Tuesday, April 22, 2008

EARTH DAY SPECIAL FEATURE: Q & A with Perianne Skincare's Cora Michael

I can think of no one in the beauty industry I'd rather spend time with on Earth Day than Perianne Skincare Founder and Creator Cora Michael. You guys are in for a treat. I had the distinguished opportunity to interview Cora specifically for our feature story for Earth Day; she exceded all my expectations. Her generous spirit, personable nature and wealth of knowledge about effective skincare - organic, natural and botanical ingredients - is both refreshing and inspired. Oh, and if I've failed to already mention, her products are like nectar from the gods.

1) What inspired you to create Perianne?
I was inspired by the seasons, mainly, and by what I saw as a hole in the beauty market. I wanted to create adaptive, seasonally aware products that would answer the skin's changing needs throughout the year -- something that hadn't really been done yet. I'd always had a hard time finding the right products for my skin as the weather changed from summer to winter, and was incessantly switching around, trying new brands. It was frustrating, and my skin paid the price (irritation, imbalances, etc.). So, I decided to start my own line!

2) Did the way you grew up or your professional history have anything to do with your drive to create your own skincare company?
Yes, and no.
From a personal standpoint, I'd say growing up in West Virginia (where nature is much more accessible, and woven into daily life) made me conscious of the seasons and their effect on the body, mind, and spirit. Also, my mother was always very good about caring for her skin (she looks great for her age!) and that filtered down to me. I have always been "obsessed" with skin care, you could say. From a professional standpoint, my background is in art history -- I have a PhD and I work in the museum world, so I don't have any business training. But you could argue that there is a connection between skin care and art, in that both have to do with BEAUTY, ultimately -- whether it be art or the beauty of healthy, radiant skin.

3) How did you choose the ingredients for your skincare products?
Very carefully! I did tons of research into the properties of different botanicals and essential oils, but really the most important thing was to consciously choose SEASONAL ingredients. It's amazing, but nature really does provide what skin needs at different moments of the year. For instance, in my new Spring/Summer line, ingredients like cucumber, lavender, red raspberry seed oil, and mint -- which are all summer-seasonal -- help skin stay cool, refreshed, cleansed, and protected in the hot, humid months of the year. It's really about trying to achieve harmony and balance for your skin, but also I want to emphasize the importance of paying attention to the seasons, and to how they affect us in all ways.

4) Why is using organic and natural ingredients important to you?
To me, this is a no-brainer. There is no reason to use synthetic, artificial, harmful chemical ingredients when a natural, organic ingredient can do the same thing, and probably better. It's really about health -- for you and for the planet. I've just been reading about Ayurveda -- the ancient Indian system of health and healing -- and one of the things it emphasizes is the use of a whole plant for medicinal purposes, rather than isolating and extracting the active ingredient. The human body is similar -- we are whole -- body, mind, and spirit work together, so to me, using organic, natural products that heal and nurture (rather than harm or compromise) the skin, well, that just makes sense.

5) How is Perianne different from other skincare?
Perianne is really unique -- there is no other brand out there that "thinks" seasonally about skin care. Practically everyone has to switch their skin care routine when the weather changes, so these products answer that need. Also, the thoughtful use of botanical ingredients is unique -- with attention to the seasons and what skin needs at different times of the year in order to stay healthy, supple, and beautiful.

6) In your opinion, what is the most important (or worthwhile) natural, organic or botanical skincare ingredient one may use for healthy skin?
I'm not sure I could pick just one, but right now an ingredient I am really excited about is red raspberry seed oil, which we use in the Spring/Summer Light Face Lotion. Studies have found it to be an excellent antioxidant, but more impressively, it has an SPF of at least 15 or higher -- naturally! I love that it can help heal AND protect against sun damage, and it also looks beautiful (it's a deep, rich red color).

7) How are the Perianne products made/manufactured?
Since we are a small company, I work with an organic skin care manufacturing lab on the west coast. We produce in small batches, so the products are always fresh. As far as ingredients go, we try to use organic whenever possible, and really keep synthetics down to a minimum (we do use phenoxyethanol, a paraben alternative, for preserving the products, though we are moving towards an organic preservative system, as in our Light Face Lotion).

8) Why glass packaging?
Again, it relates to health. In this case, the health of the environment most importantly, since most plastics are produced from petroleum by-products. Glass is also 100% recyclable, and since we use a fairly high percentage of essential oils, the glass doesn't interfere with their efficacy, the way that some plastics can. Plus, I think it looks and feels more elegant, more luxurious.

9) What other products do you plan to introduce over the next year?
Moving forward, we will be developing two more ranges for Perianne: the Transitional Treatments, and the Year-Round Treatments. The Transitional products are designed to help skin adjust to abrupt or drastic changes in weather and temperature, and they will include three masks: one for overactive, oily, or blemished skin; one for dry, dehydrated, sensitized skin; and an enzyme mask, to restore skin's luminosity and freshness (by exfoliating dead skin cells). The Year-Round products are intended to be used as part of your regular skin care regimen, so that will include an eye cream, a granular exfoliant, and a vitamin serum. An SPF which you can use daily over your moisturizer will also be part of the Year-Round line.

10) Name one beauty product you can't live without.
My Perianne toners!!! I love both the Fall/Winter version -- with fennel and pink grapefruit -- and the new Spring/Summer toner, with mint and cucumber. They are both delicious, and really make your skin glow.

11) Any tips on how we can best reduce signs of aging?
Sunscreen, because prevention is the best strategy. Unfortunately, Perianne doesn't make one -- YET (we plan to make a daily SPF part of our Year-Round product line). Also, I have to say I am against "anti-aging" as a marketing concept in the beauty industry. It's a fallacy, since you can't stop time, or the natural process of aging. Besides, some of the most beautiful women I know are over 60, and they have wrinkles, but they have an inner glow that comes from being healthy, happy, creative, and loving. That's really what it's about. I think that supple, glowing, healthy skin is what we should be aiming for -- not sandblasted, botoxed, artificially taut skin!

12) What is your best beauty secret?
Regular exercise and facials four times a year.

13) What other passions do you have besides your business? Dancing is the one thing that makes me most happy -- I was trained as a ballet dancer, and it's just in my bones. Doesn't matter what kind -- I love ballet, jazz, modern, or just dancing at parties with friends. I'm like that guy in "Dazed and Confused" -- when asked what he wanted to do with his life, he said, "I just wanna dance, man!"

For purchasing and more information about this wonderful line of skincare, an ingredients reference "library" or to learn more about Cora: Perianne

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