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5 Things We Learned From Gallinée Founder Marie Drago

5 Things We Learned From Gallinée Founder Marie Drago

One of the privileges of working at Care to Beauty is getting to know our favorite brands from the inside. We love getting early emails about upcoming launches, attending exclusive training opportunities, and trying out skincare innovations before any of our friends. One brand we love hearing from is Gallinée, the world’s first skin and hair care brand to focus on the health and well-being of the skin microbiome. To learn a little more about the microbiome and the “dirty beauty” ambitions of this young French brand, we asked founder Dr. Marie Drago to sit with us for a quick Instagram chat.

Here’s what we learned!

Your skin is alive, and it’s all because of the microbiome

Gallinée is all about working with the skin microbiome. But what, exactly, is the skin microbiome? When we asked Marie to explain, her face lit up. “The microbiome is a super cool new area of science. The definition of microbiome is the community of microbes that live in you and on you,” she said. “What we understand is that they are here for protection. They teach your immune system to react to the bad guys, but not to react to the good guys. That’s why [the microbiome] plays a lot with inflammation. If your microbiome is damaged, your levels of skin inflammation will go up.”

So… does that mean the microbiome holds the key to the issues of sensitive and reactive skin? Possibly! Sensitive skin is at the heart of Marie’s concerns at Gallinée; as such, every Gallinée product contains a patented complex of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics. This trio supports even the most sensitive skin types, all the while promoting a glowing, healthy complexion. Moreover, the products are also formulated with a physiological pH.

The microbiome approach is also good news for those dealing with acne and eczema, as these two conditions are also caused by so-called bad bacteria. “It’s a very new way of seeing the skin, as something very alive, and it’s a very new way of seeing the acne and eczema treatments,” Marie said. “Instead of killing all the bacteria, we try to modulate the system so you can actually rebalance your microbiome instead of trying to fix everything.”

So how does one balance the microbiome? With prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics.

Prebiotics vs Probiotics vs Postbiotics: It’s not all the same!

We mentioned Gallinée products contain a mix of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics. But what’s the difference between all of those?

In short, Marie said, “probiotics is just another name for good bacteria.” In turn, prebiotics are what probiotics feed on, and postbiotics are compounds produced by probiotics. These postbiotics are just as beneficial to the overall system as the probiotics themselves. A healthy microbiome should have room for all three… but you can’t always find skincare that contains the full trio.

Probiotics in beauty products have existed for quite some time, because probiotics are anti-inflammatory. When you bring them to the skin, you can see less redness and less sensitivity,” Marie explained. “My idea was to bring not only probiotics, but also prebiotics to feed your microbiome, and postbiotics to create the perfect environment for your microbiome, and to associate the three. So that’s what we have a patent on, the association of pre-, pro-, and postbiotics.”

“What we put a lot of is prebiotics,” Marie continued. And you can make sure for yourself. Pop open the Gallinée Hydrating Face Cream, and you will notice a sugary-sweet scent, even though the product has no added fragrance. “It’s the smell of active ingredients. We put a lot of prebiotics and prebiotics are oligosaccharides, which just means little sugars. So [the product] smells like brown sugar.”

The same is true of the Gallinée Face Vinegar: “Because I’m a pharmacist, I love active ingredients, so I love when you smell them. Our bestseller, the Face Vinegar, has vinegar inside. We didn’t add any fragrance, and it smells a little bit like vinegar, but not too much.”

Overcleansing may be making your life harder

Everybody’s got a different relationship with cleansing. Those with dry skin know the pain of tight, overcleansed, squeaky-clean skin; those with oily skin pursue it in order to escape excess oil and sebum. However, we should all be doing our best to avoid overpolishing our skin. It’s our face, not a kitchen counter!

“Squeaky clean is not a good sight,” Marie said. “It’s dead skin, it’s really sad. It’s interesting, because everyone’s talking about clean beauty all the time, but I’m all about dirty beauty. You need bacteria on your skin, and it’s good, it’s supposed to be there. So there’s a little bit of education to do around that.”

And in case you’re wondering whether Gallinée is a clean beauty brand, check out what Marie had to say on the subject on the Gallinée blog: “the rise of clean beauty is mostly American brands wanting to bring themselves to European Standards. […] “In Europe, if you want to launch cosmetic products, we have the wonderful European Directive which is a very precise guideline of what you can and cannot put in a beauty product, and what kind of tests you have to make before it’s legal to put your product on the market. It is really useful to ensure that products are 1) safe 2) do what they say 3) say what they do.”

In short, if you like “clean beauty” because you want skincare products that are safe, transparent, and able to live up to their claims, you will find what you need at Gallinée. Take it from Marie, who is the world’s greatest fan of clinical testing: “If you give me one million I will spend it all on clinical research!”

It’s not just your skin! Your hair and mouth can also benefit from microbiome skincare

Gallinée launched in 2016 with a handful of products, mostly focused on skincare, but that’s not all that the brand has to offer. In fact, Gallinée is also home to microbiome-based hair care and dental care. Believe or not, Marie approaches all these concerns in very much the same way.

Here’s what she had to say on hair care…

“[Your scalp microbiome] is there to protect your scalp, it’s there to feed your hair with vitamins–it’s supposed to be there,” Marie explained. “And what we do all the time is overwash it. […] I was washing my hair every day and thinking ‘this is not how it’s supposed to be’.”

In order to fix this, Gallinée developed the Gallinée Soothing Cleansing Cream. This non-shampoo (“it doesn’t foam”) not only offers a gentle cleansing action, but also helps us space out how often we wash our hair. “I went from washing my hair every day to washing my hair twice a week now, which is massive progress.”

Rich in prebiotics and postbiotics, this cleansing cream is also rich in fermented rice water, an ingredient Marie noticed when looking at the hair care practices of the Yao women in China. “They have the most beautiful hair you will ever see,” Marie said, “and the only thing they use on their hair is rice water. It makes sense, because you ferment the starch from the rice, and it creates probiotics and postbiotics, and that’s probably what’s helping the scalp.”

When the Cleansing Cream hit the market, Marie received another interesting bit of feedback: it was also helping a lot of people with dandruff! “We didn’t develop the shampoo for that, but it makes sense,” Marie explained. “Dandruff is a disorder of the microbiome on the scalp, where usually you’ve got bacteria and you’ve got yeast. If the bacteria go down, the yeast will go up.” Marie quickly got ot testing the product on dandruff: “we got the result two weeks ago. We’ve got the first microbiome shampoo to actually work against dandruff. We’ve got minus 60% dandruff after four weeks, which is super cool!”

This, we learned, is the true Gallinée way: make the best product you can, and see where the clinical testing has to say about it!

And oral care…

“[The mouth microbiome] is really varied and rich, and twice a day, we try to kill it really hard, with really harsh toothpaste,” Marie said. “Everything that goes wrong with your mouth is a bacteria problem, so cavities, gengivitis, sensitivity, it is all because of one type of bacteria, Streptococcus mutans. You usually use antibacterial toothpaste to try to kill these bacteria, but 99% of the bacteria in your mouth are actually nice.”

In short, Marie wanted to produce a toothpaste that was less aggressive on the good guys, while retaining some action against the bad guys of the mouth microbiome. “It’s a massive 180º shift to do that, so we created this Gallinée Toothpaste, without any antibacterial elements. It’s still going to remove the plaque, because we’ve got clay inside, and after that, it’s going to feed your good microbiome. We’ve also got xylitol, which is actually killing Streptococcus mutans.”

This is impressive enough… but just wait until you hear about the mouthwash. It’s one of Marie’s favorite products from the brand!

Marie’s favorite products are all about innovation

This may have been a cruel question, but we had to ask Marie about her top three favorite Gallinée products. We sure have ours, but we wanted to hear it straight from the source! Here’s what she went with:

Gallinée Prebiotic Cleansing Bar

“I love it because it was so hard to make. I briefed my lab and I said ok, I want a syndet that’s going to be so gentle you can use it if you’ve got eczema, and it’s going to be the same pH as the skin, so pH 5, and it’s going to have lactic acid, and prebiotics. We did the testing, we tried it, and it was amazing.”

“And then we discovered it was really, really hard to manufacture. You’re not supposed to manufacture soap with pH 5, because when you press it in the soap mold, it sticks. Over 6 months of this nightmare, we developed a special way of manufacturing it, and I’ve got the patent on that. It’s the best soap you will ever use. The perfume-free version, you can use it on your face, body, intimate hygiene, you can use it on babies. It’s pH 5. If you’ve got eczema, it’s ok.”

And because it’s solid, it’s also plastic-free and preservative-free!

Gallinée Prebiotic Face Vinegar

For her second favorite, Marie chose the Face Vinegar, “because I do like to use it all the time, like if I’ve got an Instagram thing, for example, I’ll just spray it on my face on top of my makeup, and it works really well to give you good skin.”

If you watched our Instagram chat, you will also know that we love to recommend the Face Vinegar to everyone who needs a toner but is too fearful of the typical alcohol-based formulations. If you’re got sensitive skin and need a calming toner, this is a great option!

Gallinée Mouth & Microbiome Food Supplement Tablets

“I wanted to do a mouthwash, but for anything to work on your mouth microbiome, to support it, you’ve got to have a long time of contact, which means you’ve got to keep your mouthwash in your mouth for 15 minutes.”

That is a tremendous amount of time to be swirling your mouthwash around your mouth, so Marie came up with a solution. “We kind of did a solid mouthwash? The idea is that it’s a little tablet, we’ve got prebiotics, probiotics, and xylitol, and you just suck on it for 15 minutes, which is much easier. It’s going to cover the inside of your mouth with prebiotics and probiotics, feeding your microbiome, protecting it. It’s, of course, better for breath, but it’s also better to prevent cavities, and dry mouth, and irritation.” (Marie confided in us that she’s also received great feedback on the effects of this mouthwash on mouth ulcers.)

As for her reasons for loving this product, Marie said: “I love the innovation of it, I don’t think it existed before, a food supplement for your mouth, so anytime that we invent something weird, I have to say I like it a lot.”

Bonus: There’s a new star product coming in 2021!

We couldn’t let Marie go without asking her to tell us a little bit about upcoming releases. She kept her secrets, though! “We’ve got a very, very exciting product coming up. It’s a big innovation, and it’s oil-based. The clinical results are so good, we’ve got 21 clinical claims on it. It’s soothing, it’s made for sensitive skin, and it’s all about protecting the skin barrier. I cannot wait to talk about it!”

As for us, we can’t wait to see it as part of our Gallinée range! Thank you, Dr. Marie Drago, for lifting the curtain!

Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

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