We recently sat down with wellness pioneer and the Founder of Immunocologie, Karen Ballou. She goes in-depth to discuss her experience as a beauty industry leader, prominent ingredients found in her skincare products, and her ongoing partnership with KNOSIS Physiotherapy & Wellness in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. She also delves into why the skin’s bio intelligence is such an important factor when it comes to evolving and expanding her skincare line.
Tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to start Immunocologie? What were some initial motivators that helped pave the way?
What inspired me to start Immunocologie was an honest way of living healthy and bringing health to the body by way of the skin! As a beauty industry leader and expert, the skin and skincare have always been of great interest to me – in fact, so much so that I wanted to work for the legendary Elizabeth Arden Company. I was inspired by Elizabeth’s purpose-driven brand designed to help those with problem-skin, and thankfully, I got the job! Getting that job meant so much to me and to my career. I thought I would never leave until I had the opportunity to work in the professional side of beauty for Redken Skincare when they first created a skincare division.
I was also blessed that my home state of Massachusetts was the first state in the country to recognize aesthetics as a profession and began to offer aesthetic education. It was the first time that skin specialists had an opportunity to apply their knowledge as professionals in a service as preventive care and corrective care of the skin. It was also a way to expand the cosmetology business because most people going to hair dressing school most likely didn’t want to work on skin, so opening the doors to a new segment of beauty – skincare – opened up economic opportunities to those seeking work as aestheticians and to people interested in developing brands to be used by professional aestheticians!
I felt that the additional education would lead to an opportunity for dermatologists where they could bring in an aesthetician – much like a dentist brings in a hygienist. And all of a sudden the skincare industry began an amazing expansion. I went on to get aesthetic license which led me to work for a small manufacturer of aesthetic products and equipment. It was all very exciting and entrepreneurial. I helped grow this small startup to a $6 million business at still a very young age. From there, I saw an opportunity to open an aesthetic school in Georgia – which also had favorable licensing, so I moved to Georgia, got my teaching license, opened an aesthetic school, and started teaching.
With the success of the school, I sold it and moved to Chicago where I started yet another venture – working with Aesthetic America for the National Cosmetology Association where I wrote educational curriculum and became a subject matter expert. At that point, it was really clear – aesthetics was here to stay because states across the U.S. started to endorse and license the profession!
As a leader in the industry, I began to work with companies to help develop skincare businesses and brands. This led me to develop more than 100′ products for a leading beauty development company. I set out on a journey to change the industry forever with a new approach – treating conditions of the skin not just skin types! I introduced innovation and technology – creating new product categories and enhancing product development by delivering new ingredients into skincare products in a way that had never been done before. For example, introducing salicylic acid to skin care formulations. It turned out to be a great approach – helping with inflammation and the removal of dead skin cells.
As I continued to innovate new products, I helped create an entirely new category – the serum category, treating the skin with the most potent ingredients – even for home use. During this time, I also opened a successful skincare clinic in the suburbs of Chicago, built it up, and sold it!
So with experience in all three disciplines – education, sales and product development, I felt I was ready for the next important step in my career. And I thought my career would go in a straight, predictable line. However, it was much to my surprise when an Ethno Botanist from France and a Virologist would ask me to work on a natural innovative approach for the skin. After some internal debate, I chose to do so. It was all about Green Clay, it seemed simple but it was not… it had skin health benefits that were extraordinary for the skin!
It was at this time I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and had to stop working and care for my health! So, for the next 5 years till I was told I was in remission and that the tumors were gone, and I could go back and live a healthy life. As a result, I focused almost exclusively on getting well. And, this is where divine providence intervened. The introduction to the Ethno Botanist and Green Clay – turned out to be my saving grace. In looking back, I realize now that two things got me through my illness – the Green Clay and the clay water I drank!
Now 10 years later – based directly on this experience, we now have 14 beautiful products with a delivery system of clay water in every product! A cleansing system that is everlasting and detoxing the skin with hydrating benefits for the microbiome and a serum set that pushes the skin for extreme results, finishing with our lock-in and seal moisturizing system that is a game changer for the skin. I’m very excited to say that the clay water is now in the final stages of development, and it will be available in 2024 along with our mineral based sunscreen!
French Green Clay is a prominent ingredient in some of Immunocologie’s products. Could you explain the benefits of French Green Clay for the skin and why you chose to incorporate it into your skincare line?
Our French Green Clay is prominent because it’s a natural resource that brings health benefits to our largest organ – the skin. This natural ingredient provides grounding for our body and our skin’s microbiome. The anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties add important benefits from the natural resources of the 12 essential minerals, such as iron, zinc, sulfur, magnesium, and copper to name a few and formed from the bentonite, kaolin and lava creating the most beneficial clays of all earth clays for our skin.
Sourced from France, there are additional benefits from the earth minerals and the environment from the residue of ancient oceans and sea plants adding a purification. The skin “recognizes” and utilizes these minerals, in fact it craves them – even skin that is unbalanced, immune-compromised and sensitive.
Immunocologie emphasizes the concept of “skin’s bio intelligence”. Can you elaborate on what this means and how it informs your approach to skincare formulation and product development?
The skin’s bio intelligence means is that the skin has a memory system. It knows what it wants and needs to be balanced. Each product works to enhance the skin’s barrier system as it transports the crucial minerals to the skin’s microbiome. The minerals hydrate and nourish cells, facilitate respiration, and fight the free radicals that cause visible aging as well as hypersensitivity, redness, and more.
So instead of harsh and aggressive interventions to fight aging, like chemical peels and laser resurfacing, we formulated Immunocologie to work with the skin’s own microbiome, enabling it to heal itself from the negative impacts of ultraviolet exposure, environmental toxins and everyday stress, leaving the skin healthier and vibrant from the outside in.
Many skincare brands claim to use natural and organic ingredients, but Immunocologie takes it a step further by prioritizing the use of bio-fermentation processes. Could you explain the significance of bio-fermentation in your products and how it sets Immunocologie apart?
To further enhance my formulas, we utilize fermented and cold pressed ingredients – including oil from the baobab, the fruit of the desert date tree, grape seeds, sunflower, moringa, and shea butter, which together offer powerful oligopeptides, high-potency antioxidants, and skin-supporting vitamins. This process of fermentation helps to easily absorb the actives in natural ingredients.
Through fermentation, microorganisms break down the molecules into smaller sizes so you can easily absorb the skin benefitting ingredients. Fermentation helps with skin sensitivities and reduces skin damage. It has skin benefiting properties that help amino acids, organic acids and antioxidants to better hydrate and nourish the skin.
The unique, plant-based formulations restore essential nutrients to the skin, reduce inflammation, deeply hydrate and thus balance the PH of the microbiome and support skin immunity.
Immunocologie has a strong focus on sustainability and ethical sourcing. Can you share some of the practices and principles you’ve implemented to ensure your products align with these values?
In the west African countries of Senegal and Burkina Faso, where many of the line’s ingredients such as desert date seed and baobab fruit are sourced, the company has cultivated relationships with local business owners that help develop the long-term growth of their operations. Each action has a regenerative impact, like replanting the fruits and plants. We respect natural ecosystems and integrate the economic, social, and political dimensions of human life.
Skin health is a complex and individualized concern for many people. How does Immunocologie address the unique needs of different skin types and concerns while maintaining a holistic approach to skincare?
Our extensive research shows that when someone experiences dryness, acne, or rosacea, they’re experiencing a disruption of the skin’s immune system. So, we have formulated products that help ALL skin types reach homeostasis or balance again. I believe that breakouts, redness, and sensitivity are all the symptoms of a breakdown in the microbiome.
We are also delighted that Immunocologie is a welcome option for anyone with immune compromised skin, such as those with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, asthma as well as, of course, those who have undergone chemotherapy and/or radiation.
What exciting developments or new products can we expect to see from Immunocologie in the future?
Sunscreen, Daily Moisturizer, and 7 flavors of clay tea.
Besides your website, where could we find Immunocologie products?
As a few key examples and we’re on a growth trajectory for significant expansion: Sephora, Tracy Anderson, Viviane Spa & Note to Self Spa in Philadelphia, By Request in Arkansas, Laguna Beach, and in Mexico City.
Please share more information about your partnership with KNOSIS Physiotherapy & Wellness in Manhattan and how potential clients can book an appointment with you?
Knosis is a center for holistic wellness and wellbeing. It is a 9,000 square foot oasis in the middle of Manhattan for sharing knowledge and insights about treating the whole person via fitness classes, wellness presentations, or specialized treatments. As a collaborator with Knosis, we care for the skin through a mind body experience. Our signature facial is like none other, a skin health approach to reach the optimal glow and firmness for all!
You can book the signature facial by reaching our Concierge service at email@example.com and we will follow up with a day and time.
Tell us more about the Lava Mask, its unique benefits and why it’s so sustainable!
Our Lava Mask is truly unique. When simply mixed with water – the magic just starts to happen. Immunocologie’s patented black lava, 12 essential minerals, marine algae, and hibiscus essential oil began to heat up and when luxuriously applied to the face, can instantly produce radiant skin. In fact, your skin will be beautifully balanced and hydrated in just a few minutes – while you get to relax – feeling the warmth of an amazingly pleasurable mask experience.
Please enjoy our Lava Mask video: https://immunocologie.com/collections/all-products/products/lava-mask?variant=39297424883785