Westchester Native Turns Tragedy Into Beauty with Clark's Botanicals

How Francesco Clark overcame a spinal-cord injury and created a thriving line of skincare products.

In 2002, Francesco Clark was a 24-year-old fashion assistant moving up the ranks at Harper’s Bazaar when his life took a dramatic turn. While on a weekend in the Hamptons, he dove into the shallow end of a pool, resulting in a severe spinal-cord injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Clark was told that he had a 19-percent chance of survival.

Defying the odds, Clark survived and spent five years doing hours of daily physical therapy and regaining some of his strength. He’s also since regained mobility in his arms.

Still, he continues to face numerous physical hurdles. One of them, the inability of his skin to regulate temperatures — and, consequently, his ability to sweat — actually became part of the impetus behind Clark’s Botanicals, his thriving line of skincare products.

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After his accident, Clark, a Westchester native, found that his skin was extremely reactive to products and could not rebalance itself leading to clogged pores and severe breakouts. His father, Harold Clark, a physician specializing in internal medicine who is trained in both Western medicine and homeopathy, helped his son develop the first formula for Clark’s Botanicals. Setting up a lab in their kitchen, the two went through 78 different mixtures using botanical extracts and oils. They discovered “jasmine absolute,“ which has anti-inflammatory properties that appear to help roscacea and boost collagen production. It is gentle enough for sensitive skin and is now in every one of the company’s products.

Clark wasn’t originally planning to sell his products but, while having lunch with his former boss at Harper’s Bazaar, the editor noticed how much Clark’s skin had improved and requested a vial to take home. The editor gave Clark three months to find a supplier, package the product, and build a website as Clark’s Botanicals would appear in the September 2007 issue. The rest, as they say, is history.

All of Clark’s Botanicals’ products are made in America and, in 2014, the Bronxville-based company became the first and only beauty line to win Martha Stewart’s American-Made Award. Clark is an ambassador for The Christopher Reeve Foundation and a portion of profits from the sale of Clark’s Botanicals benefits the foundation. Clark’s Botanicals can be found at Maison Rouge in Bronxville as well as www.clarksbotanicals.com.

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