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About a month ago, it was announced that Gwyneth Paltrow had been appointed the face of Restørsea, a new line of skin care based on an enzyme from baby salmon in Norway. I was a little skeptical about Restørsea’s backstory and wrote an article that was a tad snarky. Restørsea’s CEO and founder, Patti Pao, responded extremely graciously and invited me to meet her and hear the Restørsea story in her own words. She also gave me a ton of Restørsea products, which of course I shall be sharing with the Truth In Aging community. But first, here’s my conversation with Patti Pao.
Thank you for inviting me to meet you. I would love to hear about how you got started in the beauty business.
Well, I graduated from Harvard Business School, did a stint at Guerlain and then landed at Avon. I was pretty nerdy — I would study things like organic chemistry for fun. Anyway, I got to work with Avon’s chemists, and I told them that what I really wanted was a skincare ingredient that would be an alternative to harsh actives like retinol, which can leave skin dry and irritated.
What did you and they come up with?
Glycolic! It exfoliates and clarifies the skin, but does it gently. It became the cornerstone of the Avon Anew line.
A couple of years ago, I met the head chemist at Avon and asked her what the most important breakthrough had been in anti-aging skincare, and she replied “glycolic.” So, after that breakthrough, what happened next?
Well, I realized that I was good at finding beauty technologies, and I set up a consulting firm, The Pao Principle, and I worked on, for example, Un-Wrinkle for Peter Thomas Roth and Elizabeth Arden’s Green Tea line. One of my clients was based in Oslo, Norway, and I had been to visit the city about 48 times. But I’d never seen anything of Norway, so friends invited me on a three-day hike along the fjords.
You don’t look the camping type to me.
I’m ethnically Chinese and so do not like wildlife or hiking. So, when I saw a really cute building by the water that turned out to be a salmon hatchery, I asked for a tour. At least we’d get a break from the hiking. It turned out to be really interesting as the hatchery was working on synchronized hatching with fertilized salmon eggs. The idea (it’s Darwin’s Second Principle) is that if the eggs hatch at the same time, the fish will be the same size. Anyway, there were huge vats of salmon eggs, and they used light to synchronize the hatching.
How did you discover that the salmon eggs would be your next breakthrough beauty technology?
Well, Norwegians typically have bad skin because they crave as much sun as they can get. But I noticed that the hands of the people working with the fish eggs were really young looking, and I started asking questions about the eggs.
So, now I’m dying to know, what is it about salmon fish eggs?
An enzyme is released that sticks to the fish egg shells and becomes food for the baby salmon. When we extract this and use it for skincare, it exfoliates the skin. But the really cool thing is that the enzyme only removes dead skin — when it encounters the live cells, it turns itself off.
That’s a big advance on glycolic, which, if I understand correctly, does destroy living cells as well as removing dead ones. How did you get the enzyme into a jar of skin cream?
We really had to be careful about the process. This enzyme hates heat — there can be no homogenization. It’s complex. Once we figured it out, we got exclusive use of the enzyme from the Norwegian hatchery.
And Restørsea was born. How many products are in the Restørsea line?
There are soon to be ten products in the line. You should really try the hand cream…
Postscript: I did try the hand cream, and I’ve been using it ever since. Restørsea’s Repairing Hand Treatment has the line’s signature combo of hydrolyzed roe (the fish eggs that yield the enzyme) plus alaria esculenta and algin, both derived from seaweed. I have an extremely generous stash of Restørsea products, and in addition to testing and reviewing them myself over the coming weeks, I’ll be recruiting testers from the Truth In Aging community. Watch this space.