Catherine Atzen’s science of beauty


Catherine Atzen, founder of ATZEN. Image supplied.

Catherine Atzen founded her beauty brand ATZEN over two decades ago and its scientifically-based products formulated with natural organic ingredients arrived on New Zealand’s shores this year. Skincare has been a passion of Catherine’s since she was first introduced to facials in her native France at age thirteen. Suffering from acne, dehydrated and sensitive skin, Catherine began learning how to care for her skin and later as an aesthetician started developing formulas that were not just good for the health of the skin but effective in fixing its problems as well.

ATZEN combines Catherine’s medical and scientific research with her love of wellness and an eco-friendly lifestyle. The brand was founded in France but in recent years moved to Silicon Valley in California which has proven to be the perfect place for the innovative skincare brand, surrounded by the world’s top tech companies. After finding a place on the shelves of beauty therapists, wellness experts and naturopaths in so many countries Catherine saw New Zealand as a natural next step as our clean, green country aligns well with ATZEN’s core values.

“ATZEN is about wellness and quality of life,” says Catherine Atzen. “I’m using these products in my bathroom every morning and every night, as I know they work, healthy products goes together with a healthy lifestyle and values that are so dominant in New Zealand. It’s a great country because it fits my belief system so well with its clean air and respect for the environment. It’s really about doing something for yourself that’s healthy for you and is good for the environment.”

While we all know that drinking a lot of water, eating well, exercising and looking after yourself is important and helps for great skin, it’s still possible for the skin to be dehydrated or have other issues which is where ATZEN comes in. ATZEN products have no parabens, petrochemicals, carcinogens or hormone disruptors, they contain scientific ingredients that work such as INTACT DNA™ which Catherine began working with many years ago and is a staple ingredient across the ranges. It has been made for ATZEN in a lab outside of Paris for 30 years and got its start in burn units across Europe because of its amazing skin healing and recovery properties.

The process of creating ATZEN’s products is an intense one with the company’s exacting quality standards in keeping with California’s strict policies and laws which are regulated by the FDA. All the natural ingredients used by the brand are organic but as with any natural product you have varying degrees of quality and not all organic ingredients are created equal. Just being organic doesn’t guarantee that it’s harvested at the best time and that it’s in the best soil and that it’s the best of its kind. Each ingredient comes in with certificates and analysis, with the suppliers providing lots of data before the brand does some human research on the ingredients and everything goes to the lab before it is tested again. With natural ingredients you have to do the microbiology tests to make sure there are absolutely no mould spores or anything like that. Then a batch of product gets made but before it gets filled into the bottle or jar it gets retested again for five days.

“I have a team of 6 chemists, some are in France and some are in California,” adds Catherine Atzen. “We find a lot of great ingredients in the US but we’re not limiting ourselves to the US either. The US provides us with all the organic plants and vitamins we need but those are fairly simple ingredients that many companies are using. We are using the absolute best and we’re using high percentages to get the results we want to achieve. So then we are getting some things from other countries like hyaluronic acid from Japanese mushrooms, it’s the best hyaluronic acid on the market right now, that’s the one we prefer so that ingredient comes from Japan.”

Catherine and her team are constantly looking to push the boundaries and provide skincare that is innovative and actually delivers on its promises. She works with specialised chemists in the lab and as a product developer is always trying to make the formulations as effective as they can be. While many big beauty companies develop products and keep the same formulations for many years, Catherine is able to make changes more quickly and because she makes the decisions for the products the company is able to lead the way in its field of scientifically-based skincare.


Products from ATZEN Purify, Balance and Renew ranges. Image supplied.

All of this innovation doesn’t come cheaply though and a great deal of time and money is invested in research not to mention that each product contains many premium ingredients. Where most companies would use one active ingredient to work on a skin issue, ATZEN will use ten. “If we didn’t need them we wouldn’t use them,” says Catherine. “But we use them because we need to address all the causes of a problem and people expect results. They buy it and they’re going to look at their skin, they’re going to do a selfie and they are going to check the skin in 4 weeks and 8 weeks and they expect significant results. That’s how we shine and we are able to earn their trust for the long-term and they will continue using our products. We want to deliver results because that’s what we stand for.”

ATZEN adapts to each market it enters and forms solid partnerships with their distributors, making sure that the distributor is doing what is right for the market. ATZEN is currently distributed on five continents and each market is a little different, for instance in New Zealand naturopaths and beauty therapists are very well known and respected, so that’s an area where the public is finding the brand and trust is established. In other markets, such as America the brand work more with beauty therapists and in the Middle East they work with doctors as that is how skin issues are treated there.

Unlike a lot of beauty brands ATZEN is not just aimed at women with the products designed to be user friendly for men as well. Men also have many of the same skin complaints as women with acne and premature aging among the most common issues treated.

Acne is an area where ATZEN’s approach to treatment is different from many standard acne products that treat the skin with benzoyl peroxide (BP) which is an inexpensive treatment that dries out the skin. Unfortunately in many people this causes the skin’s oil glands to work overtime and makes the problem worse. While it may work temporarily for some people it’s definitely not an effective fix.

“The way I approach acne is first the skin has to be hydrated not dehydrated,” says Catherine. “Cells need a lot of moisture; the body is 70% moisture, water. What we do with our Purify line is quench the cells with moisture, sometimes people think that moisturising is going to make them break out, but moisture is not the problem. What is a problem is petroleum based ingredients that clog up the pores and aggravate acne – mineral oils, petrolatum bases, etc. There are so many ingredients that clog the pores, of course we don’t use them, nobody should use them but they still do. Second thing after hydrating the cells is to calm down inflammation, because inflammation, redness, is always unhealthy. If you get inflammation in your knee and you go to the doctor, the doctor will say you need an anti-inflammatory because your knee will only heal after the inflammation has gone down. The inflammation is prematurely aging the skin, it damages the DNA of your own cells and you lose tissue. Next is using ingredients that are plant extracts, medicinal plants that eliminate all the causes of acne. Number one is the P-Acnes bacteria. The ingredients we are using target the P-Acnes bacteria, they get the oil glands to produce less oil, it’s just calming them down, instead of irritating them and it works because some plants do a very good job of that.”

One of the main ingredients to help reduce acne is a compound made by a lab called Sepicontrol® which comes from cinnamon. Some of the components of that cinnamon that are extracted by this company and those are the components that eliminate the P-Acnes bacteria, calming down the inflammation and calm down the over working oil glands and it’s also preventing the clogging from the dead cells. Soothing Phytoamine® is another one of ATZEN’s natural antibiotics from medicinal plants. They also use Allantoin which is very smoothing and Seamollient® which is from algae and does many different things including nourishing the skin and calming the skin down.

While there are many skincare brands that use natural products and pride themselves on having very simple formulas with just a few ingredients which are popular with those who want to live a healthy lifestyle, often those products don’t contain high enough concentrations of the active ingredients to be truly effective. “It’s more complicated what we do, it’s more expensive, but it works,” enthuses Catherine. “With ATZEN you don’t have to compromise, you can have your cake and eat it too. Say you go to Smith and Caughey’s and you buy a $500 cream and you see it has some good things, some peptides and ingredients that reduce the wrinkles, and while they do that, then you see all the petrochemicals, hormone disrupters and fragrances and maybe colour additives. You’re compromising your own values because you want to eat organic healthy food, you want to breathe fresh air, you want to drink water that’s clean and here you have to compromise because you want to reduce wrinkles and have healthy skin. With ATZEN you have the best of both worlds so you don’t have to compromise.”