Taking a 140-year-old brand and making it innovative and relevant is an art form and certainly not for the faint of heart. Finding a beauty heritage brand is like finding a needle in a haystack, but once you do it requires vision and a very particular skill set that balances business acumen and branding skill. Industry veteran Amy Regan checks all the boxes and is the brains and vision behind Skinfix’s reinvention. Amy is one of those rare talents that has the skill to seamlessly navigate big corporate brands and the ability to roll up her sleeves and do what it takes as an entrepreneur. If you don’t believe me, here’s the evidence: in four short years Skinfix has become a beauty editor favorite, winning 22 major beauty awards, achieving hard-earned support from the dermatology community, and killing it on QVC and Ulta.com.
How did you find this 140-year-old brand in Nova Scotia, Canada?
I connected with an entrepreneurial incubator in Halifax, Nova Scotia, because I was looking for product-led companies that might need some consulting help in marketing or fundraising. The director of the agency introduced me to the founder/owner of Skinfix. I had heard about the amazing healing balm, and was excited to meet the founder. When I met with Karen Warner and understood the true potential of Skinfix, I could not believe that such a gem of a formula, product heritage story, and brand existed in my hometown! As we started working together, the founder recognized that I shared her vision for what Skinfix could be, and she asked me if I would take the helm and buy the company!
Tell us a little about the history of the brand and the origin of the products.
Skinfix was created in Yorkshire, England in 1870 by Thomas Dixon, a compound chemist and mercantile owner. Thomas created a healing balm packed with natural oils, butters, and botanical healing ingredients to treat extreme dryness and dermatitis. The Dixon family eventually emigrated to Eastern Canada in the early 1900s, and they continued to make their proprietary healing balm in the pharmacies where following generations worked as pharmacists.
What was it that compelled you about this brand and why did you know you could make it a success?
I had worked in the beauty industry for nearly two decades, and I knew that the original healing balm formula was special. The unique combination of ingredients, including multiple powerful natural actives, created a blockbuster product that was extremely effective at healing skin. No one had created a brand that was clean, natural, and proven to work at the same time.
And the original founder had trademarked the name Skinfix … brilliant. Absolutely the perfect name for a problem-solution skincare brand!
Relaunching a heritage brand is a daunting task. What was your process in reinventing this business to make it relevant in today’s crowded marketplace?
We wanted to create a new paradigm for both a heritage brand, and a clinically proven, derm-recommended one. We wanted to create something different than the traditional “apothecary” style heritage brands, but also a standout amidst the boring, white packaging of the clinical, derm-recommended brands.
Above all, we believed that proving the clinical efficacy of our formulas was paramount. Whilst we are a heritage brand built on the foundation of a formula created in 1870, Skinfix is a powerful, clinically proven and derm-recommended brand that represents the future of natural skincare. We run rigorous clinical testing on our formulas to prove their efficacy at treating specific skin conditions. Skinfix is the first natural brand to gain broad acceptance with dermatologists. While Skinfix has roots in the past, its relevance is in forging the future of natural, problem-solution skincare.
There are so many directions you could have taken the branding. How did you land on the Skinfix tagline “It’s what we do” and the modern packaging direction?
Skinfix is about delivering on the promise of healthy skin. In fact, we say that healthy skin is our social mission. We formulate carefully and deliberately, so that our products are safe to use and incredibly effective. We clinically test our products to validate this efficacy. At Skinfix, we fix skin … it’s what we do!
When we started developing packaging we were struck by the fact that most dermatologist-endorsed skincare was very medical looking and white. Skinfix is about beauty meeting wellness. Wellness is emotional, optimistic, and empowering. We wanted to create a brand that embodied this optimism and happiness. Our clean, bright colors and our whimsical speech bubble are a nod to the word-of-mouth heritage of the brand and the happiness that comes from using healthy ingredients to achieve healthy skin. Our skincare is very serious stuff. Our packaging embraces our belief that efficacy brings joy.
So many derm brands are associated with a named dermatologist. How have you created this brand and worked with dermatologists to get their buy-in? How important was it?
When we started approaching dermatologists with Skinfix, we met with tremendous resistance. As I mentioned, the derm community really doesn’t like natural skincare products. However, due to our policy of carefully formulating to avoid irritants, and clinically proving our products with medically substantiated protocols, the derms really started to embrace what we are doing. Their millennial patient population is increasingly looking for natural options for daily skincare, as well as natural alternatives to OTC and prescription medications for skin conditions. Skinfix is the first natural brand that many derms can feel confident recommending. Dermatologists are critical in establishing trust and efficacy and play a critical role for our brand.
Another key factor for derms is our use of natural active ingredients at their clinically proven active levels. As an example, Skinfix Eczema Balm contains four natural, FDA-approved active ingredients to target and treat the symptoms of extreme dryness, dermatitis, and eczema. We clinically tested the Skinfix Eczema Balm (the heritage product created in 1870), versus a 1% hydrocortisone cream (the OTC product most often prescribed for treating eczema outbreaks). After two weeks of daily use, Skinfix Eczema Balm was proven AS EFFECTIVE at treating the symptoms of eczema as 1 % hydrocortisone cream. Amazingly, after four weeks, our Eczema Balm was SUPERIOR (as after 7-10 days a hydrocortisone cream can start to damage the skin barrier, whereas natural Skinfix Eczema Balm is safe, effective, and continues to improve the condition of the skin with daily use).
The Skinfix philosophy is to use actives at their active level so that our products work quickly and extremely effectively. We don’t just sprinkle in an ingredient so that we can list it prominently on our packaging. We consistently pack our formulas with safe and effective natural actives. As we say, if it doesn’t fix skin, it doesn’t wear the Skinfix logo!
There are so many marketing messages as it relates to “natural” and “dermatologist tested,” it can get confusing for consumers. What is your definition of “natural” and “dermatologist tested” as it relates to Skinfix?
The reality is that dermatologists typically hate natural products. As many of our derms tell us, “Poison ivy is natural. Just because a product is natural doesn’t mean it’s good for skin.”
Historically, many natural brands were not adequately safety-tested, and were most definitely not clinically tested and proven (specifically not tested using protocols that the medical community could/would endorse).
Skinfix is the first natural brand that dermatologists believe in. We earned this distinction for several reasons.
First, we rigorously safety-test our products, typically using panelists that have compromised skin conditions to ensure our products do no harm. Furthermore, we work with our advisory board of dermatologists to formulate with ingredients that are not known irritants. Skinfix formulates carefully to avoid ingredients that the derm community advises against.
Second, we clinically test products using strict protocols that the medical community will accept. These tests go beyond the traditional clinicals done in the cosmetics of OTC industries. Our tests use controls that produce statistically significant and clinically sound results such that our panel of derms can publish the findings in the medical journals, and share the results with their colleagues.
Finally, all of our products are vetted by a third-party panel of dermatologists that scrutinize our formulations and safety tests before awarding us the “Dermatologist Tested & Recommended” designation that we highlight on our packaging.
Dermatologist recommended is not just lip service at Skinfix—we truly are the first and only natural derm skincare brand. We have created a category.
You have an interesting assortment of products from basic skincare to adult eczema to diaper cream. How would you describe the category Skinfix lives in? Does it pose a challenge at retail?
Skinfix is the first comprehensive, clinically proven, problem-solution skincare brand. Our formulas tackle a wide range of skin concerns from sensitive skin to eczema, to healing tattoos, to keratosis pillaris, and most recently facial redness. The Skinfix brand performs best when given the space to explain our point of difference as the first natural, derm-recommended brand, and illustrate our clinicals and amazing before & after’s. Bricks-and-mortar poses a particular challenge as there are space constraints that don’t always allow us to showcase the brand as a comprehensive problem-solution skincare destination. QVC has provided us a rich platform to tell our brand heritage story, highlight our clinical efficacy, and illustrate our results. E-commerce has also been a powerful vehicle for Skinfix as we are able to fully merchandise the brand and showcase our clinical efficacy.
One of your newest SKUs is Inked Tattoo Balm, which seems a little incongruous even in your eclectic product assortment. Why tackle skin issues related to tattoos? How has it been received?
Skinfix Inked is a gem in our product portfolio. It is the single best seller in Canada, and has just launched in the US. Inked is a little freight train. It greatly outpaces competitive products where we are sold, and exceeds twice the required annual benchmark sales at Shopper’s Drug Mart in Canada.
We attend tattoo shows across North America to get feedback and better understand the needs of this consumer, and tattoo artists love Skinfix Inked! The product is used to help the needle glide over the design while artists are working. The beauty, artists tell us, is that unlike petrolatum, which has historically been used, Inked doesn’t clog their needles or smear the artwork while they are working. Additionally, due to the active ingredients that help treat redness and heal the wound, the tattoo is less red, irritated, and inflamed immediately after it’s been applied.
Consumers also love Skinfix Inked because it heals the tattoo injury without scabbing too quickly and pulling the ink with it (as many other treatments can do). Furthermore, it helps keep their tattoo vibrant and healthy when used as a daily maintenance product. Tattoos are a big investment, and Skinfix Inked heals them beautifully and keeps them looking like new.
Best of all, Skinfix Inked is 99.5% natural! Proof positive that mother nature is a genius! To build on the success of Inked (and by popular demand), we have just launched a 100% natural Skinfix Inked body oil which is off to a fantastic start in Canada.
Where is the brand distributed today and what are your plans for future growth?
Our growth is currently driven by QVC and Ulta. Both retailers attract highly engaged beauty enthusiasts. Our momentum is proof that consumers are ready for a wellness approach to beauty. The QVC and Ulta consumers embrace natural, effective, problem-solution skincare. For example, our performance on Ulta.com is fantastic, and we are currently exceeding performance benchmarks by more than 300%!
Our products continue to sell extremely well on QVC and garner customer top-rated status and strong reviews. We only launched on QVC in January of this year, and already the Skinfix brand has been nominated for two Customer Choice Awards including Best Hand Cream and the coveted Rising Star [for a new beauty brand showing tremendous promise on QVC]..
We have a very exciting launch in September on QVC. We have tackled redness, a skin concern that our derm community tells us is both pervasive and extremely difficult to treat. We are just completing dermatologist-run clinical tests that prove the exceptional efficacy of our new range in treating facial redness and blotchiness.
There are so many skin concerns that we are working to solve—naturally. Natural ingredients truly are the next frontier in high-performance skincare!
Retailers seem to be playing a bigger role regarding what goes on their shelf. Is Skinfix well-positioned with these new directives?
It’s amazing what retailers are doing to help bring transparency to the products that sit on their shelves. We embrace the moves that mass retailers like Walmart, CVS, Target, and others are making with respect to requiring manufacturers to register their products with organizations that quantify their use of natural and sustainable ingredients. These organizations give manufacturers a score (typically out of 100) that ranks products based on a thorough review of ingredients and materials throughout the supply chain.
The “natural” designation has heretofore been rather meaningless. Many brands advertise “natural ingredients” while formulas are still chock-full of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, etc. The move to more stringent reviews/declarations will give the consumers a way to validate claims. Brands will not be able to hide behind marketing language, but will be forced to declare exactly what their formulas are made of.
At Skinfix we are diligent about natural ingredients. We are constantly searching for the best natural technologies to treat skin, and we build our formulas from the backbone up to be as natural as possible, while still being safe and effective. We applaud these new requirements as they will force the industry to a higher standard for naturals. We look forward to prestige retailers introducing similar standards.
What has been the biggest challenge in relaunching this brand and how did you overcome it?
Skinfix has a robust story to tell, including brand heritage, problem-solution product breadth, dermatologist endorsement, clinical efficacy, and passionate consumer and influencer acceptance. The challenge was raising awareness and reaching consumers with this multilayered message. QVC has been our most powerful tool in overcoming this challenge as it affords us the platform to bring the brand and all of its rich assets to life.
What’s been the most surprising or unexpected thing about the Skinfix business?
Beauty editor endorsement! Skinfix is a true testament to the notion that beauty and wellness are converging. When we first approached beauty editors with our OTC healing balm, we frankly weren’t sure how they would respond. We believe that healthy skin is beautiful skin, and that Skinfix is a beauty brand that delivers on skin wellness. The fact that we have won 28 major beauty awards in less than 3 years at US retail has been unexpected and thrilling (including 3 new Allure Best in Beauty Awards announced on Monday night)!
You’re a beauty industry veteran—what excites you about the future of the industry?
The pace at which the industry is transitioning to natural products. The growth in naturals is ramping up each year, and retailers are taking a leadership role in instituting transparency with respect to skincare formulations. The speed of change is impressive. Natural is the new normal and increasingly a consumer expectation. What is most exciting for Skinfix is, not only are we highly natural, but we stand for more than just being natural. We are first and foremost a clinically proven, derm-recommended, problem-solution skincare range. Doing so naturally is just good sense—and increasingly essential.