By Zoe Bradbury
When Ebony Ilsley’s husband came home from work holding an orange tube and said the words thousands of people worldwide are desperate to hear; “I’ve got the cure for acne”, the beauty therapist from Melbourne was a little sceptical.
“Being a professional in the skincare industry I thought I already had all the tricks,” she says.
“Despite knowing never to treat my skin harshly or aggressively, I still suffered from adult acne,”
“So when Drew [my husband] came home and said his friend, an octogenarian scientist, had been working on this compound for over 30 years and it cured acne, I knew it was something I had to try, and that people needed to know about.”
Founded in 2014, Ebony worked with pharmaceutical scientists for over a year to develop the unique compound into a skincare range. In 2015, Real-U was born: now a range of five products that are results-driven, targeting the cause of acne and addressing the health of the skin, not merely just treating the symptoms.
It sounds like a concept that is too good to be true, but the testimonials and before and after photos of 100s of women with acne don’t lie. Their skin is clear, redness and angry spots reduced.
Bondi Beauty sat down with Ebony, the co-founder of Real-U, to talk all things acne, pimples and clear skin.
Like many of us, growing up, Ebony looked to the women around her for inspiration with makeup and skincare.
“From a very young age, my mum always said if you’re going to wear makeup, you have to look after your skin first.
“She was my inspiration starting down this line, so straight out of high school I studied to be a beauty therapist and I moved to Europe, continuing my studies in Paris.”
Ebony’s experience with acne didn’t actually begin as a teenager. It was when she was an adult that the troublesome and often emotionally scarring condition first hit her.
“My experience in the beauty industry told me not to treat my skin aggressively or harshly, because the skin doesn’t respond very well, but I was desperate to clear my adult acne,” she says.
“When my husband came home with this new technology and it worked for me and began to calm and clear my skin, I knew it was something we had to make available for the world.”
“Acne and pimples are largely caused by an overactive oil gland,” says Ebony.
“Acne prone skin is in hyperdrive, producing more oil as well as producing more skin-cells than usual. The combination of this combines to make the perfect environment for p-acne, which is the specific bacteria that contribute to acne,”
“This bacteria lives within the hair follicle and then your skin gets inflamed, and then you get pimples as a result,” she says.
An overactive oil gland can be triggered by hormonal changes (e.g. puberty – which is why acne is so common in teenagers – or the time of the month), lifestyle factors and stress, among others.
Additionally, acne doesn’t just effect teenagers. An estimated 50% of women and 25% of men will experience adult acne at some point in their lives.
For Ebony, her acne didn’t appear until she was 26, first targeting her skin with harsh peels, scrubs and products that stripped her skin, desperate to clear her skin. Yet it didn’t work.
Ebony says that what makes Real-U so effective is the focus on clean ingredients that don’t burn or damage the skin.
“Most acne products contain two common nasties that effectively strip the skin; benzol peroxide or salicylic acid,”
“We don’t have to, and we don’t want to use these ingredients in our range.
“We’ve instead developed our compound to be much gentler, so that it works with the skin instead of aggressively attacking it,” she says.
Pick up an acne-fighting product, and it’s almost guaranteed it will contain Benzol Peroxide (BPO).
Since its first use in 1930, BPO has been a primary inclusion in skincare products for it’s bacteria-killing powers, clearing the pores of acne-causing nasties. It also acts as an exfoliant; scrubbing away the dead skin cells, while assisting in the turnover of new skin.
And while this may have been an effective treatment in the 50s and 60s, Ebony says nowadays the ingredient isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
“Thanks to modern science, we now know that the skin is also covered with good bacteria which can actually help prevent acne,”
“So, going in with a “kill all bacteria” approach that strips and burns the skin is crass, because we want to keep the good bacteria there,” she says.
Additionally, BPO is incredibly drying, can cause redness and peeling, and if spilt on fabric, will likely bleach it.
As such, it can be a nightmare for people with sensitive skin, Ebony says.
“Your skin is not a T-Shirt where you wash it and then wait for it to dry. People think that by drying out the skin it can reduce acne, but it’s not getting to the root of the problem.”
Salicylic Acid also dries out the skin by targeting the excess oils found in the pores, called sebum.Salicylic is also used to peel off warts, while it also destroys keratein, which strips down and breaks the skin cells.
“Both of these ingredients effectively strip the top layer of skin, but we know now that this top layer of skin is really important, especially if the skin is acne-prone,” says Ebony.
Instead of these harsh ingredients, Real-U works it’s magic through a pH-balanced foaming Cleanser (RRP$22 AUD) that protects the acid mantle barrier of the skin, the natural barrier to bacteria, viruses and other pollutants.
Additionally, the Control Serum (RRP $40 AUD) helps to regulate oil production, while also clearing, sealing and healing the skin.
The three-step routine is then finished off with the Hydrate Moisturizer, which seals in moisture while soothing the skin.
“A lot of people tend to avoid moisturising when they have acne, because they don’t want to add even more moisture and oil to the skin,” says Ebony.
“This is a big mistake, because as soon as that happens the skin becomes dehydrated and sensitive, with the oil gland kicking into overdrive to try seal in and protect the skin from moisture loss.”
Developing a consistent, skincare routine containing cleansers, moisturisers and serums is a great way to prevent acne – but check the ingredients and ensure they are not abrasively scratching at the skin or drying it out.
“It’s really important with acne prone skin to keep the skincare routine simple. The skin is already hyperactive, producing too much oil and too many skin cells,”
“The skin can then get very confused because people are often throwing hundreds of products at their skin to combat, but the skin needs to be taken back to basics,” says Ebony.
Diet can also play a large part, says Ebony.
“Healthy foods that are rich in antioxidants can really help the skin. Things like papaya, omega threes and leafy greens are great for skin health.”
Other foods are known to cause hormonal spikes, which can lead to acne. Dairy, sugar and processed foods can often have adverse effects.
Real-U started as an online business in 2015, shipping now to 65 countries worldwide. It is now available in Priceline stores Australia-wide.
Real-U is also passionate about educating people on their skin and acne. Their blog provides a range of educational content on how to heal the skin from the inside out, while Ebony herself responds to consumer emails on how to best personalise their skincare routine.
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