When it comes to skin care, often the most powerful ingredients are given to us by the earth. It could be the moisturizing effects of coconut oil slathered across legs during winter, or the exfoliating properties of citrus rolled gently across the bridge of our noses. The earth holds many special powers to help heal and rejuvenate the skin, and sometimes, these ingredients can be found growing in our own backyards.
This is very much the case for what could be 2018’s breakthrough skin care ingredient: the fern. Growing seemingly everywhere in the rainy forests of the Pacific Northwest, the fern, or pteridophytes, is vibrantly green in colour and potent in scent. Despite its unassuming ubiquity, the plant is what Dr. Timm Golueke of Germany’s Royal Fern calls the secret of the forest.
“In different cultures all over the world, in Latin America, in Russia, in Korea, people are using the fern against skin inflammation,” explains Golueke, settling into Holt Renfrew Vancouver’s sleek Apartment private shopping area. The Munich-based dermatologist shows off the Phytoactive Royal Fern skin care line, all of it wrapped in minimal white packaging; the brand font is beautifully written in an enticing green.
Golueke has worked as a dermatologist for over 15 years. During that time, he set out in search of a skin care line that could target a series of ailments endured by his patients: the inflamed skin (rosacea, acne), but also hyperpigmentation and dehydration. “Your patients keep on asking you what they should use because everyone is lost in beauty heaven,” he says. “And then, of course, you start creating your own skin care.”
When Golueke witnessed the consumption of ferns in Korea, he was enchanted by the plant’s medicinal properties and knew he had found his secret weapon. “People cook soup out of it because it’s so strongly anti-oxidative,” he says, hands crossed over his legs. He describes watching monks cut and cook it right before his eyes, preparing to consume it for aiding digestion. This led to his own research (he has a background in dermal histology, where he completed his post-doctorate at the University of San Francisco’s Dermatopathology and Oral Pathology Department). “I read a study from Sloan Cannery, which is a cancer hospital in New York,” he recalls. “And they give fern supplements to melanoma patients because fern [protects] the cell DNA from UV rays.” Who knew such powers were locked within this plant’s friendly fronds?
In 2015, Golueke, alongside biochemist Dr. Leonhard Zastrow, launched the Phytoactive Royal Fern line in New York’s Bergdorf Goodman. The two also established a growing centre for Osmunda regalis ferns just outside of Munich in Bavaria, where the company was founded and is still based (though it also sources some of its plants from France). “We use the leaves and the roots,” says Golueke, as he twists the top of the Anti-Aging Serum vial. “Think about what fern does in the woods. It’s the moisture-keeper of the woods.” The smell of the serum is dynamic: musky at first, but like ground-up mint leaves or tea tree oil, a pleasant, astringent smell soon takes over. It contains hyaluronic acid for hydration, says Golueke, and it can be applied under the Royal Fern Anti-Aging Rich Cream or Anti-Aging Cream.
All products contain what Golueke says are the “gold standard” of anti-aging ingredients: Vitamin C, Vitamin A (retinol), and hyaluronic acid. “Those are study-proven, they work,” he adds. Expect to find other interesting ingredients like avocado oil in the nourishing Hydra-Firm Intense Mask (which can be worn during sleep), soothing chamomile and brightening niacinamide in the Anti-Ageing Eye Cream, and disinfecting green tea in the Cleansing Balm, which Golueke says is the most popular.
Outside Holt Renfrew’s doors, gardens, forests, and flower beds dot the streets of Vancouver. There’s no telling what other secret weapons for skin care lie within their soil.
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