How Zi Zai Began (the full truth)

Diana Hermann, owner of Zi Zai, and her dog Sam.

I @$?#ing HATE to itch.  Seriously.  I would rather be in pain than to itch.  I could mentally handle pain. But itching – I go completely mad.  In fact, if anyone ever wanted to torture me all they would have to do is brush my arm with a poison ivy leaf.  Sheer insanity for me.  (Not fun for anyone who is around me either because I become beyond irritable).

The idea to start a company that makes herbal dermatology products had been incubating in the back of my mind since 1999, when I interned at the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (in the People’s Republic of China).  I studied under the director of dermatology and was thoroughly impressed with the efficacy of Chinese herbal medicine in treating skin problems.  I thought it was quite a shame that there were so few topical Chinese herbal products available on the market in the U.S.  Why doesn’t somebody do something about that?

Then in September 2008 I decided my idea had to come to life.  I was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of southeast Florida the day after a hurricane had passed through.  I thought body surfing in the big waves was a blast, but I didn’t realize that the same forces that caused the fun waves also caused bacteria from sewage to get churned up into the water.  Disgusting.  I developed an intensely itchy rash that I was convinced would land me in the psyche ward – the itching drove me mad! Ruined my vacation.  When I returned from that trip, the product-crafting division of Zi Zai Dermatology was born.

I started formulating herbal ointments based on my own needs.  I live on the Front Range of northern Colorado where it is very dry, so my skin tends to get seriously dry and itchy, especially in the winter.  My lips were the worst.  I was totally addicted to lip balm – had to apply it almost every hour just to keep my lips from peeling (gross, I know).  So I designed LipIntervention to heal my lips and break my dependency on lip balms. But it turned out that I am allergic to propolis (found in beeswax), so I created a line of lip balms that do not contain beeswax.

My other early muse for natural solutions to skin problems was my dog Sam.  Poor guy is a lot like me – type A, obsessive-compulsive with sensitive skin (how did we find each other?).  One day, the skin on Sam’s muzzle started peeling away and his constant scratching made it worse and it became infected.  He apparently had developed an allergy to the fragrance in the “earth-friendly” laundry detergent I used to wash his bedding.  The vet gave him an oral antibiotic but had nothing to help soothe his irritated (and now bald) muzzle and paws.  So I made a fabulously effective antibacterial itch-reducing herbal ointment that was safe for him to eat. I didn’t want him to eat it, of course, but good luck trying to stop a dog from licking himself.  (We plan to develop an entire line of products for pets!)

My patients are my other source of inspiration for formulating external herbal products. I treat patients who suffer with itchy skin from head to toe. Eczema and other pruritic (itchy) skin diseases can rob people from being able to live fulfilling lives. Frustrated, sleepless, embarrassed at their appearance, and uncomfortable in their own skin, patients seek my help when other medical treatments have failed them. I am very motivated to create safe, effective products that can help these patients.

In Chinese medicine we always treat the patient as the unique individual they are.  Each skin disease has multiple possible differential TCM diagnoses that are based on how the disease manifests in the individual.  I wanted to be able to help as many people with my products as possible, but I can’t see all of you in my clinic. Zi Zai Dermatology external herbal products were designed to offer you customized skin care. With a little knowledge, you can figure out for yourself which products are best for your unique skin.  Differentiation makes all the difference in the effectiveness of treating any illness.  Your skin is no exception.

What about the name “Zi Zai”, you ask? (Say Zi like the short “i” in “zit” and Zai rhymes with “fly”) “Zi Zai” comes from Mandarin and means “to be free of limitations and restrictions”.  I get easily frustrated when a patient comes to me and says they have such-and-such western disease and they think they have to live with that label and those symptoms for the rest of their lives.  In Chinese medicine we do not view illness as such a static and permanent condition.  Life (in all its forms) is dynamic and changing and we have the power to free ourselves from limiting beliefs, lifestyles and dis-ease.  We have options, we can make choices.  Zi Zai Dermatology offers you choices and this gives you freedom.  Freedom from restrictions and limitations, from the things that hold you back from enjoying life and living it to its fullest (like @$?#ing itchy skin problems!).

So there you have it.  That’s the dirty on how the product-crafting component of this company got its start.  But this is just the beginning.  We already have a lines of products formulated for psoriasis, eczema, acne, and rosacea.  We plan to add herbal lotions, scalp treatments, bath soaks and so much more for you!  The faster our current products become popular, the sooner we can make these new ones available to you.

I continue to design new products based on the needs of my patients, input from consumers, and my own personal experiences.  Benjamin Franklin was most observant when he said “necessity is the mother of invention.”  Ain’t that the truth!  As future needs arise, new products will become available.  Check out our blog, and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Free yourself from your limitations…Zi Zai!

~Diana Hermann
Chinese Herbalist and Founder of Zi Zai Dermatology
May 2010

 A Girl and Her Herbs