My Beauty Break: Clark’s Botanicals’ Founder Francesco Clark Turned a Life-Altering Event Into a Skin-Care Brand

Clark: It was really refreshing and felt so normal because in that meeting I was treated the same as everyone else. I was part of the group and part of the conversation — I wasn’t simply patient No. 542. To be acknowledged as a human being is a huge thing. Before, I’d been avoiding living my life as a person who contributes to society and who’s also in a wheelchair.

After that, I set up a big dry-erase board in our garage with the days of the week on it and began planning out my schedule. At first, all that was on the board was going to physical therapy. Then it was therapy and going to the [advocacy group] meetings. Then it was therapy, the meetings, and scheduling time to write. Soon, instead of doing physical therapy or doing something, the “ands” became part of living.

Allure: At what point did working on a skin-care formula find its spot on that dry-erase board?

Clark: My injury is so high up [on my spinal cord] that my body doesn’t sweat when I get hot. When I saw myself in the mirror for the first time in three years, I looked 10 years older. My face and neck were a mishmash of dry spots, oily spots, redness, breakouts, dull gray tone — you name it. Nothing seemed to help, whether it was $3 drugstore creams or $300 face creams from Barneys.

Allure: RIP, Barneys New York.

Clark: Yes, respect! When nothing worked, I asked my father for help since he’s a medical doctor, who’s also trained in homeopathy. We researched different ingredients and what they can do for the skin. It was a lot of trial and error and reading studies and research in medical and science journals. I came at it from the point of view that I don’t know anything, so I need to learn everything.

Five years and 78 formulations later, we discovered jasmine absolute, which is now Clark’s Botanicals’ signature jasmine catalyst complex. Over time, we’ve optimized the complex to include jasmine plant enzymes and niacinamide to stimulate the skin, time-release micro red algae that creates long-lasting hydration and plumping and supports collagen production, and arnica montana, which soothes the skin so you don’t get any redness from the stimulating ingredients.

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