Board-certified dermatologist, Internet entrepreneur, and skincare brand pioneer, Craig Kraffert, MD, is committed to creating healthy and beautiful skin on many levels. First, as owner of Redding Derm, he operates the largest dermatology practice in northernmost California. Second, he founded DermStore.com, the hugely successful online resource for hard-to-find skincare products, which he sold in 2007. And most recently, as president of Amarte, a luxury skincare line, he has combined the heritage of traditional Korean skincare with cutting-edge technology.
Dr. Kraffert’s commitment and passion for dermatology is evident in all aspects of his life. Here, he shares a few of his insights with Beauty in the Bag.
Gosh, I don’t know where to start. Tell us a bit about how your commitment to dermatology began.
Like many people, my interest in the social and medical aspects of skin began at an early age. I was first drawn to dermatology during my medical training at UCLA—not out of career convenience or status but out of an innate interest and passion for skin health and beauty. Over the course of my career, I’ve tried to channel my passion for this subject into meaningful endeavors for my patients and society at large.
At your private practice, do you treat medical and cosmetic patients?
Yes, at each of my four offices we treat both medical and cosmetic dermatology patients, and in some cases, these two concerns mingle together including treatment for acne, rosacea, and sun damage. My practice is committed to bringing the latest cosmetic advances to patients and offering cutting edge treatments before they’re widely available (for example, we adopted Botox in 1998, many years before its FDA approval).
Please describe the Korean technology that inspired you to create Amarte?
Korea is experiencing a perfect storm right now in creating skincare products—the Korean heritage for creating therapeutic skincare products that dates back to antiquity combined with the mastery of high tech scientific advances in cosmetic chemistry has put Korea at the center of the “beauty map.” This synergist approach to skincare has resulted in the development of several breakthrough skin innovations, including odorless nano-sulfur, which is featured exclusively in Amarte products. Sulfur has been used as an active skin therapeutic agent for a very long time and has been an active ingredient in prescription products for decades, but Korean innovation has made this ingredient more effective, elegant and odorless. Another major Korean innovation is nano-encapsulated retinol. This breakthrough ingredient preparation method enhances the stability, efficacy and tolerability of retinol—an ingredient well established as one of the most important functional cosmeceuticals. Koreans are also responsible for perfecting many natural and botanical extracts for skincare as has been documented in Korean writings for over 500 years. Botanical extract preparation is a key component of this unique Korean expertise and precise proprietary fermentation techniques developed over many years help formulators express the best qualities of botanical extract preparations. Compounds such as the natural mushroom based emollient ingredient found in Amarte’s Wonder Cream all relate to this legacy.
Since skincare products are not considered drugs, how can we be sure they are really effective and safe?
This is an excellent question and a source of a great on-going debate between the cosmetic industry and the US Food and Drug Administration. Consumer safety is of paramount importance. Presently, the FDA is charged with regulating skincare and cosmetic products and desires to increase regulation within the US in the name of safety as there continue to be safety issues with products sold in the US. Amarte products, however, are manufactured in Korea and are held to a much higher standard than required in the US. Each Amarte product is periodically evaluated by the Korean FDA (KFDA) in their national laboratories to ensure safety. The KFDA is notoriously strict and cosmetic safety problems are extremely rare in Korea and all Amarte products have been KFDA tested and approved with safety certificates.
Efficacy is hard to measure in cosmetic products, as the most rigorous scientific test methods capable of accurately assessing product effectiveness are prohibitively expensive. A certain body of scientific evidence does exist for many individual ingredients found in skincare and cosmetics. Nevertheless, objective, unbiased, scientifically rigorous data on individual product effectiveness is uniformly absent for skincare and cosmetics. This is why real world results in terms of socially relevant skin improvement are the true gold standard of skincare product effectiveness.
How did you come to launch DermStore?
In the early days of the Internet I decided to make a store for patients and consumers around the world to find the skincare products they were looking for and couldn’t readily obtain elsewhere. DermStore was a way of bringing my skincare expertise and passion to a much larger audience than could be seen in a brick and mortar dermatology clinic. I wanted the store to also be a place where people could go to get questions answered and receive unbiased skincare, dermatology and beauty information. Many late nights were spent answering countless questions from Internet surfers and shoppers in the early DermStore days. It was important for me to create an online store environment where people could come to find products they were looking for and be exposed to new and interesting products that they weren’t even aware they needed. This mission of customer engagement and DermStore overall have been huge successes.
You are really a beauty renaissance man. How do you find time to fit in everything in a day?
Thank you for these kind words. The key to achieving big things rests in surrounding oneself with people who are even more focused, productive, passionate, and intelligent than you are. I’ve always reached out to partner with the best and brightest associates available and have welcomed the chance to see us achieve things together that we could never accomplish individually. Prioritization and delegation of tasks is also essential for efficiency and overall productivity. I try to ask myself not how good my work is but how good my work is per hour. Finally and most importantly, a loving and supportive family is the key foundation upon which all my projects in the health and beauty world rest.
A personal quest to conquer acne led Colette Courtion on her journey from Starbucks marketing executive to beauty innovator. Today, she is the president and lead beauty innovator of JeNu, an anti-aging system that combines a handheld ultrasound device and with science-driven skincare. Prior to founding JeNu in 2011, Colette created Calidora, a chain of high-end, anti-aging skin clinics in 2005 in the greater Seatle area.
Here she shares details of her career path and skincare knowledge with Beauty in the Bag.
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you make the transition from marketing at Starbucks to beauty?
I’ve always been super passionate about beauty and taking care of myself. In my late 20s/ early 30s, I suffered adult acne and it was absolutely horrible and humiliating. I didn’t like the standard approach of most physicians, which was to put me on Actutane, a very aggressive drug. I started to do my own research and found that lasers could be effective at treating the type of acne I had. After 3 V-beam sessions, my acne was gone. This is when I decided that there needed to be a place for women and professionals like myself that wanted healthy skin without harsh side effects. I took the marketing skills and business acumen that I learned from my previous marketing job at Starbucks and founded Calidora Skin Clinic, a chain of advanced, anti-aging, and skin rejuvenation clinics that offered the latest in skincare technology and products to help people achieve their skincare goals.
Please describe the JeNu system. Is there more than one device?
JeNu is the next-generation ultrasound skincare system that is clinically tested and validated to deliver 12x more key anti-aging ingredients into the skin versus cream alone, for more youthful, radiant eyes and luscious, fuller-looking lips in as little as 14 days. The JeNu Active Youth Skincare System comes with a first-of-its kind, professional quality ultrasound wand; the Active-Youth Eye Treatment, which is infused with advanced microsphere technology and key anti-aging ingredients—vitamin A & C, Matrixyl® Peptides, and hyaluronic acid; and the Active-Youth Lip Serum, which is infused with advanced microsphere technology and nourishing ingredients—vitamins A & E, Volulip™, and olive & grapeseed oils.
What’s the connection between ultrasound waves and improving the condition of skin?
The JeNu Ultrasound Wand works by infusing hundreds of thousands of safe, gentle, ultrasound waves per second into our Active-Youth Eye Treatment, activating the microspheres. When activated, the Active-Youth Eye Treatment revitalizes the delicate skin around your eyes by infusing antioxidants and skin-firming and hydrating ingredients more effectively. The JeNu Wand also provides lip benefits by activating the microspheres in the Active-Youth Lip Serum to reduce the appearance of fine lines around the lips, smooth away dryness, and leave lips looking naturally full and healthy.
Is the JeNu device similar to professional treatments at spas or doctors’ offices?
No, it’s completely unique and is a nice compliment to in-office procedures. While it uses the same ultrasound technology, the JeNu System enables the active anti-aging ingredients in our creams to work more effectively than just skincare cream alone. Think of the JeNu System like the Ferrari of skincare products.
In addition to using JeNu, what other procedures or treatments do you recommend to turn back the hands of time?
It starts with taking care of the skin and there is nothing better than sunscreen. Sun exposure is the number one cause of skin aging. Everyone should use a daily sunscreen of +30SPF, even in grey, rainy Seattle. To help your skin look young, I recommend a monthly exfoliating treatment, such as a very good professional facial, chemical peel, or microderm treatment. It will help exfoliate all those dead skin cells, revealing softer, healthy-looking skin.
What’s next for you and JeNu?
The JeNu Ultrasound System is a platform technology. We will be microsphere-infusing more creams, such as age-spot correctors and brightening serums, to be used with our Ultrasound Wand to make these products more effective than what is currently available. Look for more creams/serums to be introduced next year.
Once she discovered the beauty industry, Lilli Gordon, CEO and Founder of First Aid Beauty never looked back at her former career in finance. It all started with a job guiding the fledgling Fresh soap and body line into a full-blown luxury skincare company, ultimately purchased by LVMH. Next, Lilli turned to a beauty cause very close to her own heart, efficacious, every day skincare that was developed for sensitive skin. She founded FAB in 2009, and now her fundamental, workhorse products are sold at Sephora and multiple online resources.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get started in the beauty biz?
I have a very strange background to be perfectly honest. For most of my professional life, I was actually in the business world, in finance to be specific. And, then about 15 years ago, I was lucky enough to join a Boston-based beauty brand called Fresh, which is just a beautiful, beautiful skincare company. I had been a huge fan of Fresh and I became friendly with the founders, Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg, who are both amazing, creative, talented people, but who at the time, had very little business expertise. So, they brought me on as their partner to help grow the business, expand it and really take it to the next level. It was an incredible experience. I’d go to work and say, “Is this really work?” Honestly, I thought I had died and gone to heaven—I just thought it was the best job in the entire universe.
So, that was really my entrée into the world of beauty and I never left. After I negotiated the sale of a majority interest in Fresh to LVMH, it was time for me to move on and I took on a variety of projects. I never went back to my old life in finance.
I founded First Aid Beauty (FAB) in 2009, because as someone with sensitive skin, I tired of the boring products at the drugstore that had horrible textures and irritating ingredients. I did a lot of research and really felt that there was a void in the market, especially at the prestige level. You have your feel good products, your classic beauty products, your doctor brands, but you don’t have fundamental, work horse products that everyone can really rely on generally and also for specific, emergency problems. Every household has a first aid kit and every household needs first aid beauty products. That’s when I realized I had the name for my business.
Please describe the skincare philosophy behind First Aid Beauty.
I like to say that we’re on a “Rescue Mission” at FAB—we’re dedicated to creating smart, effective solutions for even the most sensitive skin. FAB provides skincare essentials and targeted solutions for universal skin challenges through products that deliver immediate relief, long-term results, and really feel luxurious.
There truly is no other brand as committed to sensitive skin as FAB. All FAB products are Safe for Sensitive Skin and Allergy Tested. Our products are clinically proven to do what they say. FAB is an accessible, everyday luxury that bridges the gap between mass and higher-priced prestige skincare— we’re really all about elevating iconic drugstore solutions such as Aquaphor and Cetaphil to the prestige category, providing effective and clinically proven products that offer prestige customers the experience they are seeking in their skincare. I don’t believe that skincare that really works needs to be greasy or bland.
Does the range have a hero product? Heros?
Ultra Repair Cream is a true FAB cult-classic. In fact, one unit was sold every 3.34 minutes in US Sephora stores this year. Ultra Repair Cream has a fabulous rich, whipped texture that feels amazing going on. It hydrates deep down and is quickly absorbed, so you don’t have that greasy feel that you can find with other creams.
Ultra Repair Cream contains colloidal oatmeal, which is the only FDA approved OTC ingredient for treating the symptoms of eczema. In addition to colloidal oatmeal, we’ve packed Ultra Repair Cream with shea butter, soothing eucalyptus oil, and ceramides, so that it provides immediate relief and visible improvement for distressed skin. We actually have some powerful clinical results that corroborate this product’s effectiveness. In a clinical trial, the scientifically measured improvement in hydration was169%!
What ingredient do you wish other skincare companies would just stop using?
That is such a tough question for me, because I don’t think it’s just one ingredient. The truth is, many of the ingredients and formulations used today have contributed to what I see a sensitive skin epidemic. Today, 70% of people report that they have sensitive skin. This is really at the heart of why I created FAB. If an ingredient is a potential irritant, whether natural or synthetic, you will not find it in our products. All FAB products are free of harsh ingredients and known allergens, including parabens, phthalates, alcohol, fragrances and artificial dyes. So, all of those are no-nos in my book!
If you could invent a skincare ingredient, what would it do?
The ultimate! A multi-purpose miracle ingredient that did it all—lines, moisture, texture, luminosity!
What should consumers look for in a skincare range to make sure it is effective yet safe for their skin type.
The most common allergens include parabens, phthalates, alcohol, fragrances, and artificial dyes, so it’s really in your best interest to become a “label junkie” and look for products that are free of these ingredients.