Keys Natural Skincare & Beauty was born after co-founder Wendy Steele was diagnosed with and beat melanoma. The cancer was gone, but she was still dealing with some nasty side effects on her skin – itchy, irritated patches that were just made worse by sticky sunscreens. Her then-boyfriend (now husband) Bob Root decided to take matters into his own hands and researched the work of everyone from Harvard MDs to aboriginal healers.
The products that Bob developed for Wendy worked great for her, so together they decided to start manufacturing for the public. We sat down with Bob to discuss their products, how the company got started, and his best advice for people looking to switch to natural skincare.
Smallflower: The Keys story starts with Wendy’s bout with Melanoma and her struggles with ineffective treatments for the subsequent skin troubles. As you were first working on products with Wendy, when did you realize that you were on to something bigger than a one-off personal solution?
Bob Root: Wendy’s Melanoma came at a time where our core business was brand marketing consulting for major tech and pharmaceutical companies. I shared prototype products with the pharma people and they encouraged us to develop the first four products. We sold online only, and the big break came in 2007 when Consumer Reports Magazine ranked Solar Rx number one in its category.
“Probiome is a Keys-registered trademark for products that restore the balance on the skin by creating formulations that promote good bacteria growth on the skin”
S: Can you briefly describe the Probiome line and name, where the idea came from, and where you think probiotic and microbiome-friendly products are going to go over the next few years?
BR: Ten years ago, I became a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Microbiome Project. The project discovered that our skin has 10 times more bacteria than human skin cells. Creating a balance is what Probiome means.
Probiome is our registered trademark for products that restore the balance on the skin. We do this with formulations that promote good bacteria growth on the skin, similarly to how probiotics restore the flora in the gut. The difference is that gut flora can be promoted by adding breeder bacteria. Skin needs an environment that attracts natural growth of the skin flora.
Natural instead of conventional is a good first step. Natural oils that promote growth is the real answer. Our products are the real deal, because they use the right ingredients of the highest quality and in therapeutic proportions.
S: For someone who is new to natural skincare products, what’s the single best piece of advice you can give them?
BR: Read the label – if you can’t recognize the names of the ingredients, don’t buy it. Find a manufacturer that you trust implicitly.
Also, vote with your wallet. It will change the world faster than donating to Non-Governmental Organizations. Manufacturers follow the money.
S: If there was one currently popular skincare ingredient you could get banned, what would it be and why?
BR: Parabens! FDA recently banned Triclosan. To brag a little bit, my book helped a lot to polarize the FDA.
S: Are there any upcoming projects you’re excited about, that you can give us some hints about?
BR: Our Alternative Naturals line has very deep potential. Basically, the initial challenge was to replace petroleum jelly with a jelled avocado oil for the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).
It blossomed into a series of products that offer a non-petroleum jelly carrier for solution-oriented products. So we will continue to replace the top ten used solution-oriented products that have petrolatum as its carrier with AvoJel.
Another hot project is bio-based 3D printing of skin cells as a catalyst for age-reversing skin repair. It’s really out there, but it’s where I’m headed. It’s more than anti-aging, it’s un-aging.
S: What’s one Keys product that nobody should be without?
BR: For anti-aging, Solar Rx. We use no chemical sunscreens, only pure uncoated zinc oxide in a natural lotion base. Solar Rx is for those who want to avoid the extreme aging effects of UVA and UVB on a daily basis.