Women With GRITT: Synergie Skin’s Terri Vinson On Clean Science, Delegating Effectively And Formulating Products That Do All The Hard Work For You

“I’m driven by my love of learning and research. I think the 100 per cent ‘green’ movement definitely has its place but I also think people want results-driven products. My philosophy has always been to find alternatives to ingredients that might have a question mark.”

Welcome to Women with GRITT: a series where we interview the resilient, hardworking women who have kicked in the glass ceiling and inspire us to do the same.

There are few skincare brands that are as instantly recognisable as Synergie Skin. Those iconic brown bottles and jars will never cease to appear atop of vanities everywhere–and for good reason. Created by founder and formulator, Terri Vinson, with a philosophy of clean science in mind, the offering is both results-driven and environmentally-conscious, walking the fine line between being good for your skin and good for the planet.

With over twenty years of formulating experience, Vinson is no stranger to the world of cosmeceuticals. A celebrated Australian skin scientist, cosmetic chemist and author, Vinson is often regarded as one of the most innovative and qualified professionals in the industry. Determined to create products of the highest quality and potency that deliver visible results while being easy to slot into busy schedules, it seems she has nailed her formula for success. But this was not without trial and error.

In this interview, Vinson opens up to Gritty Pretty about the value of failure, the importance of delegating effectively, her philosophy of clean science and how she formulates products that do all the hard work for you.

Hi Terri! Thank you so much for chatting with us. To kick off, we would love to know a little more about what makes you, you. You are incredibly tenacious and inspiring. Where do these qualities stem from?

I am a Melbourne girl from the ‘burbs and I come from a middle-class background. My dad was a public servant. He passed away in my early 20s and was a really hard working man. I was really close to dad. Both my parents had a massive focus on education. So, what little money they did have would be spent on educating me and I am so grateful for that. I think it really helped to inspire my love of science and my sense of determination. My dad always told me I could do anything I wanted and having that permission to pursue my passion was amazing. I’m very lucky.

 

Sounds like you had an incredible support system growing up. Once you had completed your science degree, where did you start your career?

I actually started out teaching HSC biology which I loved. It was so rewarding to witness those lightbulb moments when I was able to explain a relatively complicated concept to the kids and could see their eyes light up when they got it. After about two years, though, I realised that the teaching environment wasn’t for me and that I was more interested in business. I moved on to work for Colgate Palmolive which gave me real insights into business and things like strategic planning and economics. From there it was an organic growth into studying aromatherapy and making very basic formulations. I started making formulations for my children and my friends and then started on a path to the skincare area.

 

Once you decided that starting your own skincare line was what you wanted to do, what were the practical steps you put in place to make it happen?

My philosophy from the get go was that I would learn from my mistakes. And I’ve made so many mistakes. But the mistakes you make are actually blessings (unless, of course, you make them over and over again). They help you improve and build and expand. A lot of my starting formulas were failures. They’d separate or not pass the elegance test but you just have to keep going and trust the vision. I think the most challenging part was that, at first, I was everything to everybody. I was the marketing manager, the formulator, the accountant and the consultant and there were parts of it I loved and parts I hated. So, finding that drive to keep going was trying at times. But once I had built some momentum and had a team around me I started to get that real confidence. I was able to delegate and focus on what I really loved to do which was the formulation side of things.

 

The philosophy around ‘clean science’ that Synergie Skin has is really unique. We often see a lot of brands either going down the scientific or the natural route but you have managed to merge the two to create effective and clean products. But this route certainly isn’t an easy one. Why was it so important to you to combine these two concepts?

I think it was really driven by my love of learning and research. I think the 100 per cent ‘green’ movement definitely has its place but I also think people want results-driven products. My philosophy has always been to find alternatives to ingredients that might have a question mark next to them and that can certainly be challenging. I mean, you’ve got synthetic active ingredients that are so sustainable and so pure, but they’re synthetic. But of course I’m going to use them because they work incredibly on the skin and they create change. I think I’m a scientist but I’m a scientist who thinks first and foremost about safety and ethics.

It is also important to note that a natural approach isn’t always a sustainable approach so your consideration of natural ingredients, sustainability and science is incredibly impressive when you break it down. Can you explain to us how you weigh up the different considerations?

You’re absolutely right–the natural option isn’t always the sustainable option. For example, there’s a marine ingredient that we use to stimulate the skin cells into proliferating to healthy skin cells. It’s actually secreted from bacteria that live on algae and this particular bacteria only lives in a certain part of France. So, you can either, as a natural skincare manufacturer, get all the seaweed to harvest this particular ingredient but that isn’t sustainable to the environment at all. So, instead, we weigh up all of our considerations and take a sample of the bacteria to then proliferate them in a laboratory environment. Essentially it’s a copy of what’s in nature but is also vastly more sustainable.

 

In terms of the products you think everyone should have in their routine–what are the non-negotiables?

I think we all need to look at the three basics: your cleanser, your serum and your moisturiser. Everybody needs to cleanse–preferably with an SLS-free cleanser because it’s less stripping to the skin and we want to maintain the acid mantle so our skin stays in balance and the serums and moisturisers can do the hard work. When it comes to your serums, you want to select active ingredients that are going to pack a punch. I’m talking a vitamin A, vitamin B3 and vitamin C (A and B in the evening, C in the morning) and then lock it all in with a quality moisturiser. Oh, and don’t do anything unless you’re wearing sunscreen. This is the most important step.   

 

We also want to talk to you about your incredibly exciting new Synergie Skin product–the Effica C Serum. What makes this vitamin C product so unique?

We’re so excited about our Effica C Serum for a number of reasons. Firstly, the rapidly absorbing, non-acidic vitamin C is suitable for all skin types (including sensitive skin) which means that those who may have experienced irritation at the hands of vitamin C in the past can finally experience its protective properties. The biocompatible formula also provides gentle and targeted penetration and works in tandem with coenzyme Q10 to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, promote even skin tone, reduce age spots and protect against UV and environmental damage. It really is a very special product.

 

To shop the Synergie Skin Effica C Serum, click here.

Hi Terri! Thank you so much for chatting with us. To kick off, we would love to know a little more about what makes you, you. You are incredibly tenacious and inspiring. Where do these qualities stem from?

I am a Melbourne girl from the ‘burbs and I come from a middle-class background. My dad was a public servant. He passed away in my early 20s and was a really hard working man. I was really close to dad. Both my parents had a massive focus on education. So, what little money they did have would be spent on educating me and I am so grateful for that. I think it really helped to inspire my love of science and my sense of determination. My dad always told me I could do anything I wanted and having that permission to pursue my passion was amazing. I’m very lucky.

 

Sounds like you had an incredible support system growing up. Once you had completed your science degree, where did you start your career?

I actually started out teaching HSC biology which I loved. It was so rewarding to witness those lightbulb moments when I was able to explain a relatively complicated concept to the kids and could see their eyes light up when they got it. After about two years, though, I realised that the teaching environment wasn’t for me and that I was more interested in business. I moved on to work for Colgate Palmolive which gave me real insights into business and things like strategic planning and economics. From there it was an organic growth into studying aromatherapy and making very basic formulations. I started making formulations for my children and my friends and then started on a path to the skincare area.

 

Once you decided that starting your own skincare line was what you wanted to do, what were the practical steps you put in place to make it happen?

My philosophy from the get go was that I would learn from my mistakes. And I’ve made so many mistakes. But the mistakes you make are actually blessings (unless, of course, you make them over and over again). They help you improve and build and expand. A lot of my starting formulas were failures. They’d separate or not pass the elegance test but you just have to keep going and trust the vision. I think the most challenging part was that, at first, I was everything to everybody. I was the marketing manager, the formulator, the accountant and the consultant and there were parts of it I loved and parts I hated. So, finding that drive to keep going was trying at times. But once I had built some momentum and had a team around me I started to get that real confidence. I was able to delegate and focus on what I really loved to do which was the formulation side of things.

 

The philosophy around ‘clean science’ that Synergie Skin has is really unique. We often see a lot of brands either going down the scientific or the natural route but you have managed to merge the two to create effective and clean products. But this route certainly isn’t an easy one. Why was it so important to you to combine these two concepts?

I think it was really driven by my love of learning and research. I think the 100 per cent ‘green’ movement definitely has its place but I also think people want results-driven products. My philosophy has always been to find alternatives to ingredients that might have a question mark next to them and that can certainly be challenging. I mean, you’ve got synthetic active ingredients that are so sustainable and so pure, but they’re synthetic. But of course I’m going to use them because they work incredibly on the skin and they create change. I think I’m a scientist but I’m a scientist who thinks first and foremost about safety and ethics.

It is also important to note that a natural approach isn’t always a sustainable approach so your consideration of natural ingredients, sustainability and science is incredibly impressive when you break it down. Can you explain to us how you weigh up the different considerations?

You’re absolutely right–the natural option isn’t always the sustainable option. For example, there’s a marine ingredient that we use to stimulate the skin cells into proliferating to healthy skin cells. It’s actually secreted from bacteria that live on algae and this particular bacteria only lives in a certain part of France. So, you can either, as a natural skincare manufacturer, get all the seaweed to harvest this particular ingredient but that isn’t sustainable to the environment at all. So, instead, we weigh up all of our considerations and take a sample of the bacteria to then proliferate them in a laboratory environment. Essentially it’s a copy of what’s in nature but is also vastly more sustainable.

 

In terms of the products you think everyone should have in their routine–what are the non-negotiables?

I think we all need to look at the three basics: your cleanser, your serum and your moisturiser. Everybody needs to cleanse–preferably with an SLS-free cleanser because it’s less stripping to the skin and we want to maintain the acid mantle so our skin stays in balance and the serums and moisturisers can do the hard work. When it comes to your serums, you want to select active ingredients that are going to pack a punch. I’m talking a vitamin A, vitamin B3 and vitamin C (A and B in the evening, C in the morning) and then lock it all in with a quality moisturiser. Oh, and don’t do anything unless you’re wearing sunscreen. This is the most important step.   

 

We also want to talk to you about your incredibly exciting new Synergie Skin product–the Effica C Serum. What makes this vitamin C product so unique?

We’re so excited about our Effica C Serum for a number of reasons. Firstly, the rapidly absorbing, non-acidic vitamin C is suitable for all skin types (including sensitive skin) which means that those who may have experienced irritation at the hands of vitamin C in the past can finally experience its protective properties. The biocompatible formula also provides gentle and targeted penetration and works in tandem with coenzyme Q10 to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, promote even skin tone, reduce age spots and protect against UV and environmental damage. It really is a very special product.

 

To shop the Synergie Skin Effica C Serum, click here.

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