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Tell Me More: Patti Pao, Founder of Restørsea

Once you’ve sat in a room with Patti Pao, you’ll never forget it. Aside from her amazing line of skincare products coined Restorsea, she is a dynamic woman full of energy that rivals anyone I’ve ever met. My favorite thing about Patti is that she is absolutely no B.S., which is a refreshing trait to have in an industry as (apologies for this pun but…) skin deep as skincare. She values transparency in her products and in the people she meets. She can tell you everything about an ingredient, start to finish. Patti’s career is based on redefining expectations and showing people “Yes I can!” from her college beginnings to cracking the code on how to keep the key ingredient in her product active after many had failed before her. And thus, Restorsea was born. Naturally, we had to share Patti’s words of wisdom–we just couldn't keep them to ourselves.

You've been a major player in the industry for years! Tell us how you became involved in product development.

Growing up, I was told that I wasn’t good at math and science. So my first quarter, freshman year in college, I took organic chemistry and linear algebra for fun. I ended up receiving A+s in both classes. My lab partner in Organic Chemistry who was pre-med begged me to take the medical school prerequisite courses with him. So, even though I was a business major, I took them.

I applied to medical school and business school and was accepted to both the Harvard Medical School and Business School. I ended up going to the Harvard Business School but after graduation, took a job with Avon Products in Marketing/Product Development in skincare. I was fortunate to be mentored by three of the best dermatologists of the 20th century: Sheldon Pinnell MD, Albert Kligman MD, and James Leyden MD. They taught me everything I know about skin and introduced me to their colleagues. One of these people was Eugene Van Scott MD.  He spent 25 years of his life developing a molecule derived from sugar cane. This molecule was glycolic acid. I was part of the team who commercialized glycolic acid.  

We are all good at one thing. I realized that what I was good at was finding and commercializing innovative beauty technology. Since then I have been fortunate to create and launch over 400 beauty products in the fragrance, skincare and color cosmetics categories.

Tell us the story about how you came to start Restorsea.

I like to say that Restorsea started with a Hike, a Hatchery, and Hands. Prior to starting Restorsea, I had a consulting company. My work took me to Oslo, Norway. From 2008-2010, I visited Oslo 48 times and never saw the outside of Oslo. One of my clients was very offended about this and insisted on taking me on a three-day hike in Western Norway.

The first day of the hike took me 13.5 hours to complete. On day two, we were driving to the next mountain. I was desperately looking for a reason to not hike and I saw a really cute group of buildings sitting on a fjord. My client informed me that this was a very famous salmon hatchery. This hatchery is unique in that it is the only hatchery in the world that practices synchronized hatching. Synchronized hatching is where 200,000 salmon eggs are hatched simultaneously.  The reason for synchronized hatching is because all of the salmon fry are born the same size.

I wanted to see the synchronized hatching in action. I begged the hatchery to give me a tour and it was fascinating. The workers’ hands were in the water, herding the salmon fry into another tank, and at lunch, noticed that the skin on all of the workers’ hands looked significantly younger than the skin on their faces. When I asked why the hatchery manager introduced me to Professor Bernt Walther who created and implemented the synchronized hatching method. It took the Professor thirty years to figure out why the workers’ hands looked so much younger. He was the one who isolated the reason for the enzyme released by the salmon during the hatching process. He developed and received a patent on how to extract the enzyme from the post-hatching waters. This process is completely cruelty-free as no animals were harmed. All he did was to collect the water, store the water in a frozen state, and harvest the enzyme by thawing the water and extracting it through his filtration process.

However, the Professor had one problem: no one was able to formulate with the hatching enzyme without deactivating it. I asked him to send me a kilo of the enzyme, spent a year in formulation and, as a result, have 34 issued patents. We were the first company to be able to formulate skincare products while keeping the enzyme active.

In August of 2011, I sent lab samples to Pat Saxby, the Divisional Merchandise Manager at Bergdorf Goodman. She called me a month later to let me know that she was going to take the line. I was fortunate in that I was able to start my fundraising with confirmed distribution.

Your products contain an enzyme that's an alternative to retinol. How does that work? What are the benefits?

This ingredient, which is an enzyme released by baby salmon at birth, is unique because it is the only molecule that only exfoliates the dead skin cells and leaves the living cells untouched.

Every other exfoliant works by burning through layers of living and dead skin cells. This results in red, irritated and thinning skin that is sensitive to light. In contrast, our hatching enzyme sits at the top two layers of the skin and digests only the dead skin cells. When it has nothing left to digest, it unfolds and becomes inactive. It enables continuous exfoliation without any irritation!

We have two product lines:

Retail, which is sold through physician’s offices and on our website. This line is clinically proven to:

  1. Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  2. Reduce the appearance of dark spots
  3. Increases skin’s firmness
  4. Increases skin’s elasticity
  5. Increase the smoothness and softness of the skin
  6. Improve the appearance of skin clarity (looks more radiant/glowing)

And Pro, which is sold only through physician’s offices. This line differs from the retail line in that its products:

  1. Are formulated to help alleviate the symptoms caused by chronic skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, and acne
  2. Generally, contain a higher percentage of our hatching enzyme


You patented! What does having a patent on an ingredient mean for your products?

The enzyme is a biologic and is not patentable. However, the patent for the enzyme is on the filtration process.  It is very difficult to work with enzymes without deactivating them.

We own the exclusive rights to the enzyme.

And we have 34 issued patents giving us the rights to formulate with this enzyme in all cosmetics products. This means that the only place you can get this technology is from Restorsea.

Who should be using your products?

Our products are for people who can’t tolerate retinols. These are people who have extremely sensitive or reactive skin. Our enzyme is extremely gentle and all of our products are formulated with naturally-derived ingredients and do not contain: PEGs, parabens, phthalates, silicones, sulfates or mineral oil.

In your opinion, what should people look for when choosing a new skincare product?

You need to invest in skincare products whose technology is backed by third-party peer-reviewed studies that have been published in major medical journals. Peer-review is a critical part of the functioning of the scientific community, of quality control, and the self-corrective nature of science.

While there are a lot of great skincare products, there are not a lot backed by peer-reviewed studies. Just a little food for thought…

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