Kirby is a native of Peru and a Plattsburgh resident with deep ties to the community. On his mother’s side, he’s related to Bishop Terry LaValley of the Ogdensburg Roman Catholic diocese. He formerly worked for a local plastics company but was looking for something different when he came upon his current job opportunity. He’s been at it for almost 18 years and never expected to wind up in this line of work.
Kirby shows me around the warehouse, which is owned by a Canadian company, not unusual given our proximity to Quebec. The items on the shelves, though, are far from commonplace. They are high end dermal correctives, skin care products that prevent and combat the ravages of sunlight, age and diseases of the skin. “They give the skin a youthful appearance,” said Kirby. Dermal correctives are not make-up but are laboratory formulated products designed to keep your skin healthy.
G.M. Collin is the brand name of skin care treatments created by Laboratoires Dermo- Cosmetik located in the Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent. The company traces its origins to a French dermatologist, one Dr. Lapinet who, in 1957, introduced a way to help victims of burn injuries. Burns are particularly difficult wounds to treat and Lapinet’s technique was a breakthrough. He created a second skin out of collagen, a protein common to all mammals, including humans. His collagen pellicle, as it is called, was non-allergenic and was not rejected by the patients’ bodies. G. M. Collin continues to make collagen pellicles to this day, although they are sold only to medical professionals. (By the way, G. M. Collin was not a real person, but a fictitious name.)
Including Kirby, there are five Collin employees in its Plattsburgh location, about 100 in Montreal, and 23 scattered around North America who work directly with spas.
There are several categories of products under the dermal corrective rubric: preparation, treatment, anti-aging, and protection. Preparation products include cleansers, exfoliants, treating mists, and masks. Exfoliants help remove dead cells from your skin’s surface. It’s estimated that on average we lose up to 40,000 skin cells a day but new ones are always coming along. Mists are simply sprays that hydrate the skin and improve the absorption of subsequently applied products. Masks are applied to the whole face except around the mouth and eyes and deliver concentrated ingredients through the skin.
Treatment covers the problems of dry skin, oily skin and hyperpigmentation. The most common example of hyperpigmentation are the dark spots on the backs of older peoples’ hands. This is caused by exposure to sunlight. Oily skin may not be desirable, but the sebaceous glands, which produce the oil, also make hair shiny.
Skin has several layers and beneath it all is a layer of fat which supports it, giving it a pleasing appearance and feel. Unfortunately, as we age production of the fat layer slows down, leading to sags and wrinkles. Anti- aging products don’t replace the underlying fat layer but they can reduce wrinkles and provide a healthy glow. Protective products do just that, while moisturizing and firming your skin. It is thought that 90 percent of skin problems are caused by the sun, and sunscreen is essential to keep your skin healthy and avoid skin cancer.
Until recently, spas and some dermatologists were the only source of G.M. Collin’s products. “Now our online sales are going much better than we expected,” Kirby said. The closest New York spa that carries Collin products is at the Sagamore Hotel on Lake George. There are no Collin spas in the North Country, although just over the border there a two in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
Spas offer more intense and comprehensive skin treatments than can be done at home, and may offer chemical peels and other rejuvenation processes. Spas can purchase G. M. Collin products if they have licensed aestheticians and undergo training from Collin in the use of its products.
All G. M. Collin products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. “If we say it does something, it has to do it,’” explained Kirby. There is no testing done on animals, and advertising, except in trade publications, is by word of mouth. The USMCA is not expected to affect G.M. Collins.
While the bulk of G. M. Collin sales is outside the North Country, all products are dispersed across the United States and Canada from its Plattsburgh warehouse. While the warehouse is small, it represents another important commercial connection between the United States and our neighbor to the north.