Elements of Style

Kate Fleming’s Diary of a Skin Care Nerd

One tech worker bested her acne through research—and a book and a beauty product were born.

By Rosin Saez August 20, 2019 Published in the September 2019 issue of Seattle Met

Kate Fleming at her Seattle home, where she stores her arsenal of products.


ate Fleming had bad skin. As a teen she knew well the challenges of a temperamental visage—clogged pores, a blemish-flecked chin. There was persistent acne—the painful sort that broke out everywhere—plus her face was, at once, constantly oily and also somehow dry. In middle school she’d apply zit creams and use that aggressively coarse apricot scrub by St. Ives in the hope that the inflamed spots would abate. By the time Fleming started at West Seattle High School she was trying oral and topical medications. Nothing worked.

She took to her laptop for answers, “digging in the depths of the corners of the internet.” After four years of research and a trial-and-error journey to healthy skin, she launched a blog in 2018 she dubbed The Skincare Diary, which has since amassed 60,400 followers. “I felt so defeated [in] my process at so many points,” she says. “I wanted this information to be available to other people.” She’s no dermatologist nor a professional trained in matters of the face. Fleming, 24, is a self-taught coder and data architect. And she found her skin a better algorithm.

A Seattle resident from birth, Fleming is a part of the tradition of tech folks who spin off into entrepreneurialism. She maintains her day job in tech, but, last year, she self-published an e-book, The Skincare Diary Volume 1. The 75-page digital tome methodically unpacks the mysteries of the epidermis—she cites early twentieth-century studies about the acidity of the skin and organic chemistry as justification to use “a baller oil cleanser.”

As Fleming became acquainted with the beauty industry’s buzziest products, she noticed something was missing: a facial oil that could combat her dry skin. “I’m a sucker for cute skin care packaging, but at the end of the day I’m not going to put it on my face if it doesn’t work.” Thus, she went into autodidact mode once again, taking to her kitchen to develop an antioxidant-boosted foundation oil that finally helped her complexion. Her product, three years in the making, debuted at a downtown boutique in February; now it’s regularly available on her own website.

The $5.6 billion beauty business, she recognizes, often touts “this air-brushed, perfect face—it’s so unrealistic.” An occasional zit still arises, maybe from a long plane flight, or even a product test gone awry. Fleming posts those images, too—documenting her progress, setbacks, and occasional moments of distress, at times writ across her face—like any credible diarist should.

► The Foundation Oil 
Acne-fighting elixir to achieve a “dewy glow” ($35).

► The Skincare Diary Volume 1
Part personal journal, part informative tutorial to a healthy exterior ($15).

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