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Gallinée founder Marie Drago on 'happy' skin and probiotics

January 1 | 3 minute read

Gallinee Founder Interview Hero 16x9

Originally published on | October 10

From gut-healing powders to fermented foods, pre- and probiotics are wellness buzzwords right now.

But could your skin reap the benefits too? Gallinée  founder Dr Marie Drago is changing the game with an unlikely skincare ingredient: bacteria. 

They say that every great scientist has their ‘ah ha!’ moment. For Marie Drago, a Paris-born, London-based pharmacist and founder of Gallinée skincare, that flash of genius occurred during a trying time in her own health. While seeking support to manage her health concerns, she began to introduce fermented foods into her diet.

“Taking care of your gut works so well,” she told us, which led to her wondering, “what happens if you care for your skin bacteria?” Read on to find out!

The idea of my skincare is not only to bring probiotics, foreign bacteria and new bacteria to the skin but to put your own microbiome to work
Marie Drago

It all started with Probiotics

Gallinée is based on the notion that happy skin needs happy bacteria. The microbiome is the name for all good bacteria and microorganisms that live on and in your body, and Gallinée is designed to support them. "I tried to look into the science of microbiome  and probiotics on the skin and couldn't really find anything." says Drago, who left her pharmaceutical studies fifteen years ago and has worked in beauty ever since. "So, I went back to school and passed my pharmacy thesis on skin microbiome and topical probiotics." It was from this research that Drago was able to create her own probiotic-rich formulations aimed at achieving supermodel-levels of crystal-clear skin.

Learning to Unlearn

OK, so this might go against everything we’ve been told since birth: bacteria = bad, clean = good. This is particularly true when it comes to skin problems: most anti-acne treatments aim to kill bacteria and if you suffer eczema, you’ve likely been prescribed antifungals or antibiotics since day one. This, says Drago, is where we’ve been wrong. "We’ve got a very clean lifestyle," she says. "We use a lot of antibiotics and antibacterials. We wash a lot, and yes, pollution plays a role too. But what happens is the damaged microbiome doesn’t do what it’s born to do, and so we get inflammatory reactions."

Like your gut, your skin carries its own bacteria. And these bacteria play a protective role. "The idea of my skincare is not only to bring probiotics, foreign bacteria and new bacteria to the skin but to put your own microbiome to work," Drago explains. "We do that by feeding your bacteria with prebiotics, which are nutrients specific for the good bacteria. We use lactic acid, which helps to select the bacteria on the skin and give them the best environment possible."

Gallinee Founder Interview 3x4 1a
Gallinee Founder Interview 3x4 1b

Doing things Differently

As if making something that didn't exist wasn't already a tricky feat in itself, Drago had her work cut out for her by wanting to make a gentle, hardworking probiotic-rich line that also felt luxurious to use. "I never really developed products myself, so I was a bit innocent in the process, which I think has led to products that have never been done before," she notes. Drago says she learned a lot from working for beauty entrepreneurs like Marcia Kilgore, founder of Bliss Spa and Soap & Glory, but she never had the confidence to go out on her own before this. "For example, I knew that cosmetic products are usually not made to support bacteria - everything you put in skincare is so that bacteria doesn't grow," she adds, laughing. "So we had to learn a very different way of doing things."

When Science and Skincare Collide

Drago's pursuits have led to innovative products, like the Gallinée Hydrating Face Cream, which is gentle, highly active and fragrance-free, but is packed with prebiotics made from a kind of sugar, so it naturally smells like gingerbread. "I chose efficacy over anything else, and I chose to not mask the smell," she says. "We are trying to work with the skin, not against it, so we don't put anything in that doesn't need to be there, and also we check that every single active we use is not going to irritate the skin." Other stellar products include a star  serum, a calming cleanser and a body and face cleansing bar that seems simple but was most tedious to formulate, because it needed to be pH 5, active, gentle and preservative-free, and, oh, and be delivered in a soap bar form. While this all may sound very technical, Drago is passionate about breaking down the mind boggling science of it all. In our conversation, she giddily mentions interviews with scientific leaders, findings from research papers and conferences, as well as everything you ever wanted to know about the microbiome. "I've always found science so fascinating, so I'm always so happy to share it and to talk about it," she says. "Everything we know about skincare is going to change and I just think that is really cool."

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