What is your desert island skincare product?
Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 unfragranced
Coffee or Tea?
I was tea all my life but now that I have a start up, it’s coffee.
What’s your favorite app right now?
Clue! It’s a period tracking app that also lets you track your physical and emotional state in relation to your cycle.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
I’m so French. I love cheese and wine and complaining. Then, resilient. Things weren’t always given to me in life. I didn’t have all the advantages to succeed but I still did despite that. The last is self-conscious. I struggle with lack of confidence, and while it pushes me to work harder, I also have trouble standing behind my own ideas.
Tell me about your skin care journey.
When I was 18 I was living in Paris, where I grew up, and was in my last year of high school getting ready for finals. In the spring I got toxic shock syndrome (TSS). I had a high fever and flu-like symptoms. It got so bad that I was eventually sent to the hospital and in the ICU for over a week. Thick layers of skin started peeling off my body in response to the potent medication I was given. I was so stressed about finishing my exams though, that I went back to studying earlier than recommended. After that I got a fungal infection that made my skin painful and itchy, I could not sleep and it was so irritating. They gave me medication to help me sleep and relax but it also made it hard for me to study. Finishing school was so challenging during all of this.
Since having sensitive skin after all this treatment, I had to treat my skin differently. My aunt gave me a bottle of La Roche Posay moisturizer. It soothed my dry and reactive skin. I then learned to use gentle French pharmacy brands to soothe my skin. This was all new for me. Before my TSS, I had only ever used makeup.
My experience inspired me to become a skin scientist. I studied biology for undergrad, skin physiology for my masters, and completed a Ph.D. on skin absorption in 2012.
So, how can some people have sensitive skin that’s so reactive and others can have flawless skin without seemingly doing anything?
Sensitive skin is a syndrome not a disease. It’s dependent on the way someone feels their skin burning or reacting to something. So, some people are more or less sensitive. Your skin is also related to your nervous system. The face has demonstrated to be the most common site of skin sensitivity due to the larger and multiple number of products used on the face, a thinner skin but also a greater density of nerve endings.
The condition of your skin can also be affected by pollution, genes, hormones, diet, what you use as laundry detergent. It can become a real nightmare because of how many factors there are, and we still don’t fully understand all of them.
For sensitive skin the best thing you can do is manage things you can control: stress, diet, and ingredients you put in contact with your skin.
What are the best and worst ingredients for people with sensitive skin?
Avoid harsh soap, essential oils and fragrance. Opt for products that are very gentle with the smallest amount of ingredients. The more ingredients you use the more things your skin can react to. Stay away from harsh treatments like acids, double cleaning, alcohol based products, toners, serums unless recommended by your doctor. The less facial cleansing you can do, the better.
ELSI just became the first US skincare company to be microbiome friendly. Why is that important?
The microbiome is a collection of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi that live on the skin. They are actually critical to our skin health. Historically, we thought we should be killing all bacteria to be healthy, but this is actually a detriment to the condition of our skin. Now, we know that the more we attack this microbiome the more imbalanced skin will be. So, we’ve had to redesign skincare to respect the microbiome.
At ELSI we designed our product with microbiome protection in mind. We subject our products to testing by a third part lab. And recently, we are certified microbiome friendly by MyMicrobiome, they tested our products against the growth of 7 different types of skin bacteria and fungi.
We’ve been hearing the term clean beauty a lot. As a scientist what is the standard of “clean”?
There are no universal standards as to what ”clean” means. Each company has its own standard. This clean beauty movement took hold in the States after many people realized how little cosmetic ingredients were regulated in the US vs Europe. Clean can also be a trick term because what is good for the environment can actually be unhealthy for our skin or vice versa. So it is important to source ingredients that are respectful of both our skin health and the environment.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions we have about skincare?
Thinking that we need to have a heavy skincare routine to have healthy skin. I believe the opposite. Every product has an impact which can be good or bad.
The less you use the less your skin can react to. Less is more. I love K beauty, but 10 step routines aren’t it.
What is your skincare routine?
My routine is really simple. I wash my skin with spring water, this is the most pure and gentle water rich in minerals. If I shower I apply ELSI Super Moisturizing Serum to my skin to rehydrate it. If I’m going outdoors I apply a mineral sunscreen. I wear little makeup, only mineral powder cosmetics and easily removable eye makeup. That way, I don’t have to scrub and irritate my skin to remove it. In the evening, I use an oil cleaner with a bamboo cloth to take off my makeup. If my skin feels dry after this then I use ELSI Super Moisturizing Serum again.
Cleaning is the step that causes the most reaction in my skin, so I’m careful to not over do it.
Every weekend I do a “skin cleanse” for 24 to 48h where I apply no makeup, and do more yoga to boost my blood flow and moisturize my face.
What is your favorite ELSI product?
Our super moisturizing serum; I’ve used it for a year and half.
Who is your skinspiration?
Dr. Howard Maibach from UCSF. He was one of my dermatology professors and is the smartest person I know. His modesty and will to keep asking important questions instead of pretending to have the answers is inspiring. He taught me to respect skin and how to investigate it.
Learn More About Your Skin Health
– Special Mother’s Day Facial Yoga: https://www.eventbrite.com/myevent?eid=103554488262
– 1-1 free consultation with Dr. Elsa during the shelter in place: https://calendly.com/elsa-elsibeauty/15min
Check out Elsa’s Skincare Routine for Sensitive Skin!