•S2EP1 An interview with Marie•
Elsie: Thank you so much for coming onto our podcast. It’s a pleasure. We’re really excited to have you here. We want to get your expert insight into the microbiome, but I think for the benefit of our listeners it would be useful to hear a little bit more about Gallinée.
Marie : Yes, of course. My name is Marie. I’m a French pharmacist. I started Gallinée in 2016. I always worked in beauty but it’s true that I always wanted to start my own company. When I got the idea about not only taking care of your gut microbiome (your good bacteria) but also your skin, I decided to start Gallinée. I was lucky enough to find some funding from friends and family and then I was able to start my own brand and it’s been almost four years now and it’s been doing well. I initially started all by myself in a little co-working space and now we are eight people ! With a new person starting next week. Sometimes I wonder how it’s all happening so fast. It’s probably the same thing for you guys (Elsie and Dominika). It’s definitely a moment where you kind of stop and look back.
Dominika: Talk us through how you made that leap from working in beauty to owning a brand.
Marie: I was working in beauty and I had a very technical background as a pharmacist, however I was always working in sales and marketing or business development. I was so lucky that I had the chance to work for Marcia Kilgore, when the brand was still quite small and I learned so much. At the time I had some weird autoimmune disease, I had to go through a very heavy treatment of immunosuppressants which made me look into bacteria and the microbiome and probiotics and prebiotics, when you change your diet, you can actually lower your inflammation level and that can help. So I went back to school at University of Pharmacy of Paris and I passed my thesis on skin bacteria and probiotics and I patented my thesis. I would say that got me into creating Gallinée.
Dominika and Elsie: We also asked Marie to tell us about how she maintains good gut health and her opinion on supplements.
Marie: So I tried to be a good girl and eat my greens, but also I’ve got kind of a hectic life but I have to say that probiotics help, so that at least we can maintain the good level of bacteria. But supplements do not fix your life so you must eat your greens !
Dominika and Elsie: We were so amazed by your (Marie) journey and your take on the microbiome which resulted in turning your own experience with an autoimmune disease into a business/brand. Taking the next step into opening your own business can often be scary, so we just want to know what it was like for you.
Marie: I always had a salary my whole life. So taking the leap was quite scary. But I was really lucky to live with a guy who had his own startup. He told me to write a business plan and that he would help me fund it. Tom was my earliest investor, so thank you Tom.
Dominika and Elsie: What everyone is super eager to hear about- the microbiome. The term ‘Microbiome’ has started to be seen everywhere. As Marie has based her brand’s philosophy around the microbiome, who better than her to explain a little more about it.
Marie: I think what we understood very early on is that the microbiome is not just a trend. It’s a proper way of seeing how to formulate products better, I think it makes sense to include probiotic and prebiotics in every cosmetic beauty product.
Dominika: So tell us more about the microbiome, it’s quite an easy concept to understand your gut bacteria when your gut is inflamed, there are side effects to that. But how does that apply to the skin? And what kind of ramifications do you see when the microbiome is out of whack on the skin?
Marie: You’ve got bacteria on your skin. That’s a good thing! The problem is that our modern lifestyles are so clean. We take a lot of antibiotics; we clean our houses and our environment a lot more, which means that you deplete your skin bacteria more and more. This can lead to inflammation. I think in cities nowadays, 70% of women are identified as having sensitive skin, this is skin that is red or inflamed.This is mostly self inflicted due to over-cleaning. In order to improve the microbiome the idea is to restore the skin bacteria- that you are supposed to have in the first place.
Dominika: Are there certain cosmetic ingredients like sulphates or any of the kind of foaming cleanser ingredients that actually strip your skin of the microbiome? Or are there any culprits that people can look out for in their products?
Marie: I always say ‘No alcohol please! No liquor for your face’. It’s fine to drink in small quantities for a healthy selection of bacteria in your gut (red wine is probably better). The next thing is soaps, which can actually be quite damaging to the skin. Your skin is slightly acidic, at a pH 5, therefore it is best to use products that are at pH five. Unfortunately natural soaps are very alkaline, which means that they will strip your skin of bacteria. It actually takes 3-4 hours for the pH of your skin to get back to the normal level.
Dominika: But correct me if I’m wrong, do you not have a soap cleansing bar in the range?
Marie: I keep calling it a soap and it’s not, it is a solid cleanser. When launched we were like ‘It looks like a soap’ but it’s not a soap, it’s just a cleanser in solid form. The cleanser bar is pH 5.8 which was a nightmare to develop. I just wanted a pH 5 soap as I know it’s going to be gentle, but full of lactic acid. In trials people would say ‘It’s like the best soap we’ve ever used, it’s amazing’. But then it came to mass production, that was a nightmare. Our soap was not behaving as well at all and kept sticking to the mould. Today we’ve got a patent on the manufacturing process and it’s the best soap ever.
Elsie: What about the frequency of cleansing then, if you’re saying that actually we are causing our skin to kind of deplete some of that good bacteria, should we not be cleansing as much?
Marie: This depends on your lifestyle. In winter when you are not working out, you might like shower once a day, which is okay. I would say to people try not to wash your face in the morning if you can because your microbiome replenishes at night and you have no real need to wash it in the morning anyway. For example with hair care, we wash our hair too frequently and damage our scalp bacteria by stripping it with shampoos. Shampoo is a new invention, before that people were not really washing their hair at all and everything was fine. That is what we kept in mind when we launched our hair care range. The whole idea was to treat more and wash less, so that the more you use the product the less you need to use the product.
Elsie: That was really interesting. Haircare is such an interesting step for a skincare brand. What was the thinking behind that?
Marie: I know when you launch in skincare you’re supposed to stay in skincare or wait a long time before branching out. But for Gallinee we are a bit different, we go everywhere that has bacteria. This year we are going to launch two new categories with hopefully loads of bacteria in them!
Elsie: So can you give us a clue as to what the new category is?
Marie: I’m obsessed with intimate hygiene, I already want to go there, because it’s viewed as a taboo subject and I think we should be talking about it so much more because it’s so important. We actually damage our vaginal microbiome a lot when the role should be to protect. If your vaginal microbiome is healthy, you can prevent some infections.
Elsie: I felt like there’s been a bit of a shift around intimate products like period products. There are a ton of brands who’ve come along and just said ‘It’s okay that we talk about this’ as we should .
Marie: I know that we did a newsletter on ‘The Mouth Microbiome’ it had the highest opening rate and people gave excellent feedback.
Dominika: In terms of your formulation patent, do you use prebiotics or probiotics? What’s the difference? Please talk us through what is innovative about Gallinée’s range in particular compared to the other brands that are producing microbiome orientated products?
Marie: The definition is always a bit confusing for everyone, probiotics is just another name for good bacteria and by themselves good bacteria, is not really anything very innovative in skin care because they’ve been used for a very long time by all brands because they were anti inflammatory. Probiotics have always been used and we use them too, but for the main effect you need prebiotics (the food for the good bacteria). Using prebiotics in skincare is quite cool because instead of just bringing new bacteria to your skin, you are feeding the bacteria that are already there. We also use postbiotics which are a produce of good bacteria; I’m obsessed with lactic acid because it is produced by good bacteria and will help them thrive by creating the perfect environment for your good bacteria on your skin.
Dominika: In terms of preserving, the role of a preservative is to kill bacteria, but it can’t really discern between good bacteria and bad bacteria. You (Marie) have water based products so therefore you have to include a preservative. How do you protect the efficacy of your patent?
Marie: In the European regulation, any water based product has to have early state preservative, which means that we have to include preservative, which we do at the lowest level possible and we pick preservatives that are not going to select actually between good and bad bacteria because you don’t want them to change the makeup of your skin microbiome. That is why we use sodium benzoate, which is the one that you find in contact lens liquid, which is nice and neutral. We use a very low level of it and we use lactic acid as a natural preservative by usingits acidity. We never use pots, so you don’t need to put your fingers and contaminate the product every time you use it.
Elsie: What are some signs that someone’s skin might be depleted? What are some of the symptoms of an unhealthy bacteria on the face?
Marie: There are two big groups, either you don’t have enough bacteria on your skin which leads to inflammation and that’s sensitive skin; or you don’t have enough bacteria on your skin and bad bacteria is taking up space. Resulting in two groups : you’ve got acne where your skin is taken over by the acne bacteria or you’ve got eczema when your skin is taken over by S. aureus which is another bacteria which leads to eczema inflammation.
Elsie: Do you get the reviews about how you have impacted people’s lives?You are tackling issues like acne and eczema which can negatively affect people, because when skin clears up people often feel more confident. We get reviews like that from people using our anti-inflammatory products, like CBD.
Marie: Yes we do! We always share them in the office, first thing monday is when we read the nicest consumer feedback.
Elsie: What is your current distribution?
Marie: I know it doesn’t sound like it but we are an English brand, we are based in London and you can find us in: Planet organic, Holland and Barrett, Look Fantastic and some pharmacies. We extended to France, where we are available in pharmacies and also perfumeries. We opened in Sephora, alongside BYBI in Southeast Asia, Australia and the US.
Dominika: So what is the dream for Gallinée ? You’re four years in, which is nothing in comparison to the age of some brands. So you’re still a baby skin care brand, but taking over the world with your good bacteria.
Marie: I think hopefully I would like to extend and in five years become a nice medium sized brand, that would be nice. I created the brand so that we could change the world of beauty a little bit because I had been working in beauty for 20 years and I always found it to be static. What I like with Gallinée is that we changed the way that beauty is formulated now. We tried to make products that will suit everyone, because I love the microbiome for what it means to be human. Your body is a planet and you have to take care of it, that’s a very nice message to pass around. I hope that we can keep on passing this message around for a long time to come.
Dominika and Elsie: If you had to recommend a single Gallinée product to our audience what would that be ? Also what do you have available in your hair care range ? You’ve been kind enough to share them with us.
Dominika: My favourite is the body lotion. I literally love that! I’m very excited to try the haircare actually. I’m going to make an order today!
Marie: We’ve got three products and it’s all based around fermented rice water, because in China they use fermented rice water and they have the most beautiful hair. We also have shampoos that do not foam, which is our best seller. Now we’ve got the mask and we’ve got like a spray for your scalp and for your hair. The whole range is around scalp care and hair care. I have bleached hair that was always a nightmare and now I can use my own shampoo .
Elsie: Can all hair types use the range? I have bleached hair and I have a hard time with products being on the right side of the spectrum.
Marie: Yes ! This is because it’s all about cleansing without stripping anything. It’s helping your scalp to auto-regulate, we have proof that it’s lowering sebum production, it’s a cool little shampoo that is trying to be as respectful of your hair and scalp as possible.
Marie: It means a little hen. I’ve been an immigrant for fifteen years and you always took it with a French cook in the French hens; so that’s my little feminist inside joke.
Dominika and Elsie: Thank you very much Marie!
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