Sara Fulton: Chemist, Author, Researcher, Speaker, Grandmother

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Vivant Skin Care's president and co-founder Sara Fulton has dedicated over 40 years to producing ground-breaking skin care. She started her career in research while obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree at Drexel University inPhiladelphia, Penn. She was one of the first women to own and operate an FDA-approved manufacturing facility.In addition, she managed 20 dermatology clinics throughout the United States and abroad. She continues to be a pioneer in the skin care industry.

"I am a people-person and I love medicine. I also like to read, go to medical meetings, and attend tradeshows. I have always been interested in medicine, especially anything that has to do with the skin. At one time, I taught anatomy and physiology to student nurses at Philadelphia General Hospital. I helped my husband, James E. Fulton, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., with his research for his Ph.D. in biochemistry. Together, we started the acne clinic at the University of Miami. After leaving the University of Miami, we started acne clinics in Florida, Illinois, California, and Venezuela. We set up teaching programs for our staff so that the services would be consistent and the quality of care would be excellent. Dr. Fulton was the first dermatologist to integrate aestheticians into his medical office; we trained them in advanced skin care. At the same time, we were doing product development and established the first of three FDA-approved manufacturing facilities in 1975. Together we formulated all the products that became Vivant's product line.Eventually, Dr. Fulton set up a cosmetic surgery office in California. I helped to train the staff of 40 employees and helped set up training programs for the aestheticians to become medical aestheticians. In fact, we coined the term which is currently being used for aestheticians who have medical training. All of my work experience contributed to what and where I am today. If I were to pick out the most yasignificant factor, I would have to say that working with my husband was the most educational. I was so lucky to have had this opportunity, and was blessed to have a partner who treated me as an equal. Working side by side with him was a new adventure every day. I was not just helping formulate and create new products, but by monitoring the clinical trials, I could see our products' effectiveness. Now our company offers excellent customer service and is strong with the 50-plus years of research that went into the formulations. We are proud to keep the legacy of my husband's lifework alive every day."

Here's more of our chat with Sara:

1. DERMASCOPE: How long have you been in the aesthetics industry?

Sara: I have been in the skin care industry for more than 40 years.

2. DERMASCOPE: What credentials do you currently hold?

Sara: I hold a bachelor's degree in pre-medical studies from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

3. DERMASCOPE: Has there been a constant theme that has led you from one point to the next throughout your training and career? (as in asking questions, reading certain materials, etc.)

Sara: The biggest constant in my career was having a mentor in my husband. This encouraged me to learn as much as I possibly could. A lot of what I did was hands-on, which remains my favorite teaching method.

4. DERMASCOPE: What characteristics or skill set you apart from your peers and enabled you to be successful so quickly?

Sara: Success did not come overnight. I stayed focused and knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish. As an example, I helped to formulate Vivant's ProPeel and participated in the clinical trials. Having been in all the roles behind the ProPeel – helping to formulate, trying it on myself and finally on patients – I was able to know exactly what ProPeel was capable of correcting. This is a product that is versatile and can be tailored for acne, melisma, or photo-damaged skin. I knew that if I were to successfully market this product, it had to be a complete package. The professional needed detailed instructions, an informed consent, a checklist that covered all the questions that needed to be asked prior to the peel such as, "Do you wear contacts?" Also, I made a teaching disc that helped to answer questions that may arise during the course of doing a ProPeel. Out of this, I developed an aftercare system so that every area was covered. Success came because of this laser-like focus.

5. DERMASCOPE: Do you have any regrets, or is there anyone thing you can point to and think "I wish I would have done this differently" or "if only I had known then what I know now: that you can share with the readers? Please explain.

Sara: Hind sight is always 20/20.I wish that I had started a school for advanced skincare. So many of the aestheticians that I worked with were hungry for more training.Vivant and Dr. Fulton sponsored a number of three-day, advanced training programs and we were thrilled by the response.Additional training brings the skin care specialist to a new level. Their chances of being hired in a physician's office are greatly improved.

6. DERMASCOPE: What adaptations have you made over the years to stay relevant in the industry?

Sara: Vivant is constantly testing new raw materials. Unfortunately, we have found that many of them do not live up to their claims. What goes into our products has to make a true difference in a skin care problem and in someone's life. We test product usage with different skin care machines to see if we can get additional improvement.

7. DERMASCOPE: What has surprised you most during your professional journey?

Sara: Seeing the evolving role of the aesthetician and having been a part of this transformation has been exciting.I am pleased about how well the medical community has embraced having the aesthetician as part of the team. For example, one of our former aestheticians is on the staff in the department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Miami. Products that previously were exclusive to the trade are now available on the Internet.

8. DERMASCOPE: What are the greatest pressures, strains or anxieties in the work?

Sara: Getting products manufactured and out on time. There is always time pressure and sometimes raw materials do not come in on time.

9. DERMASCOPE: How did you decide that your current career is the right one for you?

Sara: I am a people person and I love medicine. I also like to read, go to medical meetings, and to tradeshows.Working with the patients doing research, as well as teaching, was the right mix for me.

10. DERMASCOPE: How and where do you find inspiration?

Sara: Having the opportunity to partner with my husband was truly inspirational. His enthusiasm for formulating and developing products, as well as having a medical practice, was the right formula for keeping engaged. Just seeing how well the Vivant products help to correct severe skin problems is exciting. Every time I see an acne-prone teenager go from suicidal to happy, it is uplifting. Sometimes even parents, especially if they did not have acne, do not understand how devastating this disease can be. One of our teenage patients had battled acne for years and had been to numerous doctors. In fact, her dad was a doctor.The first time I saw her, her head was hung down and she was crying.When she finally looked up I saw she had one of the worst cases of acne I had ever seen. Her mother revealed that she had never had a date and the senior prom was coming up.I told her to give me two weeks and she would see a big improvement. I saw her every other day for two weeks and she was cooperative about putting on her products. Bottom line: I put her makeup on for the senior prom. Within two months, there was significant improvement. These are the cases that continue to inspire me.

11. DERMASCOPE: What do you see are upcoming trends in the industry?

Sara: Intimate bleaching is something that was never openly discussed. While it is growing in popularity on the coasts, I now see more requests from the rest of the country. Body bleaching, which is treating hyperpigmentation on the underarms, knees, and inner thighs, with ProPeels. Aestheticians that rushed into private label are now going back to established brands. More and more aestheticians are taking advance education classes. The fluctuating role of the aesthetician – in some states they are allowed to do procedures that they are not allowed to perform in other states. There needs to be more consistent regulations.

12. DERMASCOPE: Is there a particular moment or procedure where most professionals go wrong? What could they alter for a better result?

Sara: Professionals need to be able to fully explain the procedure they are doing and how the products work. The first consultation can make or break the relationship. Fully discuss the procedure and what the client can expect. At the first visit, lay out a treatment plan with the client. This gives you a better chance of having a long-term relationship with them and lays the foundation for a longer term relationship. Call the client in a couple of days to see how they are doing. Do not ask teenagers if they are using their medication, this translates to a yes or no. Ask them how they are using the products. This way, product errors are picked up before they see you the next time with no results. Keep in mind that this is not just a financial investment on the part of the client, but also an emotional investment.

13. DERMASCOPE: Why do you think people come to a particular spa?

Sara: Service, service, service. From the receptionist answering the phone, to the person cleaning the floors, to the professional doing the service: everyone needs to perform as a part of a team. This is not a nine to five business that is closed on the weekends. We are in the service industry, evenings and Saturday hours are significant. Services need to be offered at times that are convenient for the clients. Some key points: offer a variety of services, employ staff that is well-educated and proficient in skin care, select a good location, and create a relaxing ambiance.

14. DERMASCOPE: What do you believe separates the best establishment from the rest?

Sara: Quality of service, quality of products, quality of results.

15. DERMASCOPE: Is there a particular ingredient that you feel is a "super" ingredient? If so, Why?

Sara: I believe there are two; one being Vitamin A Propionate. To have clear, smooth and tight skin, it is necessary to jumpstart the skin's sluggish production at the dermal level, while also clearing away old dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. It is this dual-action by Vivant's Vitamin A Propionate that facilitates the realigning of collagen.The other is Vivant's formulation of mandelic acid, which effectively treats photoaging, irregular pigmentation and acne in every skin color without the post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation of glycolic acid or benzoyl peroxide.

16. DERMASCOPE: Do you have a signature treatment or technique that your clients love – a classic of sorts? What makes it so loved?

Sara: Two things: we always loved to treat acne and became super-proficient at doing extractions. The client always saw a rapid improvement when they were extracted in the method that we teach. ProPeels™, because it's so versatile. It can be used for melasma, acne, photo-damaged skin, and intimate body bleaching. It is safe to use on all skin colors.

17. DERMASCOPE: What tool(s) would your treatment room (or business) not be complete?

Sara: A well-trained aesthetician is vital. A good microdermabrasion machine is an excellent adjunct.

18. DERMASCOPE: What is the one piece of advice you give to every client you see?

Sara: The importance of sunscreen can never be over-emphasized.

19. DERMASCOPE: Do you or your company support any particular causes or charitable organizations? If so, who and why?

Sara: For a number of years, Vivant has provided a Thanksgiving lunch and play day for the children at His House Children's Home in Miami Gardens, Florida. The children are placed there by the courts, to get them away from all types of abuse. Vivant provides all the food and play equipment: footballs, soccer balls, baseballs, crafts, hair ties, and more. All my employees participate in playing with the children.Each year, we engage in a breast cancer awareness and fundraising campaign during October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the proceeds go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.I am on the President's Board at St. Thomas University, and had an opportunity to organize an internship program where several of the science students come to Vivant each year and get a chance to learn formulation and manufacturing. Vivant also contributes financially to St. Thomas' New Professional Program for scientists and nurses, which they are starting soon.We are in the process of launching a scholarship in the name of Dr. Fulton at leading dermatology and aesthetics institutes.Some of the other South Florida-based charities we have recently supported include Women in Distress, Starlight Florida, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

20. DERMASCOPE: You wear so many hats in this industry. What is your secret to keeping life in balance and enjoying the journey?

Sara: I enjoy reading to my younger grandchildren. I take my older grandchildren on trips to live theater performances and museums.

21. DERMASCOPE: What are your hobbies when not working?

Sara: I love to travel, cook, and try different wines. Many times, I stop and visit aestheticians who have gone through our training programs.

22. DERMASCOPE: Do you have a company or personal motto by which you live?

Sara: To create the best skin care products in the world.

23. DERMASCOPE: Can you share something the most people wouldn't know about you?

Sara: I learned to fly an airplane. I also enjoy renovating older homes. I can lay tile, apply wall paper, and hang drywall.

24. DERMASCOPE: What is the toughest decision you have had to make at your company?

Sara: Relocating from California to South Florida to be closer to my grandchildren.

25. DERMASCOPE: Any other question you would like to be asked:

Sara: What is my favorite type of wine? Anything that is put on the table. In truth, I like a nice Prosecco.

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