By COLLEEN SPARKS, GSN Staff Writer
Finding the perfect mix of moisturizers, serums and cleansers to clear up acne, reduce wrinkles and otherwise achieve healthy skin usually requires scientific experimentation.
Now, family-owned skincare company Skin Actives Scientific has an easier time doing just that after opening its first store at Chandler Fashion Center.
Mother and son Hannah Sivak and Jonatan Funtowicz started the company in 2005 solely as an online enterprise, first creating products out of Sivak’s home.
The skincare company, which manufactures most of its many skincare and hair growth products in Gilbert, aims to give customers honest products at affordable prices.
The help of the Chandler Innovations business incubation and entrepreneurial development program sparked recent company growth.
Skin Actives recently made a two-month commitment to have the pop-up store in Chandler Fashion Center near Nordstrom and the company will see how it goes, according to Funtowicz, CEO and co-founder.
His mother, Sivak, a former biochemistry professor and longtime health advocate, is co-founder and director of scientific research for Skin Actives.
“Unlike most personal care companies, we develop and produce ingredients that the body uses to repair and defend itself,” Funtowicz said, explaining:
“By integrating these ingredients into a complete line of finished products, we help men and women regain and retain the natural beauty of their skin and hair in a safe and sustainable way. Beyond the ready to use products, we also will be providing education and ingredients for those interested in taking full ownership of their skin care routine by mixing their own recipes.”
After selling their products for a decade online, Funtowicz said, “We are incredibly excited to be able to display our products to members of our community in such a great location.”
Funtowicz said Skin Actives Scientific is “very ingredient oriented” and began with 100 of them.
“Depending on the mix, you can make different products and have different effects,” he said. “Instead of one product that does everything, specific products (help) specific needs.”
Skin Actives Scientific moisturizers help people with acne and are “awesome products for people that have rosacea, eczema, psoriasis,” Funtowicz said.
“Our specialty is in helping people that have real needs, helping them long term,” he said.
“Your needs will change because the body will need different nutrients and different ingredients,” he said. “The idea is as you age you need different things, the products become more complex.”
The collagen serum is the most popular Skin Actives Scientific product and the business boasts of its ability to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and enhance overall texture and tone, Funtowicz said. He added people can leave it on all day and put sunscreen on top of it.
Skin Actives has four collections designed to meet specific skincare goals: flawless, ageless, glowing and hydrating. Each collection has creams, serums, cleansers, masks and other products. The serums also come in regular and vegan forms.
Customers can start with a basic cream and add ingredients if they like, or start with a moisturizer and add their own active ingredients and even just buy ingredients not readymade.
People can come into the store anytime and get help mixing ingredients with a list that “looks like an ice cream parlor,” Funtowicz said.
Skin Actives does not test on animals, but its employees try out products.
“The products are designed with science, but trying to figure out what works best for a specific person takes trial and error,” Funtowicz said. “Everyone’s skin is different. You need to be patient. You need to try a product for two or three months. You want to have a scientific approach to what helps you.”
He and his mother are no strangers to science. Sivak finished her doctorate research at the Institute for Biomedical Research in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and she has published over 60 papers internationally and wrote a book, “The Scientific Revolution in Skin Care.”
She worked as a research fellow at the Universities of York and Sheffield in the United Kingdom from 1980 to 1990 and taught as a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Michigan State University from 1990 to 2002.
Funtowicz earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and an MBA in Materials and Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University.
He also earned a master’s degree in energy and environmental studies at Boston University. Funtowicz had worked in logistics in Detroit, Michigan for DHL, a transportation company, prior to working for Skin Actives.
Funtowicz said his mother “did research on the chemistry of plants and starch.”
“She understands when you talk about what’s good about a lemon in skincare,” he said. “We talk about the chemicals that are found in a lemon. What we focus on is the chemicals in the plants and the allergy and everywhere as opposed to whether something’s organic or not.
“We’re focused on identifying the chemicals and how they operate on a physiological level with the skin. There are very dangerous natural things and there are very good synthetic things, and part of our mission is to educate customers.”
Skin Actives also has a hair care line. Its Double Action Hair Serum helps “strengthen and grow hair” and “should slow down the graying process,” Funtowicz said.
Funtowicz said an experiment he and some employees did showed the positive effects of the hair serum on men’s beards and on the top of his head, where it “increased the weight of my hair.”
The company also makes a Brow and Lash Serum that aims to make brows and lashes that look “thicker, stronger, and healthier,” the website said.
Lauren Whitaker, head of development at Skin Actives Scientific who works at the Gilbert headquarters, said the business stands out because of “how much of an ingredient they use.”
“A lot of (skincare) companies are trying to use just enough to get it on the label,” Whitaker said. “Dr. Sivak wants a high concentration of whatever active (ingredient) she’s going for that can make the skin benefit from it. Our catalog is huge.
“There are so many things that can benefit the skin. We have such a huge arsenal of ingredients.”
Kathryn Lyon, customer success manager at Skin Actives Scientific, said the “efficacy” of the products sets the company apart from the competition.
“The efficacy and just the variety that we have,” Lyon said. “We really focus on products that are gonna help the skin no matter what your concern. We have products for so many different skincare concerns.
I think that’s why our customers come back is because the products work for them. A lot of our customers like the customization aspect that they can start from scratch and use base cream and add all the ingredients they want or buy one of our readymade products and just add a little moisture.”
Holly O’Rourke, 31, of Scottsdale is a happy Skin Actives Scientific customer. The Scottsdale professor of statistics at Arizona State University has been using the products for about a year.
“One of the reasons I was immediately interested in trying Skin Actives products is that they use an evidence-based approach to product development, and provide research study results to demonstrate product effectiveness,” O’Rourke said. “As a researcher who uses the scientific method in my own work, this was really appealing to me as a customer!”
She said she loves the Brow and Lash Serum “because it’s simply the most effective lash serum I’ve ever used.”
She said she also loves the Every Lipid Serum as she has “naturally dry skin and it’s exacerbated by the dry desert weather here, and the ELS serum keeps my skin so hydrated!”
Funtowicz said the City of Chandler and residents have been supportive of his and his mother’s company.
The council members in Chandler have been great,” he said. “The City of Chandler has helped us out with the publicity. The City of Gilbert has been amazing.”
He said the Chandler Innovations program was “really awesome” and is helpful to “mom and pop stores, which is what we kind of were.”
The city business and incubation and entrepreneurial development program is sponsored by the city but powered by nonprofit NACET and helps startups build and grow to viable companies.
Online sales for Skin Actives Scientific have grown to over $2 million via online sales and distribution agreements that sell the products around the world.
Besides selling to the public, the business also does private labeling so salons, spas and other businesses can make their own product and put their names on it.
Skin Actives Scientific is open during regular Chandler Fashion Center hours. Information: skinactives.com