From the Fields of Sun-Drenched Sicily – We Find Out More About Irene Forte Skincare

The Irene Forte Skincare approach is synonymous with the very best that breath-taking Sicily has to offer, distilling the benefits of the Mediterranean diet into sustainable, natural skincare that nourishes the skin from the outside in. The brand was founded by Irene Forte, beauty entrepreneur and wellness director of the Rocco Forte Hotels group, who's renowned throughout the industry for her innovative take on beauty and wellbeing, as well as her deep Italian roots and passion for Sicily. We're huge fans of the range, so we spoke to Irene to find out more. Read on to to find out how she's been coping over the last few months, her favourite products from the range, and what's next for the brand.

Firstly, can you tell us a bit about how you’ve been managing through the last few crazy months – and do you have any tools or tips you can share to staying physically and mentally healthy and happy?

The last few months have been super challenging for everyone. I've found that following the five points on our Self-Care blog has really helped. These five steps are sleep, eating well, exercise, meditation and looking after my skin.

What led you to create a new skincare line, and what’s the key idea behind Irene Forte as a brand?

The idea for the Irene Forte Skincare range came about from my passion for wellness, my work for Rocco Forte Spas, my Italian roots and last but not least my love for Sicily (I spent a year working at Verdura Resort in Sicily almost ten years ago). I decided to create a natural and sustainable skincare line, 100% made in Italy, with ingredients sourced from Verdura’s Organic Farm.

The line debuted for Rocco Forte Spas as Forte Organics in 2015. After seeing the immediate positive reception to Forte Organics, I wanted to learn more, create more and launch an even bigger line. This is how Irene Forte Skincare was born after 3 years in the making.

How did you decide what products to focus on, and how is that evolving?

Being Wellness Director at Rocco Forte Hotels has allowed me to have a real insight in the world of spa, and hence an understanding of the kind of range that a spa needs. The line started as a spa brand. It took me three years of experimenting and testing in the Rocco Forte Spas, working closely with my Spa Managers and Directors, to develop a complete 33 product spa range which allowed us to cater for all skin types and needs.

We managed to create spa grade products that also give the customer that at-home spa experience. Given that we already have a very strong base of products, rather than developing more moisturisers, masks, toners or cleansers, we're now focussing on serums that are easily combined with and that 'boost' our existing products.

Do you have a favourite or ‘hero’ product?

Picking a favourite product is like picking a favourite child! It depends on the season and how my skin is feeling. Our top-selling products are: the Hibiscus Serum, which is a super age-defying serum loaded with Green Pea, Tetrapeptide and Hibiscus peptides to help give a lifting effect on the skin and help minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles; the Hibiscus Night Cream, which is loaded with ultra-hydrating, skin softening ingredients such as Vitamin E, Shea Butter, Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramide; and the Pistachio Face Mask, which is an age-defying face mask to help plump, hydrate and condition the skin (I tend to leave the Pistachio Face Mask on overnight for a deeply nourishing treatment).

You describe the range as the Mediterranean diet for your skin – can you explain what that means, and tell us a bit about some of the amazing ingredients you use?

The Mediterranean diet has been long considered the healthiest diet to follow. It's widely considered the cleanest and most balanced in the world. Far from faddy trends, the diet is enjoyed by those who want to benefit from increased longevity. In a similar way, the Mediterranean Diet for Skin promotes skin health and longevity.

It's not about ripping off a layer of the skin with harsh ingredients or promoting faddy skincare trends, but it's about using healthy, nourishing ingredients.

We have some amazing ingredients in Sicily. Some of my favourites include Prickly Pear (considered a plant-origin Hyaluronic Acid and the latest super food, which is rich in Vitamins K, E and C); Hibiscus (known as the ‘botox plant’ and a botanical peptide); Pomegranate (rich in Vitamin C, flavonoids and anthocyanins, which are strong antioxidants for the skin); Olive Oil (rich in polyphenols and Vitamin E); and much more… We have 75 active ingredients across our entire line that boast serious skin-boosting benefits.

Many of your ingredients come from your own organic farm in Sicily – how did that come about, and will that continue to be important for you?

I fell in love with Sicily when I went to work at Verdura Resort. I love the people, the culture, the lanscapes, and the amazing ingredients. I got interested in the Organic Farm at Verdura Resort, and I always wanted to find a way to use the wealth of ingredients there. Indeed, Verdura's produce sits at the heart of our skincare line, diffusing the very essence of Mediterranean wellness into every bottle. I'm always planting more at the farm to put into the skincare line, thus it continuous to be extremely important for me.

A lot of your products are great for mature skin and for preventing the signs of aging. Yet you don’t use retinol or many of the other molecules many skincare brands are using right now. Why have you chosen not to go down that path?

Our skincare line is all about skin health and longevity, that's why we like to call it 'The Mediterranean Diet For the Skin'. As mentioned above it's not about faddy trends or quick fixes or ripping a layer off the skin. We've found that using hydrating, nourishing and nutrient-dense ingredients to be deeply beneficial when applied topically; supplying the skin with a wealth of vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidants to help enrich, rejuvenate and protect.

We also use a number of biomimetic ingredients such as multi-molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and more. Avoiding common sources of irritation and allergens was especially important during our development process. That’s why our ingredients are highly refined and screened for 26 common allergens.

Vitamin A is an important anti-ageing ingredient, but can also be quite damaging. For me, some brands have retinol at a far too high %.

We're currently working on a Vitamin A booster; however, we're looking at an encapsulated version of Retinol, which gives a controlled, time released effect – which is a gentle alternative. We're also incorporating a peptide that acts in a similar way to Vitamin A, as well as a botanical alternative to retinol. As well as feeling incredible on the skin, we love that your products smell so delicious!

Is that sensory experience an important aspect for you?

Yes, it's very important, it allows the customer to really enjoy putting on the product. Ferri (my doctor who formulates the products) and I believe in 'psico-cosmesi'. This means cosmetics that help both mind and body. It’s fundamental to the principles of our skincare; the idea that what we put on our skin benefits what goes on in our body, both emotionally and physically. It’s holistic, but also scientific and proven in its results on our overall wellbeing and skin health.

Your brand is 100% vegan – but you’re also sustainable and organic, which is super important for us too. Why is that so important to you? And what does sustainable mean to you as a brand?

Sustainability is part of our DNA and is not simply an afterthought. People, community, and planet all fall under sustainability for me, and I’m committed to ensure all of our processes are as sustainable as possible. No one is ever perfect, but we are constantly striving to find ways to improve.

In today's world, I really don't think that you can build a company that doesn't think about sustainability. We try and ensure that every single stage of our manufacturing, development, distribution and even recycling process is considered for its impact on the planet, the user and the Sicilian community in which it originates.

What do you think of the ethical and sustainable options that exist for consumers right now in beauty and fashion? And what would you like to change in the future?

There are definitely more and more ethical and sustainable options for consumers in both the fashion and beauty world. Also, many big retailers have added 'sustainable' sections/ brands to their offering. Many beauty brands are doing much more to help contribute to a greener and more sustainable planet. Brands have switched to more sustainable packaging, with materials ranging from recycled plastic, glass, wood, fabric and even seaweed pulp.

Other brands are committed to planting a tree for each product sold or getting involved in other charitable projects. However, it's still difficult to source more sustainable packaging because minimum quantities are still very high and sustainable alternatives tend to be more costly. Also, many big brands are still doing nothing in the sustainability space, so I would love to see this change!

Sustainability in fashion has been a hot topic for quite a few years now, but I think we are going into a new era of sustainable, ethical, more inclusive, and intelligent fashion. Consumers are already reusing and upcycling their existing wardrobe; in fact, the second hand clothing market is growing 24x faster than the first hand clothing market. Also, individuals are opting for long-lasting clothing, and starting to move away from fast fashion.

But what is really interesting is all the technology coming out to make fashion more sustainable... Some examples: Reflaunt is a technology that promotes "circular economy" by connecting fashion brands with the secondary market. The technology allows customers of brands to resell, donate or recycle their past purchases directly from the e-commerce site of the brand with the click of a button.

Algalife is introducing new materials which positively affect both the environment and the human skin – created from microorganism algae, which is a renewable and healthy microorganism, that contains valuable substances like proteins, vitamins, and antioxidants. These new innovative pigments and fibers are set to dramatically change and reshape the fashion industry.

Nature Coatings transforms wood waste into high performing black pigments. The wood waste is sourced from sustainable FSC certified forests. Circular Systems is a materials science company, focused on the development of innovative circular and regenerative technologies, transforming waste into valuable fiber, yarn, and textile fabrics for the fashion industry. Resortecs® supplies a thread that simply dissolves at a high temperature. Zippers and buttons make garment recycling complicated as the removal of such details calls for manual assistance, making the process both costly and time consuming. This problem is solved by the dissolvable thread.

I think the fashion world is quickly moving in the right direction – but I think we should definitely reduce the number of collections that fashion brands need to pull together per year, as well as changing the way that consumers consume fast fashion.

And lastly – if you weren’t running Irene Forte the skincare brand, what do you think you’d like to be doing instead?

Happily working at Rocco Forte Hotels and running the Spas and Wellness.

You can shop the Irene Forte Skincare range at Immaculate here.

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