By Katie Weisman
Some of the ingredients in Sapelo Skin Care read like a fairy tale: oyster shell extract, Irish moss algae, gardenia, magnolia pines, and fennel, among others. But Sapelo, an independent luxury brand from Savannah, Georgia, embraces the reality of proven science-based formulas and is making a difference in beauty regimens.
“We replicate the immune system response to damage in the skin,” explains co-founder Stephanie Duttenhaver. “When your skin is damaged, it releases a cascade of cytokines,” cells your body discharges to repair damaged or inflamed cells. “We took that theory and went in search of Southern ingredients—gardenia, magnolia pines, seaweed— to support this process.”
Sapelo, founded by Duttenhaver and her friend Cindy Edwards in 2016, is all about nurturing, instead of abusing, your skin. When women flock to microdermabrasion or chemical peel appointments, they don’t realize that these “renewal” techniques actually damage the skin, observes Duttenhaver. She and Edwards, who met running the Savannah Book Festival as volunteers, conceived Sapelo to focus on skin nourishment using ingredients that the body can use to heal itself.
This science seems evident in Sapelo’s 3-Step system that includes the Renewing System brimming with powerful ingredients, including gardenia stem cells and a whopping 4 percent concentrate of hyaluronic acid; the Rejuvenating Cream boasting five collagen-boosting bio-active peptides, among other ingredients; and the Softening Emollient rich with lipids that works to protect the repairing and hydrating benefits from steps 1 and 2 from evaporating. The Spring Tide Serum is one of the rarest skincare products in the world, and the first in the USA, to use the extract of unfertilized salmon eggs, Arctic Red Caviar, at a 5 percent concentration rate. Sapelo claims that this bio-active ingredient was proven effective for skin repair and improved appearance in a clinical Phase III, doubleblind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Later this year, Sapelo will launch a new serum with a high percentage concentration of a hyaluronic acid blend and “a lot of seaweed.” It will be the most expensive product in the collection retailing for $400 for 20ml. Significantly, Sapelo adheres to strict European regulations on cosmetic ingredients, which ban or restrict over 1,300 chemicals compared with the U.S., which bans roughly 30.
Sapelo Skin Care is the result of Duttenhaver and Edwards figuring out “what’s next” after the book festival. Previously, Duttenhaver had a career in marketing, notably strategic planning for a national nonprofit. Edwards, with a degree in journalism and public relations, worked at the Burn Center at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital before moving to Savannah. The company is self-financed, and a minority stake is held by Bona Fide Beauty Lab, an incubator owned by esteemed beauty and luxury goods veteran Pamela Baxter and uber marketer Cathy O’Brien for independent beauty brands.
Duttenhaver and Edwards say that Sapelo’s approach reflects traditional Southern sensibility where women would take care of their skin simply and regularly as part of their daily hygiene. This ritual is perfectly expressed by Sapelo’s slogan: “Modern Skin Care Inherited from the South.”
The collection is sold on the company’s website, along with other e-commerce sites, including Saks Fifth Avenue. Saks also carries Sapelo in its Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama, stores and is testing it in other markets. A handful of upscale spas and Southern hotels also carry the brand. Prices start at $40 for the Gentle Seaweed Cleanser and go up to $260 for the Step One: Renewing Serum.