Beauty

A New Cult Face Cream—and the Incredibly Inspiring Story Behind It

A New Cult Face Cream—and the Incredibly Inspiring Story behind It

Opening a jar of something new never fails to thrill us. In the case of a just-launched, whipped, velvet-finish gel-cream called Jasmine Vital Cream, our expectations were running especially high. We’ve loved Clark’s Botanicals skin care since the brilliant Francesco Clark started it ten years ago, and now the new cream—his first since buying back his company and rebranding everything—promises powerful results with ingredients like red algae, niacinamide, vitamin B3, and a proprietary jasmine extract, and it’s clean to goop standards in the bargain.

No matter what your skin type, the cream works as a fine-line-plumping, tone-clarifying, glow-inducing, skin-refreshing treatment. If your skin’s oily, the cream is all you need in terms of moisture; if your skin is dry, layer oil or moisturizer on top. Either way, it feels incredible as you smooth it on—delicately fluffy and cool—and it leaves your skin silky and refreshed in seconds. It works beautifully over makeup or under it, and we love it both morning and night for maximum results.

“The beauty of a great skin-care product, for me, is everybody has these mirror moments,” says Clark. “When you’re looking in the mirror and thinking, Who do I want to be today? And taking care of your skin and realizing: The person that I’m wanting to be is actually me. I want to address those moments with something that really works, that really feels good, and that transforms skin over time. I want people to feel good in their skin.”

Clark's face cream

Making the jasmine cream as effective and sense-awakening as it is and also totally clean was a challenge that took five years. “Clean was important to me from the beginning, long before the jasmine cream,” says Clark, whose journey to founding a skin-care company started when, as a twentysomething editor at Harper’s Bazaar, he was paralyzed from the neck down after diving into a pool. “Because the injury to my spinal cord is so high up, it affects my skin’s ability to regulate temperature, so that it can’t sweat, which makes your skin incredibly sensitive,” he says. Skin problems might have seemed the least of his worries, as doctors told him he’d never speak—or breathe on his own, or move—again, but the fact that every skin-care product he tried caused more problems than it solved created the seed of an idea that grew as Clark lay, for the first two years after his injury, in a hospital bed.

“Clark’s Botanicals began as an outlet for my brain as I was climbing out of the trauma and depression,” he says. “My perception of who I had become was something I couldn’t deal with initially. I came from the fashion industry, but here I was every day in the same paper pants, my head shaved, never looking out the window, let alone in the mirror! But I began to realize: I’m redefining what it means to feel like a human being. I had a feeding tube, a breathing tube, a heart-rate monitor, but you start to realize how valuable your life is, and you start to have organic conversations with yourself. As I got off the ventilator and started getting better, I’d have these boring exercises I had to do, and I realized I had to make them fun or I wouldn’t do them, so I started some ABBA karaoke in the ICU.”

When he did look in the mirror, finally, he says he didn’t look the way he felt. “I felt happy. I felt energetic,” he says. “But I looked ten years older than my age. My skin was grey, dry, and oily. I had acne everywhere. I tried the $300 creams and the $3 creams, prescription and over-the-counter, and nothing worked. So I brought the skin-care idea to my dad, who’s an MD and a homeopath. It took four years and seventy-eight versions of a botanical-extract-and-essential-oils formula until my skin started to look better, but it did.” Clark’s sister started stealing it. “Then my mom noticed my sister’s skin looked great, and she had to try it,” he says.

A meeting with his old boss, Glenda Bailey, changed everything. “Glenda wanted to try it, as did her beauty editor, Alexandra Parnass,” he says. “They loved it, and they insisted on shooting it for their September issue. So we had to make it.”

In the intervening fifteen years, Clark created amazing skin care, and he also explored every form of treatment and physical therapy for his condition imaginable. Today, not only can he speak and breathe, but he can move: Have dinner (and a laugh) with him and you will marvel as he eats gracefully with a fork and knife; watch him working out on Instagram and it’ll blow your mind. He also wrote a fantastic memoir, Walking Papers; starred in a PBS documentary on the essence of happiness called This Emotional Life; and has worked tirelessly to support people with disabilities and people with spinal cord injuries, in particular, through the Christopher Reeve Foundation, for which he’s helped raise millions. His skin is radiant, he’s fit as can be, he’s engaged to his boyfriend, and he’s flush from having reinvented his own brand, skin care that’s already stood the test of time and is now ready for its extreme close-up.

“The definition of clean has evolved so much since I started,” says Clark. “At first it was just about ‘I don’t want all these irritating ingredients on my skin.’ But it’s not enough to promise that we’re not putting crap on your skin. When you’re walking down the street and your friend says you look great and wants to know what you’re using, you don’t answer, ‘I’m not using petroleum’; you just know you love the results.”

Clark also addressed packaging and marketing. “I want Clark’s Botanicals to reflect my taste and reflect the kind of people—and it’s every sort of person—who buys our skin care,” he says. So whether you’re trying the jasmine cream for the first time, clearing your pores with the Dual Charcoal Detox cleanser (it’s amazing), or staying safe with the company’s new sold-at-cost hand sanitizer that Clark switched gears and began making as soon as the coronavirus epidemic hit (“I felt helpless, and then I thought, well, I can make something!” he says), you’re in for a deeply luxurious, transporting experience.

  1. Clark’s Botanicals Dual Charcoal Detox
    Clark’s Botanicals Dual Charcoal Detox goop, $45
    SHOP NOW
  2. Clark’s Botanicals Hand Sanitizer Set
    Clark’s Botanicals Hand Sanitizer Set goop, $17
    SHOP NOW

“The definition of clean has evolved so much since I started,” says Clark. “At first it was just about ‘I don’t want all these irritating ingredients on my skin.’ But it’s not enough to promise that we’re not putting crap on your skin. When you’re walking down the street and your friend says you look great and wants to know what you’re using, you don’t answer, ‘I’m not using petroleum’; you just know you love the results.”

Clark also addressed packaging and marketing. “I want Clark’s Botanicals to reflect my taste and reflect the kind of people—and it’s every sort of person—who buy our skin care,” he says. So whether you’re trying the jasmine cream for the first time, clearing your pores with the Dual Charcoal Detox cleanser (it’s amazing), or staying safe with the company’s new sold-at-cost hand sanitizer that Clark switched gears and began making as soon as the coronavirus epidemic hit (“I felt helpless, and then I thought, well, I can make something!” he says), you’re in for a deeply luxurious, transporting experience.

He’s also worked hard on sustainability. “We shifted from a traditional acrylic jar to sustainable, recyclable glass with a recycled-plastic lid,” he says. “We used to not have boxes, but we ended up with a lot of waste from damaged jars, so we now have an outer box that’s certified clean forestation, with all the inks and tubes recycled and recyclable—and we plan to keep evolving it. It will never be 100 percent perfect; nothing is.”

All the company’s formulas have been completely reimagined without synthetic fragrances with a commitment to cleaner beauty. At the core of the majority of the line is a unique species of jasmine, found in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy, that Clark says is the key to transforming even the most sensitive skin and restoring youthful glow. “It’s the hero,” says the hero himself.


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