Today, a ride for AIDS funding — with sunscreen

Chris Salgardo , president of uber-luxury skin-care brand Kiehl's Since 1851, will lead the weeklong trek starting here Monday.
Chris Salgardo , president of uber-luxury skin-care brand Kiehl's Since 1851, will lead the weeklong trek starting here Monday. (TRAVIS SHINN)
Posted: August 01, 2011

Those who love the feeling of a tingly mask followed by a whipped, facial cream treatment don't need an introduction to Kiehl's Since 1851 president Chris Salgardo. They already worship the burly, bearded top executive of the uber-luxury skin care brand with the no-frills labels.

The rest of us regularly walk by the stand-alone stores in Rittenhouse Square and the Plaza at King of Prussia oblivious to Kiehl's boutique standing.

Today the company, which started as an apothecary in New York's East Village and sells everything from its Creme de Corps line to its lip balm collection, is a fave of tastemakers and celebrities including Halle Berry and Brad Pitt. That's why it was a cinch for Salgardo, 42, to persuade the likes of supermodel Tyson Beckford and "Franklin & Bash" star Mark-Paul Gosselaar - often better known as Zack from "Saved by the Bell" - to ride motorcycles for AIDS research.

Monday is the start of Kiehl's LifeRide for amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research - a 1,000-mile, five-city, seven-day motorcycle trek starting here and ending in New York City. The party begins at 11 a.m. in the Walnut Street store, where, for every person who walks through the door, Kiehl's will donate $5.

Last year, during the first LifeRide, Salgardo, who has been with the company for 10 years, raised $80,000 for AIDS research riding his motorcycle up and down the West Coast.

Fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington spoke Thursday with Salgardo. The easygoing president talked motorcycles, why Philadelphians should travel to his new spa in New York, and the need to raise money for AIDS research.

Question: Why did you decide to kick off your East Coast amfAR ride in Philly?

Chris Salgardo: Philadelphia was the third Kiehl's store I opened. [Today there are 35.] We have an enormous following in Philadelphia. That Rittenhouse Square store is a jewel.

Q: Tell me about the history of motorcycles and Kiehl's.

Salgardo: The former owner, Irving Morse, was quite an adventurous man, and he loved motorcycles. In the 1950s, he realized men were bored when they came to the store with their wives, so he brought his collection of 44 vintage motorcycles into the New York apothecary, arranging Kiehl's products around them. Today there is a motorcycle in every Kiehl's store to honor that history.

Q: So that's where the motorcycle ride to raise money came from?

Salgardo: It symbolizes the spirit of adventure at Kiehl's and gives the motorcycles in our store a real purpose. Kiehl's has been working with AIDS charities for 20 years and we've raised over a million dollars.

Q: Do you have a motorcycle?

Salgardo: Yes, I have two. They are both Harley-Davidson. One is a chopper style with a big handle for cruising. I have another V-Rod for high-performance riding - I ride that one when I want to let loose a bit. But I'm very careful. I grew up in California and my dad was a highway patrolman, so I am very cautious.

Q: With which bike will you be leading the ride?

Salgardo: BMW is sponsoring the LifeRide. They came up with a brand-new bike called the 1600. I'll be riding that one. It's gray and it has a lot of custom work and . . . the Kiehl's LifeRide logo on it.

Q: Will you get to keep it?

Salgardo: It will be part of the permanent collection, and it will be housed in the Kiehl's flagship store on the Lower East Side.

Q: Weather forecasts tell us we're in for another heat wave. What Kiehl's products will you be wearing on the ride?

Salgardo: There are two products I always use. I love the Ultra Facial Cream, and for the ride, in fact, we've created a limited-edition version and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the LifeRide. My other favorite is Super Fluid UV Defense. It's a sun block that's lightweight and you don't look like you are wearing Kabuki makeup.

Q: When did you fall in love with Kiehl's products?

Salgardo: I was introduced to it when I lived in Los Angeles [21 years ago] by my hairdresser. I have thick hair - knock on marble - and I always needed something to manage it. He gave me a cream and I've been in love with the products ever since.

Q: What's the coolest thing you've done since becoming Kiehl's president five years ago?

Salgardo: Open Spa 1851. To be able to have your favorite Kiehl's products applied on your skin is the ultimate expression of the Kiehl's experience. It opened just two weeks ago and we are booked through September. There is even a grooming area for men that offers an old-school shave and haircut.

Q: What is the first thing you are going to do when you get back from the LifeRide?

Salgardo: I'm going to Spa 1851 for a deep-tissue massage.

Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704,, or @ewellingtonphl on Twitter.



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