Sunshine State Solutions + Services

Meet The Southern-Charming Creators Of Sapelo, A Gentle-But-Effective New Skincare Line

Meet The Southern-Charming Creators Of Sapelo, A Gentle-But-Effective New Skincare Line


When that dastardly term pops up on our medical chart - or in a commercial on TV for some guns-blazing pharmaceutical - we know it's not good.

But for some reason, the beauty industry is extremely enamored of inflammation. Controlled inflammation, that is. Not garden-variety inflammation. 

So WTH is 'controlled inflammation,' you ask? Basically, it's what happens when you intentionally damage the skin via chemical peels, Retin-A and laser treatments.

While there are two schools of thought on the long-term pros + cons of controlled inflammation, the two women behind Savannah-based Sapelo - Cindy Edwards and Stephanie Duttenhaver, pictured above - are summa cum laude graduates of the 'No Go' school.

In fact, they're firmly convinced that controlled inflammation is having the polar opposite effect on our skin than what it's intended for. In other words, in the long-run, all these trips to the derm are making us look older, not younger. 

It's a super-interesting theory, and one I wanted to learn more about and share with our smarty-pants FBP readers. Although I see billboards for Botox every five feet in Florida, I'm convinced that - at least in St. Petersburg - women are into a more natural approach to aging. All the ladies around me are really polished and pulled-together, but not stretched as tight as a drum.

So I wanted to hear more from Cindy and Stephanie, two chic Georgia natives who met while volunteering. They've infused their line with a lot of ingredients indigenous to the salt marshes of Sapelo Island, and since Florida + Georgia share a state line, I figure we're pretty much all sisters.

But before I get into the Q+A with Cindy + Stephanie, I just want to say that I'm pretty much Switzerland on the topic of controlled inflammation. Not only do I use prescription + OTC retinoids + retinols, FBP will soon be hosting an expert on chemical peels in an upcoming post.

Still, I'm intrigued by the thought process + research behind Sapelo, and have recently added it to my own skincare arsenal. It's a really luxe 3-step "Recovery" system, with add-ons. 

The core products - the ones Cindy + Stephanie's clients swear by for breaking your addiction to high-test derm procedures - are:

Step One: Renewing Serum, which is laced with plant-based stem cells

Step Two: Rejuvenating Cream, an oil-based formula packed with vitamins + peptides

Step Three: Softening Emollient With Essential Oils, a light mix of apricot + sunflower seed oils, to layer over the serum + cream to lock in moisture 

For the Q+ A, I spoke to each of them, so I'll flag their individual answers with their last names. To recap, Cindy is 'Edwards,' and Stephanie is 'Duttenhaver.'

Off we go!

FBP: I'd love to know about each of your backgrounds pre-Sapelo.

CE: PR & marketing for a hospital and a freelance writer.

SD: Strategic planning and marketing and PR for multiple for-profit and non-profit organizations.  

FBP: What led you to create Sapelo? When did it move from a "back of napkin" germ of an idea to something more concrete?

EDWARDS: Sapelo began with a dream and a handshake and a little help from the late, great Pat Conroy. While the two of us were serving as board members on the Savannah Book Festival, a friendship developed out of mutual respect and the joy of success.

DUTTENHAVER: As we happily watched Pat Conroy sign books and interact with his fans, we decided to commit ourselves to our dream of creating an extraordinary skin care regimen. Sapelo Skin Care was born and we shook hands on what would become our next project together.

FBP: What was the biggest challenge in creating the brand?

DUTTENHAVER: We have two big challenges. The first one is trying to make consumers understand the importance of treating your skin effectively but gently. We are going against the grain of the ‘controlled inflammation’ mindset. Using controlled inflammation as a rejuvenation strategy month after month, year after year will eventually thin and age your skin. Cindy and I believe that in ten years, Sapelo is going to be the vanguard for skin care routines.

EDWARDS: The other challenge is creating brand awareness while operating out of a small Southern town.

FBP: How do you decide when - and what - to add to the collection?

EDWARDS: Our new products have been at the request of customer needs and our own. Also, when we discover a new ingredient that offers great promise for efficacy, it lights a fire under both of us.

DUTTENHAVER: For example, we developed our Spring Tide Serum after discovering the results of a Randomized Phase III Scientific Study which showed proven unique efficacy of an organically derived salmon roe extract. We are proud and excited to be the first company to offer this ingredient to the customers in the United States.

FBP: Were either of you - or both of you - big partakers of derm-office procedures before developing Sapelo? If so, please describe that a bit for me.

EDWARDS: No – neither of us. Our husbands are both physicians and have always been skeptical about injurious skin procedures. Sapelo was a direct response to seeing women who were relying on ‘controlled inflammation’ as their anti-aging solution. We didn't feel comfortable with injuring our complexion or the philosophy of endless procedures year after year, decade after decade. We couldn’t help but think there had to be a better, more gentle way to treat skin.

FBP: Have you been successful in weening your friends off derm-office procedures once they see their skin change with Sapelo?

DUTTENHAVER: Yes! It can be a ‘hard sell’ converting women to a new belief system, especially when all of the conventional marketing is selling consumers on the benefits of harsh acid products and skin injuring procedures. Sapelo is the first skin care regimen that bypasses skin injury and takes the process upstream to replicate the body’s natural immune healing procedure without introducing the injury. We believe that in a decade, skin care regimens will move beyond the ‘controlled inflammation’ philosophy.

FBP: Does Sapelo go hand in hand with living a healthy lifestyle? What aspects of wellness are you really into? 

EDWARDS: Absolutely. We are a natural-based brand. We are very aware of the ingredients that we put on our body and in our body. We offer products and a system that are safe and physician-approved with the highest level of efficacy and no fillers or plastics.

DUTTENHAVER: What can be more healthy than an injury-free or inflammation-free path to beautiful skin by going straight to the natural immune response for healing? Sapelo brings repair that results in new skin without the injury, which also results in new skin. And we certainly have no ‘down-time.’ Think about inflammation and the diseases caused by chronic inflammation. We try to eat foods that are anti-inflammatory and exercise to reduce inflammation – why introduce it to our skin?  

FBP: Would you say you're on a bit of a mission to help women age a little more gracefully?

DUTTENHAVER: Our mission is two-fold. First, we're spreading the word that skin can and will rejuvenate without injury and burning. In fact, your skin will look better as you age adhering to our philosophy. It’s simple - injury accelerates the aging process and thins the skin.

EDWARDS: And second, we ask young women to think about their choices. Options are plentiful, but if you start taking care of your skin in your 20s and 30s, you won't need to use acids and lasers as an anti-aging strategy. Your skin will arrive at an older age feeling soft and looking luminous.

FBP: Do you feel there are certain "codes" - for lack of a better word - that define Southern beauty?

EDWARDS: Authenticity is a key component to defining the Southern beauty.

DUTTENHAVER: Femininity and a “softer” style.

FBP: I'm guessing Georgia and Florida are not all that different in terms of heat + humidity. Got any secrets for staying fresh + shine-free when it's broiling outside? Any "mattifiers" or humidity-proof hairsprays you swear by? 

EDWARDS: Southern women do not perspire — at least we don't discuss it. Because of the quality of our products, they absorb instantly and never ‘melt’ on our faces during the humid Georgia summers.

DUTTENHAVER: We have a lovely face spritzer that we developed for our spa treatments and we are hoping to bring it to market soon! Our retailers are demanding we bring it to market. We keep a little bottle of the spritzer in our handbags during the warmer months.

EDWARDS: We both have our personal favorite products in the line. I love the fresh, clean feel and results of our eye serum and use it several times a day.

DUTTENHAVER: For years, I used hair serums that soothed the hair shaft. One very humid day, I smoothed a couple of drops of our Softening Emollient into my dry hair. It worked!

FBP: Stephanie, I'm trying your Softening Emollient hair trick the next time the humidity spikes in St. Pete. And Cindy - I love that you use the term 'perspire'! I do too. In fact, as the Beauty Director at Brides magazine, I banned the word 'sweat' from our pages. Grrr. Okay, thank you ladies for your time - and sharing the Sapelo story! 

Below are a few quasi-artsy pics of Sapelo that I snapped with my iPhone. I think a digital photography course might be in order. Still, you'll get a sense of the pure girly luxury of these products. 









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