To say Richard Parker is a glass half full man is an understatement. As the formidable force behind the country’s leading skincare line, RATIONALE, his commitment to skin health is as inspiring as his approach to fatherhood and wellbeing, which are intrinsically linked thanks to his inherent and eternal quest for happiness, kindness and simply doing and being good...
When he’s not pioneering the latest in skincare technology, you’ll find him practising meditation and yoga, indulging in his love of classical music (he plays both the cello and piano), or dedicating quality time to his husband and son, which explains why he wakes before 5 am with an undeniable bounce in his step.
We caught up with the leader in anti-ageing skin solutions and sun protection to find out the driving force behind the brand’s inception, how to age gracefully (hint: it’s really not about botox or fillers) and why RATIONALE’s The Essential Six regimen is changing the face, quite literally, of healthy, glowing, skin in Australia.
Take us to the very beginning of your skincare journey – how did having problem skin effect your self-esteem? And now, how do you focus on self-love?
I wasn’t born with good skin genes – I had my mother’s predisposition to sun damage and my father’s tendency to acne. I was also a competitive swimmer, so at 25 I was prematurely aged and still experiencing breakouts. It had a devastating effect on my self-image and drove me to my lifelong study and passion for human skin research and how we can help improve individual skin health by understanding the combined effects of genetics and the environment (epigenetics). The creation of RATIONALE enabled me to heal my own skin, which dramatically improved my self-esteem. And it’s been a privilege to bring this same gift of confidence to thousands of others.
Skin health and personal happiness are linked psychologically and physiologically. When our skin is happy, we literally glow and the effect on quality of life is profound.
We live in an age where we see seemingly countless images of retouched women with perfect skin – what are your thoughts on all the retouching apps out there – do you think it makes women feel bad about themselves?
I think anything that makes us too self-conscious is not healthy but I’m really not sure about skin perfecting apps. It would be nice if it were a case of “fake it ‘til you make it” but if people don’t address their skin genetics and the effects of the sun, pollution, etc., they will never have beautiful skin real life. I’m also concerned about women who wear too much makeup. It’s so bad for your skin and actually makes you look older.
What do you remember about the days where you were at the medical library at Melbourne University devouring dermatology textbooks and pharmacology journals. Were you always this determined and dedicated?
I knew the foundation of my future career as a skincare formulator lay in the medical, rather than the beauty world. The terms “cosmeceutical” and “cosmetic medicine” did not yet exist. My best friend had completed medical school and was studying to become a dermatologist, and she encouraged me to research human skin anatomy and physiology and topical drug delivery, but there were no courses available in this field at this time. So, for several years I invested all of my spare time into research in the Medical Library at Melbourne University, creating my own course of study and learning all I could. To this day, human skin remains my research library, my guiding light and I look back on those early years with great affection. It was definitely a case of “build it (yourself) and they will come”. This foundation in medical sciences created a rigour that has empowered RATIONALE to be a world leader in understanding the combined effects and interactions of skin genetics and the environment (particularly the sun) and to create benchmark products to prevent and reverse solar damage.
When you talk about “marrying medical science to cosmetic formulation” what do you mean – can you elaborate on this?
Before RATIONALE, there were cosmetics, which adorned the skin but did little, and topical drugs that bring about biological change but have side effects. Before RATIONALE, these two worlds never intersected. But our research into healthy skin through topical nutrition revealed that if we could deliver all of the vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates using drug-like delivery systems, we could protect the skin from the environment during the day and at night, repair any damage done. Therapeutic efficacy with cosmetic elegance and safety.
What are some of the biggest mistakes women make when it comes to establishing a skincare routine?
If you have a skin problem, or if you’re noticing signs of environmental damage, please invest in a medical skincare consultation with a dermatologist or RATIONALE Skin Consultant. The biggest mistake I see is women panicking when something goes wrong and trying everything they can find, which only makes the problem worse. Knowledge is power where skin health is concerned. Another area of confusion is choosing “natural” or “organic” products when these may not be best for your skin. Through a desire to do the right thing, many consumers buy products containing plant extracts and oils that can cause everything from acne to dermatitis. My advice is to look for ingredients that are found naturally in the skin such as antioxidant vitamins, lipids and proteins. But once again, the best thing to do is to undergo a medical skincare consultation to understand which of these skin-identical ingredients your skin needs most to help restore a healthy complexion.
What are some easy ways to freshen up skin as it begins to age?
80% of facial ageing is caused by sun, so prevention is better than cure. Invest in a skin DNA test (RATIONALE DNArray) to learn your skin’s genetic resilience to the sun, pollution, etc. Then have a medically trained skin consultant prescribe the right active ingredients at the correct concentrations in an appropriate base to protect your skin from environmental damage daily.
You’ve worked with many women on their ageing concerns – how can we all age gracefully?
I always say that we can’t look young forever, but we can be beautiful at any age. It’s all about protecting your skin from the sun and repairing sun damage daily. This is the most important investment in achieving Luminous Skin for Life. It’s very sad to see young women rushing to get botox and filler without addressing their skin’s nutritional needs for protection and repair. Their faces are often wrinkle free and puffy but somehow unnatural and definitely not youthful. It’s like too much makeup on an older woman; it has exactly the opposite effect. We have many clients in their 70s, 80s and even 90s who look absolutely radiant and agelessly beautiful. Healthy, glowing skin is your calling card—your most important beauty credential at any age.
What are some of the most effective ingredients for combatting ageing and how have you incorporated them into RATIONALE’s Essential Six?
Like every other organ of the body, the skin has its own nutritional needs. During the day, human skin needs immune boosters, antioxidants and solar protective proteins/minerals. At night, our skin needs barrier repair lipids, pH modifiers and DNA repair vitamins/enzymes to repair daily environmental damage. These nutrients are best applied topically. They form the basis of the RATIONALE Essential Six, now acknowledged as the Gold Standard worldwide in sun and environmental protection and repair.
You wake early – around 4-5am. Do you think rising early is key for a productive, efficient day?
There’s a lot of debate about morning vs evening people and when we function best. Research shows that our best ideas often come to us at around 3am. Mystics tell us this is when we return to our bodies from astral travel, enriched with the knowledge of the universe, but I think it’s just how the human brain works. Since childhood I’ve always bounced out of bed very early, bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. I usually wake around 3-4am with a new idea, so I write it down on a pad next to my bed. I’m definitely a morning person, and the flip side is that I’m not good at problem solving or creative thinking at night.
You meditate and do yoga regularly. How has meditation changed your life?
I’ve practised yoga since I was 14 years old, and while I’m not 100% consistent in my practice, it remains a sustaining form of exercise and an important discipline in my life. My mind is quite active and often tumultuous, but I find sitting still and meditating difficult. In recent years, I’ve had great success with a brilliant meditation app called Brainwave. It works on the principle of brainwave entrainment, putting you into the desired state through modulated frequencies. So every morning I put on my headphones and select the mind state I most need for that day eg. Calm and Focused, Creativity Boost, Determination etc. So empowering!
You’re a classical pianist and cellist – how do you find the time to fit this in between fatherhood and running a company?
Classical music is an all-encompassing discipline that touches every aspect of my life—physical, mental and spiritual—each day. Since childhood, my greatest joys, fears and frustrations have been expressed at the piano or the cello. The great cellist Pablo Cassals once said that if you start the day by playing a Bach Fugue all will go well, so I try never to skip a day. My husband Greg and my son Ezra like to hear live music in our home, and this is another reason why I practice every day. They are my most cherished audience and my greatest critics!
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt about business over the years?
I believe the three most powerful keys to success are:
Choosing your ‘subject of bliss’ and being the absolute best takes discipline and countless hours of research, experimentation and failure, but it is the only way to achieve mastery and ultimate success. Whether it’s in business, the arts or sport, the rules of success are the same: Narrow your focus. Go deep. Achieve mastery.
How do you ride the highs and lows successfully?
When I was young someone told me, “You can do anything. But you can’t do it alone.” The people we choose to have in our lives are everything. I was fortunate to find my perfect partner Greg when we were both students. We had nothing but each other and our wits, and together we determined our goals and the kind of life we wanted. Of course, this has changed somewhat over the years, but we share all of the highs and lows of business and life with our family and a small but incredibly loving group of friends and colleagues. I believe that thought creates reality over time, so I’m careful not to indulge too many negative thoughts, and I’m lucky that I’ve always had a fairly upbeat and optimistic personality.
Morning cleansing is forbidden at RATIONALE - talk us through this approach….
At night, it’s important to remove sunscreens and pollution from the skin, then repair the skin barrier, rebalance skin pH and initiate cellular DNA repair processes. This process continues overnight and into the next morning. We find there is a wonderful synergy and visible boost in skin luminosity if we apply morning active ingredients such as immune boosters, antioxidants and natural sunscreens directly to the skin each morning, without cleansing first.
How often should we reapply our sunscreen?
RATIONALE’s groundbreaking Superfluid Sunscreens only need to be applied once a day, but if your skin gets wet (swimming, perspiration etc) it’s best to reapply.
How would you sum up fatherhood in three words?
A privilege. Awe-inspiring. Humbling.
(I realise the first two are not single words, but I cannot find a single word for each!)
What has fatherhood taught you?
That’s it’s not about you. That’s it’s all about them. Parenthood shines a spotlight on every speck of selfishness in your life. It makes us realise that we have an indelible influence over the life in our care, that we only get one shot at it, and that we must strive daily to better ourselves in order to be the best possible role model and mentor to our children. Scary but irrefutable and inescapable. Yet fatherhood is the most wonderful privilege and honour too, of course.
What kind of qualities have you tried to instil in your son?
Kindness. Above all else. If we examine the evolution of mammals, particularly our species, we survived and thrived because we cared for each other, even though we were comparatively small and weak. The future of humanity depends on individual striving for self-improvement tempered by a sense of social and personal responsibility.
How have you juggled raising your son with building your company?
When Ezra was an infant we deliberately scaled back business to give him the best we possibly could in terms of care and education. Ezra has been largely homeschooled, and this has been very demanding at times but absolutely the right decision for him and us. In his later teenage years, Ezra decided to finish high school by correspondence and now he works in the Information Technology division of RATIONALE. I am so glad we chose this path, as we now see a fine young man before us who knows who is. Ezra has such a loving heart and admirable resilience to pursue his own dreams and make a difference in his world.
What are some of your most vivid memories of fatherhood over the last 18 years?
I have so many happy memories at various stages of Ezra’s life. We lived on a farm in Hepburn Shire when Ezra was an infant and I loved watching him play in the sunshine for hours on end. We would take long walks in the forest and pick wildflowers, observe kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, identify birds. Once I was in the kitchen watching him play in the fields, and an eagle was hovering overhead. I wasn’t concerned, but watched with fascination as a tail feather spiralled downward… Ezra stretched out his hands and caught it. It was like a slow-motion film sequence. He was about three years old. I took it to be an omen of a blessed life to follow. More recently, I have been touched many times to see Ezra’s compassion and dedication to helping people or animals in need. From helping the elderly to caring for an injured bird, he has such a beautiful heart.
How will you be spending father’s day?
Our Father’s Day Ritual remains a constant every year: Ezra cooks lunch for us at home, which is a big deal for him as he’s not really into cooking. In reality, we all pitch in, but Ezra plans the meal, the wine, even the music…
What has been the most challenging part of fatherhood?
Like all parents, I think we have notions of how we would like our children’s lives to unfold – the kind of person they will become, choice of career, life partners, etc. The challenge is to be utterly supportive of their choices, even when they conflict with what we think would be best. Provided he is safe and that his choices reflect respect for self and others, we try to support Ezra’s initiatives, realising that self-direction is one of the keys to happiness. We try to follow the wisdom of former US president Harry S Truman, “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it”.
How do you tackle each woman’s individual skin concerns at Rationale?
Human skin is as individualised as our DNA. At RATIONALE, every skin analysis begins with a DNA test (DNArray) to examine the skin’s genetic resilience to the environment—particularly the sun. From this information, we then customise a skincare regime using the precise actives at the correct concentrations to strengthen, protect and repair environmental damage. This science is called Epigenetics, and it is revolutionising skin care. We once thought we were all victims of our inherited skin genes, but now we know that intervention using topical nutrients (ie. The Essential Six) can change the way our skin responds to ageing, ensuring Luminous Skin for Life.