Beauty Biz: We’re Busting Glycolic Acid Myths And Learning About Personalised Skincare

Ever wondered about the ingredients that go into making your favourite cleanser or moisturiser? We got our education on with the help of Joanna Gardiner, the brains behind one of Ireland's most popular and skin-friendly brands, Ovelle Pharmaceuticals.


When it comes to skincare, more often than not we’re after opulent jars, sweet scents and celeb-driven endorsements. But what we sometimes forget is the hella long list of ingredients, often discretely tucked in under a hard to release label, and many of which are present simply to up the product’s sensorial appeal. If you eat clean, you’ll be wanting a side of free-from skincare to go with that kale and quinoa.

We recently spoke with Joanna Gardiner, MD of Ovelle Pharmaceuticals who, along with developing bathroom staples like Silcock’s Base and Aqueous Cream, is the proud creator of Elave Skincare. Its brand spanking new range – Absolute Purity – while still suitable for sensitive skin, isn’t shy on heavy hitting derm perfecting compounds us rosacea and acne prone bbz sometimes avoid.

Wanna know more? Settle in for some skincare smarts.

Ovelle was set up by your grandad over 80 years ago. Was he a big influence on your career?

He was in the sense that, he worked in the commercial and sales side of things. My father probably had a bigger influence on me – he was a pharmacist and ran the business when I was growing up. I couldn’t have done what my dad could do in terms of formulating skincare, and by the same token, he might not have been able to channel it the way I saw it, due to my marketing background. So I think we kind of worked well together and learned from each other.

I also look to leaders who are driven by a cause or something that’s important to them. I don’t think I could be enthusiastic about a brand that didn’t have a genuine cause behind it and in our case that was obviously taking out the harsh chemicals and creating skincare for people with sensitive skin.

As it’s a family business, did you start at the top?

Definitely not! I studied Business, Economic and Social Studies in Trinity and after that I worked in advertising, and then did a Market Place internship with Enterprise Ireland for a year. My next move was to Ovelle as a medical sales rep, travelling to G.P. surgeries all over Ireland with our Elave Pharmaceutical brand.

Did you have a lightbulb moment?

I could see the opportunity in terms of rising rates of eczema. I thought, ‘there’s something wrong here, could we do something without sulphates?’ Sulphates are medically proven for triggering a lot of skin reactions. They’re a foaming agent, and while it’s nice to have foam and get that squeaky clean feel, it strips the natural oils, making the dermis even more vulnerable to irritation.

Glycolic acid sounds harsh but it’s actually a natural acid found in sugar.

Is the new Elave Absolute Purity range sulphate free?

It is, and it’s also free from harsh chemicals, parabens, perfume, colours and soaps too.

One of the key ingredients is glycolic acid – an exfoliant that might be considered a harsh chemical.

Glycolic acid sounds harsh but it’s actually a natural acid found in sugar, it’s one of those alpha hydroxyl acids that can actually regenerate and rejuvenate the skin. The acid in itself shouldn’t irritate your skin but if you formulate a product with glycolic acid in addition to a whole host of unnecesary ingredients like colourings and perfumes, the mix can be irritating.

There are two hundred chemicals alone in perfume even though it’s listed as just one ingredient, and so that’s more likely to cause a sensitive reaction than the glycolic acid – although it’s kind of counterintuitive because the word acid sounds really scary!


What are the benefits of glycolics?

It won’t make us look 10 years younger or anything, but it’s certainly going to delay things and it keeps the baby skin underneath elastic while stimulating collagen. Our new Elave Absolute Purity Rejeuvenating Cleansing Treatment is brilliant (and STELLAR whole heartedly agrees – it’s incredible!) – it contains 12% glycolic acid arginine complex and I’m a big fan.

Now, I’m not advocating this or anything, but I actually leave it on for an hour, as a mask. Be warned however, before I even attempted that move, I built up my tolerance to the acid! It’s a handy skincare hack for when you’re watching your favourite TV programme. I use the Elave Absolute Purity Daily Skin Defence SPF 45 too, to protect my new acid-fresh skin.

What other ingredients have you used in the range?

We also use Manuka honey which is a natural antimicrobial and antibacterial. We’re constantly looking at skin problems and there’s a big rise in acne in the 20s and 30s group. At that age skin tends to be really combination, you’ll have redness, dryness and oiliness, so you need a bit of moisturisation combined with an antibacterial agent.

Manuka honey is a great addition to our Elave Absolute Purity Skin Balancing Moisturiser which contains hyaluronic acid and vitamins B5 and E as well.


What’s new in terms of skincare trends?

I think personalised skincare, although it’s not really live yet, will become the future. I don’t even know what it looks like yet but that’s the way skincare is going. In terms of trends, it’s the West looking to the East and I definitely look there for inspiration – there’s some fantastic brands coming out of China and Korea.

One of the biggest performing brands there is a brand called Innisfree which sounds quite Irish – I think it’s grown like 350% in three years. There’s also a pull towards herbal botanicals and more natural, clean ingredients with genuine, authentic beginnings and a story, it’s not all hard commercial marketing!

Any more skincare tips you can share?

Don’t forget about your shampoo when it comes to good skin.

We’re intrigued!

Standard shampoos are absolutely jam-packed with chemicals and those suds running down your face can cause seborrheic dermatitis around the hairline and the eyebrows. I’d recommend sulphate-free shampoo, it also has the added benefit that if you colour your hair, your dye will last longer – that in itself gives you an idea of what it does to your skin!

Elave Absolute Purity is available at and in selected pharmacies nationwide.