Thirty years of practice has led Idaho-dermatologist Carl Thornfeldt, MD, to a conclusion about skin disease and aging: much of it can be attributed to the breakdown of the skin’s natural barrier function and chronic inflammation. He treats skin disease with prescriptions but for obtaining maximum skin health he focuses on rebuilding the barrier function. Enter, Epionce, the skin care system that Thornfeldt created to repair the barrier and fight inflammation. The comprehensive range is infused with botanicals and can be customized to address a variety of conditions, including acne, eczema, hyperpigmentation, psoriasis, rosacea, and, of course, skin aging. Here, Thornfeldt tells Beauty in the Bag about his professional background and his insights into maintaining healthy, youthful skin.
Please tell us about your background. Why did you choose dermatology as your specialty?
I have struggled with dermatitis since I was a child. When I was a teenager, there were very few options available for treating dermatitis. The most common therapies were tar and sulfur being applied to the skin. It was a very challenging time for me and dramatically impacted me. I vowed I would grow up and try to find a better way to help people like me.
As a physician, how do you describe healthy skin?
I describe healthy skin as skin that has proper function and structure—the way it was originally intended to be. After all, the skin’s natural number one purpose is to interface between the dry air environment and our fluid filled body. If this barrier does not function properly, skin diseases occur. When the skin is healthy, other things we describe as “problem skin” tend to go away.
What inspired you to create and launch Epionce? How does it differ from other skin care lines?
I was inspired to create Epionce because I wanted something better for my patients. When I started as a physician, it was hard to help my patients get completely clear and maintain remission of their skin disease because so many of the prescription products adversely affected the skin barrier, really hindering their quality of life. Over time patients would rather just deal with the disease state than manage the medical options that have been available. This led me on a quest to answer the question—if we could optimize the structure and function of the skin, can we prevent skin disease and skin aging? Due to the complexity of the multiple processes we see as damaged skin, unique botanical ingredients were formulated to reverse these processes. Ultimately, to have products that improve skin is what led to Epionce. When I gave samples to my patients to try for their skin diseases, months later they came back asking for the “wrinkle” cream. We realized that Epionce was not only for diseases and conditions, but also anti-aging. We confirmed what Dr. Albert Kligman first published in 1988 that inflammation is critical in driving skin aging.
To my knowledge, no other skin care line addresses the underlying causes of how the damaged skin barrier and chronic inflammation contributes to skin disease, various conditions, and aging the way that Epionce does. We use a blend of unique botanical ingredients that work synergistically to reverse the abnormalities and to provide optimum therapeutic benefit to the skin. Then we did what no one was doing at the time—we started doing clinical studies against market leaders, including prescription products.
Can damaged skin really be repaired? What ingredients are effective in fighting signs of age?
Because of the world we live in, our skin will continually be exposed to things that will cause damage to the skin. So, while the skin absolutely can be repaired, it does require regular attention to continue the repair process.
The premise behind Epionce is that signs of aging are triggered and driven by both a damaged skin barrier and chronic inflammation in the skin. So, Epionce uses a variety of botanical ingredients delivered at therapeutic concentrations to specific skin cells to address both of those issues. Some of the ingredients we use that help repair the skin barrier are avocado, safflower, meadowfoam, and quercetin. Some of the ingredients that help stop chronic inflammation are date, apple, flax, and rosa canina.
Are there any new skin care technologies on the horizon that you find particularly promising?
I’m intrigued with some of the new research on proteonomics, metabolomics, and glyconomics. The theory seems good, but of course I will want to see the blinded clinical trial data with statistical significance of the finished product before coming to any conclusions about the use of that technology in skin care. Too often there is a lot of hype or buzz before enough research has been done. Many people have spent money on products that make promises based on theories that don’t pan out. That is why I fought so hard for Epionce to have conclusive clinical studies so I can say with confidence to my patients that they will see results, and it’s not just a fad.
What’s next for Epionce?
There is a lot of ongoing research into the functionality of the skin, and how to optimize it. We are always looking at ways that we might be able to improve how our products impact the skin for maximum therapeutic value. I always say, my patients never come in asking to get 40% clear from their disease or condition; they come in asking for 100% clearance and they want to stay clear. I am always pushing myself and my team to reach for that.
As a medical and surgical dermatologist practicing in Portland, Maine, Michael Taylor, MD, MPH, was well aware of the prevalence of skin cancer and the risks that sun exposure pose to healthy skin. While doing free skin cancer screenings for Maine fisherman, he discovered that seaweed harvesters have utterly smooth and youthful hands compared to fisherman and lobstermen. This led to the investigation of the benefits of other marine plants and ultimately the creation of Ocean Elements, a science-based skin care line. With a focus on sun protection, the first product that Ocean Elements launched is called Sheer Daily Moisture SPF 30, formulated with five marine ingredients and physical sunblocks, the least irritating kind. On the cusp of rolling out a night cream, Dr. Taylor tells Beauty in the Bag about his background and inspiration for creating Ocean Elements.
Please tell us about your background. How did you transition from a practicing dermatologist to a skin care developer?
As a practicing dermatologist for more than 30 years, I was aware every day of the increase in skin cancers of every kind at every age. Public knowledge about the risk of sun damage is widespread and 100s of sunscreens are available, many of them very effective. Yet, few people protect themselves on a regular basis. There are several reasons for this disconnect, including differences in the “feel” of the sunscreen, color, odor, water resistance, irritation, allergic reactions, the use of damaging chemicals including PABA, parabens, and phthalates, the risks associated with chemical sunscreens, concern about nano-particles, stinging of the eyes, inhaling of sprays, cost, and on and on. Educating people about the benefits of sun protection is sort of like educating children about brushing their teeth, then giving them a fine toothbrush, and telling them to brush their teeth with pickle-juice. Or like touting the benefits of flossing twice a day which nobody really does.
As well as educating patients and the public, we needed to develop an effective sunscreen that felt good enough for people to use on a regular basis. We were fortunate to learn, during an annual American Academy of Dermatology skin cancer screening, that the harvesters of the Maine seaweed laminaria digitata have moist and smooth hands from handling the seaweed. That led to an investigation of other marine plants that might also provide photoprotection, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and moisturizers. We were able to develop a moisturizer that incorporates five ingredients from the ocean that feels great, so it will be used, protects with a broad spectrum SPF of 30, and restores with antioxidants and nutrients.
So, the transition in my profession of dermatology has been a shift to education and prevention rather than treatment.
As a physician, what characteristics comprise healthy skin for you?
We believe that “healthy skin is beautiful skin,” so the two are paired. It’s easier to describe what comprises “unhealthy” skin—blotchy, uneven, discolored, sallow, tanned, wrinkly, sagging, spotty, veiny, thin, dry, and bruised. Healthy skin, adjusted for age, looks like the skin on your bottom—even toned, pale, firm and not thin, well hydrated, smooth, elastic, without bruises or surface veins. Sure there may be a little sagging due to changes in weight over the years, but the skin is still intact.
Although many people who seek cosmetic treatments might disagree with us, dermatologists accept skin that ages with the individual to be normal. It is not abnormal. This includes changes that we would not prefer and which can be helped by moisturization and protection in particular. Older skin becomes thinner and the barrier function—holding water in and toxins out—diminishes. This decay in function can and should be easily helped.
What causes unhealthy skin is primarily sun damage—all of the characteristics of “unhealthy skin” noted in paragraph one above are caused by too much sun. Add to that the significant risk of developing skin cancers, and there are good reasons dermatologists jump up and down telling their patients to protect themselves against sun damage.
Interestingly, a recent study divided teenaged girls into two groups. One group looked at a film of the premature “aging” effects of sun damage that the other group looked at a film showing the risks of skin cancer from sun damage. Guess which group changed their behavior, limiting their sun exposure. You guessed it, the group that saw the one on “aging.” The one on skin cancer hardly changed behavior at all.
What inspired you to launch Ocean Elements: And how is it different from other brands on the market?
Ocean Elements includes five marine ingredients that protect, moisturize, and restore. Although, a few other topical products contain marine ingredients, no other moisturizer contains all five and few effective moisturizers for daily use have a broad spectrum SPF of 30. Ocean Elements is as natural as we could make it using only physical sunscreens. zinc and titanium. We use no chemical sunscreens that can be toxic, sensitizing, and endocrine disruptors. Ocean Elements is safe for the whole family, water resistant to 80 minutes, fragrance free, non-irritating, non-sensitizing, packaged in recycled and biodegradable materials, and PABA, paraben, and phthalate free. It does not sting the eyes, so kids don’t kick and scream. It is quite unique.
Where do you stand on the vitamin D question? If we protect our skin 24/7 from the sun, how can we generate enough vitamin D.
I stand on the side of truth and justice and the American Way when it comes to vitamin D.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get a tiny fraction of our patients, even those who have had skin cancers including melanoma, to protect themselves 24/7 from significant sun exposure? This is as unrealistic as having all Americans floss twice a day. So, let’s set the “24/7” straw man that is often brought up by the vitamin D advocates to argue in favor of sun exposure.
What is also true is that many of us who live in the northern regions of Europe, Asia, and North America have lower than normal levels of vitamin D when we are tested. This occurs especially during the three seasons of the year when we don’t have enough background sunlight to generate adequate amounts of vitamin D—with or without sunscreen. I take 1000 IU of vitamin D3 every day and recommend it to all of my friends and patients. Why argue over an issue that is so easy and safe to resolve?
Having to reapply sunscreen every two hours really keeps some people from adequate protection. Why hasn’t a long-term sunscreen been developed?
Wonderful question. It has been developed! It is called clothing!
There are many manufacturers of very effective sun protective clothing for children and adults. I highly recommend using sun protective clothing when outside and do so myself. You can leave it on all day, in or out of the water. It is safer, more effective, and less expensive than sunscreen. And while you’re at it, wear a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Now, on the scientific and more serious answer to the question, it can be worn off. I have a good friend who is a surfer. The abrasive saltwater, clothing, and board rub his sunscreen off so that he has to reapply at least every hour. It has become part of his routine. The other reason is a biologic one. Our skin is constantly shedding—in fact we replace our outer layer (the epidermis) every 28 days. It doesn’t stop the process just because we have applied a lotion or a sunscreen on the surface. It is normal for our skin to shed the outer layers along with the sunscreen. This is one of the several challenges to using sunscreens.
What’s next for Ocean Elements?
Thanks for asking. We are well into the process of developing a restorative and rejuvenating night cream that will be effective in repair and anti-aging. This is being developed in collaboration with Bob Verdicchio of Verdi Enterprises in New Jersey and will be tested for effectiveness by Dr. Peter Elias at his laboratories in San Francisco. As well as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, it will have retinol, which is to be avoided in the use of sunscreens because of potential phototoxicity, but is important for anti-aging and restoration. It is heavy in liposomes, has a pH that matches the skin’s, has ceramides, and improves the barrier function of the skin. It is going to be a great complement to Ocean Elements Daily Moisture SPF 30 daytime products.
It was the love of tuberose that led Kat Burki to create her Naturally Balanced Skincare line. She began her career as an interior designer and created such a stir that her work appeared in well-known publications like Elle Décor, House Beautiful, and Interiors, as well as being chosen as one of HGTV’s Top Ten. When working with private clients, she loved to leave a bouquet of tuberose behind as a signature olfactive experience. Her love of tuberose quickly evolved into candles and soaps as gifts for her clients, as well as a fragrance.
The tuberose fragrance took on a life of its own, and Kat shortly produced a scented natural body cream, and ultimately a line of body and skin care. Her sense of design, selection of all natural ingredients, and finely tuned nose has resulted in a line that is pure, uplifting, and refined.
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you transition from interior designer to skin care developer?
As an interior designer, I created environments for my clients that would create a complete, sensory experience. Leaving behind a bouquet of tuberose flowers was my way of completing the experience. I wanted to recreate the beauty of tuberose and since everything on the market positioned it as a very deep and musky scent I created my own version that represented the pure, clean, white side of tuberose. Your beauty routine should be the same: a pure and authentic experience. The ingredients in my skin care are harvested at their peak moments to deliver maximum results to the skin.
What is your product development philosophy?
From the earliest stages of product development, I had always follow the criteria of what I would want in a product for myself—beautiful, luxurious packaging, unique pure fragrance combinations, and the most effective ingredients. I have always stuck to this philosophy in creating products and will not approve anything that I am not completely in love with.
How do you go about composing a fragrance?
I first have a vision of what type of scent I am looking to create. I gather fragrance notes and oils that would typically be in that type of fragrance but make sure I am picking scents that remain true to the inspiration. From there, I start to pair them with unexpected fragrance notes and combinations, ones that people wouldn’t expect to harmonize together, but somehow they do and bring the fragrance to another level. I love to create clean, pure, and authentic fragrances that give confidence and feelings of beauty to those wearing it.
What is your recommendation to fight the signs of time?
Keeping skin balanced is key to fighting the signs of time. If your skin is oily, you shouldn’t just work to eliminate the oil but also make sure you are hydrating at the same time. Dry skin doesn’t need to be heavily moisturized, but it must be exfoliated and detoxified, to make sure that the hydration can penetrate to deeper layers. Not balancing the skin properly can actually work to age skin faster. I always suggest finding the ingredients that work well for your skin and choosing the products based around that. Knowing the ingredients that your skin needs will bring about faster specific results.
Is there a Kat Burki “hero” product? Why do you think it is such a success?
Our Vitamin C Intensive Day Cream is definitely our shining star. It has 15% vitamin C combined with a raw reishi mushroom, which boosts collagen and reverses the signs of damaged skin cells—an ideal formulation for an anti-aging moisturizer. People are looking for products with smart ingredients but don’t want to wait a long time for results. From the initial application, you will feel the light texture, clean feeling, and see instant brightness to the skin. Using ingredients in their purest, most potent, and effective forms creates the most noticeable results.
What’s next for Kat Burki skin care and fragrance?
There are so many new product launches that I can’t wait to share with everyone pretty soon. We will be launching our Raw Sugar Body Oil, which everyone has been asking us to spin off for from our Raw Sugar Body Scrub. Blends of raw, cold-pressed coconut, kukui, and macadamia oils, which are rich in essential fatty acids, strengthen and tighten the skin. Because we use oils that your skin recognizes and are cold-pressed, they absorb quickly with no sticky residue.
We also have some specialized treatments launching that target specific skin concerns. They’re all formulated with raw unadulterated ingredients and innovative technologies to quickly deliver results for radiant naturally balanced skin.