I met Matthew Ankeny when he was working as a pitch-man for Rapha - a job he took for a year or thereabouts, previously (currently?) working as contributing writer, editor and producer in the cycling biz, in addition to being an all-round bon vivant.
He dropped an email late last year, saying hey friends, “I’m moving on to do my own thing” before going dark and turning into a skin care CEO. There’s a gap in cycling that was wide open: skin care + recovery post rides, he said. He set out to go after it.
The world’s harsh. Sun. Sweat. Pollution. All that sticks to your skin and breaks it down. Reality is, after a long ride most of us kick-up our feet, sip a coffee and watch stages of the La Vuelta, quite literally hanging our skin out to dry. Not cool, man. Not cool.
Through the magic of the internet, we reconnected to chat about his new venture, CBD chamois cream (bliss!) and why most cyclists eschew skin care. He’s an interesting personality in the cycling world. You can check him out here and West product here.
You worked in the cycling biz for years. Why West now? How'd you spot the opportunity?
Well, I moved in with my girlfriend and we shared a bathroom. I started stealing her products and she used some quality, expensive stuff. She didn't love the stealing, but I quickly noticed a difference in my skin. It literally started to look and feel much better. Less dry. Less red. Less irritated. It was something I had not experienced with the cheaper products I'd half-heartedly used before.
So I started researching it — I even took a continuing education class at UCLA — and there is a pretty clear difference between the good stuff and the mediocre stuff in skincare. And the good stuff includes certain ingredients that are proven to work. But all the brands at that level were focused on women, and nothing spoke to the cyclists or runners or men. And those are the people who tend to need it the most — the people who are outside, sweating, getting sun-exposure and windburn and environmental debris on their face. A four-hour ride does not do good things for the surface of your skin.
Unfortunately. I think the traditional skincare brands aren't talking to the people who are living the most active lifestyles. And I think those people need quality skincare more than most. So, West was born to speak to those people and give them top-quality products.
Describe your recommended skin care routine.
It's a pretty simple daily practice — like brushing your teeth. Every morning and night, cleanse and then moisturize. I keep our Cleanser in the shower, so it's at hand and easy to remember. I then use our lighter Moisturizer in the morning and our Recovery Cream at night, which I keep next to my bed. Since our products are pretty potent, with lots of active ingredients — hyaluronic acid, beta-glucans, AHAs, liposomes — just doing those steps is about 90% of the way to good skin health. Just cleanse then moisturizer, morning and night. Or, obviously, you can get more advanced (and if you have a persistent skin condition, you should talk to a dermatologist).
After a big ride, I use our Scrub and Mask. The Scrub is a hybrid exfoliant, so it works physically to remove debris and also chemically to clear out pores. It's a skin saver, for sure. And then the Mask is a super booster of nutrients. I use it after I shave. Or in dry weather. Or at altitude. It's a solid reset button.
Why do most cyclists ignore skincare?
Skincare is an oddly taboo topic for a lot of athletes, cyclists included. Which is weird. Like, we shave our legs. We wear lycra. We endure long bouts of suffering together, but talking about our skin just doesn't come up, especially among men. I've had the conversation more than most in the recent past, and almost everyone I've talked to is 100% aware that they should care for their skin better than they do. But they don't know where to start or what products to use. I think the more that people discuss it, the less odd it becomes. That's part of the mission here. We're hoping to bring up that conversation more and more. Someday, I hope it'll be cool to say, "Hey man, your skin looks good, what's your routine?"
What’s recovery cream?
It's the secret weapon. The fountain of youth. It's a super-rich cream that stimulates the skin cells to building up the cell walls. That comes from the beta-glucans and lipid-rich oils in the formula. Basically, your skin cells can't retain water without strong cell walls. That's why skin droops and sags and wrinkles and looks tired. This cream stimulates the skin to build up those walls while simultaneously hydrating the skin. It is also a skin soother, so that slight dry burn you may feel after a ride goes away instantly. It's a lot of product and it's not cheap, but it works. Applying after a ride or overnight (I use it every night), the results are very impressive. Your skin will feel and look a lot better.
What's in West product? Nothing gross, right?
So, our main focus is on active ingredients. We use proven ingredients at proven levels. That's not a given for all products and brands. Each of our formulas has its hero ingredients, and these are the best stuff for your skin. What is in a product is as essential as what's not in it. A lot of brands live by "No Lists" — which we're keen for, but I don't only want to know what's not in your product. I want to know what's in your product that works.
And no, there's nothing gross in our products. We're vegan and primarily plant and mineral derived. No parabens, phthalates, petrolatum, lanolin, mineral oil, propelyne glycol, sulfates (SLS, SLES), artificial dyes or synthetic fragrances — which are kind of the main culprits of consumer fear. That's more common today than some headlines may make you believe. At some supermarket levels, there is some drying and irritating ingredients, but once you're in the higher price range, most people steer clear of these ingredients. It's a fundamental piece. So, make sure your products are at least at that level of compliance, then look at things like active ingredients and pH levels for better insight into if the product works, rather than is simply benign.
Do posh skincare products make a cyclist faster?
Definitely. Fresh is faster. Healthy skin adds watts. It all comes down to this: you only get one face. Your face is getting hit with everything you throw at it during a ride, which is a lot. Do it some good and take care of it. Your skin will feel better. Your skin will look better. And to borrow a line from Neon Deion Sanders, "If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good."
What's in the cards beyond 2019? Some chamois butter, perhaps?
CBD chamois butter is in full development. I'm testing it daily and experiencing a new type of bliss. Ha! No, we're looking to launch a few potent vitamin serums soon — retinol (Vitamin A) and triple Vitamin C&E serum. These ingredients are the best of the best for your skin, but they're not cheap to do right in a formula. I wanted to start with an approachable line before dropping the heavy hitters. But I've been using versions of both serums for a bit now, and the results are pretty impressive. I'm PR-ing tons of segments on Strava. It's like I'm on an e-bike. It's skincare doping, and there's no way to test for it.