Annie Graham, Founder & CEO of XO FACEcare

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XO FACEcare is no stranger to fame, having been featured in publications like Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine, and Hello! Canada, and founder Annie Graham knows a thing or two about the chemistry behind the products she formulates in her lab. When her company says things like, “XO FACEcare uses the most concentrated actives in facial skincare to protect the Stratum Corneum and Trans Epidermal Water Loss,” you know you are in the hands of someone who knows their stuff. Elixuer sat down to chat with Annie about her skincare line and the treatments offered at XO Treatment Room in Calgary, Alberta. 

You use a lot of scientific terms when discussing skincare. Would you say that the focus on science is what makes XO FACEcare skincare stand out against competitors?

I don’t know if that was the intention, but I have a biology degree, and I worked in surgical ophthalmology for 16 years, so that sort of terminology is much more natural to me than people that maybe work and grow up through the aesthetic industry and tend to maybe use more of the marketing terms. I call it what it is [laughs], rather than the fantasy around it.

Sometimes I have to spend maybe a little more time explaining to people that you need to massage the surfactant onto your skin. They’re [clueless], and then, I’m like, “You have to rub the cleanser in, and then rinse it off.” So, I either go a little too much one way or a little too much the other, but I think education is key in this industry, and once people get used to the terminology, they really can make better decisions.

What are you referring to when you say that you are “lifestyle-minded”?

There’s lots of ways that we can tackle different skin problems, so that really refers to treatments rather than the skincare, and “lifestyle-minded” means if this is a person that has a very busy social life, I need to keep in mind that they’re going to be hesitant to have downtime, and they won’t be safe with sun exposure. That will alter the path that I take to help them with their skin issues. 

There are a lot of chemicals or even lasers that can make you quite light-sensitive. It may be the fastest way to fix your problem, but it might come with some downtime. For some people, that’s not acceptable, so we’ll take the long route.

What can a client expect in their very first physical or virtual appointment with you?

An interrogation [laughs]. I think it’s really important. By the time people see me, or they see their dermatologist, or they see someone for their skin, they usually have an issue. I like to find out what they’ve done, what they’ve tried, what happened, what was the result of those experiences. I really feel like I have to investigate a little bit of their life before I can continue with either the proper treatment or the proper advice.

In the media, we find many mentions of the chemical peels offered at the XO Treatment Room. Tell us how you ended up offering 1,300 virtual chemical peels over the pandemic? What are the primary benefits of chemical peels?

I’d say up to now — that’s two years — we probably did closer to 4,000, and I think I’ve always loved chemical peels because they’re the best bang for your buck. The fine lines, the texture of your skin, the sun damage on your skin — a chemical peel can get all of that. However, there is a good seven to 10 days downtime with it. But, of course, when we’re all locked up in our houses, it was the perfect scenario for people to get these chemical peels done.

We started off with a really good consultation, and then I would compound them something here in my lab, mail it out, and then we’d meet again on FaceTime, Zoom, whatever. We would do the peel together and just stay in touch throughout the next seven to ten days. Some people even went like three, four peels throughout the pandemic. It also offers [convenience to] people that don’t have access to good skincare in a city. Maybe you’re out in the middle of nowhere. We did a lot of rural Alberta, Ontario, and BC.

Chemical peels act as exfoliants, right?

That’s essentially what it is. There’re different acids that we can use to target different issues that people would have on their skin. Sometimes some are better towards textured skin. Some are better towards acne. Sometimes we do a mélange of them, and that’s really the benefit of customizing these things and giving someone a consultation. You can buy these things on the internet, but how the lay person would know what they need at what pH, which acid, how long to leave it on for, [and] what to expect is impossible. 

What steps does XO FACEcare take to ensure sustainability?

Sustainability is the buzzword of the moment and the industry. I think the most sustainable thing we can do in this industry is to buy less. If you can have someone direct you to a very focused skincare regime, you’re not out there consuming and buying and trying things that aren’t working for your skin type. 

I did do a capsule collection called the “Solids.” I worked with a girl who [is] a PhD candidate in microplastics from Syracuse, New York, and we created this cardboard tubing. I had to learn how to solidify good products — like I can’t put a liquid in a cardboard tube. So that was a real interesting exploration into sustainability for me and a real circle too because there’s a lot of materials out there that are made out of hemp or wheat grass, and they’re biodegradable but not recyclable. So that goes into the landfill, and that’s not an ideal environment for that to decompose. You really have to clean everything out, take the labels out, and go bury it in your yard really. That’s not “lifestyle-minded” for many people, so probably not the best thing for sustainability right now, so I think consuming less is best.

Arslan Ahmed | Staff Writer

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