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Ben Schwartz is Associate Editor, Contemporary OB/GYN.
A fourth-generation soap artisan has created a company and skincare line that uses farm fresh eggs to relieve dermatologic conditions such as atopic dermatitis and eczema.
Farm fresh eggs and free range chicken have been all the craze the past few years when it comes to organic cooking. But Sandra Bontempo’s company uses free range chicken for something a little bit different. Ms. Bontempo’s company, Free Range Skincare, specializes in using chicken products, specifically eggs, as the main ingredient in her skincare products.
Ms. Bontempo, a fourth-generation soap artisan and mother of three children who suffer from extensive pet and food allergies as well as eczema, has kept chickens as an alternative to some of the more common, but allergy-triggering, pets. After researching natural ways to help give her children relief from their sensitive skin, she discovered the dermatologic benefits of eggs.
Research has found that farm fresh eggs have positive effects on the skin because they naturally have a number of beneficial nutrients. Lutein can increase skin hydration by 38% and skin elasticity by 8% while also boosting natural antioxidants. Able to treat a number of different skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, burns, cold sores and scaling, Vitamin A also exists in eggs. Zeaxanthin, an antioxidant that protects skin against UV exposure and encourages even skin tones, is another nutrient found naturally in eggs. While these nutrients are found in pasture-raised eggs, factory farm, “cage-free” and “organic eggs” have virtually no Lutein and Zeaxanthin as a result of their diet and living conditions.1
After doing more of her own research, Ms. Bontempo came across a study that egg yolk heals third degree burns and studies on the proteins of biologics in the eggs2. Spurred by her findings, she continued to try to find out more about the benefits of eggs.
“I started doing some major research on incorporating the egg and making it work and finding the right preservative that was not going to cause any inflammation on the skin or irritation and also not be considered environmentally damaging,” she says. “And I found benzylalcohol-DHA, which is an Ecocert approved preservative that is effective, and it has minimal ratings when it comes to the actual level of irritation that can be caused. So I combined that with the products and it just took off.”
Free Range Skincare has experienced a lot of positive momentum and honors lately, including a couple of small business awards in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. However, Peter Lio, M.D., assistant professor of clinical dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and private practice, Medical Dermatology Associates of Chicago, Chicago, notes that there are some drawbacks to these types of products from a dermatologist’s standpoint.
“Unfortunately-and par for the course for these small, more anecdotal home-made products-such studies [like a blinded trial to determine how effective egg is] never exist and are not pursued, making it difficult to recommend such products. Beyond this, the cost for such ‘artisan’ products tends to be many times higher than a mass-market product,” Dr. Lio adds. “While this can seem luxurious and rustic, there is a very real burden for patients with atopic dermatitis, as moisturizers are critical but almost never covered by health insurance. Thus, spending more for such moisturizers that may or may not help any more than less expensive alternatives, could potentially add cost without any added benefit, and that is something worth considering.”
But he also says, “I remain humble when it comes to skin diseases, and atopic dermatitis in particular. I don't have all the answers and would be equally delighted if someone stumbled upon something inexpensive, safe and really effective! We need innovation, and perhaps it doesn't only have to come from a research lab or pharmaceutical company.”
In Ms. Bontempo’s case, innovation was the easy part. After residing primarily in an online space, she recently made the transition into a small, more traditional “brick and mortar” shop. While she had experienced success through social media and from grass roots marketing efforts during her time exclusively online, she admits she wasn’t as prepared for the shift.
“Brick and mortar is a whole lot different than online,” she says. “It's a lot harder to get people in the door than what you think. So I had the wrong color, I had signs that were hard to see from across the street. You think you're doing really great and then you have this store and nobody walks in, you're like, 'what am I doing wrong?’”
She took about two months to revamp her business and rebrand soon after opening her physical location. She’s been happy with the results and has most recently been awarded a micro-grant from a group dedicated to helping start-up companies in Cleveland. She’s also proud of her work to help raise awareness and improve the quality of life of chickens. Part of her business model allocates a portion of her sales towards creating a shelter to rehabilitate and care for battery hens. These hens are raised in controversial caging systems in which they are lined and stacked against one another for the sole purpose of egg laying.
Free Range Skincare uses eggs from a flock of free range chickens at Ms. Bontempo’s home in Ohio. According to her website, freerangeskincare.com, she claims that the eggs contain increased amounts of Vitamin A, E and Lutein compared to factory farmed eggs, but the hens can also provide benefits beyond the dermatologic.
“We have a mission where we want to put some pressure on some of these factory farms and get them to allow their retiring battery hens to be able to be adopted instead of just being destroyed,” she explains. “And the goal would be to set up a rescue for them to get that changed and then once they're rehabilitated and they're living correctly, then their eggs would go into our products and we'd be able to say, 'by using the free range products, you're not only feeding your skin, but you're saving a life.' The hens are great therapy animals for kids who are autistic and it's been documented that they improve the quality of life of senior citizens,” Ms. Bontempo adds.
She just released an eBook called “Ethical Skin Care: Finding the Fountain of Youth in Your Own Backyard.” Her line of products and additional information about her company can be found at her website, www.freerangeskincare.com.
1. Hesterberg K1, Schanzer S, Patzelt A, Sterry W, Fluhr JW, Meinke MC, Lademann J, Darvin ME. Raman spectroscopic analysis of the carotenoid concentration in egg yolks depending on the feeding and housing conditions of the laying hens. J Biophotonics. 2012 Jan;5(1):33-9. doi: 10.1002/jbio.201100036. Epub 2011 Jun 9.
2. Rastegar F, Azarpira N, Amiri M, Azarpira A. The effect of egg yolk oil in the healing third degree burn wounds in rats. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2011 Oct;13(10):739-43. Epub 2011 Oct 1.