Even though my intuition was on fire that something was wrong.

I think we can learn a lesson from men in that sense; I think they're a little bit more assertive about that.

Not all men. A lot of women are, too. But for me, at least. 

Lauren: I don't know about you, but definitely, whether it's in dealing with medical stuff, or even business stuff … sometimes I start writing an email or consider my approach or something, and then I go, wait a minute, if I were a dude, would I say it this way? And I just shift it and go … whatever, I'm just going to do it the way a guy would do it, because it doesn't make a difference.

Bassima: I think there’s something about embracing our femininity and owning it, loving that feminine energy and style. And then in other areas, I think it's okay to tap into your masculine energy. Because I talk a lot about how we all have masculine and feminine energy. And that feminine energy is beautiful; it's collaborative, it's creative, it leads to innovation. But at times that masculine energy serves you so well. And so learning how to tap into each, and when, has been big for me in both my business and in my health. 

Lauren: Absolutely. Yeah. I think that's very good advice, actually. So we know that you've created SkinTē, and this is a form of advocacy for you. Tell us how this all happened. Because this is a drink that's got collagen and lots of adaptogens and herbs in it. And it all happened because you were using collagen for healing, right? 

Bassima: We're three female founders. It's a beautiful story. We all went through major transitions in our life. So you know about my mine; mine was the surgery, back surgery, as well as endometriosis. And I walked out of Nike, the company I loved; I decided I was gonna walk out and focus on my health. And that led me into the surgeries, and it was my surgeons who said you should take a lot of collagen, which I'd never heard of. I didn't even believe in ingestible collagen. I just thought I’d try it for four weeks and then get off of it. And for me, it was more about the advice from my doctors. So both surgeons told me, “I want you to consume a lot of collagen. It’s gonna be really great for your gut, your joints, your bones, your heart health.” And then the bonus was the hair, skin and nails, of course. A superfood that I couldn't believe I'd lived without for so long. I felt like it was game-changing for me. Then I walked into my naturopathic doctor’s office — Dr. Amy Bader, who is now my business partner. She had just been recently divorced, had become a single mom, was also using collagen to age gracefully. So for different reasons. And she also had problems getting her patients to be consistent with collagen. I was her patient, and I was saying what most of her patients were saying … the pills, the powders, and bone broth are annoying.

I'm probably her most high-maintenance patient. 

Lauren: (laughs) Somehow I doubt that! But go on. 

Bassima: “Is there something better?” I said. “You know, I love collagen so much, but I wish there was something more enjoyable." And she told me she had partnered with Elizabeth Zieg, our third partner. And they had been mixing collagen with teas and herbs to create a better, more enjoyable way to consume it. So it was kind of this incredible meeting of the minds. We all saw the white space together. Elizabeth had been through the most traumatic experience of losing a daughter at 2. You never recover from that, you never do. It had been years and years and years since she put herself into anything that meant something to her. So somehow, collagen brought these three women together. And what was so important for us was that it was so much more than just collagen. It was a product that was really all about emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. And I say that because the formula we put in it really speaks to us as partners, but really pretty much anyone in the world. So for example, it's got really high-quality collagen, and the supplier that we use is free of insecticides, pesticides, hormones. Which of course, for me having stage 4, I can't mess with my hormones. The doctor wouldn't have it any other way. So that was a really important component. But what's so fun is we also include super herbs in all our flavors. One of them is called Hawthorn Berry, which was used in ancient times to heal a broken heart. And in modern times, in potent dosages, it’s used to heal the physical heart. If you think of it, everybody needs some emotional support, and everyone has grief about something. So a lot of our consumers say, “What did you put in it? I just feel happy.” And we're like, yeah, everyone can feel a little happy. It's like a hug from the inside out. We also put in there … real quickly … passionflower. Passion comes from the word ‘libido’. It makes you feel grounded, but also gives you a little boost; it makes you feel sexy, which is great for everyone. Horsetail is the vanity herb … so hair, nails, and skin … and it has silica in it. And then the fourth one is nettle root, which is an overall wellness tonic. So that formula of the collagen and the super herbs is in all of our flavors. And then we also add what we call smart ingredients that give it function and flavor. So for example, one flavor has jasmine green tea, real hibiscus, and grapefruit, plus all the other ingredients I mentioned. The other one has real brewed ginger and white tea. And the third one has real rose petals, which are amazing for your skin; hibiscus, and real vanilla. So no powders. What we've done is, we've carbonated it. And that's part of also our life experience. It's really self-care in a can that's light and fizzy, that’s fun and enjoyable. And the packaging is really vibrant and fun. And we did that because we want this to be radiance. Every day, someone can come and drink this liquid radiance and feel really great about themselves and face the day. That really comes from what we learned in our own lives. 

Lauren: Yeah, that's really beautiful. You also bring up about how your surgeons had recommended collagen for you. And it was really working. We know that there are a lot of conflicting studies out there, right. There are definitely the naysayers who say there's not enough evidence. And then there are the people who are using it. But you were convinced by your own use of collagen, right?

Bassima: Oh, I’m like a million percent convinced. Dr. Bader's quite picky. We have one of the best research experts in the country also on our scientific advisory board, who goes through all the research, and we have very strong medical studies that prove that it is effective. But you're right, nothing beats real data, having people try it. One of the fun things we did at SkinTē is, we give it away for free for three weeks to a month. So if any of your listeners want to do that, just reach out. 

Lauren: Yeah, we can link on the website, on the episode page. 

Bassima: Absolutely. And we would let them try one a day for a month, and then they can judge for themselves. That's how confident we are in our product, in our formula. On a personal level, it was literally game-changing.

I wouldn't have even started the company … because I thought collagen was weird and I also thought it was gross.

And I didn't know that ingestibles really worked.

Lauren: Yeah. So how did it help you specifically when you started using collagen? 

Bassima: You know, it's interesting because I feel like the best way for me to describe collagen is a lubricant on the inside. I don't know how else to say other than that. It’s really good for your gut, your joints, your bones. But also, 30% of your total body proteins are collagen, 70% of your skin's collagen. So when I recovered from the surgery, everyone’s, like, “Why are you glowing? Did you get a facial? Did you go to a spa?” And I'm like, “No, I've just been consuming an insane amount of collagen.” And I knew that was the one big thing I changed in my diet. Of course, I was out of pain, which helped, too. The changes in my hair and my skin, my nails were big, but also in my gut. I felt more lubricated, like in my joints. And when I got off of it … so for example, if I was traveling and I got off of it for a whole week, I would feel it. And that's really how I know. I often tell people, the best way to know if something works is try it for a month and then really back off completely. Because sometimes those nuances, you don't pick up on until you stop it. I felt less hydrated.

Lauren: Well, we know that it has these benefits for skin, hair and nails. But for someone like you, when you're having surgeons recommend it for recovery, when it's helping your gut. I mean, that's pretty huge. And there is evidence, there's data that supports this information. And while there's conflicting data there, there's conflicting data about a lot of things, too, aren't there? 

Bassima: Just surf the Internet. I think the Internet is one of the most incredible inventions in the world. What it does require, though, is for you to be able to sift and make decisions for yourself. Because every little thing you might look for may have a contradictory opinion. I really learned that, and I learned to go with what works for me and trying it out on myself, and then seeing what other people say. I think we have to be educated consumers of the Internet. There are also some major influencers with millions of followers that … sorry to say …don’t know what they're talking about.

Lauren: Yep, I agree. I think we all know who we're talking about!

Bassima: They say these things, and you just kind of shake your head and go, I wish they felt more accountable for their followers. You have to really be careful what you believe. But that's where we're each accountable for how we evaluate; it definitely is harder and harder. So what we hope to do and try to do is educate as best as we can — and back it all up with research. That's why we have a scientific advisory panel that's really important to us. Dr. Corina Dunlap has done extensive research and the FDA training as well. So we just made sure that that was in place. 

Lauren: Yeah, it's really exciting. So you've been a patient in the healthcare system. You’ve had to navigate a few challenges. What have you learned about our health care system? In what way does it work for patients? And in what ways do you think it requires improvement?

Bassima: I don't think it works. There are some really exciting new things. And the funny thing is … I'm not paid for this. I'm not an ambassador, but Parsley Health is the best example of a good way of thinking. 

Lauren: I think when you and I first met, you had just started going to Parsley Health as they had just opened in West Hollywood. 

Bassima: I’m obsessed with them, and they have no idea I talk like this about them, but they really changed the game in my opinion. Dr. Bader was the closest thing … she's my business partner. She's a naturopathic doctor. Her education is extensive. Naturopathic doctors aren't as understood as MDs. So I feel like what she's doing and the way she helped me heal through a lot of focuses on food as medicine, but also with naturopathic medicine, has been phenomenal. But in terms of health care system on a larger scale, what Parsley Health is doing is so amazing. They start with a full hormonal panel, they tie it to nutrition, they do food testing, and then they have a doctor and they also have a nutrition coach. And so when you get both of those together, it's much more holistic.

I think looking at your life 360 is more important than, I think, conventional medicine — where you just come in and they give you the pill.

I had this young 14-year-old woman who has a lot of acne and and she’s, like, “My doctors are saying I should get on Accutane right away, or the Pill … “ I called Dr. Bader, her heart broke, we were like, “Oh my God, wait.” Because there's so much stuff you can do with food first. You could start by eliminating a bunch of stuff and figuring out if the acne goes down before you start pumping yourself at 14 with hormones when you're already so fragile. That's what happened to me. And so I think it's flawed, but I'm very excited about the changes coming up. I also think the holistic and integrated nature needs to be respected. I have a lot of respect for surgeons. A lot of people are, like, “You should never have done surgery; you could have healed all that without surgery.” I'm like, “No, I couldn’t. It was structural. The bulge was literally hitting my sciatic nerve. So no, I couldn't have not done the surgery.” And thank goodness for Western medicine, because it got me there. But I coupled that with recovery with herbs and collagen and the way I changed my food and my lifestyle. So I think there's a place for both, and I have a lot of respect for both. But you don't see a lot of organizations out there that integrate it, and then do it at an affordable rate. So Parsley is my biggest example of that. 

Lauren: Yeah, I think that's a really good point. I think what they're doing is really exciting. They're riding the crest of that wave as we're changing our understanding of healthcare, really — and it's very, very exciting. So, we've covered so much. I wondered if there's anything else you wanted to tell us about SkinTē, and about the future of the brand? And where our listeners can find SkinTē? I know it's available at a number of different retailers around the country. 

Bassima: Yeah, thank you. I think for me, the biggest thing for them to know is there are three women founding this brand. We don't apologize for being three women and thinking about it from a feminine perspective, from a spiritual and emotional physical standpoint. But men love it, too. They're a huge part of our consumer base. So we really see it as a gift that we hope everybody loves, and that they can drink every day without having to go and try and find each one of these. You got it all in one place. It's really great. We're finding our consumers drink it at 10 in the morning, it's very light and refreshing. They drink it with their lunch because the taste is so different than any other collagen out there. A lot of them drink it after a workout, because it's actually more hydrating than water. Because we have the minerals, the salt that we have in it — all of that helps with hydration and the collagen. You can find it as Sprouts nationwide, starting February 14.

Lauren: Wow! Happy Valentine's Day to us all.

Bassima: We are in the Portland Saturday Market, with Market of Choice. And with Garden Bar, and Seasons. In LA, we're in Erewhon. We’re with a whole bunch of premium, wonderful partners — Four Seasons, The Peninsula, a bunch of Equinox hotels in New York. So we're updating our website and all that information will be there. But the best is to go also online. We have subscriptions, we have little variety packs that are really cute, where you can taste one of each flavor at a great cost. And then you can buy the flavor that you love the most on subscription. So definitely check out our website. 

Lauren: Yeah. And when people are at my house, they can ask me for a taste, too. I keep it stacked in the fridge! So I like to wrap up these interviews with some Top Three lists. The first one is, Top Three Tips for someone who suspects maybe they've got something that's a little off with their bodies. Maybe they've already got a diagnosis. Maybe they're seeking a diagnosis. Maybe they're recovering from surgery. What would you recommend for people? 

Bassima: Number one, trust your intuition. Just trust it. No one lives in your body.

If anyone's making faces at you, ignoring you, telling you to dismiss it … dismiss them.

I feel that strongly. Trust your intuition. If something feels off, something is off. It may not be what you're thinking it is. Because I never thought it was endometriosis. I thought it was that I was lazy and should have been eating a better diet, over and over. I was already healthy, but I always turned it to blame myself. Oh, yeah, I should be more energetic, I should be drinking more water. 

Lauren: I should be eating more kale …

Bassima: I was already so healthy. So, one is trust your intuition. Two, ask more than one person. One person is not the answer. Doctors are not perfect. It takes a village. I really asked more than one, and would ask different opinions. And I think that's critical in this journey. And then number three, make it a priority. Make it a business. I know that people really struggle with that. Even people that have huge careers where they may not even need to work, I find end up prioritizing their work. So I think you have to make it a priority. And you have to treat it like it's a project and that you're going to get to the bottom of it. You can't just keep postponing it the way I did in the early days. Those are my Top Three. 

Lauren: I think those are really great pieces of advice. So last Top Three list … Top Three Things that give you unbridled joy — whether they're lifestyle adjustments or not — that you're unwilling to compromise on. So it could be comfort activities if you have a flare; it could be guilty pleasures, secret indulgences. Or it could just be three things that make you so damn happy you're not going to stop — including drinking SkinTē. 

Bassima: So you know number one, I would say … this is so funny … well, of course SkinTē is there, so I’m going to put that as a precursor. It's my sanctuary. It's my self-care, it's my joy all in one. I can feel good that I'm getting so much in there all in one, and feel like it's almost like my supplement, my self-care, my beauty all in one. This is gonna be crazy, but hot baths. 

Lauren: That’s not crazy! I love a hot bath! 

Bassima: I love hot baths! I'm so obsessed, and I put Epsom salts and I do this organic lavender oil. And when I was putting so much money into the company, and there wasn't a lot I could do — just because I was being careful — what I wouldn't compromise on was the hot bath.

It has become the number one meditation for me.

I don't meditate like others. But when I sit in that hot bath for 10 to 20 minutes … and Epsom salts have been known to calm you down. And then the little lavender oil just gives you a little bit of bubbles and makes you feel like you're in luxury. That's the moment for myself, and I do it at least four times a week. It's just the best, and it calms me down. Exercise. It sounds so lame that I'm saying the same thing, but exercise … weightlifting. As a woman … I'm 42 …

Lauren:  You are not 42!  Hey guys, SkinTē works! She does not look 42, y’all. (laughs)

Bassima: (laughs) I’ve been aging in reverse since I started doing SkinTē; I really mean it! Thank you for that. The thing for me is weightlifting… as a woman in your early ‘40s, even younger, I think putting that habit … I used to be, like, oh, it's all cardio. And now I realize, actually, weightlifting is so powerful for your hormones and is so powerful for making you feel strong. And one of my advisors, actually … she's incredible, Leslie Blodgett, founder of bareMinerals, she always says “strong body strong mind”, and that used to hit me really hard. And truly, if you just focus on your strength, no matter what level that strength is, I think it's very empowering as you go through the journey. And then the last one … I hope this isn't R-rated … but I would say if you have a significant other … making love and being with them.

Lauren: You're not the first person to say it. I've had some people straight up say “orgasms.” So go for it, girl! (laughs)

Bassima: Exactly. And I feel like that's so important, regardless of your preference, just having that significant other in your life. I didn't have it all the time. And I now have it, which I never thought I would while trying to launch a start-up. I was like, wow, that makes such a difference and I think my team even loves me more, because I'm so calm! It allows you to relax. And so I think that's important.

And if you can't have that, just eat a lot of chocolate!

Lauren: (laughs) I think that's very good advice. Yes. I love that! Well, is there anything else that you want to share with everyone who's tuning in? 

Bassima: Just that we're a brand that’s all about love, and we'd love the feedback. And we're truly there for our consumer, and we love them more than anything. That's our true purpose. Our mission is to unleash health and beauty from the inside out every day. And beauty includes your character, who you are on the inside. And in order to unleash your potential, what you put in your body really matters. So we love people to reach out to us, tell us what they want. And we'd love to build a relationship with every one of your listeners. 

Lauren: That’s so lovely. And we'll certainly put links on the website when this episode is live as well. Bassima, thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure chatting with you. 

Bassima: Thank you so much!

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