From Face to Formula
How I created my own brand:
When I started doing facials, I was mixing together a lot of different products to get a combination of results, pleasure and smell. Cosmeceutical skincare had just got going, but many of the formulas weren’t very luxurious to use in terms of texture, smell and packaging.
My clients used to say to me, “Sarah, I believe the high-tech formulas work, so I’m going to keep using them, but why can’t they look and feel nicer?” That’s what made me start thinking about creating my own products. I knew exactly what I wanted to create – it was more “how do I do it?”. I had completed a cosmetic science course and I had worked for different skincare companies and I already had practical, hands-on knowledge. A lot of people on my science course were from huge brands; white-coat lab people – I think they must have looked at me and wondered, “what is this little facial person doing here?” But I think if you have a genuine interest in something, you find a way to do it. If it means you have to read something four times, you don’t mind reading it four times. The course gave me a good insight into formula planning and creation and an ability to converse with chemists, but also a deeper understanding of what could be pushed and challenged.
At first, my products were coming back from the lab, and while aesthetically they were nice, they just weren’t at that high level of efficacy. The chemist I was working with turned around and said, “I don’t know why you want to include such high levels of actives – you can just stick that ingredient on the packaging and market it even if it’s only got 0.0001% in it".
That’s when I realised we just weren’t on the same page, so I had to find another chemist. Another issue was samples arriving for me to assess, with mould growing inside! I didn’t want parabens, I didn’t want to use synthetic fragrance…so again we had a real challenge of how to make these really potent products smell nice but without parabens, which at the time were being used in everything.
I was determined and went through the process of formulating with four companies, yet still had not achieved my vision – I could easily have launched a ‘nice’ product, but I wanted them to be so much more and believe that tenacity has made the products so successful and effective today.
Then completely out of the blue, I was at a party hosted by a great friend of mine from the beauty industry, and I noticed a couple that I hadn’t spoken to yet – so I made a point to go over and chat to them. I told them about what I was trying to do, and one said, “I met someone last week who might be really interesting for you to talk to.” I called this person and he said, “I can help you, but to show you’re serious, you need to get over here as soon as you can.” So later that week, I was on a plane to the US!
A winning formula:
Once I was in America, it was a whole different ball game. They really understood what I was trying to do and had the knowledge and capabilities to deliver it. I was there with them in the lab and we were turning samples around every day, getting closer and closer to the precise products I was trying to create. We got the majority done when I was there in the lab with the team of chemists, working on them together.
I developed the essential oil blends in the UK in conjunction with an aromatherapist and fragrance houses using natural ingredients. My concept was that I wanted the products to smell like you’re in a warm country and you’ve just walked past some jasmine – you get a beautiful waft of scent, and then it’s gone and you are craving more. I would be on holiday and suddenly I would stop and sniff and say, “That’s it!”. Sometimes I’d pick a flower and bring it back for inspiration. Also, my parents live in Spain and they had a frangipani tree – sometimes I’d bring those flowers back. Frangipani can smell quite pungent, but it has that creaminess that you can smell in Skinesis formulas, in particular Overnight Facial.
Bringing Skinesis to you:
Four years later, it was time to launch. Space NK was the clear place for me as it was so innovative, respected and just a fabulous ground-breaking sweetshop for beauty. I was incredibly lucky in that I already knew Nicky Kinnaird, the founder of Space NK, and I had previously told her what I was trying to do. Thankfully she believed in me and my brand and chose to launch us in 2008, and was a huge support and inspiration during all her time at Space NK. I remember seeing the first customer buy one of my products in the store and how amazing that felt.
I also launched on QVC, who I had worked with previously as a beauty presenter. On the shelf, a product can only tell customers what the packaging says, whereas QVC was a place where I could really talk about the products, the ingredients, what they could do for the skin and why they were different. Now you see that happening on social media and YouTube, but at the time it was a unique platform.
As soon as we launched, there was a huge buzz, which remains to this day. We won an award within six months and have been lucky to gain a loyal following, both from clinic clients and new customers. We’ve expanded so much since then – we now work with labs across the world and have launched in 18 countries – and it’s not just me but a whole team of skilled people across product development, operations, sales, marketing, design and more.
When I think about the future, I want to keep learning, keep developing, keep creating. We live in a different climate compared to 10 years ago; the food we eat is different; our lifestyles have changed hugely – so what will that do to our skin? I find all of that fascinating, and I want to make sure my products meet those modern needs and continue to evolve as the world evolves around us.