There’s no contesting Italy’s reputation for decadence. From fashion to cars, the Italian boot has punted some of the most recognizable and coveted brands (think Gucci, Maserati, and Ferrari) into the mainstream. Heck, even its most simple culinary exports like pizza and pasta somehow manage to be unsparing in their indulgence. But what about skincare—will France and Korea continue to dominate? Well, when it comes to clean, organic skincare products, Italy is fast becoming a power player on the field.
With a diverse climate, Italy is a gold mine for naturally grown botanicals and marine ingredients that benefit skin. Over the past few years, small-batch Italian brands have been rising up the ranks because of the surging demand for chemical-free, non-toxic, organic skincare. After all, we should all be conscious of what we slather on our faces.
Two research-driven, family-owned labels based in the Italian countryside are expanding offerings into the realm of men’s grooming, and formulating some of the best grooming products around. Think of it like adding freshly grated parm on your bowl of pasta. There’s a difference you can see and feel.
Seed to Skin: Green Molecular Science From Tuscany
You’ve heard of farm-to-table as the pinnacle of ethical eating. Seed to Skin is the skincare equivalent. Set among the rolling hills of Tuscany is Borgo Santo Pietro, a lavish resort built from the remains of a 12th-century outpost along a medieval pilgrimage route. Today’s retreat is also a holy site for visitors who seek respite among the best of belezza Italiana. Danish couple Jeanette and Claus Thottrup opened the doors in 2011. Over the past decade, they’ve expanded the property to 22 rooms and suites, adding the Michelin-starred Meo Modo restaurant, a 220-acre organic farm, and a leading spa that uses their custom line of organic skincare.
Jeanette Thottrup launched Seed to Skin as a testament to ingredients with powerful skincare benefits that need minimal intervention. It’s a mission that comes from an interest in holistic healing. Thottrup’s pursuit of natural health remedies eventually led her to the world of organic skincare, and to Dr. Anna Buonacore, an Italian cosmetologist. Together, they came up with the idea for results-based skincare powered by “green molecular science.” It’s a technology that identifies active ingredients down to the size of the molecules.
“In some cases, we have to research and test the individual formulas for over a year before being ready to launch.” explains production manager Cristina Guidarelli.
The custom-built Seed to Skin laboratory sits a short stroll away from the Borgo Santo Pietro estate in the sleepy one-bar hamlet of Palazzetto. Many of the ingredients come from the surrounding farmland. This includes everything from fragrant herbs and medicinal plants to raw honey and even sheep’s milk cheese. (The milk goes to a third-generation cheesemaker who makes Pecorino for the hotel; his workshop is located a few doors down.) Careful vetting takes place whenever outside growers come into the mix. They even inspect the type of soil they use to ensure sustainable practices meet the standards for its organic skincare.
Outsourcing is simply not an option for Thottrup and team. Formulas are individually mixed and bottled by hand on-site. Every batch is also assigned a number for transparency. There’s only pure goodness inside the signature emerald glass jars; no synthetic fillers or preservatives, plus the subtle scents come from all-natural sources, thanks to aromatherapist Lindsay Woodman.
Best of all, the proven regenerative effects of Seed to Skin’s products don’t discriminate when it comes to gender. (The collection has actually always been popular among men.) And with the launch of its first-ever product dedicated to men’s grooming, Men’s Green Ritual Kit ($296), there’s even more to love. The Divine Cleanse is a detoxifying cleanser that can also be used as a shaving gel; The Alche’Mist is a nutrient-rich serum spray; and The Cure for Men is a version of its popular vitamin-rich moisturizer, tweaked just for guys, to lessen the effects of aging and inflammation.
“Men’s skin is more coarse and exposed due to shaving, so it’s important to strengthen the skin barrier and microbiome as much as possible,” says Thottrup.
Among the serum’s powerful ingredients are honey and hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin; peptides for anti-aging, plus prebiotics and probiotics to repair and rejuvenate. The Cure for Men is also the only Seed to Skin product that contains an extract from crocus bulbs that has restorative effects on skin.
“It’s able to reverse the aging process by stimulating the communication between skin cells,” adds Thottrup. “It induces the secretion of growth factors in keratinocytes that enhance the synthesis of collagen and elastin in the dermis. Thanks to its growth factor-like activity, it’s able to rejuvenate the skin matrix.”
That’s some powerful stuff.
Furtuna Skin: Wildly Potent “Soundbath-Extracted” Ingredients From Sicily
Furtuna Skin also taps into the bounty of the Italian countryside for its line of organic skincare products, this time from the 856-acre La Furtuna Estate in rural Sicily. The bucolic corridor is home to an organic farm called Bona Furtuna. There are more than 12,000 olive trees and hundreds of medicinal plants blanketing its hills. Spring water streams down from Monte Barraù, the fourth-highest mountain peak on the island. This helps naturally irrigate organically grown botanicals that are used in the property’s custom skincare line.
It was launched in November 2019 by model Agatha Relota Luczo and beauty innovator Kim Walls. Fortuna Skin aims to address the age-old skepticism of organic beauty, namely around consistency and potency. And the secret lies in sound.
Furtuna Skin is the first skincare brand to use the Soundbath Extraction Method, a technique pioneered by the pharmaceutical industry. It sounds cool because it is. Conventional methods for extracting elements from organic matter usually entail harsh chemicals and overheating. It’s a process that can easily damage fragile ingredients. Instead, after hand-foraging and processing fresh-picked botanicals into fine particles, the Furtuna Skin team immerses them in oils. They then coddle the mixture with ultrasound energy at low temperatures, which extracts high potency bioactives. This rapid—but gentle—process preserves the integrity of nutrients and keeps antioxidant levels at a maximum. It’s also a difference you can feel.
“We have access to the best ingredients in the world,” says Heather Records, vice president of brand at Furtuna Skin. “Why would we want to ruin them?”
Its Transformation Set ($225 travel size; $398 full size) includes Acqua Serena Micellar Cleansing Essence, Porte Per La Vitalità Face and Eye Serum, and Due Alberi Biphase Moisturizing Oil. The organic skincare trio boasts powerhouse ingredients like olive leaf water, olive oil, and magnolia extract. Together, they block free radical damage by 100 percent, defend against environmental skin stressors (thanks to antioxidants), repair the skin’s moisture barrier, and support skin’s natural collagen synthesis.
All of its products are unisex but, earlier this summer, Furtuna Skin released the new Forza D’agrò After Shave Serum just for men. The dual-purpose elixir uses skin-repairing properties that both lessen signs of fatigue while conditioning facial hair. Though there’s olive oil, borage oil, and shea butter in the formula, it feels super light and non-greasy. Calming prickly pear also rejuvenates the skin in the long term. With every use, the serum takes you on an olfactory journey through pastoral Sicily due to the presence of essential oils like lime, bay laurel, juniper, and rock rose.
All Furtuna Skin’s organic skincare products are available online and in-store exclusively with Shen, a wellness and beauty shop located in Brooklyn, NY. Shen also introduced a signature Gentleman’s Facial as a new treatment, with the Forza D’agrò After Shave Serum, to achieve stellar-looking skin. It might just be the closest thing to basking under the Sicilian sun—so take it.