Iles Formula is pleased to welcome Dr. Jennie Christensen – CEO and Chief Scientist of TheíoVitality. Theío Vitality specializes in hair mineral analysis, creating a blueprint of the body’s elemental and nutritional balance, including any deficiencies or excesses.
Jennie’s hair story began when she was 6 years old and diagnosed with trichotillomania (the compulsion to pull out one’s hair). Despite the emotional challenges of living with this disorder, it did not deter her from getting out into the world, becoming an Environmental Toxicologist, and opening her own laboratory in 2016. While the laboratory initially focused on environment and wildlife, with the recent launch of Theío Vitality, the laboratory’s service now includes non-invasive tools to monitor human health: it has been quite the journey from hair pulling to hair analysis. As Jennie says, with a big smile, “my greatest flaw became my greatest strength and now I am able to help others on their own journey to beauty and well-being using none other than…hair.”
TheíoVitality’s service is two-fold. First and foremost, it addresses concerns regarding elemental balance and a potential need to change diet, certain lifestyle choices, and/or nutritional supplement regimes. The macro minerals analyzed include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur. The trace minerals are chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, nickel, selenium, vanadium, and zinc. The toxic metals include aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Second, it will focus specifically on hair health by providing physiological information about the hair and its potential to be improved. Both services are available at the Samaritaine – Studio de Beauté in Paris as well as online through the Theío Vitality website.
Dr. Jennie Christensen
IF: What is your relationship with hair now that Theío Vitality is in your life?
Having trichotillomania, I always felt different – and not in a good way. I only saw this disorder as something to hate myself over. It wasn’t until I turned 40 and was asked to give a SheTalk on “what made me successful?” did my perspective completely alter. After weeks of contemplating this complex question, I realized all of the lessons trichotillomania had taught me actually shaped me into a remarkable woman. I was compassionate to others, I had exceptional strength in moving forward despite adversity, I learned acceptance (mostly of myself), and discovered that being honest with the world and proud of my uniqueness was incredibly freeing and powerful. I brought science to my obsession with hair and now can give a gift to others by helping them on their journeys to their own optimal mental and physical well-being. kin.
IF: Would you say that Covid confinement has had an effect on people’s health and hair?
The Covid experience has been something unlike anything else during most living people’s lifetime. I am sure diet and lifestyle changes were significant during Covid, which could have had a negative impact on your nutritional balance, and subsequently on your hair health. However, my belief is that our biggest health threat from Covid is impaired mental health. I have experienced this myself and within my family. Stress, no matter its cause, is absolutely detrimental to the body – particularly prolonged stress. While our bodies are typically effective at adjusting to short-term stress, Covid produced a situation where multiple stresses were prolonged; for many months to over a year! Our bodies do not do well in these conditions and have likely become completely imbalanced. This could lead (if not already!) to potential health problems, including poor hair health. As we finally emerge from Covid, it is so important to evaluate our new baseline and work to remove those stresses, find better management strategies, and get on a path to renewed vitality with a healthy diet and exercise.
IF: How did you hear about Iles Formula?
My sister, Julie, manages Theío Vitality in Paris and is often at the Samaritaine – Studio de Beauté where Ilse Formula is one of the preferred haircare brands. Julie and Wendy exchanged on several occasions about their respective savoir-faire and Julie got to experience the products first-hand. She’s still raving about them!
IF: What is the most inspiring thing you’ve learned at your job?
I think there are two important things, perhaps both a bit cliché. The first is that my mantra “if you can dream it, you can do it” is absolutely correct. One of my biggest motivations in life is taking a thought or idea in my head, and creating something living out of it. It feels so powerful, and my only hope is that my daughter will carry this belief into her future too. Anything is possible.
The second is that you need a team. Not just any team though; this team has to be diverse in their life experience, knowledge, strengths, and passions. We need differences, we need to bring them to the table every day with pride, and we need to celebrate, respect, and utilize them for the greater good of the team.
IF: The information you receive is from what area of the hair?
Using very precise laser technology, we analyze the hair just below the scalp. This is important and unique among other methods, as other hair analyses use portions of the strand only above the scalp. Once the hair emerges from the scalp, it is tainted: from your water/shower (e.g., calcium, lead, copper), air quality (e.g., heavy metals), and hair products and treatments. The portion below the scalp is protected from these impacts and therefore represents a more accurate window into your internal, nutritional balance.
IF: How often should one do one of these tests.
This really depends on your health objectives. However, in general, we recommend our clients undergo hair mineral analysis at least two to three times per year. The first analysis is your baseline on which to develop a path forward. Subsequent analyses are for comparing to your baseline as you make changes to your diet or lifestyle, and to monitor for improvement, whether that is for your nutritional health or for your hair health. We do have clients (e.g., athletes or people exposed to toxic metals in their professions) who do it more frequently.
IF: How has your environmental work as a toxicologist influenced your work in human health?
I have always had a passion for wildlife and environmental health. People sometimes forget that we aren’t so different from wildlife (physiologically) and are subject to the same toxic hazards prevalent in our environment today. I learned the most through my experience working with grizzly bears and their exposure to toxic chemicals in their natural environment, even when they were living in remote habitats. Chemicals are ubiquitous now, sadly, and they get into our food and water, and subsequently, into our bodies impacting our health. Much of my work on bears utilized their hair to characterize diet and chemical exposure. It was not a big leap to start monitoring human hair for diet, nutritional status, and toxic metal exposure, as hair (common to all mammals) is well-conserved genetically and therefore, provides health information whether you are a mouse, a grizzly bear, or a human.
IF: Who would be your dream dinner party guests?
Hands down, Jane Goodall – not sure I would have any need for other guests if she was there. She has inspired me since I was a young adult. I met her once at a talk she gave and I cried my eyes out. I couldn’t even speak! Meeting her and following her journey has been incredibly inspirational. This woman defied odds as a young female taking on a massive undertaking in remote Africa, brought compassion to chimpanzee research studies and conservation efforts, followed her passion to create an environmental movement, changed the world for the better, and is still going!
IF: What makes you the happiest?
Creating, learning, and experiencing new things. I love spending time with my teenage daughter, Lily, experimenting in my laboratory with laser technology, and enjoying a glass of chardonnay in Paris with my sister.
IF: If you were to share one beauty tip with us today, what would it be?
Honor your inner self. By that, I mean always try to nourish your nutritional and mental health. Over and above any cosmetic treatments, a healthy lifestyle is a key to beauty, including healthy physique, skin, hair, and nails. I would also suggest letting your smile out more often. Nothing is more beautiful than a radiant and authentic smile.
IF: What does being a woman in 2021 entail for you?
I am so thankful that I was born when I was. Being a woman today is so much better (in my opinion) than even half a century ago, when career options were very limited. While still with its challenges today, I feel I can follow my dreams and not be as limited by my gender. We haven’t reached total equity with men yet, particularly in the fields of science and business, but I am excited about the future and where this generation of women will take us as the world increasingly opens up and embraces our unique contributions.
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