There is nowhere Elina Fedotova would rather be than “playing in her lab.” And that’s saying something, considering the cosmetic chemist and aesthetician owns and operates two spas — one in Kalamazoo and one overlooking the ocean in Pompano Beach, Florida.
But her lab, located in a business park on the east side of Kalamazoo, is where she “makes magic happen.” She is the founder of Elina Organics, consisting of the two spas, a lab, and a skin-care line boasting more than 70 products made of natural, organic elements, plus an additional 60 products that are available just to professionals in the skin-care industry. Her skin-care products are carried by 200 spas and salons across the globe and regularly get “best of” accolades from industry publications like DermaScope, DaySpa and Skin Deep, the magazine for Associated Skin Care Professionals.
For Fedotova, the 25 years since she established her company have gone by in a flash. When the native Russian, who has a university degree in chemistry, started Elina Herbal Skin Care in 1998 in a small building on Portage Road, she was one of the first skin-care practitioners in the U.S. to focus on all-natural, organic products. She based her vision on combining what she had learned about skin care from generations of women in Russia with the chemistry she learned in school.
“When I was starting, everybody thought I was cuckoo because I was doing something very old-fashioned and weird, like one little crazy hippie among all the scientists,” she recalls.
But what she created resonated with clients. She soon opened a second clinic on Chicago’s Miracle Mile, shuttling back and forth between there and Kalamazoo to treat clients on designated days. She trained staff members, including other aestheticians, who were pivotal in the growth of her salons. She now has nearly 20 employees between her Kalamazoo and Florida locations.
Holistic skin care leader
As the interest in organic skin care grew during the past two decades, Fedotova established the Association of Holistic Skin Care Practitioners in 2007 to provide education to other professionals in the industry. The organization, of which she is the president, holds an annual conference in Kalamazoo that includes training, workshops and presentations. In addition, Fedotova has trained hundreds of skin-care professionals from across the globe in holistic skin care.
This success confirmed Fedotova’s belief in the effectiveness of her products, but she knew the conventional world needed scientific proof. In 2010, she worked with the local genomics lab Genemarkers to conduct what was one of the first-ever studies that showed the efficacy of skin-care products on a genetic level.
“I felt I needed to prove that skin-care formulations should be clean and that if we do transdermal formulations (across the cellular levels of the skin), they work better. I was driven by the idea, but I had to have proof,” Fedotova says.
And proof she got. The study showed that Elina’s Ambra Lift Elixir, made with Baltic amber, showed significant stimulation of key anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant genes in skin cells across the cellular levels of the skin (epidermal, the top level, and dermal, the middle level). The results were presented in 2009 at the Cosmeceuticals Summit, a national conference for the cosmetics and skin-care industry in Orlando, Florida, by Genemarkers CEO Anna Langerveld and Fedotova, and soon genomic testing of products’ efficacy became the standard for the cosmetic industry.
In 2021, Elina noticed that many of her Chicago clients were moving to the South, so she made a bold leap and opened a new spa in Pompano Beach, Florida, on the Atlantic coast. The Florida salon started small, with Elina’s aestheticians and Elina herself traveling from Kalamazoo for two weeks at time to treat clients. Now, two years later, Elina Organics is planning to move the spa to a larger space 10 miles down the road, in Fort Lauderdale.
“We had a lot of clients who moved to Florida from Chicago, and many of them will drive from wherever they are — like the Villages near Orlando (a three-hour drive) and Naples (two hours away) to come to the spa,” she says. “The space in Fort Lauderdale is bigger, and we are building it out to be just what we want. It also overlooks the ocean.”
Back in Kalamazoo, Fedotova’s son, Yuri Fedotov, 32, handles the production of Elina Organics products. It’s a job that involves an ever-growing roster of new formulations as well as continual tweaks to older ones. Recently Elina Organics introduced its Baikal Crystal line, which uses collagen-regenerating extracts and microcrystals (spicules) of the Lubomirska sponge from Russia’s Lake Baikal, the world’s largest, oldest and deepest freshwater lake.
“The sponge has served as a remedy for inflamed, damaged and bruised skin for ages,” Fedotova says. “In my formula, the microcrystals from the sponge penetrate the skin and create micro-channels which stimulate the skin-repair process.”
In 2023, Baikal Crystal Face Infusion won Dermascope Magazine‘s Aestheticians’ Choice Award for “Best Antioxidant Moisturizer,” one of many accolades the company’s skin-care products have garnered from the magazine over the years.
Other formulations Fedotova has created include a Gemstone Collection, which features crushed diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire infusions blended with herbs, mushrooms and other organic ingredients. Her mainstay products — skin-care cleansers and toners for different skin types that she created in the beginning — continue to be customer favorites. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t improve upon those formulas. “I’ll put in different essential oils and ingredients based on the season,” she explains.
Fedotova gets her inspiration for her products in a variety of places. It was a dream about amber that led her to create Ambra Lift. “I knew that amber had been crushed into powder for use in antibiotics in the Baltic and other Russian territories,” she says. “When I started to do more research, I found that Siberia has the Kaliningrad Regional Amber Museum, where they do research on the healing properties of amber.
The use of natural sponge in her products was based on her knowledge of the Lubomirska sponge from Lake Baikal. “This is one of the coldest, most oxygenated lakes in the world. There have been a lot of medical studies of Lubomirska sponge and its properties but none for skin, so I decided to do studies of my own,” Fedotova explains.
“Sponges are one of the most promising hopes in treating antibiotic resistance because they filter the water they live in. When they encounter toxins and pathogens in the water, they produce microorganisms to overcome, neutralize or kill the pathogen. These microorganisms are healthy bacteria and that’s the kind of biome our skin needs most.”
Despite a full schedule of seeing clients, managing the Kalamazoo spa, manufacturing products and traveling to Florida to see clients and manage the spa there, Fedotova still prioritizes getting into her lab to experiment and create.
“Last night Yuri and I were there until midnight just making and playing,” she said on a recent Wednesday morning. “It is really, really my happy place.”