We spoke with the director of Issada Skincare, Deb Farnworth-Wood, about company growth, what makes Issada different and the road to the 95th Academy Awards.
Issada Mineral Cosmetics and Clinical Skincare is Australian-owned and cruelty free, providing skincare and makeup products that focus on product quality and skin health.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how Issada got started?
I’ve had a varied career background which started in the UK and eventually brought me to Australia in 2007. My background is a combination of Hospitality, Retail and Health businesses. In my early career, I was often the youngest in various roles or one of only a few women in senior posts. I was also the first non-doctor to become a partner in General Practice in the UK, opened the first British drive-through pharmacy and even turned a 2200m2 submarine circuitry factory into a one-stop medical centre. Here in Australia, I am best known for founding the Australian Skin Clinics Franchise which I sold in 2019.
Where do you get your inspiration for expanding your range of products?
After 16 years in the aesthetic industry, I understand what the beauty-conscious individual needs. My goal is to provide exceptional outcomes and products that work, so we emphasise staying abreast of new developments and trends. This isn’t something I do alone – my whole team is focused on looking ahead and creating our own trends. Back at the beginning of Issada Skincare, we started to use a gentler alternative to Retinol in one of our products which were barely heard of – since then, other brands have followed suit.
What is the process you go through from coming up with the idea to the product being released?
We start with the problem we want to solve, and then our formulator researches ingredients and generally looks for new and innovative ways to tackle the problem. There is a lot of trial and error in creating formulas and sometimes dozens of variants can be made for testing. We never test on animals and have no shortage of staff, family, friends and customers willing to try products for us.
I also still have my original clinic, which is now called Ultimate Skin & Body Clinics in Ashmore on the Gold Coast, and here we trial both retail products and professional treatments too. Once we have a formula we’re confident with, there is a whole series of stability testing to ensure it will remain true on the shelf, especially in the tropical Queensland heat.
How does your experience in the health, aesthetics and beauty industries reinforce your goals for the company?
My general philosophy has always been that I don’t necessarily want to be the biggest, but I do want to be the best. I don’t cut corners. I’m aware of medico-legal matters and also of medical ethics. These things run deep in my DNA and although we are a makeup and skincare business, my emphasis is on skin health, not just beauty. We launched Issada Clinical Formula skincare specifically to be highly effective, potent formulas at that level.
What makes your skincare and makeup products different from other ranges on the market?
Over the years, one of my frustrations was always that most skincare companies have one or two amazing formulas, yet most of the others are unremarkable. For example, I recently tested a well-known brand that was marketing six different cleansers, but the ingredient list demonstrated that it was 99% the same product with less than a 1% difference in the ingredient list of each formula. This is a cost-effective way to make skincare, but 1% ingredient difference will not be particularly effective. So, when we formulate, we tackle each variant from the beginning so that each formula is unique, from the base, through to the active ingredients.
Turning to makeup, we are very particular about the sources of products and their potency. Our makeup is highly pigmented (if you have ever been frustrated trying to apply eyeshadow or cheek colours and wondering why there’s so little colour, this is because the pigments are poor quality), but also soothing, calming and treating the skin. Issada Mineral Makeup is safe for all skin types, including acne sufferers, post-treatment, sensitive skin, excess oil, dryness and so on. We also have one of the broadest makeup ranges available in the skin-health space, with over 300 products.
How did the opportunity to be the skincare brand in the gift bags at the 95th Academy Awards come about?
We had a superfan with contacts in the LA gifting suite, and she put Issada forward. To be honest, we didn’t really plan it, and once we heard we were in the award bags, we quickly gathered our Hollywood selection. We plan to release this as a retail offer simultaneously with the awards.
How did you select the products to be included in these gift bags?
It was a tough choice! We wanted the most effective products for each celebrity but obviously couldn’t assess their skin so we went for three effective products which we knew they would love. The first was our Daily Gentle Cleanser which will take off even the heaviest of celebrity and stage makeup, paired with our no-traces makeup removal pad. We included our newly launched Anti-Ageing serum which has been showing impressive results within 30 days of use, and we paired that with our Calming Probiotic Moisturiser, which contains lactobacillus to restore the skin biome. It is also soothing and hydrating for post-celebration skin! Finally we included an Issada headband and cosmetic bag for good measure.
What is your own go-to product?
I can’t narrow it down to one item! I have dehydrated and reactive skin so my favourites in skincare are the Issada Niacinamide + B5 serum which is calming and soothing for redness, paired with our Replenishing Moisturiser. In the makeup range, I’ve been using our fabulous CC8 Foundation for more than 12 years and I pair it with a dusting of our Beach Babe Baked Bronzer, which provides me with a beautiful natural looking glow.
Beyond the Academy Awards, what does the future look like for Issada?
We are in discussions with several potential international partners in the UK, USA and Europe which is very exciting, but our immediate focus is to continue our expansion throughout Australia. We were recently lucky enough to secure product placement in a new movie currently being filmed on the Gold Coast which is wonderful given our Queensland roots.
Where is your favourite place to travel in Australia?
I feel quite privileged to live on the Gold Coast where we have everything we need and lots of sun and good weather with it. For a while, I felt like I only saw Australia shopping centre by shopping centre during the growth period of ASC so since then I’ve focussed less on cities and more on beaches. So far, my absolute favourite place is Lizard Island – I just loved the incredible snorkelling around the reef and the relaxed and lazy feel there. Other favourites are Melbourne (for shopping and shows), the Mornington Peninsula (for a relaxed break) and Noosa for a quick getaway – but I’ve so many more places to get to yet!
To read more interviews with Aussie entrepreneurs, check out our chat with Stuart and Chris from WilsonPayne. Check out more from Issada Skincare here.