dermHA provides “clinically formulated therapeutic care for sensitive skin”, and Mildred Bell is the woman behind the products, with over 30 years in the beauty and skincare industries. As you sample dermHA’s gentle face + body wash, included in your August COCOTIQUE Box, get a glimpse behind the brand in our Q&A with Mildred; she talks about skincare challenges facing African American women specifically, some of the causes of problem skin, and what you should be doing NOW to protect your skin from the aging process.
How did you first become interested in skincare? Did you once have problem skin?
I was very shy as a teenager and the onset of teenage breakouts really damaged my self-confidence and self-esteem. I was also a people watcher and I noticed how girls and boys with acne cysts seemed introverted and would walk with their heads down and not make eye contact.
Why was it important for your products to be formulated especially for sensitive skin?
My skin is extremely sensitive. As a teen I would use popular drugstore products only to develop a rash or swelling. Even the Noxzema that my mother swore by left me irritated. At 17 I tried to get a ‘really-good’ tan and I developed a sun allergy that spread from my elbows to my fingers with itchy, tiny water-filled blisters and caused vitiligo-like patches that reoccurred every summer for about 7 years. Needless to say, the sun was not my friend.
Recent changes in the environment, pollution, synthetic clothing and medications all increase skin sensitivity. In addition, our obsession with youth causes us to needle, inject, burn, scrape, laser, microwave and ultra-sound our skin to tighten, lighten and brighten it. All of this can leave the skin more irritated and more sensitive.
I knew if I could formulate a skin care product for extremely sensitive skin, I could actually help to change peoples’ lives, increase their self-confidence and their self-esteem. I spared no expense in formulating the products. Because dryness can cause a flare up of skin diseases and slow down skin healing, we used hyaluronic acid, the most powerful moisturizing ingredient known to science in all of our products. All dermHA products are fragrance free, alcohol free, lanolin free, dye free, mineral oil free, propylene glycol free and gluten free. We used ingredients known for their healing/soothing properties in concentrations that would be effective to make skin look and feel clean, relaxed, calm, hydrated and refreshed. We manufacture on site so that we can guarantee that the quality is consistent.
What skin challenges in particular do you find that African American women face that perhaps women of other races don’t?
African American women have problems that are similar to other races, but our skin is much more sensitive and reactive. We have more oil glands, as well as make more pigment and more scar tissue than Caucasian women.
Skin rejuvenation/treatments are done with caution on African American skin as abrasions, peels and lasers can cause permanent scarring if done by someone inexperienced in the care and treatment of ethnic skin. Some treatments are prohibited for our skin
What was your first job in the beauty industry, and how did it prepare you to eventually run your own skincare line?
My first job in the beauty industry was working at a cosmetics counter. I would apply makeup on anyone who stopped at my counter and was intrigued at the difference it made… and my sales soared. I also attended the classes held by the companies to encourage us to sell skincare, as it was less spontaneous, but drew a more loyal following.
That first job helped break me of my shyness by giving me a reason to talk more easily with women. They would tell me about their puffy eyes, big lips, flat nose, and I would show them how to minimize their perceived bad features and enhance their good ones. I felt that I was helping them to feel better and more confident about their appearance. It was a very rewarding feeling. I still see beauty in every woman, with or without makeup, and I love helping her to see it too.
How did you attract a following for dermHA? Was it word of mouth? A great marketing plan?
I had a real ‘angel’ investor when I started and that allowed me to position my business in a very prominent location. For the first 5 years we sold the products through physicians’ offices only. I thought folks with serious problems or who wanted cosmetic surgery would consult a physician. And those were the folks we targeted in the beginning. However I also had a beautiful skin clinic where I trained estheticians to do treatments. We advertised in local magazines, were featured several times on TV, and in magazine articles. In 2008 we had a fire that completely destroyed that facility. With the downturn of the economy, we relocated and downsized. We have retained a loyal following and grown in this last 5 years by word of mouth.
What would you recommend women start to do in their 20s and 30s to help protect their skin against the aging process?
The first thing I would tell them is to take better care of their bodies and their health. Don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively, and wear sunscreen every day. Skin is an organ of the body and it is replenished from the inside out. A function of the skin is elimination. It excretes toxins and wastes in addition to sweat and oils. If you’re constipated or have digestive problems, delete sugar, cow’s milk, and gluten from your diet. Drink plenty of water: 8-10 glasses a day. Sleep is when your cells are repaired. Get a minimum 8 hours.
We are so looking forward to having our subscribers try your gentle cleanser, which is included in the August COCOTIQUE box. Which products from your line would you recommend using in tandem with the cleanser for best results?
Gentle Face and Body Wash can be used on all skin types. Depending on your type skin add the following dermHA products to your regimen.
For Oily Skin – Rejuvenating Tonic, HA Therapy Plus, Eye & Neck Crème, Enzyme Mask
For Sensitive or Normal Skin – Therapeutic Crème, Eye & Neck Crème, Enzyme Mask
For Dry /Dehydrated, Aging skin – Moisturizing Crème Plus, Vitamin C Therapy, Eye and Neck Crème, Crème Mask
If you could give women one piece of skincare advice that you hope they’d remember above all else, what would it be?
I would advise women to cleanse and hydrate their skin every night no matter how tired they are and work to clear up instead of cover up their skin problems. And finally, make ‘me-time’ to relax and have fun.