THE SKINCARE PIONEER

Dr Natasha Cook reveals how science inspired her range. By Anita Quade.

You are the first Australian Dermatologist to create a Cosmeceutical skincare line. Tell us how it feels to be such a pioneer in the industry? 

“Nowadays I feel proud of what we have managed to achieve and realise how progressive and ahead of our time we were. We were selling online in 2005 ‘lol’ with a cartoon image of myself, that these days are called a bitmoji. Pioneering was not always so well received in the beginning. I have to say it has been a very difficult journey. I started the range mid 2005, back in the day when there was little support from colleagues who saw me as avant garde and too commercial. Pre dating the “Instagram” trend, wanting genuinely to make products that delivered and defied the “BS” and pseudo scientific claims of the mainstream beauty world. I copped a lot of professional jealousy and backlash. As a young woman it was hard to stick to my beliefs in an environment that was often negative and not supportive.”

How do you feel looking back at your journey?

“I can say today I am extremely proud as a self-funded and self-created entrepreneur to have collated the range over the last 15 years. Literally product by product. Nothing makes me prouder than to hear the joy in a customer’s voice expressing how we have helped change their skin and in a way change their life in a positive way.”

What have tough times taught you?

“The difficulties make the success sweeter and the person more empowered if you can take the learnings and grow from them. For that I am grateful as coming through those tough times now equips me with tools that I can navigate a bigger landscape on where I want this business to go.”

What inspired you to launch your signature range?

“Myself! I spent time in the USA as an undergraduate at Harvard and back then skincare was more affordable in the US. I hustled my way through SAKS department store and naively took everything in that the Lancôme sales assistant said and proceeded to spend all my hard earned student dollars on everything she said. I’m talking eye creams, neck creams etc…I was 21!”

How did you progress your learning?

“Once I ended up on the Dermatology specialist training scheme, I loved the textbooks that were on topical pharmacology. I started seeing gaps in what was science, and what the mainstream beauty industry was offering. It seemed they were lacking the right ingredients in the right concentrations that were essential for a product to work. I saw that you could get some of this in pharmacy products but they were aesthetically displeasing to use and lacked the luxury feel and elegance of the “ingredients depleted” department store products. So I was on a mission to make products that delivered, contained the real deal based on my dermatological studies and felt amazing. On top of all that it had to be easy to use and simply feel good. I then wanted to make the brand all about education, not about pushing a sell – So that’s where DrNC started.”

After obtaining your medical degree you undertook a five year program to graduate as a Specialist Dermatologist – how important is education?

“How do I put this? Education is everything! It’s the foundations of knowledge and creation. In a world where people are often revered / celebrated in celebrity for really not having achieved that much at all I think it’s important to come back to the pillars of education, credibility and commitment when we are looking for true thought leaders and experts to be inspired by, let alone take direction from.”

What inspired your love of the industry initially?

“Interestingly, I had bad skin from the age of eight. A rare autoimmune disease known as erythema multiforme. I grew up in rural Australia, so no one knew what was wrong with me and I ended up going to multiple doctors for opinion, but nothing worked until I went to Sydney to see a dermatologist who nailed my diagnosis in one. I was allergic to the cold sore virus and then my immune system would go mental several weeks later creating disfiguring targetoid ring like lesions all over my body and ulceration of my mouth. Each bout would last weeks. I would have to have boracic acid ice baths to seek comfort. Not to mention the mental distress of feeling isolated, alienated and bullied by school kids. I wasn’t conscious that this was a motivator at the time, but I look back and realise there was a part of me wanting to fix and help people who suffered like I had.”

How did you become a dermatologist?

“As an intern I was disillusioned with the medical and hospital system. It was more about bureaucrats than about people. I was going to leave and join my friends in the business world. Around that time I met a nurse who became a friend and her dad was a Dermatologist. He had just come back from the USA with all the latest in laser technology and injectables. It was then that I could see myself being a dermatologist. It was broad in that you dealt with men, women young and old. It was procedural and creative which was essential for me as I have a strong creative brain. It was progressive and cutting edge, especially with the new technologies emerging. I could run my own business. So I thought lets give this a go – he became my mentor and I would moonlight in his clinic on the side whilst I was an intern. I was the youngest doctor in Australia learning and using lasers at the age of 24.”

Your range is a very simple step with clear instructions – how important was it to you to remove the confusion around skincare steps?

“It’s incredibly important! As a dermatologist I know less is often more. I also know if things are too complex people are not compliant and therefore will not get results. Simplicity is key in fact as Einstein said “Everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler”. We have too many unnecessary line extension products in the market that are there to feed corporate bank accounts NOT people’s skin.”

What is your hero product in the range?

“This is hard for me to answer as they are my babies, so they are all my heroes – probably my clients would say it’s the Concentrated Clarifier, colloquially known as the BOMB!”

You have a huge following from industry heavyweights such as Amy Jean and Rae Morris - how important is it your peers nominate you as their go to skincare guru?

“Oh wow yes that makes me blush. I feel honored to have support from fellow experts. It’s extremely validating.”

What is one of the most important requirements of a skincare range?

“I’m not sure there is just one BUT certainly ‘simplicity’ - combining the right ingredients in the right concentrations by someone who is a true expert I think is up there.”

I understand you are a perfectionist when it comes to launching products – how long can it take to launch a specific product?

“Don’t remind me of the perfectionism, it’s a double edge sword at times. At a minimum about two years. I am currently working on a body product and that’s taken four years so I’m almost there!”

Are you working on adding anything additional to your range?

“Yes I have two body focused products, I’m extending colours in the CC+ SPF30 range and a few exciting others.”

Where do you source the ingredients for the range?

“Globally, wherever the best is in its category, but we are 100% Australian manufactured.”

How important is it that a skincare brand such as yours caters specifically to the harsh conditions of Australia?

“Extremely. We age 20 years before our northern hemisphere counterparts! Because of our conditions we need products that can deal with that they must work hard to cope with that kind of exposure and the severity in our environment.”

How do you stand out from the competition?

“I am authentic with education and credibility. I started this prior to the new age “create a skincare “ craze. The added bonus is that I have a couple of decades of qualifications and clinical experience dealing with every skin concern and a tone of technology. I’d say I’m pretty qualified to know what needs to be in skin care and beyond when it comes to all things skin.”

Tell us about The Face Bar – how did you come up with this concept?

“I saw a gap in the market where there were these chain clinics that offered services but not backed by a credible medical expert and inconsistencies in the quality and level of training of the staff. I wanted to create a space designed by a dermatologist with state of the art tech hand picked by me and offer treatments with not too much downtime but delivered results and addressed the key skin concerns with staff trained by me. It is also a place that is more accessible to the individual and a place people can feel safe and trust the quality of technology and the education of the staff.”

What drives you?

“It’s not about money for me – it’s about creation and creativity is. If you come from a place of integrity and authenticity, I believe the money will follow.”