Nothing makes you more successful than being way ahead of your time --- and acting on it! As shared a couple of week ago, overnight masks are a huge trend right now, but were not even on the horizon when our CEO/Founder Lydia Sarfati developed one for Repêchage herself in 2003. But this isn’t the first time that Lydia has been far ahead of the crowd. From being the first to introduce seaweed to skin care in 1980 to introducing minerals and natural cosmetics before they became the cosmetics staple they are today, Lydia’s been ahead of her time throughout her long career as an esthetician and product formulator. We interviewed our CEO/Founder, so that everyone can know how being a visionary and a scientist can make you both an innovative and successful business owner.
1. Lydia, you’ve been a true pioneer in the cosmetics industry since first coming into this industry, but your incredible acuity started with your deep, studied interest in chemistry and biology. With girls and young women being encouraged more than ever before to enter into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields, what would you say was your inspiration for pursuing this path, and do you have any words of advice to other women who are just starting out and have the potential to be trailblazers in their field as you have?
“Follow your passion. My passion with skin care began when I was a young girl growing up in Poland and would see my mother’s cosmetician making masks in the kitchen at the stove. I was fascinated with the idea that you can put ingredients in a pot and cook them and they become a cream. Other girls were interested with dolls, while I was interested in playing in the kitchen and making face masks! As a teenager, I brought my friends home, lined them up on the floor and experimented with different masks on their face – it was quite a scene.
I recognized this was my passion at a young age. If you can recognize your passion, you’ll never have to work a day in your life! Every day I am asked – “How do you do it? You just came from back to back trade shows, nonstop 30 days of traveling the globe, and still can smile and look good. What do you drink? What is in your coffee?” What’s in my coffee is passion. I love what I do. I love being able to share my knowledge with others and to be able to make someone else feel happy and feel good about themselves. I also love to help others be successful in business by helping them learn methods and the science behind skin care so they can actually know and understand what it is they are doing and how it affects the physiology of the skin. Go with your passion!”
2. Seaweed is now a staple ingredient in professional cosmetics, but you were the first to bring seaweed to the skin care market in 1980, long before it became in vogue. Why did you choose seaweed at the time and what gave you the confidence and conviction to continue using it?
(Repêchage Original Skin Care Line)
“It all started on my first visit to Israel. I wanted to experience real life on the kibbutz (farm), how people lived and ate in such an unhospitable environment. The quality of the food struck me, the smell, scent and taste. I felt like all of my senses were being tickled. I asked the farmers, how did you keep all the fruits and vegetables alive? They said through irrigation and biostimulants like seaweed. I didn’t want to be a farmer, but I thought about this amazing agriculture and aquaculture, and I thought, there is a miracle in the sea plants. I then started to manufacture some of the first seaweed based products in Israel, and had a big article written about me and my take on skin care in the French beauty magazine L’Officiel. A seaweed harvester in France took notice of me after this, and since then I’ve been sourcing my seaweed from off the coast of Brittany, France.
This combined with my natural love for the sea and its amazing benefits led me to take it all to the next level with seaweed. In the Asian diet, for example, seaweed is a staple food and is tied to longevity. Seaweed is a complete source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and more. For all of these reasons, it was perfectly logical for me to use these plants. So many people are confused as to what’s organic, what’s not organic, can cosmetics be organic? When it comes to organic, the Department of Agriculture is referring to how the plants and food are grown. We were organic before organic was even in fashion. We began the trend, and it doesn’t get more organic than a plant grown in the sea with no pesticides. Everything is there, everything is real.”
3. You seem to have a business savvy that set you apart early on in the skincare business. How did this knowledge help you to develop the Four Layer Facial, which took the professional skin care industry by storm when it was introduced in 1980, and continues to do so to this day?
(Lydia launching the Four Layer Facial at the Pierre Hotel in 1980)
“When I first began in the early 70s, skincare was at its infancy. People didn’t get facials on a regular basis, except for a few grande dames of skincare such, but by and large regular, working class people did not go and have facials. Second, there was no esthetician license; it was a cosmetology license that covered all facets of beauty culture: hair, makeup, depilation and skin care. Third, many estheticians, or in this case cosmetologists, were uncomfortable with the new electrical devices. This led me to think: How do I expand my business model in a way that estheticians across the country would be able to apply my techniques? How do I grow from doing 20 facials a day in my own spa, to millions across the world? That is what started me thinking about system and method.
The first challenge was eliminating the need for these electrical devices. My first product was Seaweed Cytoserum. I wanted to develop a product which would eliminate the need for electrical devices such as galvanic currents or high frequency currents. The molecule in the Seaweed Cytoserum had a small enough molecular weight that when applied topically, it would penetrate the skin with the same impact as with galvanic devices. It delivered immediate hydration. I did the same to replace the need for electric masks and paraffin masks, both of which risked damaging the skin by being too hot, by being the first to create a mineral mask. This was a self-heating mineral mask so that whether I applied it, or a student, or a recent graduate, everyone could repeat the process and with the same beautiful results.
The second challenge was guaranteeing consistent results. This is why I created a professional unidose system to provide consistency and quality.”
4. Another item you created when no one else was doing it was the mineral mask. A former editor at Vogue was quoted as saying, “I don’t know anyone in the industry as forward-thinking as Lydia. 30 years ago, she created a mineral mask when no one was doing it, and now that is all anybody is talking about today.” What gave you the idea to infuse these essential supplements into skin care, at a time when natural cosmetics weren’t on anyone’s conscience in the 80s?
(Repêchage Four Layer Facial – Layer #4: The Mineral Mask)
“There were companies that were using natural cosmetics, such as iNatural, which was very popular in the 70s. Their claim to fame was using tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, practically a whole fruit salad on your face. I looked at it and said while its very nice and refreshing and very interesting, I want to use something that is similar to our physiology. Seaweed, coming from the sea, a single source, had all of the right elements.”
5. Rapidex, the marine exfoliator you developed in the early 90s has seen a sudden explosion in interest around the world, especially in Korea where it has become a best seller. With this popularity come the inevitable copycats. Does it flatter you that in 2016 people are trying to reinvent this wheel you created in the early 90s, or does it concern you that consumers may not be getting the full benefits of Rapidex – the first of its kind?
“It really concerns me and saddens me at the same time, as I created Rapidex Marine Exfoliator concept 25 years ago. In all of my professional history, we have always developed our own, unique concepts, not seeking ideas from other skin care companies. Integrity and professionalism have always been the core of our existence. I only hope that consumers will try Rapidex – there is truly no match! See the difference yourself.”
6. Since you seem to be on the pulse of the skin care industry, can you give us a hint on what you see coming down the pike as far as ingredients and formulations for today’s clients?
“I don’t want to reveal it all just yet! But, we do have a new professional facial treatment and two at-home products premiering on May 2 at the Repêchage International Conference in NYC – you’ll have to attend to find out all about them!”