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We interviewed Dr. Des Fernandes, founder of, and scientific director at, Environ Skincare. He shared his journey from cardiac surgeon to skincare innovator. In fact, he pioneered the revolutionary Cool Peel Technology! Naturally, we picked this world-leading skin science expert’s brain about intelligent skin peeling.

You can find out more about this in our How to Live Beyond 100 bookazine.

A plastic surgeon’s journey from heart surgery to skincare technology

Dr. Fernandes qualified as a cardiac surgeon from the University of the Witwatersrand and The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Following this, he worked with Dr. Christiaan Barnard (the human heart transplant pioneer. Certainly, working alongside someone who made history was extraordinary. Nevertheless, he realized, with time, that he was not emotionally cut out for cardiac surgery.

A heart surgeon has critical and demanding responsibilities. After all, their work can be life-changing. In the same breath, they frequently bear bad news for patients and their families. Therefore, it’s crucial to possess emotional capacity. Dr Fernandes explained that he worked hard on his patients. But there’s no guarantee a patient will live longer. Patients can die, despite one’s best efforts. This is far from rewarding, as one can imagine.

In contrast, plastic surgery paints a more gratifying picture. It can restore some form of normality for people facing bodily trauma. Not to mention, it can improve a patient’s self-esteem. So, Dr. Fernandes made the switch.

“With plastic surgery, people generally don’t die. You make their lives better. You also treat more people,” explains Dr Fernandes. “Cardiac surgery treats a few people with very intensive work. But with plastic [and reconstructive] surgery, you treat hundreds of people,” he adds.

Vitamin A is the cornerstone of healthy skin

Dr Fernandes had an interest in melanoma prevention. He set out to read everything people knew at the time about this malignant skin issue. Consequently, he stumbled upon vitamin A’s role in preventing the development of skin cancer.

He had, for a few years, by then, used vitamin A as a scar treatment. But, with his new knowledge, he started to notice beautiful skin on existing scar treatment patients. Moreover, vitamin A cleared up his patients’ acne-covered faces. Thrilled by this observation, he wondered if it could make a difference for his facelift patients.

The creation of a smarter skincare product line

The plastic surgeon explained that facelifts don’t look great on old skin. While the procedure tightens wrinkles, the face still lacks the rejuvenated look. Accordingly, he set out to first change a patient’s skin before they operate. Only, he had no cream to recommend. He realized he needed a cosmetic product to help the skin look younger.

Dr Des Fernandes, founder of Environ Skincare

Dr. Des Fernandes, Founder of Environ Skincare

Around this time, Dr. Albert M. Kligman published his results using retinoic acid (vitamin A) to treat acne. So Dr. Fernandes decided he’d do the same with cosmetic forms of vitamin A.

He worked out a formula for a cream and approached two companies to make it. While he was turned down, his vision persisted. Ultimately, he took product development upon himself. And so, he founded Environ and paved the way for smarter skincare.

“I thought, well, I really believe [in] this [cream]. I’ll make it myself,” shares Dr Fernandes, “So, I found a chemist who could help me to do that.”

Finding a safer peel for a rejuvenated look

Dr. Fernandes has major problems with traditional peeling systems. Certainly, chemical peels are a popular skin treatment. But not all of them are created equal. A renowned skin expert says people believe youthful results come from deeper peels. They think an effective anti-aging treatment means destroying the skin’s upper surface.

Largely, heavier peels stimulate a reaction in which the skin tightens. Of course, this can make the skin appear more youthful. However, this can have serious consequences on skin health after a while.

It’s harmful to repeat this skin cell destruction process. Frequent deep peels can lead to scarring, slow healing, and thin skin. What’s more, these peels are painful and uncomfortable. And the results don’t warrant the unpleasant experience.

Additionally, typical chemical peels rarely cater to different skin types. Skin therapists may apply a peel of the same strength on everyone. This explains why some people have worse reactions than others. Hence, Dr. Fernandes sought to deliver an anti-aging peel that safely stimulates skin cells.

Cool Peel Technology saves skin cells while stimulating them to do the work

The skin science authority decided to test the different strengths of TCA. But he did it in the form of a cream. At this point, nobody in the world had made something like this. From there, he attempted a layered approach to peels.

First, he applies a layer to someone’s face and waits 20 minutes. Depending on how the person feels, he gradually builds it up. Consequently, he found that people got results even with low acid exposure. It seemed that irritating the skin cells just enough released the growth factors. And this was an important discovery.

In fact, reading Mansi Srivastava’s work confirmed the role of growth factors in regeneration. This Harvard University researcher set out to see why salamanders regrow limbs – and whether humans can do the same. She found a genetic pattern in the epigenome crucial for releasing growth factors. And humans have it. But how do we stimulate this DNA chain’s activity? Well, a toxin on the cell wall, like an acid, does just that.

“We are trying to frighten the cell and make it think it’s going to die, but we’re not going to kill it. We want to keep it alive because it will release the growth factors,” explains Dr Des Fernandes, “The growth factors are probably released from little ectosomes. This is one of the ways these chemicals spread around, and then they instruct the fibroblast [a type of skin cell] to grow more collagen, etc.” 

Suitably, Dr. Fernandes created Environ’s Cool Peel technology. The system is non-invasive, customizable, and feels cool on the skin. Finally, you can comfortably reap the benefits of a peel suited to your skin!

This skincare technology is a layered and personalized process

Dr. Des Fernandes emphasized the importance of making a peel at the right strength for each person. So, his Cool Peel Technology involves painting a very thin layer the first time. But one can go up to six layers depending on the skin’s reaction. Ultimately, the aim is to achieve a stinging sensation. Once you meet this goal, the peel stays on for 20 minutes.

“Now, it sounds a bit strange that you should wait 20 minutes, but it’s such a safe peel that you’re not going to make it a deeper peel, just like that. You have to make it thicker to [achieve] the heavier type of peels. But I don’t believe we should be doing heavy peels. I believe we should do six relatively light layers,” discusses Dr. Fernandes.

Grab The Latest Issue of Longevity Magazine

Are you interested in learning about skincare technology?

Do you want to add skincare rejuvenation to your pursuit of longevity? Access a digital copy of our How to Live Beyond 100 bookazine via Zinio to find out more.

Alternatively, readers living in South Africa may purchase a hard copy in select retail stores.

Article Image Source: Environ Skincare

Watch the interview

Caela Bennett

Caela Bennett

Caela Bennett is a wellness content writer and holistic health coach. She hopes to enlighten people through powerful storytelling and offer clarity when navigating the noise within the realm of health. In addition, she guides others in awakening their self-discovery journey and embodying the best version of themselves. Her work is rooted in the philosophy of alchemy: turning metal into gold, i.e., transforming one thing into something better. While she is a maximalist in expressing herself through words, she is a minimalist in lifestyle pursuits.


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