Skin Deep: Q&A with Charlotte’s Book Founder Robin Shobin

Robin Shobin left a Wall Street desk to become a startup founder, launching Charlotte's Book, a thinking woman's guide to beauty services.

Robin Shobin left a Wall Street desk to become a startup founder, launching Charlotte’s Book, a thinking woman’s guide to beauty services.

Beauty is visible, but a woman’s beauty rituals, and the doctors and other providers who manage them for her, are usually a secret. How is a busy professional woman to find the best places to go when she wants beauty services? Robin Shobin faced this dilemma in her work on Wall Street, where women are expected simply to look good, without ever discussing how they get that way. Her solution: leave the world of finance and launch a website, Charlotte’s Book, to showcase vetted providers, with a focus on beauty and dermatology. The site centers on New York City now but is expanding to other areas, Shobin told us.

Max Luxe spoke with Shobin about her own beauty routines and what new trends she’s seeing in skincare and wellness.

Max Luxe: Tell us why you founded Charlotte’s Book

Robin Shobin: I wanted to create a resource that spoke to busy professional women who care about looking and feeling their best. There have been so many advancements in the world of cosmetic health and wellness, and quite frankly it’s just getting very confusing not only to find the right doctor or expert, but also to learn about treatments and products. Skincare and anti-aging are the fastest-growing segments in beauty, and I wanted to create an easy to use resource for women to educate themselves and find experienced experts.

I think many of the best rely on word-of-mouth, but in an increasingly more digital and online environment, people are searching online for reviews and advice. These topics are also still quite personal and sensitive, and to be honest, many women still lie and fib about work done. It isn’t quite done to lean over to your deskmate and say, “I am thinking of getting botox.”

What’s your personal go-to list for wellness? Things you do, places you go?

It’s all about routine and you have to stick with it. Every 6 weeks I like to either get microdermabrasion or dermaplaning. I also get the Clear & Brilliant laser a few times a year. And honestly, one of the best things you can do for your skin is eat right, sleep, and maintain stress levels. I get acupunture regularly with Stephen Cohen and it is a life saver.  Almost everything that’s going on inside you shows on your skin. Your skin is your body’s largest organ and a bad diet and stress show quickly. Conversely—good diets and good habits can really give you that inner glow. I struggle from hormonal and stress breakouts when I am working myself too hard. A great acupuncture session coupled with a good night sleep can work wonders for these issues. Obviously a great skincare routine is essential, but I believe in a 360 approach. This is why we have nutritionists and other wellness experts on Charlotte’s Book.


If you could go on a wellness retreat, which spa or destination would you choose?

One of my favorite places is the Mii Amo Spa inside the Enchantment Resort in Sedona. You can stay inside the spa, separate from the rest of the resort. It’s inside these gorgeous red rocks where you can hike during the day. The health food is great and the spa treatments are amazing.  I love the fact that you can come out of the spa and be served perfectly delicious health food while sitting in your robe. And this is after you had a great day hiking the red rocks or relaxing at the pool drinking customized health juices. Also, cell phones don’t work, which forces you to really zone out. On my wish list is the Como Shambhala Spa in Bali.


How can an office-based professional sneak in wellness and beauty treatments?

Being a professional woman, you are always expected to look your best, but to never talk about it or spend time catering to it. It’s very difficult. The treatments with the least downtime that you can actually sneak in during lunch or after work are dermaplaning, microdermabrasion, and micro-current.

The professional women I know find a lot of value in booking facials with medical or private aestheticians rather than at a traditional spa or full fledged physician. These professionals are often hidden inside a doctor’s office, but to book with them, you don’t have to be a patient of the dermatologist. These aestheticians give advanced, noninvasive facials that incorporate several therapies like ultrasound, microcurrent, and LED light therapy. Patients are able to try medical-grade products with services that are just more customized and results-oriented. You can come in quickly during lunch, after work, or on a Friday afternoon for these no-frills services and come out glowing.


What are the big anti-aging trends you’re seeing at the moment?

Cosmetic acupuncture and topical botox products. I always get asked, ”What can I do without getting injected?” I have seen a big surge in interest in both of these areas. We are looking at some topical botox products now that are about to be on the market that are really exciting. Cosmetic acupuncture is a great treatment that works by stimulating the facial muscles.


What questions should you ask your dermatologist or plastic surgeon to make sure you’re receiving the procedures you need?

Don’t get “glamoured” or overwhelmed by public relations placements and “heavily circulated” doctors who have a celebrity clientele. They aren’t all as caring and won’t all give you the same attention and care.  And be aware that doctors are more specialized now, so make sure you are seeing the right person for your specific needs.  I like to ask potential doctors (1) who else is in their referral network (2) what do they consider their areas of speciality and  (3) whether they are active at industry conferences. You want to make sure your doc is at the forefront and that they are looking at all the options, not just pushing on you the equipment that they have invested in their office.  Also, check your doctor’s certifications. You would be shocked at the number of fake certifications right now. It is scary. There are literally 8 hour courses that certify one in Botox. Don’t be fooled. At Charlotte’s Book we only select dermatologists who are members of the American Academy of Dermatology and/or the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often this gets overlooked. You can read more about Charlotte’s Code here.


It’s now possible to buy machines and tools that previously were only available in doctors’ offices. Which ones do you like best?

The NuFACE Mini Facial Toning Device This tiny little FDA-cleared gadget has two spheres that deliver 335 microamps of gentle stimulation just under the sensory level, so you feel little to no sensation—and the included gel primer prevents any pinching or stinging. You can adjust the intensity to any one of the three settings at any time during treatment — although the device should not be used around the eyes or mouth.  As aesthetician Georgia Louise says, “If you can’t get in to see me, then this is the next best thing!”

The Baby Quasar: If you suffer from acne or breakouts, this portable aluminium wand uses 24 100% blue LED lights  You can spot treat a specific problem area anywhere on your body. Treat skin three to five times a week for optimal results.


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A Day in the Life of Restorsea CEO Patricia Pao

Restorsea CEO Patti Pao found her business idea in a salmon hatchery.

Restorsea CEO Patti Pao found her business idea in a salmon hatchery.

Founding and running a luxury skincare brand is exhausting: Patricia Pao, the CEO of New York City-based Restorsea, sleeps 4 hours a night without an alarm clock, has racked up 150,000 flight miles on United Airlines, and recently got back from Oslo (try Alex Sushi, she suggests; ask for Wolfgang, the co-owner and manager). She walks to work when in town. To relax, she relies on Pilates, guided meditation, and a trampoline. We asked Pao, a veteran beauty executive who started Restorsea three years ago, about her daily schedule, her own beauty regimen, and what she’s seeing in the skincare world.

– How did Restorsea come about?

When I graduated from Harvard Business School all I wanted to do is work in the beauty business.  My poor dad asked me, “Why can’t you be an investment banker or consultant like everyone else?”  My first job in the beauty business was with Avon.  It was there that I learned that I was really good at finding new technologies and ingredients and turning them into blockbuster brands.  I discovered the potential of glycolic acid as an anti-aging active ingredient and helped to create the billion-dollar Avon Anew franchise.

In August 2010, I was touring a salmon hatchery and saw that the workers’ hands, which were constantly submerged in the baby salmon post-hatching fluid, looked like they were 20 years old while their faces looked much older than their actual ages.  The reason why is because of an enzyme that baby salmon release at birth.  Unlike a chicken who can physically peck its way out of its eggshell, a baby salmon can’t get out of its eggshell unassisted.  Therefore, when it is ready to be born, it releases an enzyme.  This enzyme is designed to only dissolve the eggshell so that the baby salmon can swim safely out of the opening carved by the enzyme.  When this enzyme is applied to human skin, it only dissolves the dead skin cells leaving the living skin cells untouched and able to thrive.  Plus, we believe that the amniotic fluid from the eggshell has anti-aging properties and the eggshell fragments have skin strengthening properties.  The workers’ hands, submerged in the post-hatching waters, were constantly exposed to this enzyme.

I spent a year formulating a day cream and an eye cream and in August 2011 I sent lab samples to beauty executive Pat Saxby at Bergdorf Goodman.  A month later she called and said that she would take the brand.  And that was the beginning of Restorsea.

– Walk us through a recent day in your life.

5:00AM Wake up, feed cats (Max & Peter) and bird (Woody), clean bird cage. Now I know what it’s like to live on an urban farm…
5:15AM Read The New York Times, WWD, WSJ. I read three newspapers every day.
5:30AM Jump in the shower and cleanse my face with Restorsea Reviving Cleanser and the latest lab sample of our Body Wash which will be launching in the first quarter of 2015.
6:30AM Assemble my nut mix for the office. We are trying to eat healthy. My nut mix recipe is: 1 cup of unsalted: macadamia nuts, cashew nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, dried cherries, dried apricots (chopped) and dried figs (chopped).
7:00AM Guided meditation with my instructor Naomi Ponce de Leon.
8:00AM Walk to the office. It’s about two miles, but I started doing this because since starting Restorsea, I barely have any time to exercise.
9:15AM Speak via phone or email with our MD Affiliates.  These are licensed aesthetic physicians who recommend and give the Restorsea Regimen (Cleanser, Serum, Day Cream, Eye Cream) to their extremely loyal patients and in turn receive 10% of the orders for 10 years.
11:00AM Make a Starbucks run (Grande Misto).  Sitting is the new smoking.  It shortens our telomeres, which are responsible for aging.  So I make a concerted effort to get up and walk around.
12:00PM Meet with NextBee to discuss developing Restorsea Rewards, a loyalty and referral program which we are planning to launch in the first quarter of 2015.
2:00PM Break for lunch. When I am in the office I make smoothies for everyone.  Today’s recipe is: 2 cups of kale, 1 cup filtered water, 1 cup coconut water, ½ cup almond milk, 1 cup blueberries, ½ cup raspberries and 1 banana, and blend well. This recipe makes 2 servings.
3:00PM Meet with Restorsea Conference team regarding our conference schedule.  Our weekends are spent exhibiting and speaking at medical conferences.
6:30PM Update with my co-founder and business partner, Muneer Satter. He is a genius.  The universe gives all of us one gift—he is a very successful business man and is always six steps ahead of me. I say that when the money waterfall flows, I am running back and forth trying to catch the droplets. In contrast, Muneer has a huge dumpster positioned directly under the flow of the waterfall.
7:30PM Begin the walk home (in the pouring rain).
8:30PM Feed my cats.
9:30PM Write the weekly Restorsea newsletter, and answer MyRestorsea customer profile inquires.  Our app, MyRestorsea (available in the iTunes store) enables you to 1) virtually “try on” the Day Cream and Eye cream, 2) complete a personalized skincare profile and send to me for 3) a custom consultation.  From October 6-November 30 we will be offering a FREE Day Cream (value: $150) to the first 1,000 to download the app, fill out and send their personal profiles to me for a custom consultation. We pride ourselves on our customer service and answer all correspondence within 24 hours.
11:00PM I need to read for an hour before going to bed. I read between 3-6 books a week. I just finished reading The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancy and The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith; they are both great beach reads. I am re-reading Katherine Neville’s The Fire, A Calculated Risk and The Eight. For non-fiction, I am currently reading Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys and rereading one of my favorite business books, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.

– What’s in your toiletry case when you travel? 

For makeup: mascara (Black Ecstasy), lip/cheek color (Stila Convertible Color in Poppy), Nars:  The Multiple Makeup Stick in Orgasm, Givenchy Waterproof Ombre Couture Cream Eye Shadow in Taupe, and Laura Mercier Tinted Foundation SPF 20 in Nude.

For skincare, I carry the following from Restorsea: Reviving Cleanser, Revitalizing Eye Cream, Rejuvenating Day Cream, 24kt Liquid Gold Face Oil, Repairing Neck and Decolletage Gel, Retexturizing Body Butter, and Revitalizing Scalp Treatment.

– What trends are you seeing in skincare today?

Face Oils:  The concept was formulated in the ‘70’s by Shu Uemura.  He believed (and was right) that in order to fight oil, you need oil.  The tendency of people with oily skin is to strip the skin of the oil.  By doing so, it tricks the body into thinking the skin is dehydrated and it actually starts producing more oil.  Applying oil to the skin causes the body to regulate sebum production because it thinks that the skin is hydrated.  I believe that face oil will be a part of the standard skincare regimen.  To use face oils correctly, you need to pat on the oil over your moisturizer.  Why? Because if you apply the oil before the moisturizer, you’re preventing the moisturizer from penetrating into the skin cells because it can’t pass through the oil. But if you apply the moisturizer first and then pat the oil on top, the oil creates a moisture barrier, sealing the moisturizer into the skin and preventing the air from making it dissipate.

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