It can get a little overwhelming to know which direction to go with so many clinical-grade skincare brands now available. Since the category of beauty being one of my “beats” for my Forbes column, I am fortunate enough to get to try out the latest and the greatest, while also getting reacquainted with some oldie-but-goodie skincare lines. I was always quite picky but trying so many brands out has made me even more so. I expect a lot from skincare, especially since I am in my late 40s and the sins of the skin from more youthful days have come home to roost. I need my skincare routine to be simple, yet effective at minimizing the signs of aging and environmental stress.
Since I recently rounded up some of my favorite celebrity esthetician-founded brands, I thought it would only be fair to give a little love to the dermatologists turned entrepreneurs, who took their years of clinical experience and parlayed it into high-performance skincare lines for consumers. Here are my top 3 brands that I think are definitely worth a look.
The Secret Skincare
One of my absolute favorite brands that I have used daily for years is The Secret Skincare, a bespoke skincare brand that hails from Australia and was developed by Dr. Clara Hurst and Dr. Deb Cohen-Jones to treat the most challenging cosmetic skin conditions.
“We have worked closely with real patients on their skin journeys for over 20 years between the two of us; myself in the medical cosmetic field treating patients for aesthetic cosmetic conditions such as premature aging, melasma, and acne, and Dr. Deb as a general practitioner with complex cases such as recurrent dermatitis and hormonal acne, for example,” Hurst tells me.
Knowing firsthand that addressing skin conditions requires an individualized approach, the pair decided to develop their own brand. “We saw a gap in the industry to curate a product that would perfectly complement its owner rather than try to squeeze them into a one-size-fits-all formula. Prescription skincare allows just that; however, it’s usually not easily accessible for the everyday individual, with multiple referrals, long wait times, and large consultation fees,” explains Hurst. “The Secret Skincare was our solution to this. We can customize and create bespoke formulations for the individual based on their needs and deliver them outstanding results consistently.”
The Secret Skincare routine consists of three mainstay products (with a few add-ons). “You won’t find us on regular retail shelves because we are not your standard day and night moisturizer. Our products utilize the power and strength of prescription ingredients and are hand-made to order for each individual based on their medical details and skin history,” Hurst tells me. “We exist to help every person to ‘love the unique skin you live in’ by offering world-leading results delivered via super simple and cost-effective skincare routines, with an added touch of luxury. Our strategic sourcing partnership with a leading compounding pharmacy enables an enhanced scientific process for product development and testing, underpinned by the necessary therapeutic governance to ensure that our products are of the very highest quality.”
The brand’s hero ingredients are ones that have been recommended for years to treat challenging skin conditions, like tretinoin and hydroquinone.
“Years of research, medical trials, and studies have shown them to be the most effective ingredients on the market,” adds Cohen-Jones. “This is one of the driving forces behind our brand. Our formulations are founded upon extensive research, proven efficacy, and of course, results. Prescription skincare requires a prescription for a reason. Our products need to be used under medical guidance, as regular consumers who are used to buying mass produced over-the-counter products often don’t understand the significantly superior strength of our active ingredients. One of the challenges of a prescription skincare line that we’ve had to navigate (especially being the first in Australia) is monitoring our patients’ use of these ingredients. The service we offer plays a major role in this. One of our core values is to care for our patients—we always aim to achieve the best possible outcome for our patients and ensure they are using these ingredients safely with proper guidance and education. We provide substantial supporting product information with each order to make this easy for our customers, especially new users.”
Hurst tells me that absolutely anyone can benefit from the brand’s product line up. “The idea is to create healthy skin functioning in optimal condition. When your skin is in optimal condition it does not overproduce oil and cause breakouts nor does it overproduce melanin and cause pigmentation. It does not lose collagen and elastin to cause wrinkles, sagging, and premature aging. Not only do our products treat challenging skin conditions like pigmentation, rosacea, acne, and dermatitis, they also maintain skin health and prevent further damage. The nature of our skin coupled with the environment we live in means our skin health is always being compromised.”
The brand utilizes 13 base formulations that can then be customized to meet the specific needs of the individual. “Ultimately, we want patients to be using our Brightening Day Elixir and Cellular Repair Night Cream. They contain seven different brightening ingredients between them to help resurface the skin and in turn brighten, nourish, and fortify the surface,” explains Cohen-Jones. “The Cellular Repair Night Cream is our hero product of the range. It works to increase your skin's cell turnover at a rapid rate then to encourage healthy skin cells to come to the surface while getting rid of damaged cells. Since every hero needs a sidekick, we designed the Day Brightening Elixir to perfectly complement the active effects of the Cellular Repair Night Cream. Not only does it amplify your results, it supports them by nourishing and protecting the new skin cells the Cellular Repair is bringing through.”
Launched by Amir Nobakht MD, MBA, and Ben Van Handel, PhD, two of the top leading researchers on the topic of ‘imflammaging’, Heraux offers a paradigm shift in skincare.
“Inflammaging is the aging process that is attributable to chronic, low-grade inflammation in our bodies,” explains Van Handel, PhD, who is a stem cell biologist at the University of Southern California. “Inflammaging is actually caused by things like oxidative stress and environmental damage. These stressors cause our body to release inflammatory molecules, which harm the cellular environment and result in the visible signs of aging. Inflammaging specifically is what happens when this inflammatory process stays active on our body over a long period of time due to stressors like the environment, sun, and even our diets.”
Van Handel, PhD emphasized to me the importance of reducing chronic stress since it will become a cycle of inflammation in the body. “That’s how our cells work; by releasing some inflammatory molecules into our systems other cells respond by releasing more as well and the cycle, if left unchecked, continues. When we treat the inflammatory component of these conditions, we stop that cycle and allow the cellular environment to improve so our cells, including stem cells, can regenerate and function at an optimal level,” continues Van Handel, PhD.
“Heraux is the world’s FIRST anti-inflammaging skin care product. It is the ONLY skin care product to address inflammaging,” Nobakht MD, MBA tells me. “We are a science forward skincare brand that uses proprietary molecular technologies to improve our skin by combating the negative effects of inflammaging which is the aging caused by everyday chronic inflammation. Unlike most skin care products that only treat the symptoms of medical issues like acne, rosacea, and the visible signs of aging, Heraux Molecular Anti-inflammaging Serum gets to the root of the problem by modulating the inflammatory pathway in the skin.”
The serum, the brand’s first product release, is based on HX-1, a proprietary biomimetic lipid the pair discovered while researching arthritis for over a decade. Van Handel, PhD shares that the lipid is a major breakthrough in the fight against chronic inflammation and skin aging. “This revolutionary one-of-a-kind molecule shields stem cells from the effects of stress and promotes their overall youthful function by modulating the protein that regulates regeneration versus inflammation.” The lightweight formula also contains other age-defying ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, vitamins C + E, and red maple bark extract making it a well-rounded face serum.
“The formulation itself is patented,” continues Van Handel, PhD. “The main benefits include a reduction in wrinkles and fine lines, improved skin texture, increased brightness, reduction in hyperpigmentation, and increased skin elasticity, all of which have been verified by an independent clinical trial. Results are seen in as little as 1 week with continued improvement with extended use.” When I ask if there will be any other products to follow Nobakht MD, MBA responds, “We are looking to launch a spot treatment version for acne and hyperpigmentation as well as a sunscreen very soon.”
I tried this product out a little while back when it launched, and I interviewed the founders for Forbes. I loved the way my skin looked and felt while using it. I definitely noticed a big difference with my vascular rosacea. The product isn’t cheap, but if you suffer from inflammation in your skin, it might be worth considering. I am excited to see what this brand comes up with next since it currently just has the serum. I would love to see the brand develop a sunscreen.
Dr. Barbara Sturm
German aesthetics doctor, Dr. Barbara Sturm’s eponymous brand fuses complex science with performance-based skincare created to combat inflammation and inspired by treatments she offers in her medical clinic in Düsseldorf. Sturm, whose skincare philosophy is based on three principles: avoiding inflammation and inflammatory triggers, deeply hydrating and nourishing the skin; and promoting a healthy skin barrier function tells me, “Applying performance-based, ingredient science to your skin should begin at birth. But it is also never too late to heal, nourish and hydrate your skin, and help it to function and appear at its best.”
For a little context, Sturm started her medical career off in orthopedics where she was part of a team that developed cutting-edge treatments for conditions like osteoarthritis. From there, she took her clinical experience into the field of aesthetics and became one of the most sought-after beauty doctors in the world. In 2014, Sturm launched a full skincare range with hydration, nutrition, and regeneration of the skin at the forefront. With her years of patient experience, Sturm realized the skin needs of people who have darker complexions. So, she partnered with actress Angela Bassett to create a range specifically for darker skin tones.
I tried out most of the line a little while back and really liked how my sensitive skin looked and felt. A few stand out products for me were the powdered enzyme cleanser that left my skin smooth, glowing, and without any irritation. It helps remove dead skin cells and with the addition of vitamin C, it helps to brighten and protect the skin. My other favorite from the line is the non-toxic body cream, which is both highly moisturizing, yet not greasy feeling or looking.
“This cream took me a long time to formulate, and it is a beautiful product that I use every day,” explains Sturm. “The cream contains Grapeseed Oil, a light and easily absorbed oil high in Linoleic Acid, which has anti-oxidative and pore refining attributes. Extracts of White Almond seals moistures, while Elderberry Blossom rich in Anthocyanin has skin soothing properties –all combined to fortify the skin matrix and health. Cuckoo Flower Oil is packed with skin-boosting minerals, while anti-aging powerhouse Purslane is a potent anti-oxidative ingredient that also reduces the visible signs of irritation.”