Nurses Bring Their Dreams for a Natural Skin Care Line to Reality

Nurses Bring Their Dreams for a Natural Skin Care Line to Reality

Lil Bogden, left, and Nan Brown in the shipping room behind their office at L'Athene natural skin care products in Mount Pleasant. - Kim Kim Foster-Tobin/

Robin Cowie Nalepa / The State

December 02, 2008

Spend a few minutes with Nan Brown and Lil Bogden and they will convince you beauty is more than skin deep — it goes beyond the superficial to believing in what you do, dreaming big and taking action.

The friends and business partners developed their own successful skin care line, L’Athene, based in Mount Pleasant and focused on a holistic philosophy:

“Do the best for yourself in all ways. Your body will work with you to be as healthy and beautiful as possible.”

he dynamic duo started their venture in 1997. Brown and Bogden worked together as burn unit nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

During that time, Brown began to experience unusual facial breakouts and skin flaking.

In hopes of combating the problem she product-hopped with little success. Thenshe went for her first facial. She left with a second-degree burn.

“Finally, we picked up boxes to see what we were putting on our skin,” said Brown.

What they found caused them great concern — propylene glycol found in antifreeze, sodium laurel sulfates used as engine degreasers and petroleum products, just to name a few.

Bogden and Brown had trained not only as nurses but also as certified aromatherapists. They knew the healing power found in nature. Yet it appeared most skin care companies had yet to grasp the concept.

They decided to develop a healthy and natural alternative, getting ahead of a trend much more prevalent now. Brown and Bogden spent hours at the library, reading textbooks, case studies and photocopying information (no Google to help them at the time).

“We were like Sherlock Holmes,” said Bogden.

They also assembled a panel of experts to help their development, including a cosmetic chemist and an herbalist.

“It’s interesting when you have a passion how people fall into your path,” said Bogden.

They purchased items from health food stores and mixed batches in Brown’s kitchen sink. They tested items on fellow nurses.

“They didn’t hold back on feedback and helped us tweak along,” said Brown.

It took more than three years of hard work and debt (“a few hundred thousand” from mortgaged homes and loans from friends and families) to move from the idea to the bottles filled with proven vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and antioxidants.

“Everything is natural,” said Brown. “We chose our ingredients not only for their quality, but because they were correct for challenged skin, aging skin.”

Brown and Bogden separately vacationed in the Charleston area in 2000. It made such an impression they decided it would be the perfect headquarters for their new venture — named for the goddess of wisdom, health, reason and purity. (Later they were surprised to learn the name also meant “nurse” in Sanskrit.)

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