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.