For most people, getting a facial means a chance to relax and mentally check in. But for Liz Whitman, the former president and CMO of Elizabeth Arden-owned spa brand The Red Door, it sparked a business idea.
When she started with The Red Door in 2015 and began testing her services, her facialist “talked a lot about why The Red Door mixed [the ingredients for its] masks, serums and treatments fresh in the moment before applying them to guests.” The reason: “Ingredients that benefit your skin, primarily antioxidants and acids, are extremely fragile and degrade quickly when exposed to air, light, and water,” Whitman said. “I was like, ‘OK, if that’s true, then how effective can these premixed retail products be?'”
Fast forward to Thursday, when Whitman’s skincare brand Exponent officially launched via DTC. Calling it a “self-activated skincare” brand, Whitman spent two years developing a new system: powder-based ingredients are mixed with a liquid serum just before use to better preserve the potency of the ingredients. a typical brand on the market. JThe powders have a recommended expiry date of three years and opaque packaging protects the powders from light as well as air.
“We see Exponent as a whole new category in clinical skin care,” Whitman said.
The brand starts with four products in dry powder form: vitamin C, CoQ10, green tea resveratrol and probiotic enzyme.
“We were trying to address ingredients where degradation is an issue,” Whitman said.
When ready to use, the powdered product is mixed with a separate hyaluronic acid moisturizer via snap-on jar lids that are connected and twisted together. Whitman emphasized the brand’s “precision dosing” to avoid overdoing the percentage of the active ingredient. Doses are measured by the lid, which releases an exact measure of powder when twisted. The concentration percentages are indicated on the brand’s website. The vitamin C dose is 10% L-ascorbic acid, which Whitman says is the “optimal concentration” for results without irritation.
While skincare may be about aging skin, more and more beauty experts are focusing on product aging issues. The power of skincare is a growing topic of discussion due to the short shelf life of products containing the popular ingredients vitamin C and retinol, for example.
As part of the brand’s R&D process, Whitman sent 20 best-selling skincare products to an independent laboratory for analysis. According to her, the results showed that 60% of the products “didn’t even have a starting concentration that would benefit your skin,” she said. Plus, she says, all the products lost 40% of their strength in eight weeks.
The exhibitor The starter kit, which includes a dispenser, powder, hyaluronic acid and a jar, costs $168. The powder refills, which contain 45 doses each, cost $88. The Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Refill, which contains 90 doses, costs $88.
Exponent is the latest brand to launch with a focus on power. Skincare brands like Beautystat and In fact have focused on the stability of their vitamin C products, while the Opulus skincare device was unveiled in 2020 with single-dose creams.
When it comes to product potency issues in the beauty industry, “there’s an awareness out there, and I was aware of that,” Whitman said. The “order of magnitude” of the product’s lack of potency that was found in his study “was, quite frankly, what shocked me the most.”
To get consumers used to the new system, boxes of Exponent products come with a QR code that can be scanned for a video tutorial on how to dispense the mixed product.
The system was designed to be quick and easy to use, Whitman said, based on the idea that “no one is going to mortar and pound a bunch of stuff in their bathroom.”
Investors took note of the power trend. Exponent has an undisclosed amount of seed funding from seven funds, including Founders Fund (Ritual, 8Sleep), Unilever Ventures (Kopari Beauty, Saie), SugarCap (Starface, Snif) and Bullish (Harry’s, Care/of) , as well as 15 angel investors. These include Sara and Erin Foster, who are advisers and investors at Exponent and have worked with Bumble and Summersalt in the past.
Exponent has achieved B Corp status. Its powder refill packaging is made of recyclable glass and aluminum, while the reusable base and screw caps are plastic.
Exponent’s marketing emphasizes what it’s “full of” versus clean beauty’s typical emphasis on “without,” Whitman said, adding that consumers are increasingly interested in the benefits of the active ingredients. She said she is “extremely supportiveof the concept of clean beauty, but added that excluding harmful ingredients should be a ‘table stake’ and ‘we should just assume that all products are clean’.
Clean is “only half the equation,” she added. “’Free of’ is important, but also: ‘What is there in our products that offers a real advantage?’ »
This year, Whitman plans to launch two additional products. And for retail, the brand is currently relying on DTC. While Whitman is interested in the possibility of partnering with a “small specialty retailer” this year, wholesale is “not the primary focus for us,” she said.