Petru van Zyl, C.E.O. and Founder of pHformula, on why her clients see visible results

Lindsay Judge   |   01-09-2023

With so many skincare brands and solutions out there, it can be overwhelming when deciding which products are right for you, especially if you have specific issues to focus on.


pHformula blurs the lines of science and beauty to offer results-driven treatments unique to every client, according to their skin type and needs. Phformula was founded in Barcelona by Petru van Zyl after she realised the lack in the market for result-driven products and treatments that really focus on some of today’s major skin problems. Petru decided to take things into her own hands and soon developed a system between cosmeceuticals and the physician’s practice to provide visible results. In 35 countries worldwide, pHformula has gained a cult following in Europe, South America, Australia and now The Middle East. We learn more about this unique system and why it could solve all your skincare problems.


Tell us about the pHformula brand and how it came to life.

In many ways, the pHformula brand story is a very personal one. I first became aware of my passion for skincare when I developed acne in my late teens. I became a qualified skincare therapist and specialist and worked hard to understand the skin and its disorders and the science behind formulations that work. I began to realise that in the professional space, there was a fundamental lack of options to customise products and treatments according to the needs of the client’s skin. With my hands-on experience and working with many different skin types, I soon realised that most of us have more than one skin disorder or concern requiring specific treatments.


I grew up in South Africa, so I’ve been working on various skin phototypes all my life. Darker skin is much more prone to post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation (P.I.H.) risks. I also identify personally with extreme weather conditions that inevitably lead to skin sensitivities. I felt very frustrated with the results I could achieve with the limited protocols available on the market – and the fact that I could not customise treatments. Added to this was the fact that the only results-driven treatment options available at the time were traditional chemical peelings. I worked for many years with this. While chemical peelings have amazing results and benefits, they also have undesirable side effects, especially when working with strong acids and darker skin phototypes. This was a compelling and big motivation for me to develop a professional treatment system with pHformula’s philosophy of a product line committed to controlled skin resurfacing instead of chemical peeling.


A.C. homecare kit products


What makes pHformula different from other skincare brands today?

pHformula is a professional dermatological skin resurfacing treatment system, internationally renowned for using pharma-grade ingredients and a unique delivery vehicle complex named PH-DVC™. On the contrary, most professional skincare brands are focused on active ingredients and not necessarily synergism and the delivery of those ingredients.


One of the components of the PH-DVC™ delivery vehicle complex is a delivery system that entraps active ingredients and releases them gradually and with control. This improves penetration and a homogeneous delivery and incorporates two extra elements that work in synergy to soothe the skin and metabolically activate the cells for enhanced results. It is important to understand that it is a tiny structure composed of lipids and water. The lipidic external structure plays a key role in skin penetration since it is an analogue skin structure. This lipidic portion of the delivery system carries the oil-soluble ingredients of the formulation.


On the other hand, the other portion of the delivery is an encapsulated micro-polarised water. This is very important to entrap water-soluble elements of the formula. Most professional skincare brands are not necessarily focused on the science behind synergism and the delivery of the ingredients. In contrast, pHformula is scientifically focused on maximum efficacy in the treatment room of the skin specialist.

In many ways, we have changed the thinking of the skin specialist by moving away from traditional skin peeling and introducing controlled chemical skin resurfacing with the main function and properties of rebuilding skin rather than just chemically peeling the skin. It becomes healthier, more resilient, and responsive to a maintenance regime by rebuilding the skin.


A.C. recovery, 30ml


Tell us about the resurfacing system process, what it means and how it works.

I have found my passion in acids for many years, but working with them is challenging. Traditional peelings provide clear skin changes but are tough to work with. From a skin specialist’s perspective, it is a complicated task, neutralising the acids and leaving skin prone to complications. Chemically speaking, traditional peelings will easily oxidise surface skin, losing some proton-release action. This drove me to develop a controlled resurfacing system, overcoming most of the challenges I faced when applying the acids to the skin.


Our PH-DVC™ delivery vehicle complex is key to reaching inside-out results, maximising the ingredient’s potential, and reducing side effects. We use pharma-grade ingredients (the highest and purest quality raw materials) in our product formulations and our approach to resurfacing chemical skin. We practice the art of controlled chemical skin resurfacing at a pharma-cosmeceutical level. Our non-invasive, customised skin resurfacing treatments target the specific needs of our four identified skin disorders ranging from ageing, hyperpigmentation, and chronic redness to acne-prone skin, where key ingredients are applied to the skin combined with acids and our unique delivery vehicle complex named PH-DVC™.

All the elements together deliver protons to the different layers of the skin in a controlled manner — this release of protons results in accelerated cell turnover and optimum skin regeneration with no downtime. Our skin resurfacing treatments are supported by a range of specific home care products to support the prescribed treatment. These home care products are designed to work in synergy with professional treatments and our unique delivery vehicle complex (PH-DVC™).


SOS Rescue Oil, 30ml


How do you balance the fine line between science and beauty with your products?

At pHformula, this is a crucial aspect of our research and development. It is an ongoing commitment for us to achieve and maintain this balance which includes:


Scientific research: Understanding the market’s needs, using innovative ingredients and complexes to deliver relevant benefits.

Ingredient selection: Choosing ingredients based on scientific evidence, quality grade, synergy, and compatibility with other components.

Formulations: Ingredients with breakthrough mechanisms of action while always considering pleasant textures.

Safety and Results: Rigorous testing and regulatory compliance to build trust with the professional community and the end-user.


Additionally, we focus on providing transparency about the science behind our products, continuous innovation and canvassing feedback from our skin specialists and consumers.



How do your products work for different skin types?

Thanks to more than 30 years of experience and research, pHformula focus on optimum skin health of each skin tone. Our skin resurfacing treatments and homecare prescriptions are an art in our skin specialists’ hands, as not all skin types require the same treatment. It’s important to understand that different skin types have different tolerance and sensitivity levels. pHformula takes an innovative stance by analysing the different phototypes and what each one needs to attain its optimum skin health, whether it is the improvement of signs of ageing, hyperpigmentation, acne or chronic redness.


A.C.T.I.V.E. formula 30ml


What about those with susceptible skin? Can they use pHformula products?

Applying acids to the skin is challenging, and redness and inflammation may occur, especially if you have sensitive skin. To combat this, we incorporate a soothing element within our skin-resurfacing products. This soothing ingredient specifically blocks one of the skin’s most important inflammatory pathways: arachidonic acid. The advantages of incorporating this natural origin ingredient are less skin irritation and reduction of the proinflammatory peptides. But at the same time, this ingredient enhances penetration of active ingredientsso the effectivity of the treatments can be increased.


We also have a unique way of testing skin sensitivity with a product named S.P. complex in every treatment session. By applying the S.P. complex, the skin specialist can determine if the patient’s skin is resilient, sensitive, or very sensitive. The skin specialist then adapts the protocol and applies products at the correct strength according to skin sensitivity.


What are the timelines for expected results?

PHformula skin resurfacing treatments aim to achieve healthy-looking skin, and the mechanism of action of our unique skin resurfacing formulations starts working from the moment you apply the product. Although significant skin improvement is visible after the first session, pHformula recommends a treatment plan of 4-6 sessions to restore skin health.


Benefits include increased cellular oxygenation. The more efficiently a cell consumes oxygen, the less oxygen is available to become excited to form destructive reactive oxygen species (R.O.S.). This also increases cellular metabolism and directly impacts the mitochondria.


It is fascinating that our products will also collaborate in the healing process, promoting collagen and elastin synthesis and helping to reduce inflammation due to their soothing effect. That is in synergy with the soothing element we discussed before.


Finally, one of the properties I love the most is that it can potentiate the activity of other active ingredients in synergy with both elements (delivery and soothing). We recommend a course of treatments and continued home care use to achieve optimum results.


A.G.E. recovery kit


What are some of the most common mistakes women make with skincare today?

It’s not an easy answer because every person’s skin needs and concerns differ. Nevertheless, there are a few general mistakes that people tend to make regarding their skincare routines:


  • Moisturising is vital for hydrating the skin and maintaining its barrier function, so never skip it.
  • Over-cleansing your skin or using harsh products can disrupt the skin barrier. Choose a gentle cleanser suitable to your skin type and avoid over-washing.
  • Leaving makeup on overnight can clog pores and cause blemishes and dull skin.
  • Not using sunscreen every day.
  • Skincare shouldn’t stop at the face. The neck and décolletage are often missed, leading to signs of ageing appearing more prominently in those areas.
  • Picking at blemishes can lead to inflammation, scarring, and further breakouts.


What is the plan for pHformula in the Middle East?

We started to get more and more enquiries from people wanting to experience our treatments and products in the Middle East. Our product line is perfect for the Middle Eastern market, and we are focused on selectively choosing our skincare centres and skin specialists. We have had great interest and are already present in some of the most prestigious aesthetic skin care centres and medispas such as Ouronyx.


Are there any products that would be beneficial to women in the region?

I believe that women are looking for products that will boost their self-confidence – and nothing boosts a woman’s confidence as much as healthy, beautiful skin. PHformula skin resurfacing treatments aim to achieve healthy-looking skin.


The following treatments and homecare products are extremely beneficial for the overall restoration of skin health: C.R. Complex Skin Resurfacing Treatment and Homecare, A.C. Solutions Skin Resurfacing Treatments and Homecare, A.G.E. Solutions Skin Resurfacing Treatments and Homecare, and M.E.L.A. Powerclay Skin Resurfacing Treatments and Homecare. 


Where would you like to see pHformula in five years?

Besides seeing pHformula and the innovative art of skin health well established in the Middle East, I believe we are tasked with a higher purpose. This view can be summed up as ‘Doing Well by Doing Good’. By this definition, I would like to see pHformula continue growing in its social responsibilities and sustainability. The world is changing very quickly, and many opportunities embody these values.


P.O.S.T recovery cream, 50ml


We know you have travelled the world a lot – what are some of the lessons you have learnt?

Travelling taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons. It expands my mind and keeps me in that enthusiastic curiosity and creative openness. As a skin specialist focused on research and education, I’ve learned countless lessons from people and professionals in our industry worldwide. Still, the biggest takeaway would be that you can learn something valuable from anyone, anywhere, so always listen.


What is the professional motto that you live by?

Start doing today what will matter most tomorrow.


What else is in the pipeline for the rest of the year?

I am very excited about the relaunch of our E.Y.E. lift serum. It’s already a part of our range, but we have recently added new ingredients and will be relaunching it later this year. It’s a 5-in-1 lightweight, innovative formulation with flash and long-term lifting effects. It also includes a special glass-touch roller-ball applicator that provides controlled application and a feeling of freshness.


We will also reveal and independently certify the results of our C.R. 1 complex – formulated with the upgraded delivery vehicle complex (PH-DVC™) and used in synergy with the C.R. homecare regime – we have started clinical studies around this. C.R. skin resurfacing treatment is innovative due to its ability to improve redness (acute and chronic) with acids achieving outstanding results. The purpose of the study is to have solid quantification of the results, to provide all our skin specialists and medical professionals with powerful objective data and to certify the efficacy and high quality of our pHformula skin resurfacing treatments with its unique delivery vehicle complex.


What message would you send our readers for them to understand more about pHformula?

Our skin specialists are qualified and trained to not only professionally assess your skin but also to customise your treatment and homecare prescriptions to best fit your skin’s needs and the results you would like to see. Having a skin specialist looking after your skin and regularly going for treatments will have visible results you cannot imagine, and it will be the best investment in self-care you can ever make.