Much praise has justifiably been heaped on the benefits of eating farm-to-table, with its emphasis on fresh, healthy ingredients straight from the source; with that in mind, however, perhaps we ought to contemplate the benefits of a farm-to-beauty and farm-to-skin perspective as well. There’s no question, long before there were major health and beauty companies, people used herbs, flowers, honey, fresh fruits, olive oil and a host of other found-on-the-farm or from-the-garden ingredients to keep themselves strong, healthy, youthful and beautiful.
Today, when “natural” and “organic” may be no more than trendy buzz words in the push to make products sound holistic – and may mean the products don’t necessarily work or are untested, a handful of thoughtful doctors and cosmeceutical producers exist who absolutely do combine the best real, naturally sourced, proven botanical remedies of yesteryear with medical solutions representing utterly current scientific understanding to provide the best of all worlds.
Nashville dermatologist Carla Retief, M.D. is one of them, working tirelessly on the cutting edges of beauty and research. Her line, BuffRX, addresses a wide variety of genuine skin problems and provides a great deal more than the proverbial “hope in a jar” to those seeking to reduce the signs of aging, stress, and skin disorders. BuffRX offers fresh ingredients, both over the counter and by prescription, using components that are proven effective through thorough scientific research and in percentages that maintain effectiveness. In combination, those factors are rare.
What makes her products distinct is the especially astounding level of freshness she demands of her sourced ingredients, and her careful mix of proven medical applications like retinol, glycolic acid, hydroquinone, vitamins and anti-oxidants combined with thoroughly researched, pure natural ingredients, among them coffee bean, olive oil, honey, lavender, and avocado.
Tennessee, in a town where the majority of residents were farmers. Her father was a milkman, her mother the daughter of a farm family. “My grandmother took care of us using all the old remedies,” Retief says. “We never went to the doctor except in a case of emergency, and we were all extremely healthy.” Children and grandchildren alike were treated with poltices and salves their matriarch made, rich with honey, ginger, dandelion, ginseng, and dill.
For her self-sufficient family, going to a store was rare – most things, aside from the occasional Coke or treat, came from the farm – eggs, meat, fresh fruits, honey, and all the rest. Young Carla recalls picking strawberries and apples, and the constant preparations for canning and freezing foods fresh from the huge gardens.
Retief went into medicine because, she says, she was good at math and science, and in her small rural town, there were only a handful of educated professions one imagined being – teacher, lawyer, nurse, doctor, and so on. She got a scholarship to Vanderbilt, moved to Nashville, and completed a pre-med degree in biology, working multiple jobs to put herself through school. Medical school, she says, was actually a relief, because she didn’t also have to work part time as a tutor, aerobics teacher, restaurant hostess and library assistant at once as well as being a student.
Smart and good at sports, Retief also had abundant artistic drive, but little opportunity to study those topics growing up. Dermatology and plastic surgery appealed to her precisely because they allowed her to use her visual nature. The tragic death of a teenage cousin from melanoma encouraged her toward visual dermatology directly, and she found that the instant gratification it provided – the chance to see her patients’ positive results quickly – appealed to her tremendously. Eight years training in Chicago followed by a fellowship in Charleston, – where she mastered dermatology, Mohs micrographic surgery, and reconstructive, laser and cosmetic surgeries – prepared her for practice. All the while, Retief kept a notebook of home remedies, starting with techniques she learned from her own grandmother and then acquiring them from friends, patients and fellow physicians. Whenever someone with a skin-related problem mentioned a home remedy that helped where prescription medications didn’t, she wrote it down.
“I’d collect a list of ingredients, getting someone’s Aunt Betty’s home remedy for such and such, and I’d research those constantly, keeping a list of all these nontraditional recipes."
After finishing school, she and her husband, a podiatrist originally from South Africa, began practicing in Palm Beach. Here she built the basis for her skincare lines, using the freshest ingredients and sourcing them through a Nashville compounding pharmacist who also helped develop lines for other exceptional cosmeceutical producers.
Retief, using her knowledge of both prescription medications and experiments with holistic materials that showed genuine effectiveness, often had Hollis blend specific individual remedies based on the patient. After more than six years, with her own clinic work now in Nashville as well, Hollis encouraged Retief to start a line of her own, available through her practice.
“You’ll need about six products to start, and you need to add a cleanser,” the pharmacist said. Since some of the materials remained prescription only, with training he helped her set up an in-office lab and provided kits so she could blend the ingredients exactly to meet specifications.
The resulting products – well more than six now – proved outstanding. Each is made with the freshest of ingredients for efficacy and longer lifespan, including fine botanicals. Everything is blended weekly, intensifying its freshness quotient. The products contain minimal preservatives, which might produce a mild color change over time, but the powerful efficacy remains.
Thus was the BuffRX line born, with a soft launch, minimal packaging and no fuss. Retief’s facial serums remain customizable, with active ingredients like Vitamin C not added until purchase.
“Additives are needed based on the problems you have, so we’re making products based on your specific skin type and requirements."
Whether your issue is acne, rosacea, age related fine lines, brown spots, enlarged pores, dry skin or another issue, there is a customized approach to it for you. With the most powerful of humectants and moisturizers, as well as ingredients proven to improve collagen production, reduce lines and heal medical issues, the products don’t contain extraneous ingredients or trace amounts that make no difference. The ingredient pairings make sense – like calming botanicals paired with stronger prescriptives that traditionally cause mild irritation.
What makes these products different is that the goal of these kinds of ingredients is to actually focus on providing the cells with nutrition and energy, to make skin more vibrant, healthy and smooth. Retief isn’t selling hope; she’s selling observable results. “My products are prescription strength, but also fresh and strong,” says Retief. “In one week it’s obvious: it’s just better.”
The popularity of BuffRX is Nashville’s best kept beauty secret, even though thousands of customers locally are purchasing her cosmeceuticals from her office or online, and coming to her office for the prescription-only products. BuffRx is also sold in Palm Beach, Fla. and Mailibu, Cal.
The next phase of BuffRX’s evolution comes with the advent of the Buff Bar. First arriving at Retief’s Green Hills office, the Buff Bar allows customers to watch their personalized products and serums being made in a soothing atmosphere. With the Buff Bar, you’re part of the process. Soon, you’ll be able to find Buff Bars in Davidson, Williamson, and Rutherford Counties and beyond.
While it’s not quite the same as a farmer’ market stall, the warmth of the Buff Bar’s weathered wood and soft lighting absolutely make you feel right at home –soothing and calm. Carla Retief offers you the best of both worlds –ingredients based on years of research and experimentation with pure, natural botanicals, paired with thoroughly proven medicine – and no preservatives, no meaningless additives. It’s just the kind of remedy that her grandmother would be proud of. This is what “natural” beauty is all about.