Dr. Antony Nakhla
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DR. ANTONY NAKHLA
If you don’t know the man behind best-selling sensation Eighth Day, you really should.
- Written By:
- Sarah Brown
- Photography by:
- MAX PAPENDIECK
FROM THE DESK OF SARAH BROWN:
We are in the business of creating heroes over here at VIOLET GREY, and if you haven’t already heard of Eighth Day, well, where have you been?
For the uninitiated, it’s the much-talked-about brand that exploded onto the scene—and into the beauty routines of the most discerning celebrities, skin care enthusiasts, and cool people who know a thing or two—last year, thanks to a transformational complexion elixir in a sleek black bottle. (If you haven’t tried the aptly named Regenerative Serum, may I recommend you PUT IT IN THE BAG, pronto!)
Eighth Day is the brainchild of the handsome fellow you see in these pictures: Dr. Antony Nakhla. Or, Tony, as he’s known around the hallowed halls (and Zoom rooms and speed dials) of VIOLET GREY. He’s a Newport Beach father of two, a vintage watch collector, a reconstructive skin cancer surgeon, and noted wound healing expert—probably the only kind of world-class dermatologist with whom you really don’t want an appointment.
It was his day job repairing severely compromised skin that led to the breakthrough that powers Eighth Day’s products: the skin-rejuvenating blend of bio-identical growth factors, peptides, and amino acids he calls Peptide-Rich Plasma®, or PRP. “Skin is genius,” Tony told me the first time we spoke. “It knows exactly what to do; sometimes it just needs some help.” With Eighth Day, he believed he had created skin care that was as smart as our own skin.
Tony holds a special place in my heart. And not just because he sends me a new bottle of his serum (and moisturizer and eye cream) every time I run out. Eighth Day is the first brand I brought to VIOLET GREY when I joined last year as your faithful curator-in-chief and leader of the newly christened VIOLET LAB. The brand’s instant success sealed the deal: CASSANDRA GREY had not made a terrible mistake, with me, or with Eighth Day. We both stayed!
On the occasion of the launch of his latest blockbuster—a complexion refiner and regimen booster we predict will become every bit as essential to your daily routine as the aforementioned Serum—we sat down to talk about smart skin care, the power of the right ingredients, and the beauty philosophy that guides his work.
S.B.: You specialize in reconstructive dermatologic surgery: removing dangerous skin cancers, and then working to make the scar invisible. How did you get into this area of medicine?
A.N.: I started out in Beverly Hills at a cosmetic dermatology practice on Wilshire. I was doing liposuction, fat transfer, and lots of filler. Then I started seeing patients who needed reconstruction: I was doing liposuction and fat transfer for HIV patients who were losing fat in their faces. Men on certain antiviral medications lose volume in their cheeks, their temples; it’s called facial lipoatrophy. There was something really special about restoring somebody back to themselves, and it was a population of people no one wanted to take care of. Within that practice I also had a following on the cosmetic side. I found myself going through the motions but not loving what we were promoting. I didn’t like this chase-down-every-wrinkle, blow-up-every-lip mentality. The more I looked at the cosmetic enhancement work of some of my colleagues, I felt like people were starting to look worse. Patients were doing too much and starting to look like different people. I felt more comfortable with the restoration type work. I liked the idea of ‘how do I get you to look like you?’ So, I started seeing more skin cancer patients. I love fixing a problem and bringing someone back to who they are, as close as I can. They should call it ‘restorative’ surgery—you’re putting someone back together.
S.B.: In addition to being a reconstructive surgeon, you’ve also maintained a cosmetic practice. How does your beauty philosophy influence that area of your work?
A.N.: Before I do anything I think about: What’s the least amount I can do to get the intended result while keeping this person looking like themselves? That’s my job. In liposuction, it’s not how much fat you take out; it’s how much you leave in, so the patient doesn’t look hollow. With Botox, it’s about micro droplets, so the face can still move and have expression. It’s the same with filler. With threads, how do you place them in a way you can’t tell anything happened? My philosophy is that the person I’m dealing with is already perfect. It’s a remodel, where the structure is kept; it’s not a tear down. Those proportions, symmetry, asymmetry; that’s what makes the person. It’s so small, but if you start altering the proportions of someone’s cheeks or lips or eyebrow height, they can look like a different person. It’s crazy.
S.B.: Still, it’s hard to look in the mirror every day and be really happy with yourself. There’s so much culturally that we’re up against. The beauty standard was really narrow for a really long time, and it expanded and shifted, but now it’s pretty narrow again, just in different ways. In some ways, it’s more inclusive, and in others, it’s just as exclusive as it ever was. We’ve got societal pressure about what is beautiful, how we want to look, how we don’t want to look, and what sort of features and proportions are most desirable. There’s this fear of aging that I think men are experiencing now, also. I think it’s hard to walk the walk, you know?
A.N.: That’s true, and I’m an advocate of the procedures I listed above. It’s how they’re done and how you approach them. There’s a way to utilize the tools out there and remain unique to yourself. My philosophy is that you are the most beautiful thing, as you are made. Removing every single uniquely identifying characteristic—that’s not my vibe.
S.B.: How did your expertise in wound healing influence the founding of Eighth Day?
A.N.: A lot of times in reconstruction, allowing a wound to heal on its own, with the use of bio-identical dressings, will result in a perfect scar. It dawned on me that a lot of the work I was doing could be applied to the cosmetic side, to get patients to use less filler and more of the stuff that mattered.You don’t have to look far to find what your skin needs; it’s already there. Healing these incredibly difficult wounds got me thinking about aging skin like wounded skin— wounded by everything: sun, age, time—and asking how do we trick those cells to heal themselves? Not with foreign ingredients or something that sounds cute but doesn’t work, but by using the unsexy stuff that actually works: growth factors, amino acids, peptides. I focused on what I was already doing with patients to fix a hole in their face: using materials derived from placental or chorionic membranes—ingredients the body recognizes as innate, and readily absorbs—to heal skin. The question was, how could I bring that to skincare, and get these types of ingredients into products in meaningful levels? It became an expensive science project, which it still is.
S.B.: You and I have always talked about how the best skin care is the kind that helps the body do what it already knows how to do, but gets less good at doing with age.
A.N.: Exactly. Sometimes it’s a body hack: This thing causes this cell to secrete its own hyaluronic acid or its own collagen. How do we hack the system and get the body doing what it does best? And if you’re going to apply something topically, it better be loaded with that you want your skin to encounter and formulated in a way it can receive it. We’re not putting on scuba gear to go look for magic algae or a special pearl at the bottom of the sea, we’re using the most obvious thing—duh, our skin already has the molecule it needs to repair itself, so let’s replenish that.
S.B.: Right out of the gate, you did the thing every brand, and every founder, seeks to do, but very few achieve: You created a cult hit with the Regenerative Serum that has skin care fanatics genuinely obsessed and ordering bottle after bottle, because it’s just so good. What’s the secret?
A.N.: The ingredient list. And it’s not a stock formula. It’s custom. There’s so much in there. It’s like a protein shake.
S.B.: All I know is that when I use it, my skin just looks better, generally.
A.N.: The best vehicle to deliver ingredients is a serum, and ours has the highest absorption rate; the ability to penetrate is second to none. The reason why people use it and realize their skin is better overall, but can’t really pinpoint why, is because a lot of what’s happening is at the dermal level where skin is remodeling itself and the scaffolding is being put back together. It’s like good nutrition: You start feeling better right away, but the process of repair and renewal is ongoing if you are consistent.
S.B.: Now tell us about the new Resurfacing Tonic, which you describe as a chemical peel in a bottle. Word on the street is that it’s even better than a certain other cult-status exfoliating essence.
A.N.: We’re like snakes: We’re constantly exfoliating, but we’re micro-exfoliating, and the faster we can get that cell turnover to happen, the faster we can reveal the healthy new skin underneath.
S.B.: So, as I understand it: The tonic removes the surface layer of dead skin cells in a chemical exfoliation which not only makes skin more radiant, but also more receptive to any other products you apply afterward, since it’s now easier to penetrate.
A.N.: Totally. This is about supercharging your routine by exfoliating away dead skin cells that are serving no purpose. The trick was, how do we do it a little bit every day, without irritation?
S.B.: do tell.
A.N.: We’re using ingredients that are pretty well-known—lactic and glycolic acids—but at clinical strengths that can be sort of unbearable if not balanced by calming and soothing ingredients. Balancing these acids was a real formulation challenge, to get the benefit without inflammation. That’s where the precision and process of creating a custom formulation comes in. It’s very nuanced chemistry to get it to where you want it to be: strong enough, but gentle enough, to do the job.
S.B.: In this case, if it tingles, that’s a good thing. So, even if one has sensitive skin, don’t be scared?
A.N.: It’s for anybody, including younger patients with overactive oil glands, acne, and clogged pores, or those with dull, dry skin, who want to get down to that fresher, baby layer of skin. I tell my patients to test it a little on the back of their hand to get a feel for it. It’s definitely an experience.
S.B.: And use it every day?
A.N.: Yes. People build a tolerance, so maybe once a day or every other day to begin, and then, ideally, you want to use this twice a day. It gets your skin accustomed to renewal, repair, turnover. We’re talking about micro-exfoliation—skin that’s not even useful; it’s already dead. It’s just sitting there making you look dull. And boring. Just kidding.
S.B.: What’s the key to creating the right regimen? What mistakes do people make?
A.N.: Step 1 is to look at the ingredient list. Forget the name, forget the packaging. Look at the INCI [the ingredient list]. When an ingredient is at the top of the INCI, it means it’s present in a significant portion of the formula. When it’s way down at bottom, it means it’s present at less than one-percent—it’s not really doing anything for you. With our Tonic, for example, we made sure lactic acid is the number-two ingredient—which means it’s present at clinical strengths. If whatever the company is touting on the front of the box is not present at the top of the ingredient list, don’t use it. Step 2 is to try to do things in as few steps as possible. When you use the right products, you don’t need ten serums, you need one amazing one. Step 3 is consistency. With less steps and greater compliance, you’re going to do much better than if you have one-hundred products you don’t use.
S.B.: So far, the line is pretty tight and well-edited, and I must admit, I love that about it—less decisions to make! Can you share a little bit of your masterplan for Eighth Day’s growth?
A.N.: We only want to build heroes. We don’t plan on a gigantic lineup, just the things you need and some of the bells and whistles different skin types require.
S.B.: If you weren’t a doctor, what would you be?
A.N.: I would have run for office. I wanted to do something in the political realm as it relates to my heritage and where I’m from [Egypt], championing women’s rights, human rights, and religious freedoms. Those are the things that matter to me. I probably would have gone to law school and run for office, and I might still.
S.B.: Do you have a motto?
A.N.: It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice. [Laughs] My mom used to tell me that in Arabic, and my cousin still says it.
- Stylist:BENJAMIN HOLTROP
- Grooming:ALEXA HERNANDEZ
- Talent:DR. ANTONY NAKHLA