On a given evening, Carmen Pease sits, clothed in a lab coat, bent over a countertop in her laboratory, concocting elixirs and serums until the wee hours of the morning. Adding a little pineapple extract here; some seaweed there. Changing combinations of ingredients until that “Eureka!” moment. Cue the bolt of lightning and the wild laughter.

It’s a special kind of alchemy that Pease practices. No, she’s not looking for gold or the fountain of youth — though the latter comes close. Carmen Pease has spent the past 11 years perfecting her line of all-natural, Maine-made beauty products called Naturally Exquisite, which she makes and sells from her skin care and massage studio, Skinage, in downtown Camden. She also sells it online at www.naturallyexquisite.net.

“My sons say I’m a mad scientist,” said Pease, a licensed aesthetician who makes her home in Warren. “I’m always working on something. That’s the beauty of making your own products — you can constantly change things and reformulate. If I discover something new, I can make a new batch and see what that does.”

Pease currently sells six different products under the Naturally Exquisite line: an exfoliator, a firming bronzer, an almond foaming face wash, a gardenia body glaze, her Eye Dew serum and the Face It! moisturizer, which was her first-ever product and is still her best-seller. She began making her own beauty products out of necessity — she wanted to protect her own skin, as well as her family’s.

“My whole family has really dry, sensitive skin. It’s genetic,” she said. “And if your skin is dry, that means it’s more thin and fragile, and that makes you more susceptible to cold and heat. Our skin ages very early. I knew that I didn’t want to look like I was in my 60s by the time I was in my 30s.”

Pease’s experiences doing hospice care (she’s also a CNA, or certified nurse assistant), as well as her years as an aesthetician, gave her the real-world experience to know how to keep skin healthy.

“Working in hospice, I always wanted to give my patients something nutritious for their skin,” she said. “Your skin is the largest organ in your body. You wouldn’t eat chemicals and petroleum-based products — so why would you put them on your skin?”

She purchased skin care products from all over the world, and studied their components, both natural and chemical. For anything non-natural, she’d attempt to find a natural substitute.

“I looked at firming properties and anti-aging properties, in stuff from the drugstore and in expensive, behind-the-counter stuff,” she said. “I’d figure out what the active ingredients were, and then try to replicate that by something found in nature.”

Pineapple, seaweed, peppermint, aloe vera and almond oil all became crucial elements to her creations. After more than a year of experimenting and doing her own rigorous research, Pease rolled out the Face It moisturizer. Other products followed, which she quietly sold to her friends and clients. A seed grant from the Maine Technical Institute helped her fund the research. The most recent addition to her product line is the firming bronzer — she’s slowly expanding into makeup, though she’s careful to ensure that it’s safe for even the most sensitive skin.

“I’m my own guinea pig. If something doesn’t work on my skin, it doesn’t pass my tests,” she said.

Word of the miraculous qualities of Pease’s products spread around the Midcoast area. Soon, new clients came to her studio, wanting to try the Eye Dew that firmed up fine lines and crow’s feet within 15 minutes, or the intense, invigorating exfoliator. Oh yeah, and it all smells heavenly, too.

All the while, she was tinkering with her formulas — she most recently began adding finely ground blueberry stems to the Eye Dew, in order to capitalize on the antioxidant properties found in the Maine berry.

In fact, Pease recently sent the Eye Dew off to be tested by a laboratory in Massachusetts, to gauge its levels of Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, or ORAC. In layman’s terms, ORAC levels show how powerful the antioxidants actually are. To Pease’s surprise and delight, they were off the charts.

“In the 15 milliliter-size bottle of the face serum, it has a 8,888 ORAC value. In a similar-sized department store product, a typical reading would be around 200. That’s huge,” she said. “I’m not completely sure, but I believe that’s higher than any other product out there.”

After a difficult few years personally — she went through a difficult divorce, she’s had two surgeries on her knees and hands, and her two sons, Derrick and Craig, are both stationed in Iraq — the growing success of her business comes at a very important time. Pease toys with the idea of leaving her job as a CNA in order to focus her energy full time on Naturally Exquisite.

“When my kids finished school, I thought, ‘You know, maybe I could actually do this full time,’” she said. “I love it. I’m so proud of it. I’ve worked on these products for years, and I’m very proud to put my name on it. I don’t have a degree. I’ve learned all this on my own. It’s very practical, learn-as-you-go science.”

Naturally Exquisite products can be purchased at Carmen Pease’s Skinage Skin Care and Massage Studio, located at 78 Elm St. in Camden, or online at www.naturallyexquisite.net. For more information, call 236-4SPA.

eburnham@bangordailynews.net

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BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTOS BY JOHN CLARKE RUSS

At her Skinage Studios in Camden, licensed aesthetician Carmen Pease gently works her specially formulated blueberry serum onto the face of client Franny Wyman of Union. Pease has spent more than a decade concocting her Naturally Exquisite line of skin and beauty products using natural ingredients. These products include (top, from left) Face It!, an intensive hydrating gel-based treatment with 99 percent pure aloe; a foaming face wash that uses either peppermint or almond; Eye Dew, a target area serum; and Firming Bronzer.


Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.