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Legend has it...

That when a certain award winning actor with a serious skincare contract (as in multimillion-dollar) left her beauty bag onboard an overnight flight recently, the nosy female cabin crew couldn’t resist taking a peek inside. (Don’t judge. Wouldn’t you want to know the real secret behind her poreless, flawless complexion?) Said rummage revealed numerous black glass bottles and jars, all with their labels painstakingly removed. But one eagleeyed crew member (an especially radiant one, we might add) recognise the tampered-with packaging straight away. “Rationale,” she whispers to me a few weeks later (courtesy of four glasses of wine, we might add), eyes widening dramatically as if I’m her co-conspirator in this tawdry beauty tale.

Define Rationale, I hear you say. Surprisingly for an Australian skincare brand that’s been around 25 years (it was established in Melbourne by formulating chemist Richard Parker in 1993), it’s still weirdly under the radar. It doesn’t pay spokesmodels. You won’t find it in department stores. And if you wander into one of its six flagship clinics and declare you’re ready to invest in the whole skincare range, its therapists will politely rebuff you. Cue lecture on restraint being required, patience being a virtue (yada, yada, yada), and then maybe they’ll start you off with two, maybe three lotions if you’re lucky. Don’t even bother expending energy handing them your shopping list. They’ll tell you what you can have. It’s all very Seinfeld Soup Nazi, but, if anything, the restrictions only fuel fans’ fanaticism. 

Jokes aside, it’s the word-of-mouth effect that’s driven this company’s growth. Editors telling their designer mates. Women complimenting the radiant complexions of fellow school mums on the sidelines at Saturday-morning sports. Makeup artists prepping actors, models and politicians for photoshoots. “These women coming to us for the first time are normally 30–35 and in that interesting life space when the penny drops: they can no longer take their skin for granted,” Richard Parker says. “She’s not a panicker. She doesn’t see a wrinkle and shriek, ‘I need Botox!’ But she’s reached that fork in the road — do I go cosmetic surgery or do I explore other options?” 

Harper

 The number-one mistake Australian women make when it comes to skincare, Parker believes, is not formulating a lifelong plan. “They’re trying all these things in their twenties, ending up with sensitivity, and then in their thirties they’re not able to use certain ingredients that could transform their skin,” he says with a sigh. Apparently, we’re also a nation of overzealous cleansers. “The sun, the heat, the light here … it’s unforgiving. We’re overcritical and it’s made us overzealous. We love clean complexions, but skincare is like fitness. Gentle, consistent effort in the long run is proven to be more effective than fanatical bootcamp.” Parker isn’t a fan of cleansing skin in the morning — a habit that’s hard to shake. “A splash of water is all you need,” he insists. “Save your efforts for night, especially to eradicate sunscreen remnants.” His theory is that 80 per cent of facial ageing is caused by the sun, so if you prevent and repair that damage, radiance will return. 


Worshipping at the alter of Rationale has become a thing for those serious about repairing sun-damaged skin.

Eugenie Kelly, Harper's Bazaar Nov Issue 2017

 If you could trademark Rationale skin, it would be a ‘glowy’ look, with fans forgoing foundation after using the range for a few months, finding that it ‘masks’ the complexion. Which is why actors book regular Rationale treatments prior to filming, as Rose Byrne did in the lead-up to shooting Peter Rabbit in Sydney’s Centennial Park this past January. “The six-step regimen lets them get away with wearing less makeup,” says makeup artist Samantha Powell. “I worked with Julie Bishop recently on a shoot, removed her makeup and applied Rationale Beautiful Skin, which is an SPF50 that really enhances radiance and evens out skin tone at the same time. She loved it so much she went out and bought that plus the whole range that day.” (Bishop is Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, hence she’s allowed all six products at once. End of story.)


Parker believes that before anyone prescribes skincare, they should have as much information about customers as possible, so an initial consultation with Rationale involves a genetic test (DNArray), via a swab of the inside of your cheek, to identify genetic skin strengths and weaknesses. This is followed by diagnostic UV imaging, so you’re not only uncovering the current state of your skin, but also revealing how it will fare in the future. Once results are in, you’re prescribed a skincare plan from the Essential Six. “Step one is protect your skin’s immune system,” Parker says. So to build resilience, vitamin B3 is the star of Rationale Immunologist Serum (labelled with a big yellow “1”). Number “2” is Super Antioxidant Serum, all about countering damage from pollution, smoking, stress and sun-induced oxidation. “Antioxidants are essential, especially as you age. Vitamins A, C, E … and a whole bunch of enzymes,” Parker summarises. Step “3”: PhotoDynamic Day Cream SPF15. “The humble moisturiser is so underrated,” Parker laments. “So much of skin ageing is enzyme-related. We’ve used zinc, melanin and Australian botanicals to form a protective shield. So much of our research is now focusing on Australian plants because of their ability to protect themselves from the sun.”

Number “4”, ProCeramide Cleanser, is perhaps the most nourishing cleanser we’ve tried, probably because it focuses on replenishing lipids rather than stripping the skin barrier. While number “5” (Catalyst Serum) and “6” (DNA Night Cream) are all about, respectively, a healthy dose of AHAs and Vitamin A, which boost cell turnover. Parker says the luminosity and plumpness effect is amped up even more over time, because “your retinoid receptors increase as skin begins to heal from the sun damage, which in turn increases radiance and decreases sensitivity”.

And that’s where the addiction factor comes in. “Our clients are stickers, not bolters,” Parker says. “I got a Facebook message from an 82-year-old customer the other day who told me she had been on it for 10 years.” Think that’s a tad obsessive? It gets weirder. “A client was recently trekking Everest and kept her six products in a cross-body bag because she was paranoid she’d lose them,” hes says. “As it turned out, her donkey went over the side of the cliff. She was understandably traumatised, but the first thing she clutched to assure herself of its whereabouts was that satchel.” 

Not everyone’s a fan. Anecdotally, some say the products are too active for them, while others find the evening regimen results in increased sun sensitivity. But for women such as Powell, who claim Catalyst Serum transforms their skin literally overnight, copious layers of sunscreen is a price they’re happy to pay. Oddly enough, it’s the vocal sceptics whom Parker is most fond of. He says with obvious affection, “We love those old sun-damaged girls from [Sydney’s] eastern suburbs who come into our Woollahra flagship salon straight off the tennis court after hearing their daughters raving about the range. They’re super cynical, but once they try it, they’re in. For life.”

Eugenie Kelly - Harper's Bazaar November 2017