Crush Of The Week

Meet Barbara Paldus of Codex Beauty Labs and Dr. Azra Khamissa who collaborated on special Ramadan Gift Box

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CODEX BEAUTY LABS launched an special limited edition Ramadan Gift Box designed in collaboration with UAE-based creative Dr. Azra Khamissa. Inspired by the beautiful Middle East region, the box is now available online at and at the Watsons Dubai Mall and Dubai Festival City stores until stocks last. We were curious to discover more about CODEX Beauty Labs and the ideas behind the box design and had a chat with Barbara Paldus and Dr. Azra Khamissa.

Photo: Eoin Holland

Barbara, please tell us more about Codex Beauty Labs from how it all started to today?

I have a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford, and I have been a serial entrepreneur for over 20 years.  By the age of 34, I co-founded two Silicon Valley companies (Picarro and Finesse Solutions – each of which has now reached over $100M in revenue) that, among many breakthroughs, helped paved the way for carbon cycle measurements, food integrity testing, gas pipeline leaks, accessible vaccines, personalized medicine and cell therapy.  Many of the COVID-19 vaccines today are being manufactured in the equipment that I helped design.  To me, constantly learning, innovating, and trying to make the world a little better day by day, is like breathing.  And I love to write patents – of which I have almost 40 now.  
I have a now 12-year old son who had a severe allergy to phenoxyethanol in baby products.  This led me to try to ask questions of manufacturers, but I didn’t get very far as a consumer.  After I sold Finesse Solutions in 2017, I decided that the beauty industry needed greater transparency, as well as quantitative answers.  I started questioning every claim on my products and wondering – having spent most of my career developing measurement tools – how the beauty industry quantified anything.
This experience leaded me to start CODEX Beauty in 2018.  I started Codex to demonstrate to the beauty industry that not only is quantitative data about all aspects of the products relevant, but it is essential for customers to make the best purchasing decisions and obtain truly functional products at the best possible price. Codex to me is less about finding and exploiting a gap in the market, than a movement to bring transparency and sustainability to fundamentally change beauty as well as to educate and empower the consumer.

Antü, the latest Codex Beauty Labs skincare collection is meant to protect and restore the skin. In a place like the Middle East where people are exposed to the sun almost year-round, can you tell us how this line of products is going to go above and beyond to make sure our skin takes no risk?

The skin barrier (stratum corneum) is the outermost layer of the skin that literally protects the body from the outside world.  Failure to address a compromised skin barrier, over time, can make one’s skin appear dull, dry, and flaky. The formation of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as random acne flare-ups, are also the by-products of a compromised skin barrier. The worst-case scenario is inflammation because it can lead to a rapid and painful deterioration in skin integrity: for example, such as atopic dermatitis. 
Long-term sun exposure without the use of SPF will definitely weaken the skin barrier.  The damage depends on the dose, early research shows that after 2 full days of sun exposure, for the skin barrier starts to weaken 
UV light reduces skin’s strength and dries it out, putting a strain on the skin barrier so it breaks, cracks and chaps more easily.  At the microscopic level, UV radiation changes the structures of keratin (protein) and lipid (fat) molecules that serve as the glue that holds skin cells together (brick and mortar model).
The Antü collection is focused on protecting, restoring, and strengthening the skin barrier.  It focuses on managing reactive oxidative stress (ROS) in skin while supporting the microbiome.  Our patent-pending AntüComplexTM was designed to soothe irritation and reduce inflammation, especially from sun exposure, pollution, and inflammaging.    You can think of it as your way to recovery from UV exposure.  It offers some protection as well, but NEVER stop using your SPF!
The two products in the Ramadan box are the first two Antu products:
·      A daytime moisturizer that protects the skin barrier and helps defend against exposure to airborne particulates and pollutants.  This brightening moisturizer re-hydrates your skin and is clinically proven to alleviate damage caused by UV exposure and refine the appearance of pores.  It contains camapu, that helps protect against IR damage and alleviates temporary redness or discomfort, as well as entadine, that helps protect against environmental stressors.  When we tested the curative and protective properties of the day cream on UV exposure by tracking its effect on biomarkers our bodies use to mitigate or recover from free radical-induced oxidative stress/damage caused by UV radiation. We found that the moisturizer helped the recovery of these key biomarkers by 30 to 64% and also had a 9-25% protective effect on the same biomarkers. 
·      A rich, nourishing night cream that restores the skin barrier.  This cream re-hydrates your skin and is clinically proven to improve skin tone uniformity and soften skin overnight.  It contains Black Jack flower that mimics retinoids to help improve skin elasticity and firmness, daisy that helps brighten and revitalize skin, and cupuaçu butter, that helps protect the skin barrier and reduce trans-epidermal water loss.
This combination protects the skin barrier during the day and restores it from aggression during the night.  Both products are designed for all skin types and is especially great for dull, dry, or sunburned skin.

Barbara Paldus, founder CODEX Beauty Labs

How was the idea of a collaboration with Dr Azra born and how did it develop?

We really wanted to honor Ramadan and honor our new market in the middle east.  Furthermore, there are many people globally who also celebrate Ramadan.  We understand that Ramadan is not only a time of deep reflection and spiritual connection, but also a time to fast, purify and heal the body. 
We wanted to create a special set to honor this holiday.  First, we picked the products:
·      The Antü collection products reduce reactive oxidative stress in the skin, which is a form of purification.  Therefore, the first two Antü products aligned well with the Ramadan philosophy. 
·      Our cleansing soap has detoxifying bamboo charcoal and other cleansing essential oils, so it also fit well with Ramadan 
Then, we wanted to create a special presentation of the products so we asked our agency, Frame to suggest some local artists.  They introduced us to Dr. Azra, and we fell in love with her work, as well as the meaning of henna art.  We are so excited about this collaboration!

Azra, can you tell us how you started developing your own henna line and where does your inspiration to create such incredible patterns come from?

Dr. Azra Khamissa: It all started last year when I connected with the wider henna community and a fellow artist offered to teach me how to make my own henna. Now it is the only henna I use! Inspiration comes from everywhere. Nature, architecture and tradition are what I am inspired by the most.

Dr. Azra Khamissa photographed by Aqib Anwar

Could we expect more collaborations in the future?

We had such an amazing experience with this first collaboration, that we definitely want to explore more!