Created by a skincare therapist who brings serious training in physiology, aromatherapy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine to the clinic table, the products in de Mamiel’s lineup have not been designed in the usual way — and their results are so much better for it. First Fix, more than any other product, showcases creator Annee de Mamiel’s unique approach to treating the skin. Read on to learn how it came to be.
Dara: We are so excited that First Fix is here!
ANNEE: I can’t even tell you — I don’t think any product we’ve ever launched has come back with so many people saying that it has really changed their skin where nothing else has worked. One of the longtime beauty journalists here is a great friend of ours now, and she told us, “I would run into my burning house to save my bottle of First Fix.”
I think to myself sometimes, “Wow, it really works!” And of course it works. But it continues to bring tears to my eyes because I keep seeing these signs that I really got it right! (Note from Dara: Annee really did get choked up here.)
Dara: And you spent 13 years working to get it right — tell us about that process.
ANNEE: First Fix came from my treatment clinic, like everything I do. I love the process of observing my patients’ skin, and then trying to dig deeper into why certain things are happening on a cellular level, and treating the patient accordingly.
But with certain patients, I could see that what I’d been doing wasn’t completely shifting the problem. It took a long time of adjusting things, but I remember the exact patient, the exact moment, when it all dawned on me: “This is cortisol. This is what’s happening with the constant, chronic, continued stress and its effect on the skin.” This particular patient is normally very calm and centered, but what I saw was clearly the result of high cortisol levels and chronic stress
So then I got stuck into doing lots of research on essential oils — what had been studied in terms of cortisol and its effects on the brain — and the ingredients that would be most helpful with that. Then I looked at it from a 360 perspective: the emotional effect of chronic stress and how that affected the skin, how the actual symptoms were presenting in the skin, and at that deep cellular level, to make real change.
Dara: Before we talk more about First Fix, I’d love to dig into stress in general. Can you tell us about what happens to the body and the skin during times of acute or chronic stress?
ANNEE: The thing with stress, isn’t it, is that we need stress in our lives. It’s not a bad thing; it’s when it becomes chronic that it’s an issue. The human body hasn’t evolved enough to distinguish between acute stress (that fight-or-flight mode) that was originally designed for survival and chronic stress.
Acute stress is what happens when you see a tiger, for instance, and you say, “Oh, no, it’s a tiger!” and get that adrenal-hypothalamus-pituitary process going. Hormones then flood the body, and one of those is cortisol. Blood flow is diverted to those essential organs and muscles, and glucose is pumped throughout the body so that you can survive that life-threatening stress and run away. Survival is the primary mechanism that your whole body is focused on.
When stress becomes chronic, the problem is that the same reaction occurs. Only in this case, you say something like, “Oh, no, I left Johnny’s lunch behind!” and it creates the same response in your body. And with enough of those situations, we often end up with a high amount of cortisol in our bodies consistently. Then, as the body is focused more on survival and less on proper digestion, for instance, additional stress-related issues become more chronic and prominent throughout our lives.
With chronic stress, the skin, being a less-vital organ, is not fed the nutrients it needs for optimal health. It’s less of a priority; our blood has to work harder to move through the rest of the body and get to it. This is why face massage, for example, is so important: you’re increasing microcirculation to get blood flow to that area, feeding skin from the inside out to get a glow back into it.
Dara: And how do you think about stress from a TCM perspective?
ANNEE: In Chinese Medicine, it’s “fight, flight, freeze – and lack of flow.” What we see from this perspective are things like liver chi stagnation, which then depletes liver blood and liver yin. In the skin, that manifests as dryness, because there’s no hydration or moisture to draw from.
This cycle of chronic stress and depletion links directly to what we see from a Western perspective: chronic levels of cortisol deplete levels of B6, which leads to anemia, and potentially poor cognitive function, depression, neuropathy, or dry eyes. In TCM, we describe it as an excess of yang, which is about dynamic movement — and with it in excess, we get that wired feeling.
Dara: It is so hard to get out of that!
ANNEE: Yeah, so we have to nourish the liver blood and soothe the chi to then stop the depletion of the blood and encourage the level of homeostasis in the body. It’s about switching on the body’s innate intelligence to help you move through that — we forget that the body’s smart and knows what to do, but the mind takes over.
Dara: So, how does First Fix address stress?
ANNEE: It took a long time to develop because, to me, it had to work on a multi-layered approach —
On an emotional level, for our mind and the way that we think that creates extra stress in our body.
On the physical level, in the top levels of the skin.
And on the cellular level, to repair and bring back homeostasis, allowing the body to switch back to its innate intelligence.
So we did that through a combination of ingredients, but first digging deep into all of the studies that were out there to create the Resilience Complex, which is the essential oil component. I looked at the research around essential oils and cortisol, and which ones can help take us out of that state of the sympathetic nervous system and into the parasympathetic nervous system.
And what I think many people don’t realize is that we had the blend tested with a professor of neuroscience to see what parts of the brain were actually activated through the scent. To me, this was such an important part of bringing the components together, and it also explains why the ritual of the breath is so important in everything that I do. We have scientific proof through EEGs that this particular scent actually increases happiness and feelings of pleasure, and also decreased negative emotions. That was a big part of the development of this product — having that component addressed as well.
The fact that we went through this process to look at the blend’s actual effect on the brain is probably one of the things I’m most proud of in the development of this product; you know how small we are! But to me, spending our budget on things like this just puts the punch behind it. This is real; we not only know about the blend’s characteristics from an aromatherapeutic point of view, but also have the data to prove how it works. And I’m not sure anyone else has done that for skincare.
The way we think about health in general is constantly evolving and changing, which I think is really exciting. Skin has its own cortisol receptors and stress response; previously we thought it all came from the HPA axis, or in the gut, but the skin has so many more things going on than we originally thought. As this evolves, we’re still learning about the skin microbiome – we do know it’s individual to everybody, and what’s my norm isn’t your norm. But we still don’t really know what “healthy” is. We’re learning every day, and what we didn’t know 5 years ago is now quite important.
Q: What was the biggest struggle the development of First Fix that you are proudest of overcoming?
ANNEE: I think what I’m proudest of is digging deep into scent and what it can do through this testing, in addition to having done in-depth studies on the formula overall.
That, and creating a really beautiful texture. Texture is so important, and everything that you touch really matters: the impact of touch is so healing. I wanted to create something that felt so beautiful that people who aren’t used to these types of natural, handmade products might not know the difference. I love that cushioning effect that First Fix gives the skin.
It’s a really dynamic time for performance skincare: there are more ingredients to work with that are more bioavailable to the skin while also being better for the environment due to new extraction processes. It’s fantastic because people are finally seeing that the way we think and feel is related to our skin, and it comes out in your skin. We know this; when you’re starting to feel sick, you often see it first in your skin. But there’s actually quite a number of neurochemistry ingredients out there now, which is amazing.
Dara: What surprised you most while you were developing this product?
ANNEE: That it wasn’t already out there. It really surprised me that someone hadn’t already thought of it, or wasn’t already working on it. I kept questioning myself: am I missing something? Have I overlooked something? Are my assumptions incorrect?
Also, at every step along the way where I was testing it, I always so taken aback by the positive results I was seeing with it. It was really exciting.
And the individual comments and feedback that we’ve gotten – it’s floored me. That’s been the biggest delight. What I do in clinic, and the products that come out of it as a result, is what fulfills me and gives me my purpose; I’m so lucky to have been able to help people move through their struggles and to help give them what they need. And what First Fix aims to do is a big call for a skincare product. But I look at it as not just skincare — it’s so much more than that.
Want to learn more about First Fix?
Check out Annee’s First Fix usage tips here and learn more about the product itself — and buy it — here. And to hear from Annee about how she treats stress in clinic — and tips she often gives clients to limit the effects of stress at home — in her interview with Dara here.
Want to learn more about de Mamiel?
Check out our Brand Spotlight here.
Find out how our esthetician, Sarah, uses the Restorative Cleansing Balm for facial massage here.
And learn about the sneaky powerhouse, the Dewy Facial Mist, here.
Any topic discussed in this article is not intended as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please check with your doctor.