Getting to know… Donna Lee Marcal of Dermatonics

Sentryca Pty Ltd is an Australian owned natural topical therapeutics company that develops natural formulas with benefits for your skin and your overall health. Our product, Dermatonics, is a natural clinic-grade skincare range. We use natural and active ingredients for results you can see and feel.

Tell us about yourself

I am a dual Canadian and Australian citizen and first came to Australia on research scholarships while completing my PhD in Biochemistry. I studied inflammation and arrived in 2004 for a research conference, where I met my now-husband. We are total science geeks! I visited two more times on research scholarships and to get to know this guy a little more. I finished my PhD and was looking for a research position and had a couple of options – one was in the USA and one in Queensland, which is the one I accepted. I then worked at the University of NSW with the same research group for 8 years, working on macrophage biology and atherosclerosis with a cardiologist and his team.

Throughout the whole time, in the background, my husband and I were working on business ideas and we were focusing on carefully developing natural skin care formulas. We then got married and had 2 kids, which slowed down my research career because in the research field you have to go in all guns blazing and it wasn’t giving me the flexibility that I needed for family.

Just before my daughter was born (kid #2) my husband and I started up Sentryca. The idea was to make natural topical therapeutics and we launched the brand Dermatonics. At this time my husband stopped working elsewhere and I left my research career so we could focus on this fully together.

Living in Australia, I very much miss my family and find it challenging to be living so far from them. We are like many Inner West families in the same position; we do our thing and have 2 kids but don’t have the support network that we used to have back home. I like to spend time with my kids and try to juggle that with running the business. I like a country feel and space so we now live in the Blue Mountains though we still spend a lot of time in the Inner West for our business and visiting friends. We built the business to give us the freedom we want so we are doing things on own terms.

Tell us about Dermatonics

Dermatonics is a natural clinic-grade premium skincare range. We only use natural ingredients; there are no harsh chemicals or animal products. One of the reasons we decided to develop natural products was being shocked at the ingredients that are in many skincare ranges. Even products that are good only had one ‘magic’ molecule and the rest of the ingredients were rubbish. So we wanted to create a range that had not only natural ingredients but also lots of good ones including many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients. We wanted a range that is really good for the skin without the consumer having to break the bank. There are natural and Australian products but we still thought there was a hole in the market for premium natural made products. We could also create something that was jam packed with great ingredients that provides a luxury feel too.

We provide our products to aestheticians who can use them in their facials and post treatments like hydradermabrasion. We also wanted to create a simple range because again other ranges can be overwhelming and you don’t know where to start. Clients can walk away with a 3-step skin care range that will work. We made the range concise and every product is designed very carefully and packed with ingredients to get results.

We also wanted to create natural alternatives to issues that could be addressed through the skin, hence our acne and scar cream and joint and muscle rub. It is great to see people finding relief with Relievamed and being able to reduce the pain medication they take.

When did you first become interested in the field of skincare?

In 2008 we started developing formulas and learning the intricacies of how to do it and in 2015 we decided to focus on it seriously. Skincare resonated with us; I have very sensitive skin and it’s hard for me to find products that work well with my skin. When I was pregnant with my first we were developing products for stretch marks and I was the test patient. I don’t have one stretch mark to show! That’s our next launch, our Mums and Babies range.

What products do you have and what problems do they solve?

We have general skin care products, cleansers, moisturisers and eye creams for the 30-50 year old range. We focus on anti-ageing, pigmentation, and breakouts for teens experiencing acne and also for adult acne. We are focused on solving skin problems that can have an impact on a person’s confidence.

The regimes are suggested combinations of our range for specific skin issues. Some other skincare ranges use day and night moisturisers; we saw that as less important and decided to address the skin issue or your biggest skin concern. We have 3 moisturisers and they target issues including pigmentation and pores, ageing, and damaged skin. We use the regime that you need to specifically target your issue.

 Being Australian owned and developed, how do you ensure your products are the best quality for the users of Dermatonics?

Over 80% of our ingredients are sourced from Australia. When a business is listed as Australian made, the products have to be sourced from Australia and meet certain safety standards. In addition, we go above and beyond and prepare our active ingredients using supercritical fluid extraction (SFE) technology that is environmentally green and gentle. It uses a higher pressure and temperature to purify the active ingredient and remove any contaminants from the original harvested products. If it is something that is grown in the soil, there will be contaminants from the soil. This technique helps to remove that, which results in a super-pure ingredient. The way we prepare most of our ingredients renders them the highest quality possible. It also means that our products are highly effective. You can be assured of quality and safety with Dermatonics products.

Where can we access Dermatonics products?

They are available online through our website or if you wanted to try them first, we have skin clinics and spas that stock our products. That means you can have a full skin consultation as well.

We have stockists listed on our website. We are currently sourcing stockists in the Inner West, specifically clinic and spa owners. We would love the opportunity to come and chat with you about our products so you can experience them to see if they fit in your business. If your customers are asking for natural products, the fit could be perfect as we’re a really great premium natural skin care brand.

We are looking for like-minded stockists that we can train and work with so they can translate this to the consumer, and we (the founders) are also readily available for any questions our stockists might have.

Of course I have to ask, how do you find working with your husband?

It’s challenging at times, though it definitely has a lot of benefits too. You are able to see your business partner all the time and get answers to your questions. It can also be challenging if you may disagree on a certain idea and have quite heated discussions! Overall though, it gives us the freedom to go in a specific direction or to put the brakes on if need be.

What is your favourite part of being a scientist?

Learning something new every day. I love being a part of a project that has a benefit for a patient in the end. I constantly love to learn and I get frustrated if I don’t get the chance to learn new things. I love the constant adapting and being able to contribute to someone’s health.

If you had all the money in the world to advance your particular field of science, what problem would you try to solve?

I would try to eradicate childhood cancers. I don’t want anyone to suffer but to eliminate the suffering of kids from cancer and leukaemia would be fabulous.

 Best way to relax?

To put my feet up in the backyard and play with the kids, or watch them play with a drink in hand without that pressure of feeling that I need to do anything. Just turning off the rest of the world for a while.

Favourite spots in Sydney’s Inner West?

I love the amazing choice of restaurants and the great cafe choices and to sit down and have a quiet coffee and work. With the kids, it’s the amazing choice of parks. We loved the park in Summer Hill off Smith St and we would stop past Envy Café for babycinos and a coffee for me first!


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