The Personal Mission Behind Sean Abel’s Queer Chemistry

Behind Australian cosmeceutical company Dermaenergy is Founder and Cosmetic Chemist Sean Abel, whose name is as synonymous with the brand as it is with his passionate and colourful energy. And while the industry recognises Dermaenergy for its efficacious skincare and cheekily-named products, Sean shares the story of his upbringing with less bravado. Motivated by Sean’s past, Queer Chemistry was born – a drive that works to support Australian LGBTQIA+ services via the contribution of funds made through the sale of Dermaenergy products. 

Through speaking with Sean on the development of his Queer Chemistry initiative, I am told that the upbringing of one of the industry’s loudest and proudest was anything but.

Flying solo

“Raised in a strict Catholic family, I grew up knowing that I was different and that my family strongly opposed my sexuality and my difference,” Sean admits. “This played out in emotional deprivation and feelings of shame. I spent most of my childhood, especially at school, desperately trying to fly under the radar. For the most part, I was lonely.”

For Sean, coming out as gay in the 80s and 90s was not met with the level acceptance or empathy as it commonly is today. At 18, he packed up and moved from a small town to Sydney, where even in the big city was faced with feelings of loneliness and depression.

And while challenging, Sean believes this period of personal struggle drove him toward a successful career with a more sympathetic ear in tow. “This period of my life shaped me to never forget how support is crucial to someone’s life,” he says.

Sean found a home early on within the beauty community

Coming out stronger

The beauty industry has for a long time been known as a safe space for LGBTQIA+ persons to express themselves. However, the perception of the broader community was vastly different three decades ago at the commencement of Sean’s career. “I studied for my diploma in Beauty Therapy back in 1995 and have navigated a successful career since then.”

Sean was introduced to the beauty industry by William Fennell, a gay man, and Peta Friend, a trans woman; best-friends-turned-family since 1994. “We all support each other and are all active in the beauty industry today. [I’ve] never been without work and [have] always been welcomed.”

[left to right] Sean, Peta and William

The beauty of Queer Chemistry

“The LGBTQIA+ community (what I call the Queer community) struggles with mental health. This pressing issue doesn’t seem to be dissipating. The main difference today to my struggles back in the ‘90s is that there’s much greater access to support and resources. Our Queer Chemistry initiative helps us give back and help make a difference.”

Two organisations in particular Dermaenergy have chosen to partner with via Queer Chemistry are Twenty10, a counselling service set up to support queer youth encountering experiences of suicide, and Emerald City Kickball – “a fun, inclusive sporting group with mental health at its core,” Sean states. “The group’s mission is to empower and better connect the LGBTQIA+ community through fun, accessible safe spaces and team sports.”

For Sean, the ultimate goal of setting up Queer Chemistry resonates with the mantra that fuels Dermaenergy – ‘Improving our energy’. “Connecting skincare (self-care) with Mental Health is our ‘why’. It’s why we have Dermaenergy and why we strive to be better. It’s our passion and what keeps us going. As we grow, we continue to support initiatives and charities that work within our community.”

“Queer Chemistry is at our brand’s core and always will be. We are dedicated to improving the energy and mental health of all individuals. Inside the queer community, especially, but also outside.”

Social Media Similarity Syndrome

When quizzed on the role social media is playing in the lives of queer people, Sean considers it a double-edged sword. “On one hand, we have the negative aspect of comparing ourselves to others. I call it the ‘Social Media Similarity Syndrome’ – comparing oneself to others and being left feeling inadequate; this is a sure-fire way to feel depressed. However, the positive side of social media is the visibility it gives all members of the LGBTQIA+ community!” It’s women, Sean believes, are the main driver of change in this area, flagging the largely female-led following of non-binary LGBTQIA+ activists like Deni Todarovic. “Our beauty industry is mainly women, too… no doubt why it’s a safe, supportive and welcoming industry.”

The mind-body connection

While the Queer Chemistry campaign will run indefinitely across Dermaenergy’s channels, Sean opts to extend the brand’s connection to mindfulness and mental health education in-clinic with the offering of their newest treatment, Derma Energy Facial Tapping (DEFT). “It is an alternative therapy that promotes enhanced energy, increased clarity, and a state of calm. It’s beneficial for those with anxiety or stress, and is also ideal for anyone seeking to centre their thoughts, release limiting beliefs, and restore balance to the body and mind,” Sean says.

“Tapping on different parts of the body helps to balance energy and reduce physical and emotional pain.  It may also serve as a mental distraction from the issues that are causing anxiety or stress. Your clients can have a DEFT add-on during a professional skin treatment or treat themselves at home with our DIY tapping tool.” 

Despite life’s hurdles, it seems that for Sean, he will rest a little easier in knowing that Queer Chemistry can positivily impact even a single life. “Because we are all important and all our lives matter.”

To learn more on Queer Chemistry or to stock Dermaenergy, visit the brand’s website or call 1300 799 709.

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