Hubert Burda Media


The founders of Fresh share on the myriad benefits of an ancient ingredient

A GAGGLE OF beauty editors in sensible shoes, half-aprons and sun hats works its way up a hill in single file, each individual clutching a straw tray at the hip, eyes peeled for the tiny crown of leaves that tops each tea bush – the small, slender greens that are the base ingredient for Hangzhou’s famed longjing tea. Some 30 minutes later, trays partially but proudly loaded with verdant leaves, we’re informed we’ve picked enough to make, maybe, one cup of tea each. Lesson learned – picking tea is hard work.
What works harder than tea pickers is the tea itself. One of nature’s miracles, tea was discovered almost 5,000 years ago, legend has it, when an errant leaf drifted into Chinese Emperor Shennong’s boiled water, perfuming it with a pleasing taste and aroma. The rest, as they say, is history.
The hosts of our tea-picking extravaganza are the founders of Fresh, Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg, a couple that hails from Russia but has lived in America for more than 30 years, and founded their natural beauty brand in 1991 in Boston. Fresh’s cult products – gently effective sugar polishes for the body, face and lips; a hydrating mask infused with rose; a mattifying serum that uses a proprietary Umbrian clay to purify and minimise pores – all use ingredients granted us by Mother Earth, and the latest product line is no different.
It’s green tea we’ve been sent to pick, but black tea is the hero ingredient that fortifies Fresh’s Age-Delay line, the knowledge of its benefits having become widespread thanks to the health fad that is kombucha. “[It’s] a drink made from fermented black tea whose history traces back to 250 BC, during which people believed it had healing powers,” says Glazman. An obviously vigorous man enamoured of nature’s many bounties, Glazman is an avid consumer of black tea. “He doesn’t like to take medications. He likes his body to do its own thing. But black tea had a great effect on him,” confirms Roytberg. “Kombucha gave a major change to his energy – helped him be more focused.”
Adds Glazman,“After drinking it, I noticed an instant boost in my energy levels and began researching the extract at once. In the same way that the elixir energised my body, I found that it reenergised skin cells, reinforcing structure and jump-starting collagen production.” The resulting complex is a black-tea ferment that softens, soothes and brightens skin, preventing a natural protein-sugar reaction in the body that typically makes skin tougher and less radiant.
Released in phases since 2012, the Black Tea Age-Delay line now comprises a cream, eye cream, serum, mask and, launched just last month, treatment lotion.
As with the hydrating Rose line, the mask has thus far been the top seller, which is unsurprising after a first encounter with the product. The texture, firstly, is most unusual, having been inspired by Glazman’s line of vision while on one of his many plane rides. He was looking at clouds – “I wanted to jump outside and hug the cloud. To put the cloud on my face” – not least due to the extreme drying effects of the in-cabin atmosphere. Opening the jar, you can literally spoon fluffy billows from finger to face, which not only serve to provide a little whimsy to the typical skincare regime, but restore and protect against damage from free radicals. Handy helpers like rose-flower and grape-seed oils, as well as jicama-root juice, hydrate; while lycheeseed extract boosts collagen and elasticity; polysaccharides firm and smooth; and sake softens and detoxifies. “That’s how you bring the cloud onto the plane,” jokes Glazman (the full-sized tub clocks in at a transportable 100ml, by the way, with a travel-perfect 50ml version also available).
The Black Tea Age-Delay Treatment Lotion is poised to be a favourite, too, as the importance of lotions increases in a post-toner beauty era. And you can be sure that the series will only continue to grow (Black Tea Cleanser, anyone?), as long as the fans keep on coming.
But as any Fresh acolyte can divulge, the brand can’t even produce products fast enough to satisfy its current customers (the top-three sellers, highlighted at the brand’s counters, are frequently sold out). Which only serves to validate Fresh’s addiction to nature. “Technology can create new ingredients, but our ability to discover things through technology, while preserving the heritage of beauty, is what has made Fresh over the last 20 years,” says Glazman. And will continue to make it in the decades to come.