The story of Repêchage begins with the story of founder Lydia Sarfati and her long relationship with the sea.
Lydia and the Sea
"My personal commitment in creating the most beautiful products that are effective and produce results really came from my own personal experience with the sea. I love the sea, and have always been interested in it. I believe that the sea gives strength during sickness or exhaustion. I remember my trips to Sopot in Poland as a girl. When I was standing, gazing out at the sea, the view gave me incredible strength.
I believe we all came from the sea. It's a very interesting biological fact that we have in our veins the same percentage of salt that is in the sea and the ocean. Our tears, our sweat, our intercellular fluid and blood all contain a similar percentage to that of the sea. I’m sure you have all tasted your tears and they were not sweet, they were salty! This wonderful salt is what keeps the vitality and health of your body. It is also what keeps your skin nicely hydrated. So my commitment to you has been creating products from the sea, using wonderful seaweeds that are organically and sustainably grown and harvested off the Brittany coast of France and now in the U.S., off the coast of Maine.
(Sopot, Poland, circa 1968)
(Sopot, Poland today)
In 1974, my husband David first took me to Israel. I was extremely curious to see how people live on a kibbutz. I was fascinated by that model of society, but my attention was also drawn to the flavors and smells of the country’s desert vegetables and fruits. I could not understand how it was possible for these to grow and thrive in such dry conditions.
David poked fun at me and asked if I intended to become a farmer. I replied that I am not sure why this is of interest to me, but I want to know how this is possible. When I asked local people about the secret to the amazing smell and flavor of their fruits and vegetables, they always answered "seaweed!" I concluded that if the seaweed can nourish plants so well, it may work as a charm in skin care.
You must remember that the 1970’s was an era of all natural products, with skincare products derived from cucumbers, tomatoes, and everything you’d find in a fruit salad! But no one was looking at what fed the plants! I discovered the farming community was using seaweed as a bio stimulant and fertilizer. In a dry climate, farmers were able to produce an abundance of fruits and vegetables and I was fascinated! I thought to myself, "Where does this seaweed come from?" I found out who and where and what farmer. I boarded a plane and flew immediately to the coast of Brittany, France.
There, I found seaweed being harvested out of pristine waters by seaweed farmers, dried naturally and then packed to maintain its potency.
(Fruit cart in Jerusalem)
(Seaweed harvested off the coast of Brittany, France)
My curiosity led me to meetings with seaweed harvesters and marine biologists all over the world, including France. It became evident that seaweed was the most complete and natural source for health, beauty, and wellness, and was going to be what I focused on with skin care. Upon my exploration of seaweed I also discovered two species, Laminaria digitata and Ascophyllum Nodosum, which were both complete sources of nutrients, containing 42 trace elements and minerals, 18 amino acids, 12 vitamins, phyto hormones, and natural anti-oxidant material such as phlorotannins, sulfated polysaccharides, fucosterol and fucoxanthins.
Thalassotherapy, stemming from the Greek word for sea, thalassos, is a term coined to describe the usage of sea water for therapeutic purposes and preventative measures based on the belief that immersion in sea water revitalizes, heals and cleanses the system. For centuries, people have turned to the sea for its rejuvenating and healing properties. The sea covers two-thirds of our planet, and, perhaps as no coincidence, the human body is made of two-thirds water as well.
Bathing in sea water is one of the deepest rooted bathing traditions. For thousands of years, people have sought out the therapeutic benefits of thalassotherapy by soaking in mineral springs and communal sea water baths around the world.
Not everyone can open a sea-side spa that incorporates seawater into their treatments. I started to get the idea to re-create of the benefits of thalassotherapy so they could be implemented and enjoyed in an urban spa or salon, and even at home. This would be possible by using seaweed instead of sea water.
(Thalosstherapy spa in Saint Malo, Brittany, France.)
Seaweed is a concentration of seawater. The seaweed plant has no roots so it feeds through osmosis, absorbing minerals and vitamins from the seawater. Because of its feeding process, seaweed becomes a dense concentration of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, macro elements, phytohormones and amino acids.
(Lydia circa 1977,at the opening of the Klisar Skin Care Center in New York City.)
Creating the The Four Layer® Facial
When I returned to New York I started collecting information about seaweed. Even then, I knew it was a second-to-none ingredient. I was still exploring this subject, when in 1979 the French magazine "L'Officiel" published a lengthy article about my work at the Klisar Salon.
Immediately after this article was released Paul Chevalier called me with the most unexpected proposal. It turned out that he had something that I needed the most—seaweed. This event marked the beginning of a long-term cooperation.
(The Four Layer Facial circa 1980)
(The Four Layer Facial 2015)
It was through my research that the Four Layer® Facial was born, a treatment that changed professional skin care in the USA forever. This not only was created using the purest, freshest filtrate from Laminaria digitata and Ascophylum nososum seaweeds, but also introduced the concept of a uni-dose system, ensuring proper application dosage and consistent results.
I introduced this facial to the press and beauty professionals at an event at the Pierre Hotel. Andrea Quinn Robinson (Vogue Beauty Editor) volunteered to be my model; a good omen for the tiny company with no sales force, no advertising budget, and no marketing plan.
(Lydia introducing the Four Layer Facial to the press at the Pierre Hotel, 1980)
(Repêchage in Vogue)
At the time, Repêchage had one client, my successful Midtown salon. Within a year, the Four Layer® Facial and 12 at-home Repêchage products were available in 75 salons. It became the most successful, expensive and luxurious facial in the world.
Repêchage means second chance, a second chance for all of us to have beautiful skin. What inspired me to call my company Repêchage were the reactions of those who first experienced the Four Layer Facial®. The results were so amazing that everyone said "Wow! My skin has never felt so wonderful! It's like being reborn!" So, I told myself that "second chance" should be the name. But that sounded too simple. I looked in the dictionaries of various languages--- Italian, Spanish and French---to see if I could find something more appropriate and what struck me was the French word, Repêchage. Repêchage means second chance, and is typically used in sports to announce a do-over, a team's being given a second chance to win.
But it’s original meaning came from fishermen trying once more to make a catch by casting out their nets again, to literally "re-fish" or "re-pesce," so the connection to seaweed and the sea was perfect. To me, it means that anyone that has struggled to have great skin can have a Repêchage, a second chance."
Repêchage Skin Care is Born!
(C-Serum Seaweed Filtrate, circa 1980)
(The Sea Bath System, launched in1982)
In 1980, I also launched my own product line. Based on how little there was in terms of knowledge and resources, I knew I was the first one to develop products based on seaweed. I really had to start from scratch! But, I didn’t look at it in terms of a gamble---it was in sync with my personal mission and philosophy: taking care of the skin in the healthiest way. Therefore, it only made sense to use seaweed as the basis of my skin care and cosmetic line.
An interview for the New York Times in the early 80s stuck in my memory. The interviewer asked me how many years it would take until the seaweed become mainstream in the industry. I said that it would probably take about 20 years. I was right.
We now have scientific research on several different species of sea plants, all with unique properties influenced by the oceanic regions where they grow and formulated into over 100 different award-winning professional and consumer products. Repêchage is available in over 40 countries around the world, as is one of the leading products in the Asian skin care market---no small feat considering how difficult it is for a USA-based manufacturer to do business in Asia!
(Dr. Charles Yarish)
But we are not stopping there. In 2015, Charles Yarish, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, Stamford, became a consultant to the Repêchage Board of Directors, working with David and I to create harvesting possibilities right in here the USA. As a leading environmentalist and aquaculturist, Dr. Yarish is sharing his research with us to help create sustainable, organic seaweed harvests that can benefit both us and the ocean. It is like coming full circle: the sea has provided us with so much, and we need to give back in return. So that is why we welcome everyone to enjoy our seaweed-based products.
Welcome to Repêchage: Welcome to Beauty From the Sea!"