Inside Our Brands

European pharmacists: what makes them different, and how that translates to skincare

We’ve wondered, “Is it a coincidence that some of the most innovative products we’ve seen — like BioRecept Global SunShine and TWELVE Dara’s Water — come from European pharmacist formulators?”

Maybe not: check out TWELVE creator Dr. Pedro Catalá’s take on it below. To us, it comes down to their pharmacy training as well as their inclination to listen to each individual — and to create products that address the needs they’ve uncovered through careful listening.

 Pedro Catala pharmacist


Europe and the United States have much history in common, but over the decades and centuries we have drifted apart — and we can amuse each other now with our funny habits when we cross the pond in either direction.

I personally have fond memories of my visits across the pond (and the country), but Dara and the Ayla team always, since the very beginning, made San Francisco a home away from home. I revel when I think of our walks into the city center or the Castro and comment on how pharmacies look and feel so different from the ones in Europe: although I risk sounding like a Euromoaner, I always miss the light, clean air of pharmacies on the Old Continent.

Walking into a European pharmacy, no matter where you are — Rome, Paris, or Madrid — is a vibe on its own. In Europe, a pharmacy tends to be a family-run business that gets passed down through generations, since it is a very lucrative affair. It feels like more of a safe haven, and most importantly, you feel listened to, they know you if you are a regular, and you build a trusted relationship with the team.

Much of this European pharmacy culture begins with our training. Everywhere in the world, and rightly so, pharmacy school is very demanding and rigorous…but not impossible if you are willing to spend several years working hard, surrounded by chemistry, pharmacology, and botany books.

(Pharmacy training is hard, I can assure you. After 25 years, I still have a recurring nightmare where I am standing in front of the main gate with a piece of paper with all my marks and votes, and I still have some exams to complete in order to finish the degree. Welcome to trauma city!)

Honestly, it is not that bad, but what I really want to highlight is the thorough training everyone has to undertake to become a pharmacist. With this in mind, it comes as a cultural shock to me when pharmacists in the US are perceived as somebody behind a very tall counter with little to no relationship with customers; we have accrued exhaustive knowledge in order to share it.

Being a pharmacist is a way of life, and despite not following the traditional path, I take daily inspiration from my predecessors. From the use of traditional ingredients to modern reinterpretations with new technology, the pharmacy world plays a major role in my daily life. TWELVE Beauty and my role as a master formulator is far from improvisation, and digging a bit into my past, it all makes sense; I know where I have been and where I want to go. Looking at the past to create a brighter future — this is my motto.


To learn more about Pedro and TWELVE Beauty, check out our Brand Spotlight.

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