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Beauty Interview

Interview with Patricia Pao

This week’s interview is with Patti Pao – founder and CEO of Restorsea, and superwoman extraordinaire. I felt honored to have the opportunity to interview Patti, who is a fountain of knowledge on not just skincare, but also starting your own business, and finding happiness in one’s career. I truly enjoyed learning about Patti’s journey and learnings along the way, and I hope you do as well. Enjoy meeting Patti!


Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?

My name is Patti Pao.  I am the founder and CEO of Restorsea, a prestige skincare brand, and I live in New York City.

Can you share a bit about how your career evolved to where it is today? How did you decide to take the leap from working at a large company to founder and CEO? 

When I graduated from Harvard Business School all I wanted to do is work in the beauty business.  My poor dad asked me, “Why can’t you be an investment banker or consultant like everyone else?”.  My first job in the beauty business was with Avon Products. It was there that I learned that I was really good at finding new technologies/ingredients and turning them into blockbuster brands.  I discovered the potential of glycolic acid as an anti-aging active ingredient and helped to create the billion dollar Avon ANEW franchise.

In August 2010, I was touring a salmon hatchery and saw that the workers’ hands, which were constantly submerged in the baby salmon post-hatching fluid, looked like they were twenty years old while their faces looked much older than their actual ages.  The reason why is because of an enzyme that baby salmon release at birth. Unlike a chicken who can physically peck its way out of its eggshell, a baby salmon can’t get out of its eggshell unassisted.  Therefore, when it is ready to be born, it releases an enzyme.  This enzyme is designed to only dissolve the eggshell so that the baby salmon can swim safely out of the opening carved by the enzyme.  When this enzyme is applied to human skin, it only dissolves the dead skin cells leaving the living skin cells untouched and able to thrive.  Plus, we believe that the amniotic fluid from the eggshell has anti-aging properties and the eggshell fragments have skin strengthening properties.  The workers’ hands, submerged in the post-hatching waters, were constantly exposed to this enzyme.  This is why their hands looked so much younger than their actual ages.

I spent a year formulating a day cream and an eye cream and in August 2011, I sent lab samples to Pat Saxby, VP and Divisional Merchandising Manager of Beauty at Bergdorf Goodman.  A month later she called and said that she would take the brand.  And that was the beginning of Restorsea.

Restorsea treatments

What were some of the proudest moments with Restorsea? 

1.  Finding Aquabeautine XL® which is the greatest ingredient I have seen in the 25 years I have been in the beauty business
2.  Securing distribution at Bergdorf Goodman based on lab samples of the Day Cream and Eye Cream which I carried around in a Ziploc® bag
3.  Raising my first round of financing in six weeks (I never thought I would raise a dime)
4.  Securing the 20 year global rights to Aquabeautine XL®
5. Raising over $55 million dollars; it’s very expensive to build awareness and trial. Things never turn out the way you think they will (both good and bad) and they take much longer than you think they will. This is why it is important to have a long runway.

There are so many skincare brands out there, which each seem to tout something special. How do you distinguish between the “good” ones, and the ones that are just hype? What should we look for?

You need to look for:

1. Transparent, easily understandable technology
2. Unique and differentiated technology
3. Strong clinical results
4. Ingredient composition.  Are the formulas natural and free of toxic/harmful ingredients?

That being said, there are a lot of products out there that smell good and feel great and they are making lots of money.  And that’s cool too…If the user loves them, that is what is the most important.

gwyneth restorsea

Gwyneth Paltrow for Restorsea

What are the most important factors to consider for having great skin? 

The six parameters  to having great skin are as follows:

1. Low amount of fine lines and wrinkles
2. Low level of hyperpigmentation
3. High evenness of skin tone
4. Lots of skin clarity
5. High level of skin firmness.  You should be able to pinch your skin and have it spring back immediately.
6. High level of skin smoothness. Continue Reading


The Power of Water

Last November while we were in Paris, I picked up something requested by a friend – a large bottle of Bioderma Crealine, a cleansing water. Now you can guess that this was a pretty good friend, because guess what? Once I was in line in the drugstore, I realized that this giant bottle meant that I was going to have to check a piece of luggage! A friend who you would check luggage for, is in my opinion…a very dear friend indeed.


I decided to try out a bottle for myself since I was already doomed to the checking my luggage, and am now a fan. I use my cleansing water daily! I just dribble some on a cotton pad, swipe all around my face (lingering a few seconds longer over my eyes to take off mascara), and then I’m done with cleaning. The best things about it?

1. You don’t have to wash it off after using it (though I usually do a light rinse). However, this feature means that…
2. It’s great for taking your makeup off on planes. I never use the water in the bathrooms to wash my face. It gives me nightmares (read this if you’d like to why).
3. It’s super gentle. It’s clear and basically feels like water! My face never feels tight or dry after using it, yet I see that it’s definitely removing the daily gunk (evidence is on my cotton pad).

Months of daily use and an unfortunate spill mean that my bottle is nearing the end. Bioderma it seems is a little more difficult to find in the U.S., and with the costs of ordering from an international website considered, I’ve decided to try out some new brands for now.

Based on a quick “dollar per ounce” analysis higher end brands and a perusal of reviews, the top two candidates look to be Lancome’s Micellar Cleansing Water, and Caudalie’s own version. There are also higher priced versions from Dior, and Darphin.

Are any of you out there fans of cleansing water? Please share your experiences and favorite brands (if any!).


Beauty Resolutions

A reader (hi S!) recently wrote me about my 25 item wardrobe resolution for 2014, and how that might extend to skincare/beauty.

This was a question that I struggled a bit to answer, because I actually already have a fairly pared down makeup collection. No, really! Everything fits in a small/medium Muji acrylic organizer on my counter, whereas I know people who couldn’t fit just their eyeliner collection in there (no judging! Eyeliner is important). Anyway, I had to think back a bit to how I arrived to this pared back state, and here it is…


via Ikea

Years ago I used to be a fairly frequent purchaser of beauty products, and had several acrylic boxes filled with all kinds of items. I can really understand why someone who loves makeup or does it for their job would have a ton, but neither of these were true in my case. A smokey eye at 8 PM, carefully applied with the help of awesome YouTube videos, always equalled raccoon eyes by 9 PM. I owned glittery blushes that only were appropriate for late night clubs, and I was going only clubbing, like, once a year. Upon which I’d forget to wear the blush anyway. Yet for years, I kept on buying more products. I eventually realized that I had to pare down my collection, and one day, I went through everything and threw out all the nail polishes, mascaras, and lip glosses that had expired, according to the rules. It was quite a lot. Continue Reading

Beauty Style

Weekend Update

Here are some updates from me, from the last few weeks….!

1. Vanity Fair is one of my favorite magazines. In anticipation of their cover story on Gwyneth Paltrow which I have been eagerly waiting for (who doesn’t like a good expose?), I found a few of my favorite older articles they’ve done. Here’s a very fascinating article about a still ongoing scandal here in Silicon Valley: Sex, Lies and Lawsuits.

2. My favorite and super duper comfortable new top is by Splendid. It’s so soft and has a beautiful drape, and has become the tee I put on for work when I’m having an especially grumpy morning. It should be noted however, that the black is slightly see through, a fact I discovered when I took a picture of it on so I could show it worn! So unfortunately, no photo of  me wearing it but you can see it worn here. I think without flash photography you would probably be fine wearing the top without a camisole underneath.

Splendid Drapey Dolman

Splendid Dolman Top (in black, red, gray), on sale in gray here

3. I have recently become obsessed with Lisa Elridge’s makeup channel – she is so gorgeous it is really truly unfair, and she has great tutorials. Plus, she is a big supporter of my favorite eyebrow pencil in the world – Lingering by MAC. I have to have at least two on hand (one in my handbag, one backup at home) at any given time, and freaked out in Bali when I realized I had left one at home.

4. For anyone out there who is or who has thought about working on a creative project, the book The War of Art was actually very inspiring for me. I never would have picked up a book like this, but it was a gift from a former colleague and I couldn’t put it down. Some of it veers on the “hippie dippie” side but overall a very good read if you’re feeling creatively challenged.

5. For you Collette Dinnigan fans out there – I was super sad to learn that she is closing down her line. Collette Dinnigan has always been one of my favorite designers (okay, I only own two pieces – but one was my senior prom dress!). I haven’t been able to find her main line in the U.S. for probably more than a decade now. You can shop her diffusion line, Collette, at Net-A-Porter – I’m not sure if that line will also going to be shuttered.


Have a wonderful weekend!