SKIN&CO is an internationally known skin care brand located in the heart of Italy. The US brand is located in West Haven, CT. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Gabriel Balestra, the grandson of the original founders, Sabatino and Giuseppina. Here is what he had to tell me…
(Q) Hello Gabriel. How are you? Tell me a little more about the SKIN&CO brand…
SKIN&CO started with my grandmother in the 1950’s. She was making botanical oils and creams in I would say, the best time of the past century for Italy. I always call myself the co-founder because she really was the founder, not me. I am just the messenger. She was known to make botanical oils in Italy using Truffles, yes Truffle mushrooms, not Chocolates. Sixty years later we have developed an entire collection based on Anti-Aging Beauty Truffles and their clinical properties, which are as old as Italy. Within the collection you will find anything from Shower Gels and Body scrub to powerful Serums and Moisturizers. Besides Truffles we have developed other collections as well that are just as fabulous and target other skin issues. SKIN&CO today still resides in Umbria, just a mile away from where my grandmother began her dream. My family is fully involved in the making of the Brand and we are still a 100% family managed and owned.
(Q) Out of the many people I have interviewed, I have to admit that I am intrigued by the inspiration behind this brand, as I read about it on the official website. There are several people who will be reading this interview, can you clue them on the inspiration behind SKIN&CO?
Sure, I always say the story makes 50% of our brand and if you don’t know where we come from and how we got here, it’ll be harder to understand SKIN&CO in its entirety. My grandparents bought a very small piece of land from the Vatican in the late 1920’s, and while my grandfather was selling the food products and vegetables harvested from the farms, my Grandmother, who also had a background in botanicals, loved to look at the beneficial part of those plans for the skin instead. Together they built an empire. They were literally pioneers and one of those responsible for the trendy deliberated spread use of truffles today. At that time truffles were a pretty taboo topic. There was a weird misconception that because they smell funny and grow underground, they were the product of some sort of witchcraft so my grandfather would sell truffles in the very back of his store to the elites. Sometimes I think that if truffles are so trendy today is also thanks to them, since most people would only feed them to pigs. Their success was to the extreme. In 1952, my grandmother, who was visited by women from large surrounding cities such as Rome & Florence to try her “miraculous” oils, decided it was time to open one of “Emporio” in Rome while leaving the one in the small town still open for business.
Her brother was a camera assistant at the time on a big Hollywood movie, that movie was Roman Holidays, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. He managed, since the Roman store opened, to bring A-List celebrities at that time to my grandmother’s store- and that’s how the dream began. Quietly, she had been making oils for many celebrities and wealthy women for more than 30 years. In 2008, during a cold winter, I was in Umbria visiting my family from New York, where I live, and my parents and I went through my grandmother’s journals and photos. A year later I left the magazine I was working for and started studying again. This story had to be told, and it invested me particularly because my grandma and I never met. She passed away as I was coming into the world. So, I partnered with Italy’s oldest university and began studying truffles and most importantly, why Truffles? After a few years of endless days and infinite travels to the UK, where the university of Cambridge had also done research about them, we found the “Beauty Truffle”. What she was using, wasn’t any Truffle, but a specific Truffle that grows in Umbria and is harvested during the full moon in the months of November and December mostly, the Tuber Molanosporum. This truffle is extremely rich in SOD, and enzyme that catalyzes the dismutation of superoxide into oxygen and has the fastest turnover number of any known enzyme. The properties behind SOD are strongly Antioxidant.
Essentially, my grandmother was the biggest inspiration behind SKIN&CO, she was the muse. But really, this story is not only about my grandmother. This is a story about women, I grew up with six women in my house and I admire them. SKIN&CO is an homage to a woman who lived in the 1950’s and found no barrier on her way. It is an inspiration to me and clearly to all women who wear SKIN&CO every day.
(Q) You have an array of skincare products. I have to ask, what are your most popular products? Currently, what are your best sellers…
To date, our best-seller is the Truffle Therapy Serum + and our ultimate Anti-Aging Serum. Can you believe that as we speak, women in three continents are using it at home? The Sicilian Light Serum instead is our top seller with a younger generation (although not necessarily), it is a very fast absorbing and make up ready serum that helps particularly well with skin discoloration and pores while relaxing the facial muscles and those fines lines thanks to a Patented Hibiscus Flower Extract that is has been proven to help with it. I like to think that makes your skin clearer than Sicilian Sea water on a sunny sun rise, that’s why I called it Sicilian Light.
(Q) I have to admit, I absolutely love serums. They have saved my skin in more ways than one. I have to admit, several of your products have me intrigued. Tell me a little more about the ‘Truffle Therapy Serum +’…
I love Serums too, because they have a unique ability to penetrate the skin and change it all. This Serum was formulated using the newly discovered properties of Tuber Melanosporum or Beauty-Truffle how I like to call it. It was created to enhance skin radiance, texture and softness, and essentially fine lines and wrinkles. During trial we have found out something more than what we had created it for, since it also seemed to help with dark spots and pores, my women reported. It was formulated using the SOD Truffle Properties as well as the Patented Hibiscus Flower we are also known for. The Serum can be used twice a day and just a dime size is enough to cover face and neck and the great thing about it is that since it provides a matte and smooth effect, it is an ideal primer for make up! Flake free and baby soft!
(Q) You have quite a few collections. The ‘Truffle Therapy Anti-Aging Collection’, the ‘Sicilian Light Brightening Collection’, the ‘Italian Countryside Collection’, and the ‘Riserva Umbra One-Of-A-Kind Collection’. Can you tell me a little more about each collection?
We have developed quite a few in order to cover the needs of all our customers that become more and more every day. The Truffle Therapy Collection targets primarily Anti-Aging and it is usually chosen by all the women out there who are looking for a “lift” but it incorporates essentially the nature of SKIN&CO and the SOD properties that it took a long time to find . The Sicilian Light instead, is for all of you, who just like me are at a stage where radiance is essential, skin tone is primarily a focus. If you are running all day between work and personal and need a little beauty break to make you feel good, smooth and cared for, then this is it. The Italian Countryside is a beautiful collection that I wanted to create to bring Italy’s finest ingredients, flavors, and smells into every home. Those very specific details I miss of Italy sometimes, living abroad. I created it by researching all those folkloristic ingredients that were once used in Italy before modern medicine came around and that I have always heard about. It includes the Vitamin C wonders of Orange, those soothing and Purifying of Lavender, and the Anti-Reddening and boosting properties of Rosemary & Verbena which is great for sensitive skin or after a long summer day.
One-of-a-Kind is a project that I started two years ago and we created monthly products that our customers were judging month by month and would tell us if it was a like or a hate! Our online community goes over 80K online subscribers and the One of A Kind was created to get their input to create maybe the biggest adventure of it all which I will launch in September: the Umbrian Apothecary Collection. All products chosen by them throughout these past two years will be launched under one roof. I can give you a sneak peek and tell you that we will have over 20 new products, for all ages, all skin types and the most remarkable and iconic Italian scents and natural secrets!
(Q) I think it’s amazing you have an extensive selection of bath & body products. Everything from shower gels to body scrubs to moisturizers and more. What are the most popular in your body care line?
The Truffle Body Milk is definitely our over-the-top body product! It was raved about by Beauty editors, tweeted about on movie sets and spotted by tabloids while being bought at department stores by celebrities and it quickly became our #1 Body product from Asia to New York. It’s a very rich and fast absorbing milk, that helps your skin maintaining its pH and moisture while contributing (I think) to refresh your day with its aromatic French-crafted smell! It’s an essential product to have as summer begins and those cute, little dresses start to come out of the closet. I want to make sure your skin is also ready to come-out-of-the-closet. The Sicilian Body Lotion is also a top Spring-Summer best seller because of its aromatic scent and unbelievable moisturizing properties. It really is a game changer after a long day at the beach or after a refreshing summer shower.
(Q) I love that every product in SKIN&CO uses a lot of amazing ingredients, as I love that it is heavily influenced by the Italian culture. Mi piace!
Thank you, I am glad you do! With SKIN&CO I really want to bring authentic Italian products and ingredients to you. When making it I didn’t really want to mediate between price vs. quality, or mix it with ingredients that do not exist in the SKIN&CO vocabulary such as Sulfates or Parabens or Paraffin. I wanted to make a clear, bold statement to reflect ultimately the SKIN&CO woman. Because she’s bold and clear, she doesn’t like to mediate when it comes to skin. Just like me, she knows she’s only got one skin and she wants a good and honest product. I also really wanted to stay true to my roots, to my heritage. I wanted to bring you the best of my country, the best out of every single region in my country and ultimately a product that is just as amazing as a picture of an Italian landscape.
(Q) Have you considered adding a makeup line into the brand?
This is funny because I was asked this questions at least three times this week by co-workers and industry friends. We have, but so far we are working hard on the skincare and the body care. However, I can’t deny something is under beaut-investigation.
(Q) You have everyone from celebrities to ordinary people that use your products and as a result, love them. How does that make you feel?
You see, when you create a product, you work day and night to make sure everything about it is perfect and you don’t think about what this celebrity is going to like or else. Ultimately I think about a SKIN&CO woman at home, that shares my same values about a product and is looking for a product that not only makes her look better but feel better. In the process celebrities started loving SKIN&CO and what can I say? They are just very famous SKIN&CO women! The TV version of us at home! What makes me feel good about, is when I go home at night and after dinner I start checking out all the online reviews, the tweets, the super sweet hearted messages customers write and send. At the end of a very long day, or week, or endless weeks of travel, that is exactly what validates it all and give it such a meaning that goes beyond words.
(Q) For all of those skin care enthusiasts and beauty lovers reading this interview, what would you like them to know? What is next for SKIN&CO?
There are quite a few surprises coming up in the Fall, including more local outlets and the Umbrian Apothecary Collection hitting stores in September. The very first Beauty collection, created by customers. If you like what we have done so far, wait until September, to see the beauty world you have created for yourself!
For more information about SKIN&CO Roma, please visit www.skinandcoroma.com today.