Start up brings freshly-activated retinol skincare to consumers in new carrier system

By Ravyn Cullor

- Last updated on GMT

Opulus Beauty Labs uses a Opoules, activator system to give freshly-active products and mix ingredients which don't perform well in a long-term storage format. © Opulus Beauty Labs
Opulus Beauty Labs uses a Opoules, activator system to give freshly-active products and mix ingredients which don't perform well in a long-term storage format. © Opulus Beauty Labs

Related tags skincare retinol waterless Innovation Indie beauty start-ups

Opulus Beauty Labs was among the highlighted indie brands at NYSCC Suppliers' Day. The company has created a retinol regiment which is both freshly activated by the consumer and doled out for day-to-day needs, thanks to a new carrier system made of solid "Opoules" and an activator which crushed, heats and blends them. CosmeticsDesign sat down with founder Robb Akridge to discuss the concept behind the system and it's potential.

I’m hoping to talk about how you created the delivery system for your product.

Inspiration comes from all places, all strange places, any time it wants to pop up in my mind. The idea came about in a Paris chocolate shop in which you have these individual bite-sized morsels, each one having its own experience with it, whether it’s cream or chocolate filling, or whatever it is.

But that’s isn't where it stopped. When I could have said "I’m going to create cosmetics so it can come from a jar or tub where you have it for three months,"​ you could actually create something that’s customizable for each person everyday, because your skin is changing everyday.

The Opoule​ allows us to do so many other things than just come up with a cosmetic chocolate, if you would. It’s actually allowed us to separate ingredients so we can have a different carrier on the outside, like triglycerides and certain actives in that, and then the core of the Opoule itself we can have other ingredients.

That allows us to keep them suspended and separated until the moment of use, when we active them with the activator, and that peek potency is required so consumers can get a better experience out of it, because at the end it’s all about the benefit to the consumers. It’s not just about creating something that’s different and people don’t know what it is.

That’s the carrying system is really multifaceted because we can change the outside chemistry and the inside chemistry to create everything from serums, moisturizers, face masks, hair treatment, body treatment, you name it. We can do that and with all those different carriers in ways that utilize the cosmetic chemistry in this little quote-unquote "bite-sized" Opoule.

Can you tell me more about what this carrying system solves in cosmetics

Well it depends on how you break it down.

First of all, the overarching thing is that we’re creating a new way to look at cosmetics instead of your traditional long timeline distribution channel, so you don't get it manufactured in a big plant and then it takes so many months to get to the actual consumer before it’s used. This actually allows consumers to get freshly activated beauty on-demand because we have these individual chemistries, the Opoules.

The other thing is that we try to reduce plastic, so on the sustainability side it’s another problem we’re solving, reducing the amount of plastic. Obviously the activator has plastic, but it lasts for years, it’s not like you’re throwing it away every three months.

The other thing is consumers don’t really realize that a lot of the actives they’re using are working because they give up, because they get very frustrating, because they’re very powerful ingredients, things like retinol. We decided we’d go ahead and approach that first because retinol is a great ingredient but people have all kinds of issues with it and they say "oh it’s not for me because it irritated my skin or made it dry or red,"​ but we figured out a way to solve that problem.

It's solving problems everywhere from the corporate level down the the individual consumers experience.

What has the consumer response been to the product?

Amazing. That’s the great thing is people use it and they feel their skin is hydrated.

When we do studies in house we use it for four weeks and they can see improvement of hydration in the skin and improvement of fine lines, more even skin tone. All those things you dream of as a manufacturer to create for your consumer, it’s happening, so people love it.

How scalable do you see this system being?

Very scalable. First of all it’s a new innovation in cosmetics. I could not find anybody in the contract manufacturing world who wanted to make the little Opoules, they said "why would we want to do that when we’re basically filling up a jar and putting a label on it and it’s good to go."​ So we had to go out and get our own production line.

Having said that, the processes we use are very similar to what exists in the confectionary world. If you think of Godiva chocolate, it’s all over the world. It’s the same thing. Opulus Beauty Labs could be all over the world. It’s very scalable.

We talked at Suppliers’ Day about how this system make ingredients that don’t usually don’t want to play nicely together work together in a product. Can you tell me more about that?

When you look at the consumer, they’re really into layering. They like to put on different layers because they have a vision that they can’t mix them ahead of time because they become inactivated or bound up or precipitated out, so they layer on. That’s actually not the best thing either because you have to decide how to layer.

What we were able to do keep the ingredients separated until the moment in which they’re crushed, heated and blended together to allow them to be put on immediately, so they don’t have a chance to change over time. Where as a traditional cosmetic chemist has to think about "okay, I mixed these actives together how long are they going to last in this jar,​" we have them separated and we blend them at the last second.

Does that mean you’re using a different preservative system?

Yes. When you look at traditional cosmetic systems, the first ingredient is water in a lot of them. Historically, whenever I’ve been doing science, and I’m an actual scientist, I look at other areas of research other than my own to get ideas on how to create something new.

If you look at the food industry, they measure the amount of water activity in their formulation, meaning how much free water is available. There’s actually a machine that can do that, and based on the amount of free water or active water, they can adjust the preservative to account for that and then take care of the microbes, because free water or active water is where the microbes grow. It’s also the place for generating oxygen radicals.

So what we’ve done, we either don’t have water, which is what we’ve done in the an-hydras yellow retinol, so we don’t have to worry about the additional preservatives being added. Then in our RHR, that one has water in it, but we’ve measured the activity and it’s bound up, so we’ve made sure there is not free water so we don’t have to add additional preservatives.

Who do you see being the ideal consumer for this product?

Anyone who used skin care. Just like Sonicare or Clarisonic, anyone that has teeth or anyone who has skin can use this product. Y

You have to start somewhere as a start up. We have a huge heritage, but we’re really starting over. L'oreal bought Clarisonic in 2011, I worked for them for six years, and now we have a really small team, and we had to focus somewhere and right now its skin treatment. We’re looking at people who use retinol or want to use retinol, that’s our target market. We also know other skin treatments are needed by consumers, and we’ll be rolling those out in 2022.

What is the next step for Opulus?

We have this particular cadence where you start in one with retinol and RHR and then retinol, and you build up your tolerance overtime, but then there's also things like facemasks. We’re actually having a new system where we’re coming out with duel purpose Opoules, one is blended up, then another goes on top of it to give you a new reaction, and then you can basically combine them and get a new result. The next thing will be skin treatments. 

What else do industry professionals need to know about this system and this product?

The main thing is that this is totally different than anything they’ve seen. The challenge we’ve always had in talking about Clarisonic with other people who make cosmetic products is they really don’t know what it is and they sort of poo-poo it because it's new on the market and they don’t really understand.

I would ask them to have an open mind and listen to our technology and what we have to offer. This particular system, the Opoules and activators, it can be licensed to other brands. If they have a unique ingredient, we can create Opoules and label it under there name and then create their own activators in the future.

We have to make sure the consumer is educated, as someone said earlier, this in not a tube of lipsticks, they need to know what to do with it. We have to tell people this is a new way to look at your skin care, and its very simple to use.


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