#BeautyBoss: Mirjam "Anneli" Johnson, Founder of Phytomer USA
This week’s #BeautyBoss is Mirjam “Anneli” Johnson, Founder of Phytomer USA. After immigrating to the United States in the early 1960s from Finland with three small daughters, Johnson settled in Utah and began establishing herself as a beauty industry force. With years of experience along with multiple diplomas and certifications in esthetics and massage already under her belt, she began practicing and quickly gained a loyal clientele. She and her husband went on to establish one of the first day spas in Utah, AquaVie Day Spa, which is still in operation to this day.
With unparalleled experience and extremely high standards, Johnson found herself searching for a product line to use that fit her professional spa needs. Unsatisfied with local options, Johnson and her husband teamed up with French brand Phytomer in 1986. This would prove to be the beginning of a 30-plus year (and three generation) partnership as the United States distributor of Phytomer Group Brands.
Phytomer is a marine and biotechnology professional brand carried in more than 700 spas in the United States. With headquarters in Salt Lake City, Phytomer USA has a state-of-the-art training facility where spa therapists from around the country flock to learn the brand's detailed treatment protocols and gain extensive product knowledge. Understanding the value of quality education, Johnson remained hands-on alongside Phytomer educators, training and sharing her passion with hundreds of therapists throughout the decades.
Lovingly referred to as “Grandma” by Phytomer USA employees and many in the industry, Johnson is a woman who is hard to forget. We caught up with her recently to talk about beauty, business, her favorite wellness tips, and more.
When was Phytomer USA founded and what’s the meaning behind the name?
It was founded in 1986. Phyto means “plant” and mer means “sea,” so the name Phytomer literally means “plant of the sea.”
What inspired the joint venture of Phytomer in the United States?
When I immigrated to the United States from Finland in 1963, I couldn’t find products that I liked and was accustomed to. Together with my dear husband, the vision was born. The need for a good, quality European product line was substantial and so our search began. After years of testing many brands, I heard about Phytomer through a colleague from Finland who knew of the brand.
Following a meeting with the Gedouin family in France and testing the Phytomer products in my spa practice, my husband and I decided that this was the line we had been searching for. We also worked very well with the Gedouin family, so the birth of Phytomer Corporation in the United States was formed. Now, the third generation of the Gedouin family and the third generation of my family are working together to bring the sea to the skin by providing natural, eco-friendly skin care to offer to all in the United States.
Tell us about your background in the industry and how you got to where you are now.
Schools in Finland are notorious for their high education. Fortunately since Finland is where I was born and raised, I had the opportunity to receive excellent education in my chosen field. After graduating from esthetics school in 1944, I underwent many other post-graduate training courses and certifications. For example, I’m the recipient of a European CIDESCO diploma and have received extensive training in lymph drainage massage from Dr. Vodder himself through four separate, month-long courses, including an instructor certification.
There were many other courses and certifications that I was blessed to be able to receive and enhance my knowledge. After immigrating to the United States, I started my own day spa practice and with the help of my husband also formed the joint venture company, Phytomer Corporation, for the importation and distribution of Phytomer.
Does Phytomer have a hero product?
Phytomer has so many amazing products, but if I were to list hero products, there would be two that stand out. First, Oligomer Pure Lyophilized Seawater Bath. It’s an iconic Phytomer exclusive and the first product created in the Phytomer line. The second is a long-standing favorite, Rosee Visage Toning Cleansing Lotion. It continues to remain a top seller and favorite for everyone year after year.
What’s your favorite product from the brand?
I’m an avid believer in the benefits of the sea and in Phytomer’s Oligomer Pure—a freeze-dried bath product that has a multitude of benefits. Oligomer, meaning “little sea,” contains all the naturally occurring trace elements and minerals which are indispensable for vital body functions, overall health and well-being.
Where are Phytomer products sold?
Phytomer products are sold through professionals in the spa arena such as day spas, resort spas, medical spas, and club spas.
Who inspires you?
The owner of the esthetics school that I attended in Finland was a great inspiration. She was a pioneer of esthetics in Finland. She was not only responsible for inspiring her students but was also integral in forming an association for the profession, which remains the main association for esthetics in Finland today.
Secret to success?
In order to succeed, I think it’s important to find your passion which will help motivate you. It’s much easier to put the necessary extra time in to really excel in your career if you love what you do. In the service industry of course, you also need to love people. I feel so fortunate to have found an inspiring career in the spa industry which continues to motivate me to learn and grow—even at the age of 93.
Prevention is much easier and cheaper than correction or a cure. Start taking care of your skin and body at an early age. And if you didn’t start when you were as young as you wish, at least start now. Work with nature to reveal your natural beauty.
Wellness tips/best advice?
Choose to be happy, and take time each day to relax and recharge. Being positive can help you live longer and if it doesn’t, at least you’ll be happier throughout the journey. Wrinkles from a smile are much more beautiful than wrinkles formed from a frown. Many things we stress about are insignificant in the big scheme of life, and we know stress is one of the major causes of disease and skin disorders.
Favorite way to relax?
After many decades, at 93 years of age my favorite way to unwind, relax, and remineralize is still to take an Oligomer Pure freeze-dried seawater bath. I try to take a seawater bath daily or at least every other day. It helps me not only to relax but after the surge of minerals, it also helps me feel recharged and energized.
[Images courtesy of Phytomer USA]
Alisha Racker’s beauty career has spanned over a decade as she's worked as a master esthetician, skin care PR-pro and freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful mountains of Salt Lake City with her husband and daughter.