July 30, 2021
How Kasey Drapeau D’Amato Launched Airelle Skincare
March 20, 2019
By Jennifer Walker
Kasey Drapeau D’Amato, a PA in dermatology, began thinking about entrepreneurship when her patients were looking for a natural skincare line that contained medical-grade ingredients and had scientific data to support its effectiveness. A minimalist when it comes to beauty products, D’Amato, who began to get more serious about her skincare when she turned 30, had been looking for the same type of skincare line. Adding more fuel to the fire, D’Amato’s husband, Stephen D’Amato, a television first assistant director at the time, was hearing the same desire for natural, effective skincare from his makeup artist and actor colleagues, who were performing under bright lights and in front of high-definition cameras.
So in 2014, the D’Amatos founded Airelle Skincare, a five-product line designed for all skin types that is formulated with Berrimatrix, a proprietary antioxidant compound derived from blueberries. Berrimatrix reduces the amount of infrared radiation from the sun that penetrates the skin by up to 68 percent, thus offering photoprotection, which prevents collagen breakdown and has anti-aging benefits, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Drugs in Dermatology in 2017.
“My inspiration was to develop [a skincare line] that people like myself, who are particular about what we put on our skin or in our bodies, could feel comfortable using and that I could recommend to my patients,” D’Amato says.
Drawn to dermatology
As a PA student, D’Amato was drawn to dermatology because she liked the idea of helping people feel better about themselves. By treating patients’ conditions on the outside, “I was going to be able to help their mindset and their psychology and their confidence level on the inside,” says D’Amato, who attended the PA program at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
D’Amato’s first position was at Santa Monica Dermatology, where she practiced for 15 years. She was the first female and the first PA in the practice working alongside four male physicians. She spent a year shadowing the physicians, then began seeing patients with common dermatological issues and more complicated skin cancer cases. Then she integrated aesthetic medicine—injectables and fillers, chemical peels, and laser treatments—into her practice and brought an entirely new branch of business into the office.
In 2017, Santa Monica Dermatology transitioned to new ownership, and D’Amato decided to join Rejuva Medical Aesthetics in Los Angeles, where she continues to practice today. As an entrepreneur balancing two careers, her clinical office location is ideal: It’s only a few blocks away from Airelle Skincare’s corporate office.
Building a skincare line
The D’Amatos decided to start Airelle Skincare together because of the amount of time and effort it takes to launch a brand. “We knew we were going to have to be 100 percent committed to this lifestyle and being entrepreneurs,” D’Amato says.
In 2012, when the idea for the company began to take shape, D’Amato started researching ingredients and taking cosmetic chemistry classes at UCLA. She also teamed up with Katherine Wilkens, a fellow PA in dermatology, to formulate Airelle’s products. D’Amato and Wilkens built up their ingredient knowledge and tested formulas for two years while researching the photoprotective capabilities of Berrimatrix. They did some initial beta tests with consumers and changed their packaging and branding as a result of the feedback. The Airelle products went to market in late 2014.
In 2016, the Airelle team began beta testing with physicians, makeup artists, and celebrities. At the same time, D’Amato was working with Jean Krutmann, a German physician and world-renowned antioxidant researcher, to conduct advanced studies on Berrimatrix; their research ultimately led to the study that was published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology.
Today, the Airelle Skincare line contains five products: an exfoliating cleanser, serum, moisturizer, mask, and an eye and lip treatment. The line has been tested and distributed at 37 dermatology offices (32 in California and one office each in Florida, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, and Texas), and the company’s products have been mentioned in many magazines, including InStyle, Muscle & Fitness, and Marie Claire, as well as in AAPA’s News Central.
When it comes to balancing her work as a PA with her business, D’Amato says finding the right physician with whom to collaborate was key for her. Kian Karimi, facial plastic surgeon and head and neck surgeon at Rejuva Medical Aesthetics, has been very encouraging and supportive of D’Amato’s endeavors at Airelle Skincare.
To better manage her time, D’Amato also transitioned to working part-time as a PA in 2017 with a focus on providing care for her long-term patients. “I’ve known my patients for 15 years, so I really know their needs like the back of my hand. I can give them a very high quality of care even though I’m part-time,” she says.
Two secrets to better skin
Product minimalist D’Amato mentions two types of products that she uses in her daily routine. First, she likes to have an exfoliating product like Airelle Skincare’s exfoliating cleanser, which is made with a biodegradable bamboo grain and glycolic acid. “That gets off the dead skin, encourages cellular turnover, and also primes the skin so that other products can penetrate a bit better,” she says.
D’Amato is also passionate about photoprotection—protection against visible light and infrared radiation—an area of skincare that she feels is being overlooked. “There are forms of environmental radiation that can penetrate deeper than ultraviolet and cause collagen to break down and wrinkles to form,” she says. Airelle’s products with Berrimatrix preserve collagen and slow the aging process and should be used in combination with sunscreen, which protects the skin from UVA and UVB rays. “Then you’re getting the skin cancer protection from the sunscreen and the collagen and anti-aging benefits from [ingredients] like Berrimatrix,” D’Amato says.
Advice for PA entrepreneurs
For PAs who are thinking about entrepreneurship, D’Amato has some advice for those who are considering a business partnership with family or friends: “Make 100 percent sure that everyone involved really understands the amount of time, effort, and money that’s going to be needed for the venture and is really open to the hurdles and obstacles that will jump out every day. It’s definitely a process for people who are basically wired to be problem solvers.”
She also stresses that PAs have gained valuable skills from their clinical practice that can be applied to entrepreneurship. D’Amato learned how to handle high-pressure situations when she was a PA student on rotations presenting treatment plans to attending physicians: “Those were some of the hardest situations to be in,” she says. With her patients, she has also learned how to deliver bad news then focus on the plan going forward. “It’s about focusing on the next step and the future,” says D’Amato, who also coaches PAs who are interested in starting their own businesses. “As an entrepreneur, that forward-thinking mindset is the same.”
Jennifer Walker is a freelance writer in Baltimore, MD. Contact Jennifer at [email protected].