Truth in Aging was introduced to natural skincare line Avitalin nearly a year ago, with reader Michelle’s review of the Vitality Phytocell Complex ($68). A couple of months later, Marta reviewed the Avitalin Radiance Growth Factors Complex ($100), and that’s when we knew were on to something special here. Esthetician Marina Volod is the woman behind this innovative brand. And, here, she tells us why she developed this line, what ingredients she is focused on, and what her goals are for future product developments.

When and why did you begin your career in esthetics?

I grew up in Moscow, Russia, in a family of musicians. My mother was a famous opera singer and as a little girl, I spent part of my life backstage watching her prepare for performances. The great challenge for her was to protect her skin from the harsh theatrical makeup. The first skincare creations came from our kitchen, where we mixed together potions to nourish and protect her skin. She taught me that good skincare is not a luxury but a necessity and an important step in the process of protecting skin’s health. Many years have passed since then, and I have been working in the medical esthetics field for more than 25 years. My goal as a skincare professional remains the same: to protect the skin’s health.

My dream came true eight years ago when my family relocated to Oregon. I opened the doors of DermaEsthetica, the skincare clinic where I see clients on an everyday basis, and develop my results-driven treatments and skincare products.

What were your goals when you set out to formulate your products?

Developing my own skincare line was a logical response to the daily challenges I addressed in my clinic. The products I had been using were not effective and they did not provide the best nutrition for my clients’ skin. Their formulas did not contain the most advanced ingredients and really did not provide me with the right tools to visibly transform the skin. I also researched cosmetic ingredients and was shocked at how many dangerous chemicals I saw listed in the products I was using. My clients’ well being was a serious concern; especially for those who had breast cancer. I did not want to compromise their health.

Tell me about the ingredients in your products. What were you looking for in terms of effective anti-agers?

None of the cosmetic companies on the market today are using as many bio-stimulants in their formulas as we do at Avitalin. Most bio-stimulants come from non-vegan sources. This is why my skincare line includes both vegan and non-vegan ingredients. Some of the non-vegan ingredients (placenta, colostrum and bee venom) are very powerful and can be extremely beneficial for the human skin. I consider bio-stimulants, which include several growth factors and amino acids, vital for skin health. These ingredients are among the most powerful anti-agers today. They have a wonderful future and already show great results in restoring skin’s health and vitality, and protecting it from environmental damage.

All ingredients must meet our strict guidelines:

1. We choose our suppliers based on the quality and concentration levels of the active ingredients present. We have concerns about the purity and integrity of ingredients we put in each of our formulas. It is for this reason that our ingredients come from reputable labs and farms in the United States, Canada, Europe, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia. We do not use any suppliers from China.

2. We use fair-trade ingredients when it is possible.

3. All the latest skincare ingredients have to be backed by science and must be proven to be beneficial to the skin.

4. All oils, plant extracts, butters and essential oils must be certified organic whenever possible.

5. All ingredients must be harvested in an environmentally friendly and humane manner with absolutely no animal testing.

6. We do not use phthalates, DEA/ TEA, ureas, parabens, sodium laurel sulfate, formaldehyde donors, synthetic fragrances/colors, mineral oils, lanolin, silicones, phenoxyethanol, and propylene glycol.

Are there any drawbacks to using natural ingredients?

There are a few drawbacks with using only natural ingredients. First of all, it’s a preservation issue. Unfortunately, the products with natural ingredients do not have a long shelf life. Once opened our products have a six-month shelf life, while unopened they can stay fresh for up to one year. Limited shelf life leads to another drawback – the cost of the production. Natural products cannot be produced in large batches if you want to preserve their freshness. This means that the price of the production is much higher. Consistency is another issue. The consistency, color and aroma of our products vary from batch to batch due to the natural content of the formulas. It is unavoidable because the natural butters, oils and herbal extracts differ slightly each time we order from our vendors. On the flip side, you are getting unique, custom-made product that has never been a part of a mass-production process.

What is your biggest skin concern?

Skin cancer remains my biggest concern. Skin cancer develops when mutations occur in the DNA of skin cells. Those mutations might be caused by extreme exposure to ultraviolet light or if there is a family history of cancer. It may also be caused by chemical exposure. The compromised skin also ages very rapidly. This is why I feel that educating consumers about cosmetic ingredients and their effects on the skin is extremely important. It’s part of a prevention plan.

What skincare products were you using before you launched your own collection?

I used many mainstream professional skincare lines and some retail stores big names, such as La Mer and La Prairie. I was disappointed when I started to study their ingredients and found out how unsafe some of their formulas were. Most of the research labs for these companies are located in China, and I am concerned about the purity of these ingredients.

If you could use only one of your products, which would it be – and why?

It would be Avitalin Radiance Growth Factors Complex, which contains a unique combination of three growth factors, including Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF), kinetin, and deer velvet extract. You can find growth factors in many skincare lines, but this particular synergy of growth factors used for the first time in the cosmetic industry provides exponential benefits to the skin. It shows the incredible ability to stimulate the biological functions within the skin cells.

Can you tell us about any new product developments?

There are many new ingredients in the cosmetic markets but my research is based mostly on the ones that already show promising results. Various peptides and growth factors need special attention, and I concentrate my studies on these ingredients. I am also on the lookout for a natural alternative to hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is a powerful bleaching chemical that so far is still the best standard for treating hyperpigmentation. But it’s very dangerous and banned in many European countries. I am currently working on improving our Bright Complexion serum formula, which contains natural skin-lightening ingredients Alpha-arbutin, kojic acid and mulberry extract.