pHformula is a skincare brand designed to control the resurfacing of the skin with all the products designed to work in tandem.

Having recently entered the GCC market, founder Petru van Zyl shares the story behind the results-driven beauty brand.

Talk us through your career.

I first became aware of my passion for skincare when I developed acne in my late teens. I became a qualified skincare therapist and skin specialist and worked hard to understand the skin, skin disorders as well as the science behind formulations that work. My personal struggle with acne skin and my understanding of how negatively this affected my self-confidence inspired me to want to help others struggling with skin disorders. I cannot overstate how important self-confidence is to women. I was so inspired by the impact and positive change in my life that this became an intention-led focus to develop a result-driven skincare line for the professional. As a skin specialist and educator, I have always taken in as much as I can from the experts and professionals around me. Understanding the histology of the skin is the most important aspect. Identifying skin disorders and guiding clients toward the proper solutions is fulfilling and can have a huge impact on a client’s life – This is my inspiration.


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How did you find your way into the beauty space?

I can honestly say that it was my personal battle with problem skin and the difficulty of finding results-driven products on the market, that got me passionately involved in the skin health space, more than the beauty space. What I will say, is that healthy skin is beautiful skin.

What inspired you to start your own brand?

Working as a skin specialist I felt that, in the professional space, there was a fundamental lack of options to customise products and treatments according to the needs of the client’s skin. With my hands-on experience and working with so many different skin types, I soon realised that all skins have more than one skin disorder or concern that requires treatment. I felt very frustrated with the results I could achieve with the limited protocols available on the market – and the fact that I could not customise treatments. Added to this is the fact that the only results-driven treatment options available at the time were traditional chemical peelings. I worked for many years with this and, while chemical peelings have amazing results and benefits, they also have undesirable side effects; especially when one is working with strong acids and darker skin prototypes. This was a compelling and big motivation for me to start my own brand with pHformula’s philosophy of a product line committed to controlled skin resurfacing as opposed to chemical peeling.

“Being in operation for more than 10 years, I celebrate the team that’s been with me since the start. I am proud of the fact that we fiercely protect our culture of being a pHformula family.”

How have things evolved since you start- ed pHformula?

I’m very happy to say that I’ve seen more and more skin professionals realise that stronger is not always better. And in the market, there has been a growing realisation that healthy skin is a lifelong commitment and a lifestyle. A realisation that healthy skin is not about going to an aesthetic specialist or doctor for a once-off treatment for results or only start a skincare regime in one’s later years. Today, women from all age groups are very aware of the health of their skin and they’re committed to taking care of their skin, they’re committed to using products that not only smell or feel great, but because they show positive skin health results.

The entire brand is designed to work as a collective. How does each product work with one another?

At the heart of pHformulaʼs philosophy is the fact that we design products for the professional skin specialist. We empower skin specialists to start a treatment regime by testing their clients’ skin sensitivity levels. Only once they have a clear indication of a client’s specific skin tolerance and sensitivity levels – as well as skin phototype – can they select the correct chemical skin resurfacing treatment that is applied according to the diagnosis. Specific treatments are multifunctional because they contain pHformula’s unique delivery vehicle complex which has the function of controlling inflammation. Why is this important? Inflammation or prolonged inflammation is a precursor to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and this is especially pertinent to darker phototype skins. Further, every treatment that we apply has multifunctional properties that also treat signs of visible ageing. Our skin resurfacing treatments are supported by a range of specific home care products to support the prescribed treatment. These homecare products are designed to work in synergy with professional treatments and our unique delivery vehicle complex. How these products work together, creates a unique solution where one plus one equals three.

Petru van Zyl

How has pHformula changed the skincare game?

Most brands in our industry are focused on home care, while pHformula is focused on the treatment room – in other words, the products used by professional skin specialists. I believe that in many ways, we have changed the game by moving away from traditional skin peeling and replacing it with controlled chemical skin resurfacing with the function and properties of rebuildiing skin rather than just chemically peeling the skin. By rebuilding the skin, it becomes healthier, more resilient and more responsive to a maintenance regime.

You recently entered the GCC market. What was the motivation behind this?

Because of our products and pHformula’s worldwide reputation – we started to get more and more inquiries from people wanting to buy our prod- ucts in the GCC market. Even though we are based in Barcelona, I grew up in South Africa and as a result, I’ve been working on an array of different skin phototypes all my life. It is a fact that darker skin phototypes are much more prone to the risks of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). I also identify per- sonally with extreme weather conditions that inevitably lead to skin sensitivities. Considering this, pHformula’s product line is perfect for this market. I believe that our product line is well-suited to the GCC market where there is a great need for luxury results-driven, professional products like ours. To bring pHformula to the UAE specifically, we are partnering with beautician and skin specialist Jane Varto, who is the Founder and Owner of Beauty Akademiet. Jane has over 30 years of experience in the industry and has the reputation of the ‘skin whisperer’ for the transformational results she creates for her clients. We are excited to have Jane on board as she shares my vision for pHformula and my passion for healthy skin.

What beauty and skincare trends do you see are present here in the region?

I believe that women aren’t only looking to use luxury brands. They’re looking for products that will boost their self-confidence – and nothing boosts a woman’s confidence as much as healthy, beautiful skin. It’s also critically important for a client to be able to visit a qualified skin specialist to assist her with sound decisions around appropriate treatment plans. I can relate to this desire for self-confidence and informed decision-making when it comes to the products we use or the treatments that are applied to our skin. I believe that pHformula is ideally suited to skin phototypes of the region with its inherent challenges.

What, in your opinion, are the brand’s hero products?

Every single product in our product line is a hero in its own sense, but if I had to highlight a few I’d say:
The SP Complex – A professional treatment product where we test skin sensitivity levels. It is key that we test sensitivity levels before our customised treatment regimens can commence. The CR Complex – A unique, professional treatment specifically for sensitive skin and to remove underlying inflammation. The AC solutions – To treat acne or acne-prone skin as it is an excellent multifunctional treatment. The MELA powerclay treatment line for hyperpigmentation. Because it is based on controlled chemical skin resurfacing, we avoid a negative feedback system where pigment darkens as you will find with harsh treatments. The EXFO Cleanse – For home care use, this is so much more than a cleanser. It’s also a skin conditioner, mild exfoliator and a mask. And all our homecare prescriptions – these are unique and extremely effective and popular, our Vitamin ABC line combined with our serums are products that have a great demand worldwide.


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Throughout your career in the beauty space, what have been the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

We’ve had challenges over the last 10 years, but we also overcome challenges every day. To mention just a few: we’re playing in such a rapidly evolving industry where there are different regulatory changes in the different markets we serve. There are new products in the market every day, but it is so important to know if they are scientifically correct and honest. As a woman – I to stand my ground, work hard every day, to never lose confidence or focus no matter what challenges we must overcome.

And the milestones?

I think one of the biggest milestones we’ve achieved is that we’ve never lost focus of who we are and what we stand for which is our cornerstone philosophy of serving skin specialists with our product lines and our skin resurfacing treatment approach. Being in operation for more than 10 years, I celebrate the team that’s been with me since the start. I am proud of the fact that we fiercely protect our culture of being a pHformula family. We’re a professional skin-care company serving 45 international markets with spectacular growth that’s largely as a result of word of mouth – that is a milestone. The opening of our skin academy for professional skin specialists in Barcelona, Spain. Finally, I am proud of the milestone that we’re empowering women as skin specialists and business owners and that we’re giving women the self-confidence and confidence in their own skin that they deserve.

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