Wellness and Renewal

Sapelo Skin Care Combines High-Tech Ingredients and Southern Charm

The brand is available at Saks Fifth Avenue, which reopens with limited hours on May 12.

By Heather Dunhill May 8, 2020

Sapelo Skin Care.

Sapelo Skin Care is one of those brands you'll love for a lifetime. Not only is it luxe, the products are also wrapped in the loveliest packaging, with designs that make me think of a beautiful objet found in a well-appointed Southern mansion. So it should be no surprise to learn that the brand is handmade in Savannah. Founders Stephanie Duttenhaver and Cindy Edward took note of the city's natural beauty, especially the rivers and creeks that swell with high tides twice each day, and followed those cues to craft a small-batch, non-toxic product. The twice-daily tinctures soothe and replenish the skin, boosting collagen, elastin and skin-cell restoration to give us the healthy glow we all want (especially as we spend more time indoors).

I gave four Sapelo products a go: the Gentle Seaweed Cleanser ($40), Milk & Honey Hydrating Mask ($75), Restoring Eye Serum ($95) and Spring Tide Serum ($195). I loved them all, and I will be returning to Saks Fifth Avenue at the Mall at University Town Center—which reopens with limited hours on May 12—for a moisturizer to complete my regimen.

The cleanser sets the foundation for the serums, leaving the skin feeling clean and oh-so velvety. And the serums are heavenly, with bottles dispense the perfect droplet of product. They're clearly designed by women who know we do not like to waste a good thing.

One of Sapelo's luxe serums

Then there's the Milk & Honey Hydrating Mask, another winner. After all the ups and downs of our Sarasota temperatures these last months, my skin needed a little love and felt re-textured and re-hydrated after using the mask.

Now, it may just be me, a woman from New York, who feels that Southern woman know…things. Such as how to deliver the hard truth with a smile (and you may even thank them for it). Or how to set a proper table for tea. Or in this case, the secret to aging gracefully.

So I had to know why Sapelo is so wonderful. Well, first, it is created in a pristine lab under careful supervision. There, Duttenhaver and Edward marry bio-active, Southern-inspired ingredients with a scientific system that mimics our body's natural healing process. It's my favorite kind of skincare: nature and science combined with cruelty-free ingredients, formulated without fillers, silicone, parabens, sulfates, GMOs, triclosan or petrochemicals.

What's more, Sapelo's formulations are a botanical profusion of gardenia stem cells, magnolia oil, oyster shell calcium, seaweed, essential oils and Georgia honey. Sigh. Now I'm craving a cold glass of sweet tea and a front porch.

Let's turn to Duttenhaver and Cindy Edwards for a quick Q&A.

Sapelo Skin Care founders Stephanie Duttenhaver and Cindy Edward.

Tell us the story behind the lovely brand name.

Cindy Edwards: Sapelo Skin Care is named after one of the beautiful, largely undisturbed, and under-developed barrier islands off of the coast of Savannah, Georgia. It is a nod to our inspiration of nature and heeding lessons from generations of southern women to be gentle with our skin.

Why did you decide to create Sapelo?

Stephanie Duttenhaver: Cindy and I both were looking for an authentic anti-aging strategy for our skin. We were seeing the first signs of aging, partly due to the effects of decades of southern sun exposure and to our unavoidable hormonal milestones! We were frustrated by the mediocre results of potions and lotions sold in luxury stores but were also wary of the quick-fix, invasive solutions, like dermabrasion, acid peels, and laser and light therapies.

My husband, a radiation oncologist, challenged me once with this comment: "When a radiation oncologist creates a laser burn on a cancer patient's skin, it's called a complication. But when skin is burned in a medical spa, clients pay for it. Does that make sense?"

The penny dropped—most mainstream dermatological procedures create damage to the skin; likewise, so do prestigious skincare brands containing retinoids and other acids. We realized that these strategies had one thing in common: creating havoc in the skin through damage and injury, then relying on the injury to recruit the body's immune system response to initiate repair and renewal.

When your skin is injured, your body releases a cascade of healing peptides, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to rebuild the damaged cells. We began to look at that cascade and wondered if we could replicate the restorative cascade in a skin care regimen that topically infused the same cascade but without the damage. It was at that moment we started to formulate the philosophy behind Sapelo Skin Care.

After three years of research, counsel with physicians and chemists, and the unerring support of friends and family, we launched our Three-Step Skin Recovery System. It is a gentle, stand-alone regimen that mimics our body's natural immune system response to injury but without the injury.

Sapelo Skin Care.

It feels soothing to hear that Sapelo heals and rejuvenates the skin—how does this work?

CE: We spent almost three years developing a product that nurtures and rejuvenates the skin gently and naturally by using Southern-inspired ingredients including gardenia stem cells, magnolia oil, oyster shells, Atlantic seaweed, bio-active peptides and micro-nutrients. We committed ourselves to only using the highest-quality ingredients in the highest quantity in our products.

For example: In our Renewing Serum, we use more than 4 percent hylauronic acid (HA) and a combination of three separate HAs at different molecular weights in order to flood the skin and really get down to all of the layers of the dermis, where new cells are produced. 

Speaking of repairing, what mistakes do we make when it comes to skincare?

SD: Relying on skin-damaging procedures and retinols as your anti-aging strategy. Our skin has an amazing capacity to heal, but that capacity is not unlimited. With repeated injury to your skin, year after year, your skin will thin —we believe it leads to accelerated aging.

SD: Don't use acids to exfoliate your skin; use enzymes. Acids burn the skin, whether they are dead surface cells or healthy ones. But enzymes "eat" dead skin and leave healthy skin alone. Once you have removed the dead skin, that encourages a healthy environment for your complexion. I also do not like face scrubs. Use a soft cotton washcloth (I love baby washcloths!) to gently cleanse and remove dead skin.

We are all in a moment of retreat right now—please share a Sapelo recipe for self-care.

SD: I love breakfast smoothies. Most mornings I will blend my favorite fruits, yogurt, cranberry juice, chia seeds and a collagen powder, which is full of peptides and amino acids, to make my daily concoction. My favorite collagen supplement is Beauty Collagen by Vital Proteins. It was developed to support collagen and hyaluronic acid production in the skin and hair. And it is manufactured in the U.S.—that means a lot to me- especially in today's environment.

Lastly, what advice would you give to women growing a company?

SD: Never turn down an opportunity to introduce or present your company's philosophy to an individual or group. As women, we are multitaskers and always juggling work, home, family and social connections. Cindy and I are no exception—we wonder how can we squeeze one more engagement into our day. The extra preparation and time you spend presenting your business at a small gathering or a grand occasion can often feel unwelcome or inconsequential. However, we have learned over and over again that every time we put energy out into the world, something of value always comes back to us, and that keeps us motivated and moving forward.

Sapelo Skin Care is available at Saks Fifth Avenue, 120 University Town Center Drive, Sarasota. The store is offering curbside service for purchases, returns, exchanges and alterations between 12-4 p.m., and plans to reopen to the public with limited hours—12-6 p.m.—on May 12. Call (941) 364-5300 for more information.

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