It’s Deeper Than Skin™
It’s Deeper Than Skin™ is a compilation of interviews featuring diverse multicultural individuals each carrying unique aspirations and desires yet bound by a common passion to create a more joyful, diverse and inclusive space for us all. They inspire, empower and help transform the way we think and feel about beauty, culture, ancient traditions, diversity, mental health, societal standards and more. Through these multifaceted lenses, we learn to celebrate our uniqueness and are reminded once again that our beauty is deeper than skin.
We speak to microbiologist and skincare guru Elie (@skinsciencezaddy) from Barbados, who combines his knowledge of skin education, love for photography and background in science to present easily digestible science-that we absolutely love! Besides being a skincare expert, Elie is also a champion of the LGBTQIA and BIPOC community for greater inclusivity and diversity in the beauty industry. He also constantly raises awareness of global issues around the world, advocating for a more compassionate online community.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm always at a loss for words whenever this question is posed to me since I never know what to say! I tend to leave it at: I love rum, the beach, food and all things microbes.
As a microbiologist, what inspired you to join the online skincare community?
Years ago I was struggling with my skin, and it worsened when I began grad school (it was rough). At one point I grew tired of going through product after product based on others’ "I swear by this" claims and said to myself, "skin is part of our human biology—let’s read up on it and the ingredients that can help mitigate or remedy issues from the root cause." Figured I’d put those years of schooling to use (haha). In doing so, I realized that the information out there was extremely complex, disorienting and often contradictory. I made it a mission to understand things to better help myself, and then discovered that this is really no different from scientific research—you have a question you want answered, you do your research and then you apply what you know. In gaining an understanding of these things, you’re able to better explain the same things to an audience who is seeking the same sort of information but in a far more digestible manner. I love educating people and science communication is something that I’ve always been passionate about—and I figured, why not combine these things I love and enter the vast online skincare community?
Tell us about your skin journey and how would you describe your current state of skin?
Earlier, I mentioned having some issues related to the stress of grad school: painful breakouts mostly. I eventually began reading and doing things for my skin that would restore, heal and treat it in order to get to a place where my skin not only looked healthy but was healthy. I am now at the stage where I am far more selective and intentional with my product choices rather than wanting to try everything that I can get my hands on. I feel like I finally have an understanding of the nuances of my skin—what it loves, hates, triggers and how to manage it. I’m pretty happy with my progress and can confidently say that I am happy with my skin now because it is comfortable, healthy and happy.
What is your current skincare ritual?
I keep it pretty simple. As someone who sweats and works out a lot and lives in a hot and humid climate (while being a big hairy Syrian guy), cleansing is paramount. So I cleanse with gel cleansers twice a day. In the morning, I use LRP Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel cleanser as it is gentle, gives me a nice lather and leaves my skin clean and hydrated. In the evening, my die-hard face cleanser is the iS Clinical Cleansing Complex—I adore this cleanser! It has an amazing glide on the skin, gentle lather and does an amazing job of exfoliating the skin without being harsh for me—it is my perfect cleanser. I’d sometimes double cleanse with the Murad Prebiotic Cleanser. It’s really quite nice and includes prebiotics! A throwback to my microbiology days (haha). After cleansing in the AM/PM, I follow up with Sachi Skin’s Triphala. I love this! It’s nourishing without being heavy, antioxidant-packed and I’ve noticed some changes in dark spots I’ve collected over my years of sun abuse. I’d then layer on a sunscreen over that in the AM and that’s it—super simple.
We love your Instagram feed and the visuals you created. Are you a self-taught photographer?
Thank you! That means so much to hear. I really need to get back at it but I am struggling to manage my time these days. My interest in photography began back in the day when I would steal my dad’s old Fuji film camera and snap photos of everything! Then he lent me his Yashica—that was an old camera—which was a vintage SLR. I loved using that! I would just snap photos of everything until I learned what my perspective was. I quickly realized it’s never about the quality of what you’re taking, but your perspective on what part of yourself you can convey to an audience.
Where do you get your design inspiration from?
Continuing from the previous question, there’s vulnerability attached to every photo. My current inspiration for most of my posts on Instagram came from the lab—using a microscope day-in-and-day-out meant that I could take something ordinary and view something extraordinary under a microscope. I wanted to bring that perspective online by using macro photography and videography—that up close, unseen perspective.
What are your thoughts on representation in the skincare community as a member of the LGBTQIA and BIPOC communities?
I could give you the generic answer and say, "there’s still room for progress" and that absolutely is the case but one must look deeper into it. Right now, we are seeing forward movement with BIPOC representation in the community and within the marketing campaigns of companies. I am loving that we can now see many races being represented, but also representation with different states of skin (not always Photoshop perfect) and body types. This is huge because just a few years ago, you wouldn’t see any of that—it was almost unheard of. It is thrilling to know that it is the consumer that influences these changes. But we need to push harder, for the sake of not just celebrating this diversity, but getting to the point where diversity is "normal." Our differences shouldn’t stand out just because "we are different" but because there is merit in our uniqueness and realization that we are all part of one global community of human beings—that is what should unite us—a celebration of the diversity of humankind.
“ ... we need to push harder, for the sake of not just celebrating this diversity, but getting to the point where diversity is "normal." Our differences shouldn’t stand out just because "we are different" but because there is merit in our uniqueness ... ”
You once quoted "take your online activism into sustained, offline action" what did you mean by this?
I got tired of the armchair activism I was seeing online or activism which seemed to only peep up during a current affair. While it is great to raise awareness through whatever medium you can, it has to go beyond that to which you can carry these changes and this activism in our daily lives—where it matters. Change can happen with just one person.
If you could make one change happen in the beauty industry what would it be?
This is a tough one—I would like to see more "out-of-the-box thinking" and innovation. A deviation from the standard norm that brings brands outside of their comfort zone. It is time for a shake-up—it’s tough, considering many people are keen on what they already know works (retinoids, acids, etc.) but there are so many newer technologies out there now that, while risky in terms of marketing, can be true driving forces of innovative skincare. I think the industry can definitely take the impetus to produce some bleeding-edge products.
Do you have a favourite Sachi Skin product?
Yes! The Triphala Pigmentation Corrector. Elegant, moisturizing (I don’t need to layer with anything—not even another serum) and a very indulgent feeling. I look forward to just holding the bottle haha.
Anything exciting coming up for you in the next few months?
I have a few projects that I’ll keep under wraps for now that have me super excited!
Let's do some quick fire questions!
Coffee, Tea or Neither?
Double espresso always.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Haha sheer willpower—my bed is my best friend.
What are you currently watching on Netflix?
Good Girls! Absolutely love it.
What is on your current playlist?
You’ll find a mix! Lots of soca (like Nailah Blackman, Erphaan Alves), dancehall (Shenseea’s Shen Yeng Anthem is a fave) and some older songs like Sometimes by Gabrielle and Piano in the Dark by Brenda Russell.
Finish the sentence: I feel beautiful when…
I am confident, healthy and happy.