It can often take a lifetime of beauty trials and tribulations to get to the point of appreciating the look of healthful, glowing skin many are blessed with when they’re young, and yet 22-year-old Zoe Prieston is not only mentally there already, she is building her brand, BALM, around it (now stocked online at Sephora, no less). She spoke with us about her close-knit family’s influence on everything from her business acumen to her emotional wellbeing, her love for K-beauty’s emphasis on a bouncy, illuminated complexion, lessons in childhood jam making and how, sometimes, the best antidote to a juggling-it-all meltdown is a ‘treat yourself’ diamanté sneaker moment.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @BALM.SYDNEY

“Everyone’s skin is unique and truly understanding your own skin is the first step to finding the products that are right for you. Paying attention to ingredients helps you understand which your skin dislikes and those it loves.

After reading mounds of reputable skincare books, I believe ‘clean’ skincare products based in science are the real MVPs. My favourite skincare brands are Synergie Skin, Sodashi and Sunday Riley (currently obsessed with its Good Genes Lactic Acid treatment). I use science-based products with actives to clean my skin and to help keep it clear, and use natural and organic products to enhance its glow.

My skincare regime has been a real trial and error process over the past year or so. As  I have discovered the beauty of a long-term, gentle approach to skincare, I’ve become even more invested in my skin having a healthy, hydrated, bouncy look and that ‘lit-from-within’ glow.

If I’m particularly puffy, I start with an ice cube or quartz roller to bring that down, before dermarolling for a few minutes. Then comes the alphabet: vitamin A in the PM, and vitamins B and C in the AM. I use something super hydrating on top of my serums, like Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream or Dr. Barbara Sturm Glow Drops. Finally, and most importantly, is SPF, and I love EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 (Ed. note: not available in Australia). A piece of advice I received once that has stuck with me is that it is so much easier to prevent damage than to reverse it, so I am a stickler for SPF.

While it makes me happy knowing that my regime is helping to keep my skin healthy day in and day out, I have to say that actually going through the steps and applying each product is often (especially in lockdown) the most exciting part of my day. I just love it!

I love K-beauty aesthetics, which are a huge part of what inspired me to develop BALM, which is a makeup-skincare hybrid.

One of these elements is ‘glass skin’, which refers to smooth, clear skin with a transparent effect, and the other is ‘dumpling skin’, which is about having a supple, moist complexion (and admittedly, I also love that one partly for its name). I’ve never been a fan of the heavy, transformational makeup look, especially when thick, synthetic products are involved. I’m all about thin layers and using the bare minimum, just enough to enhance our skin and features, as opposed to masking or transforming them. Less is always more.

One of the reasons I developed BALM was so that I could keep my regime as minimalist as possible; it is no-makeup makeup designed to be flexible and buildable, because we will always want different finishes and looks.

For daytime, I strip it down to a touch of bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream in Bamboo 5.5, a dab of BALM The Bronze on the cheek bones, BALM The Glow in the spots the light hits naturally, curled lashes, and a light stroke of a good brow pencil. For evening, I love a bronzed finish and use scientifically-formulated Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation in Almond, The Bronze, The Glow, my Hourglass Arch Brow Micro Pencil in Warm Brunette, Kevyn Aucoin’s The Curling Mascara (which has a tubing formula), and a Chanel Rouge Coco Gloss in 726 Icing, 716 Caramel or 774 Excitation.

It wasn’t necessarily my plan to take it this far, but, as cliché as it sounds, I became so invested in finding out how to take care of my own skin, that BALM eventually fell into place quite naturally.

My ambition to venture into the beauty industry came from hours and hours of research into the science of skincare, and with more time at home in 2020, I was able to really dive into understanding ingredients that actually benefit the skin.

The support I’ve received from the get-go has been incredible! Nothing feels better than the love and backing of the people around you. This of course includes delightful customer feedback, but also the encouragement I’ve received from my loved ones on the sideline. I think people are really starting to appreciate natural beauty and that is a huge step in the right direction in my opinion.

IMAGE: INSTAGRAM @balm.sydney

Both sides of my family migrated to Australia from southern Europe, and I am a second generation Australian. My sister and I have been the first in our family to do a lot of things, like go to university, which has had a huge impact on the way I view and value those opportunities.

My dad started his business at the age of 23, so he gives me a lot of guidance and instilled in me a strong work ethic. I am also very fortunate to have grown up among strong, kind women; my sister is my best friend, and my mum, aunties and grandmothers have all been important influences on me in different ways. Having a strong, tight-knit support network is a huge part of who I am, which is why I always prioritise spending time with the people I love.

I’ve always been creative and business-minded. When I was 10, I asked my Nonna to help me make jam with grapefruits I had picked from a backyard tree.

I collected jars, used trusty WordArt to print off some stickers, stacked the labelled jars into a brown basket and walked the streets close to home selling my grapefruit jam for cash. It was super sour and didn’t taste great, but no one wanted to say no to the little girl holding a basket at their front door. Since then, I’ve found different passions (non-condiment related!), but that drive to have a business that makes its customer base happy is the same.

Launching BALM has been an incredibly challenging time, as I’ve been trying to learn to balance everything I have going on in my life!

When you run your own business, ‘downtime’ ends up being squeezed into your (strict) work schedule. It’s an around-the-clock job and usually, you work through any breaks. Juggling a Master’s degree, a part-time role as a corporate consultant, and starting my own company from the ground up, as well as trying to make time to see family and friends, left me with not a lot of room to breathe. What I took away from that period is that if what you’re after really matters to you, and you really want it, you will figure out how to make it happen. And try to just keep moving!

I swear by the Laser Genesis Facial by Melissa Fraser at Marque Skin Solutions in Woolloomooloo, usually monthly.

It’s about 15 minutes of what feels like one thousand biting bull ants, but the results are incredible and there is no downtime. I find it gives me a clear complexion and is great for plumping the skin and stimulating collagen production. Mel is a treatment angel and there is no one I trust more than her and her team.

My hair is wavy, but no one would ever know as I always wear it either straight or slick it back into a low bun (thank you, AVEDA Brilliant Rexturing Gel).

I make sure to use a good shampoo and conditioner, as well as a hair mask once a week or whenever I feel like my hair could do with some hydration, and like the Kérastase Nutritive Magistral range. One thing I can’t go without, which will make my hairdresser very proud, is a good heat protectant cream. I’m very reliant on Kérastase Nutritive Nectar Thermique, which I need because of how much I love my GHD!

There are two things that make me the most relaxed: calling to check in with a friend to hear how they are doing, or self-care!

About three times a week, I go to Hustle Boxing in Potts Point for sessions with my trainer, Dave “Pow” Tabain. During lockdown we were able to keep it going with one-on-one sessions, which I’m so grateful for. He is just the best, and such a supportive person.

When it comes to the more relaxed elements of self-care, I’m face mask-obsessed (my favourite at the moment is Dr Naomi Skin Fizzy Lift Instant Glow Mask) and I’ve finally mastered the at-home SNS mani. I also love a good online shopping haul, and having a gift to self arrive at my front door. Recently, I couldn’t resist buying a pair of diamanté-embellished Nikes from Miss Customs;  she is so amazing at what she does, and I am obsessed with them!”

Story by Zoe Briggs. Images supplied by BALM, and select images from Instagram @balm.sydney. This article was created in partnership with BALM.

Comment (2)

  1. October 19, 2021
    Jane

    She is 22. That’s how you get dumpling skin. Be 22. LOL

    1. November 7, 2021
      Sigourney Cantelo

      Hi Jane, being 22 certainly doesn’t hurt! ‘Dumpling skin’ is a look that involves using moisturising, plumping products to achieve a dewy finish, which we think is a great look for all skin types and ages x