I was quite fortunate to stop by the booth of Maximum Active Dermaceuticals or M.A.D Skincare  (in the shop) when I attended the 10th Annual International Esthetics, Cosmetics & Spa Conference (IECSC), earlier this year. I was intrigued by the whimsical name of the product line, which had caught my attention, yet the product branding was quite the opposite. While I didn’t have the opportunity to meet with Michael Contorno, President of M.A.D Skincare, at the conference, I spoke with him while product testing for TIA. I learned an incredible amount about how skincare products are formulated and the cutting-edge ingredients used in M.A.D Skincare.

How did you become involved with M.A.D Skincare? Is your background in the skincare business?

My first love was food. I was involved in the food business for more than 12 years. I think working in the food industry is a great training ground for everyone. You really understand what pressure is and how to project manage. After a short career in the IT field I found myself at the brand DDF (Doctor’s Dermatologic Formula). This is where it all began. After my 8 year tenure at DDF, I consulted and worked on several brands. During this time I met the owners of a local manufacturer. There are several excellent personal care product manufacturers in the tri-state area and you get to know them all when you are working on the brand side. But there was something different with this one manufacturer. They had a passion not only to make excellent formulations but a desire to build a brand. The problem was, they had no experience on the brand side. That’s when our minds collided. From the first meeting I realized a great synergy between us - like peanut butter and jelly. Two completely different core competencies fused together to form the concept, philosophy and products that make M.A.D Skincare what it is.

What made you decide to divide the line into five separate skin concerns: environmental, brightening, anti-aging, acne, and delicate?

My biggest pet peeve with brands is their lack of organization and architecture. These really become the key to understanding what the brand is trying to deliver. Once the consumer is taught the organization of the products, they can easily find what their skin needs. Another reason for the separate skin concern categories is our approach to using active ingredients. Our R&D lab developed formulas using multiple actives that work in concert for each skin concern, almost like different sections of an orchestra. For example, the horn section uses multiple types of brass and wood wind instruments, all similar but different. Put them together and you have incredible richness; now layer in the strings and percussion. Each skin concern category is like a section of instruments and the entire brand is the orchestra. If we used only one or two active ingredients, this approach would not be as necessary.

M.A.D formulates with some of the most recent ingredients to hit the market. What criteria do you use to determine which ingredients to formulate with in regards to efficacy and safety? 

The active ingredients are the most important part of M.A.D Skincare. We work very closely with global suppliers who have the best reputations in the industry. When active ingredients are presented to manufacturers they have been fully tested for safety and efficacy. Companies like DOW, BASF, and Sederma won’t market a product before these milestones are completed. Then it’s testing time: How do active ingredients work together? Can we amplify the effect by combining? Does this new ingredient work better than something that’s tried and true? Once we answer these questions we are fairly close in the formula of a product.

How do you test your products before you go to market?

Product testing is a combination of:

1. Internal panel testing

2. Field testing with professionals

3. Accelerated and long term stability testing

4. Preservative challenge testing

M.A.D also has a professional line. What treatments do you offer and how can readers who are interested in M.A.D Skincare professional treatments find out more?

M.A.D Professional products are designed for estheticians to deliver treatment level results. Our core professional products are the chemical peels which we offer for each skin concern category. In addition we have a Booster serum that is applied by the professional prior to a mask. We have a Facebook page that is a great forum to ask questions and find out who is using M.A.D in your area.

M.A.D Skincare is a bold choice for naming a skincare line? Where did the name come from?

M.A.D really stands for Maximum Active Dermaceuticals. Our philosophy is to deliver maximum actives levels either in percentage or in combination for the best possible results.

What do you foresee as being the next big breakthrough in skin care?

Ahhh, breakthroughs... this is the $64,000 dollar question. BB creams are definitely hot. These are sophisticated formulas that provide full coverage along with skin concern benefits. I think this avenue will grow with more diverse types of actives stretching across different types of makeup like primers, lipsticks, powders and lash products, etc.

Can you tell us about any new product developments in the works?

New products for MAD in 2013 include: Discovery Kits in the Acne, Brightening and Anti-Aging categories, a pumice face and body polish/exfoliator as well as three active infused makeup primers. There is the possibility of a wrinkle relaxer combined with a light diffuser (a new twist on wrinkle relaxers). We are also planning additional Advanced Active infused makeup products for 2014.