Dr. Linda Miles, mother to two daughters, built her expertise in holistic health care and biotechnology for more than three decades, earning degrees in biology, business and oriental medicine, as well as becoming a licensed acupuncturist, doctor of Oriental medicine and an appointed member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists. This breadth of experience led her to build Derma E, a family-owned and -operated company that has pioneered the development of high-performance antioxidant skincare solutions. The comprehensive line of natural, paraben-free, cruelty-free and 100 percent vegetarian products is at the forefront of the cultural shift to natural health solutions, a topic Miles passionately advocates for.
“The power of nature is pretty amazing, and we often can’t re-create that complexity and balance in a lab by using just synthetic ingredients," Miles says. "Nature provides us with healing agents that are superior in performance to chemical alternatives—antioxidants are our best example of that."
Miles began her journey of growing the Derma E brand with her business partner, David Stearn, more than three decades ago, officially founding the company in 1984. Today, their products can be found in thousands of retail outlets across the US, with additional international distribution through their website.
Miles tells us about the misconceptions of holistic health and working motherhood
As a mother, as well as the vice president of Derma E, how do you make it all work?
At this point in my life, my girls are grown, so it isn’t as much juggling as it was when I was younger. But even back then, I maintained a good work-life balance. Both David and I believe in family first and business second, so if there was a soccer game I needed to go to, I went to the soccer game. We really did have an understanding that family was most important to us. That’s how you make it work.
What sets Derma E apart from other natural skin care lines?
Our products are truly formulated for results. We create formulas that have high concentrations of active ingredients that actually provide the results you are looking for. If we promise you an anti-aging product, then you are going to see anti-aging results. If we promise you a vitamin C product that helps with age prevention, then you are going to get an effective age-prevention product.
When did you first feel successful?
My mom taught me two very important things. No. 1, life is what you make it. What that means is you are the one responsible for your attitude about life. You can make a bad situation better just by improving your attitude, and you can make a good situation great by having an ambitious and positive attitude. The second lesson was that you can do anything you want to do, if you set your mind to it—the sky is the limit. These lessons were instilled in me at an early age, so I have been fortunate enough to feel successful my entire life.
As a successful female entrepreneur, what are some ways that you teach your daughters about “girl power”?
I taught my daughters the same lessons that my mom taught me. However, it is not just about girl power, it’s really about attitude. One of my favorite sayings is a quote by Maya Angelou: “If you don't like something, chnage it. If you can't change it, change your attitutde.” I also teach my daughters that you are what you think you are. I like to share this advice with people in general, as well, because we form our reality with our thoughts and our behaviors, so it isn’t so much about girl power, it’s about people power.
Has there been anything about leading Derma E that surprised you or inspired you in a way you didn’t expect?
The biggest inspiration that Derma E brings me is from the people I work with, and I did not expect that. Just knowing how Derma E has benefited people by providing jobs is definitely my biggest inspiration. I love hearing about everybody’s experiences within the company. I find it very cool that David and I were able to create an environment where we are bringing all of these diverse backgrounds together to create a cohesive team. I find that to be very rewarding. We started as a two-person company, and then we added a third, and then a fourth and now we employ 45-50 people. Reflecting on the ability to mold a company where people are employed happily is a unique and amazing feeling.
Why do you think the switch to natural products is important to make?
As a doctor of Oriental medicine, I am a holistic practitioner, so I’m a little biased, but my take on it is that the body doesn’t work in a vacuum. Meaning, you can’t fix your diet and then be stressed to the max and still expect your body to be healthy. It really is body, mind and spirit, so you have to look at all aspects of your life and try to find the right balance for you. It isn’t about sticking to a strict regimen. Occasionally you’re going to go to a birthday party and have a piece of cake, and that’s OK. Holistic health needs to be a part of your lifestyle, something comfortable that you put on and wear and feel good about. Because if it doesn’t feel good, you aren’t going to do it, and it’s just going to be a constant battle. It needs to become a part of who you are and what you are for it to work.
What’s your advice for moms who are looking to make a switch to a more holistic approach to health?
My best advice is to try to make the switch a little at a time and don’t be too hard on yourself. Start by picking one thing you want to change and do it. For me, one of the things I can’t stand is coffee because I see it as a big stress increaser. The caffeine stimulates us in ways that amplify stress in our lives, so I’m constantly trying to get people to switch to green tea or some other hot beverage. Maybe instead of doing two cups of coffee they do one cup of coffee and then switch to green tea for the rest of the day. The point is to take baby steps and make it something you really want to incorporate into your lifestyle, not just a short-term thing. Remember that it is a gradual process. Make little changes and stick with them and then stand back, evaluate, figure out something else that you want to change and then do that. Keep in mind the benefits: You will be happier, healthier and you’ll live longer!
Do you think there are misconceptions about the efficacy of “natural” treatments?
Yes. Consumer studies show that most consumers do not feel that natural products are as powerful as synthetic ones, which is just a case of misinformation because we have clinical studies to show that this is simply not true. You can study the natural formulas and see they are every bit as powerful as the high-end synthetic brands. There are very good benefits that come from natural products. For instance, natural active ingredients are very complex, and so is your body. Your body recognizes that similar complexity and therefore works more cohesively alongside natural ingredients than it does with the synthetically made ingredients that are more simplistic.
What sacrifices have you made as a mom and business woman to keep everything in balance?
I am lucky to have a partner like David who shares my belief that family is the No. 1 priority, so I truly don’t believe that I have made any sacrifices. The time I spent with my girls was always quality time. I wasn’t a stay-at-home mom, but I was always there for my daughters whenever they needed me. I don’t believe I would have been as good of a mother if I were a stay-at-home mom because I personally don’t have the patience for it. So I think it was good that I wasn’t there all the time because that way, when I was home, I could give all of my attention to my children and what was going on with them. If I had been with them full time, I don’t believe I would have had that focus so I feel like my situation worked well for everyone. I was able to provide for my daughters a strong female role model and prove to them that they could be both a loving mother and a successful businesswoman.
Are there any new products or initiatives on the horizon for Derma E?
Always! David is fond of saying that if you sit still, you die—speaking in terms of businesses, that is. We just launched four new products and we have new product launches scheduled for later this year as well as January of next year. You can keep up to date with Derma E on social media and our website to see what we are up to—and to make sure you don’t miss out on anything!