Jane Atherton is the creator of Pause Hydra Creme – the UK’s No1 face cream for hormonally changing skin. Jane is the CEO of umbrella company Phytomones Ltd and is also a clinical Nutritionist, Skin Therapist, Menopause advisor and best selling author of The Menopause Secret.
Tell us a little about your background and your role within phytomone?
After leaving university I went to work for RoC Cosmetics in their Research & Development department and then moved on to a managerial role at Estée Lauder. Several years later I had a change of career when I moved to Hong Kong and studied Clinical Nutrition. I opened my own practice with a GP, where we complimented each other’s services. I am now the CEO of Phytomone Ltd.
What incentivised you to start phytomone?
Well, most of the ladies I saw in my practice just happened to be menopausal women, which I could relate to, as I was peri-menopausal myself at the time. Apart from diet & nutrition, these ladies were constantly asking for advice on their declining skin health. Fortunately, my education and training in beauty, health, diet and hormones gave me the knowledge and insight into why skin ages so dramatically during the menopause transition. But I was finding it difficult to recommend products to these ladies as there weren’t any on the market which specifically addressed hormonal skin ageing. Regular anti-ageing products are fine but will only ever offer limited results. I knew menopausal skin could look so much better with the right formulation.
What are your views on conventional HRT?
Every woman will experience her menopause her way, so she must decide what she is comfortable with. HRT is a very personal choice, but unfortunately, there is still an awful lot of stigma and confusion surrounding it. Most doctors have very little training (if any) in menopause and still have a very outdated view on HRT. The latest generation of body identical HRT is thought to be safe and could help preserve a woman’s health in the post menopause years, when the main concerns are heart and bone health, as we live without the beneficial effects of oestrogen.
I would say do as much research as possible before your doctors’ appointment. Definitely look at the Menopause NICE guidelines, which are extremely informative and helpful for both doctor and patient. If you don’t want to take HRT, that’s fine, just don’t not take it for the wrong reasons. Of course, taking HRT will have some beneficial effects on skin health, but it should not be taken for this reason alone and doctors will not prescribe it for cosmetic reasons only.
What about natural phytoestrogen like topical yam?
While wild yam is used in body identical hormones, it is very different to the wild yam creams you see in your health shops. Wild yam contains a compound called Diosgenin, which must be extracted and converted in a laboratory into hormones that the body recognises. There are no enzymes in the body which can produce this transformation, neither can eating yams increase the body’s natural production of hormones. If you’re buying wild yam cream over the counter, look at the ingredients, if it does not mention progesterone at all, then there is none in the product.
In Phytomone skin care products we use a special combination of actives which includes Genistein, a compound derived from the soyabean and has a molecular structure very similar to body oestrogen. This is encapsulated in a specialised delivery system which allows it to penetrate the deeper dermal layers of the skin and bind to oestrogen receptors in fibroblast cells where collagen is made. Because the body recognises Genistein, it is capable of superior collagen production. This, along with other specialised ingredients required for hormonal skin ageing make up our unique Cosmetic HRT formulation, which does not enter the blood stream or alter hormones levels in the body. Our formulas are 100% safe and natural and one reason why Phytomone has become the leading skin care brand for menopausal skin.
Where are your products made?
All of our products are made in the UK
Have you ever done anything like this before?
Obviously I was involved in new product development when I worked for RoC and Estee Lauder, but at that stage I never though I would have my own skin care line. A business I didn’t start until I was in my fifties! It’s been an incredible, fulling journey.
What do you predict for wellness in 2019?
From a menopausal woman’s perspective, I’m seeing a shift in attitude towards selfcare and I hope women will continue to build on this, by putting themselves first and remembering selfcare isn’t selfish.
Due to longer life expectancy, woman are now living at least 30 years in the post menopause cycle, so I definitely think we are going to see more focus on healthy lifestyle for women 50+. Reaching menopause doesn’t mean you’ve reached your sell by date anymore. We know women still want to look good and invest in themselves, which is why the Phytomone skin care products are proving very popular.
Women also want better education and information on menopause and with social media platforms like fb.com/themenopauseroom more media coverage and celebrities highlighting it, we can all feel more confident about the menopause transition.
How do you promote and PR your business?
We have a wonderful PR company ‘Kelly Chin Beauty PR’ who helps spread the word both on Phytomone skin care and The Menopause Room platforms.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I do travel a lot in between UK, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Italy, so I am quite often jet-lagged and frequent long haul flights can leave you feeling a little jaded. But while I’m in the air, it’s a great space to catch up on emails, look over new ideas or put finishing touches to outstanding projects without any interruptions. The minute I’m onboard I take off my makeup, apply Phytomone face oil, get out my laptop and get to work from my office in the sky.
When I’m home I do try to get back on local time asap. I go to the gym or swim most mornings for an hour. I will then check in with team members for updates and look what I have scheduled for the week ahead. No two days are the same. Today for example I have an interview with a local radio station about menopause, a photoshoot with some of the Phytomone products and an event this evening on Menopause and skin health.
Whatever I’m doing I do try and end my working day around 7pm and fit in a little ‘me time’ I try to meditate most days, even if it’s only for 10 minutes, it helps reduce stress levels and keep control of my busy mind. I try to be in bed by 10pm (and resist taking my phone or laptop with me) I read most nights, nothing business related or too intense though, usually a biography or mystery novel. If I’m having trouble getting off to sleep, I will spray a little magnesium oil on my legs, which has a great calming and relaxing effect.
What has been the hardest thing(s) about starting this latest venture? And how you’ve worked around the challenges?
Stepping out of my comfort zone and dealing with manufacturers, suppliers and stockist who all seems to talk in their own special code language! Working with some of the top cosmetic scientists to produce my formulations is the fun bit. But sourcing bottles and packaging with low minimum orders can be a nightmare and extremely frustrating, no new company wants 30,000 bottles to start off with!
Starting a business is not easy and mistakes are made along the way, but every mistake is a learning curve which you grow from and improve. I also think starting this business in my fifties has given me a slightly different perspective, in as much as I have life experiences under my belt.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start in the health and wellness industry?
It’s a very big area to venture into which is dominated by big companies that have millions to spend on advertising and PR. So, you must carve out your niche, have something that people want and have the passion to stick with it, even when you have your bad days and doubt yourself.
What are your favourite brands right now?
I’m still very much an Estée Lauder woman. Not so much their skin care now as I use Phytomone, but I love their make-up and fragrances.
What’s been your biggest achievement in life thus far?
Apart from having my two daughters. I am delighted that Phytomone has found its place in the mature skin care market and that our social media platforms for menopause are the most popular in the UK.
Our facebook page now has almost 100k very interactive women and our relatively new Instagram account @themenopauseroom is also doing very well. They are great communities where women can learn and connect with each other, so they don’t feel alone during this often-tumultuous time. Just knowing you’re not the only one feeling like this can be the best type of therapy sometimes
And biggest lesson?
That age has no limits – I am now almost 60 and never would my younger self have thought that I would be starting a business in my 50’s. It’s kept me on my toes and taken me on a journey where I’ve experienced a whole host of new things. And that’s what life is about isn’t it, living it to the fullest.
Who are your role models?
A woman who has the confidence and ability to live her life exactly how she wants it to be. That in midlife she is still growing and learning and having fun. This is not a time to stop or give up. As a woman, you have been there for everyone for so long and now it’s your time to shine.
How has what you do, changed you as a person?
I feel fulfilled to be honest, I really feel like I optimise my days and get the most from them. There is nothing better than having that sense of achievement and fulfilment at the end of the day. It’s easy to fall into a trap of not pushing yourself and just living a mediocre life, and that’s great if you find that’s enough, but when you do set yourself a goal, put in the effort and achieve it, it gives you such a buzz and inspires you to do more. Life is for living and it is up to you to make the most of it. Of course, not all days are good, and we can’t live life on the sparkly level all the while, I accept the bad days, see them for what they are and try and keep things in perspective. I eat healthy, exercise most days and make sure I make time for myself. I honestly feel the best I’ve ever felt, both physically and psychologically and feel excited to wake up tomorrow.
What are the top 5 books on your reading list?
- Ikigai by Ken Mogi
- Oestrogen Matters by Dr Avrum Bluming
- Out of Africa by Karen Blixen
- Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
- Voices of Powerful Women by Zoe Sallis
Occasionally I may flick through one or two blogs if I get taken to them by default, but they are mainly on fasting recipes (which I do) or photography (which is a little side hobby of mine).
If you could do any other job, aside from what you do now, what would it be?
In the early 90’s we lived in Antigua for a few years. At the time my daughters were only aged 2 and 3 and it was a very idyllic period. I made friends with a woman who lived in a little white wooden house with a beautiful front porch overlooking the ocean. She spent her time making sarongs and selling them on the beach. She was very chilled and relaxed and truly content with who she was and what she had. I often think of her and have a secret little fantasy of someday having a peaceful life like this when I’m in my 80’s maybe!
What’s yet to come?
Ultimately it would be wonderful to open a Phytomone menopause lifestyle retreat, where women can come along and learn how to upgrade the second half of their life, feel good about themselves and unleash the power that’s still within.
Do you have any unconventional words of advice?
I’m not sure if its unconventional but applying Pareto’s Principle to many things in life can help keep things in perspective and take the pressure off sometimes.
Also known as the 80/20 rule, you can set your goals, so they are achievable. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, eat healthy and sensibly for 80% of the time and enjoy those treats 20% of the time. Prioritise the 20% of your friends who provide 80% of your support and enjoyment. Or fill your life with the 20% of your experiences that provide 80% of your happiness. Once you get the hang of it you can apply it to almost any situation.
What is your motto?
Look on the bright side of life.
If money and time were no object, what would be on your to-do and to-see list?
- I would love to do a VERY long world cruise and see as much as possible
- Go on an expedition with David Attenborough
- See the Northern Lights
- Learn to fly a helicopter
- Climb a mountain
- Visit Potala Palace in Tibet
- Go on a snorkel safari
- Hot air balloon trip over the Temples of Bagan