Founder of Salubre, Dr Irene Prantalos chats about her skincare journey.
Tell us what inspired you to establish Salubre?
“It’s been a long journey for me and to be honest my intention was somehow find a way to manage the psoriasis that had become a beast in itself. Once I completed my studies and opened up private practice, patient’s struggles seem to have many similarities to my own. The uncertainty, pain, fear, and hundreds of different treatments to find a solution for an incessant skin condition is actually shared by many people. For me, over a period of time and significant dedication to finding anything that had a positive impact to my skin led me to manage a very severe skin condition. I wanted to take this knowledge I had acquired and provide hope for people that seemed destitute as I once was. So my inspiration initially was to help myself but inadvertently saw the need to help so many other people to understand the complexities that exist with restoring optimal health and the importance with recognising skin issues as being a direct result of poor inner health.”
Have you always had an interest in skincare?
“My interest stems from my own personal struggles with psoriasis which in just over a period of five years became erythrodermic (completely covering my entire body). When it comes to skin conditions, it simply isn’t finding a treatment to manage the skin condition but it requires a multifaceted approach to positively impact the health of the skin. Skin diseases are obvious to everyone; with that people will judge you immediately and at times be afraid to be near you in fear of catching what you have.”
What effect has this had on you?
“I personally have experienced many situations that really challenged my self-esteem and my ability to stand in my own power. For this, I am extremely passionate about helping people attain healthier skin, and I am extremely passionate about teaching health practitioners, skin therapists, and the like to effectively health their patients/clients with understanding what the body needs to have healthy skin.”
You suffered from psoriasis as a teenager – how important was this as a turning point in your life?
“At the time, I really struggled to accept my circumstances. I felt victimised for something I didn’t do and felt a sense of injustice. Why me? What have I done to deserve this? Why can’t I be just like any other normal teenager? Especially being told I had an auto-immune disease, which highlights the ‘faulty’ body I had.”
How did you change your mindset?
“It wasn’t until I entered my 20s and I was studying Chinese Medicine that I realised I needed to look at this from a different perspective. Why is my body acting in this way? What if my body isn’t faulty and it’s simply trying to tell me something? Immediately my mindset shifted from victim to empowered. In that instance my life started to change and that was the turning point that impacted even those around me especially my mum. Now as a mother, I understand my mum’s experience was traumatic especially seeing her daughter bed ridden with this disease would have created a lot of stress. So I needed to shift my mum’s mindset too and often explain to her that everything happens for a reason. I will learn from this, although at that time I had no idea what I needed to learn I just knew I need to learn something.”
In 1994 you heard about Chinese medicine to help heal the skin condition – how did you find this helped?
“This followed a brief hospital visit which unfortunately was unsuccessful. My doctors tried everything they could to help but my body was not having a bar of it. In fact, the more immunosuppressants I was given the more my body fought back. So I was told I needed to go elsewhere. Some period of time passed and I desperately tried Chinese Medicine. Honestly, I didn’t want to. I wasn’t a fan of the smelly herbs that looked like they were collected from someone’s garden but I actually had nowhere else to turn, so I did it. I was very diligent, took my herbs twice per day, adhered to a strict diet that omitted any inflammatory food and within two months my skin was normal. Now it wasn’t cured but it opened my eyes to the possibility that I was onto something.”
This discovery prompted you to study medicine in 1995 – tell us about that?
“It was tough; because as I mentioned, the herbs didn’t cure my condition but somehow made it better. I should mention I’m a stress-head and studying created a lot of stress. So I was challenged many times especially after my exams where I seemed to break out with lesions all over my body, each and every time. The only way I could get through it was to take one semester at a time and focus on the hope I would find answers to how I could manage this disease.”
You opened your own practice after completing your medical internship in 2002 – what were some of the major learnings you discovered by running your clinic?
“The biggest realisation was that others are struggling too. I thought I was the only person on the planet and I was all alone. The reality is, even to this day, I see many patients with very severe skin conditions which seem to follow a very similar path to me.”
Your true passion was delivering effective treatments to help people with skin problems – tell us about this?
“One of my passions is helping people realise they have the power within themselves to be healthy. The choices we make – our nutrition, our lifestyle choices, the friendships we have, the relationships we have, how we allow others to treat us, what internal dialogue we have when no one is around. All these factors are so important to being healthy and we have 100% control over this. Often we look for something to make us healthy; a pill or treatment or a person that can help in some way where others haven’t. My passion is helping people and this includes practitioners and therapists to empower those afflicted with skin diseases that yes treatment is important but you are with yourself 24/7. So what you do in that time dramatically impacts your health and your life as well.”
In 2010 you set up Salubre and developed three ranges for skincare – how time consuming was launching the ranges?
“Initially, I didn’t set out to do this. I wanted to make a skincare range that would help my sensitive skin. No matter where I went my skin reacted to whatever was put on it. So I did a few courses and realised I could use my Chinese herbs that helped me internally, topically too. So I teamed up with a cosmetic chemist and we discussed this in depth. Once I used the skincare on myself and gave it to my patients, that is when I realised it could help many people that are in a similar boat as me; having highly reactive skin but still needed skincare that did what I wanted it to do. This process was very extensive and challenging as I was practicing at the same time but this also gave me patients I could use in my research as to how these products reacted on different skin types.”
“If you hadn’t established Salubre what would we find you doing?
“I have a passion to do my PhD in psoriasis. I can’t help the need to want to find more answers to this disease. I will do it but not now. I hope to open that door when my son goes to school and I have more time on my hands.”
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