Imagine: you’re walking through a gorgeously lush field, surrounded by wildflowers, finding shade underneath olive trees, beautiful rolling hills in the distance. Feels nice, doesn’t it? Now imagine the kind of skincare that embodies that feeling. Enter: Furtuna Skin. This clean beauty company sources its botanical ingredients from a scene that’s identical to the one we described, the La Furtuna Estate in Sicily. To be honest, a walk around a Sicilian estate sounds like heaven right now, considering how much time we’re all spending indoors these days. But Italy faced the same challenge: the country was one of the first hotspots of the COVID-19 pandemic. We chatted with founders Agatha Relota Luzco and Kim Walls about their line of organic skincare that harnesses the power of ancient wisdom and marries it with modern technology, and how this innovative company is conquering the challenges that a pandemic brings.
As an Italian brand, how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
We are a Made-In-Italy company and 95% of our team is Italian, so we’ve been dealing with the global pandemic a lot longer than American companies. Luckily, no one from our team is sick and we’re all practicing isolation. We’ve had to adjust the timing for our Cuore Collection (the heart of our product offerings) and we’ve cancelled over 40 events across our different La Furtuna brands. Like most, we’re shifting our efforts to digital activations. That said, we are proud to support Italy during this challenging time. 20% of all proceeds through April will be going to the Italian medical community, specifically The Luigi Sacco Hospital and The San Raffaele Hospital. We’re also staying true to our brand efforts to help the Italian economy. Everyone in the Furtuna family will continue to be paid and have jobs to come back to. More than anything, we’ve learned how resilient and strong we are when we come together. We’re proud of our team’s ability to problem solve, remain positive and show up for one another in a time where we can’t physically be there for each other.
What inspired you to create a skincare company?
When I met Agatha, she shared the details about her 800+ acre Sicilian Estate packed full of ancient medicinal botanicals with powerful skincare benefits. As a serial entrepreneur, second generation skincare company founder (my father founded Epicuren), and esthetician with a life-long dedication to the use and promotion of natural ingredients and clean beauty solutions, my excitement about co-founding Furtuna Skin was inevitable. The real magic of starting the company goes beyond skincare though: we saw that we could create this wildly potent skincare, while also transforming communities by boosting the local economy in an area of Sicily where unemployment can reach as high as 50% in rural areas. Even our land gives back – 70% of the estate lies within the Monti Sicani Biological Preserve, a protected haven for rare and valuable species of plants, birds, and other wildlife.
What is the relationship between your estate in Sicily and Furtuna’s products?
The land has given us insight and inspiration about what we should be seeking in ingredients. La Furtuna Estate is irrigated by natural spring waters and has been uncultivated for over 400 years. There is no contamination from neighboring farms or prior activity. In fact, there wasn’t even electricity at the farm or surrounding houses until Agatha and her husband installed it! Our olives are hand harvested by multi-generational farmers who take care and pride in their work, just as the artisans who make our products infuse them with the love and passion of generations before them. The plants themselves, because they are wild, have grown in communities and survived a challenging ecosystem. Many people don’t realize that Sicily has a rugged terrain. The salt water is carried through the wind, volcanic ash has covered the land. Extreme heat and cold – even snow – are regulars across the land. The plants that have thrived there are the strongest and most resilient because they are survivors: we call many of them Extremophytes. These plants are rich with minerals, vitamins and powerful antioxidants like flavonoids and other phytochemicals that are powerfully effective in skincare. Organic olive oil and olive leaves, like those at our farm and that we use to make infusions are so rich in their antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties that they are used to make medicines worldwide. We have also been able to bring entirely new ingredients to market, like our wild foraged Anchusa azurea, which has the highest level of antioxidants of any mediteranean edible plant.
Tell us about your Soundbath extraction method: sounds relaxing! What does that mean?
Yes – think about it as a treat for the plants! The experience individuals have in a sound bath meditation – with a sounder playing relaxing sounds from gongs and bowls to create powerful vibrations – is the perfect parallel to our method. From my chemistry and nutritional science background, I knew that over-processing and high heat exposure leads to oxidation of the ingredients, loss of potency, and inconsistent outcomes. These factors can damage, and even destroy the whole plant medicinal benefits and nutrients of the ingredients. We sought to find a safer natural alternative. An eco-friendly method that didn’t use solvents, chemicals or high heat, that worked fast to avoid over-processing and delivered consistent results. We found our answer in a pioneering technology from the pharmaceutical industry, of all places! First, we wild forage potent plants from our farm, then we immerse them in olive oil or water, and then bathe them in soundwaves to bring forth their potent bioactives. The pulses from the gentle sound waves quickly extract the natural ingredients, causing the outer cells of our plants to release potent biochemicals that are high in vitamins and nutrients like antioxidants and antiinflammatory agents. There is no loss of potency, no oxidation and there are no harsh chemicals used during this process. It is far superior to the chemical base methods, like ethoxylation, and the time based methods of old, like fermentation or leaving plants in oil for weeks on end.