VENeffect started as a conversation between two sisters and turned into an innovative skincare range with a breakthrough phytoestrogen technology to replenish lost elasticity and luminosity. Founded by Rebecca Booth, MD, a gynecologist, author and hormonal wellness expert, and her sister, Cecil Booth, a beauty-industry veteran, it is the first line of skincare completely dedicated to inspiring peak hormonal vitality in skin.
Any woman can speak to the havoc hormones can create in how they look and feel. In this new era of female power we’re witnessing the de-stigmatizing of period care, menopause, and sexual wellness—all uniquely female and not discussed openly. The Booth sisters identified the hormonal health whitespace in skincare early and have laid the groundwork to capture the groundswell that is building around the topic. Being pioneers isn’t easy. It requires a commitment to education and patience for new concepts to gain traction. The Booth sisters shared with BeautyMatter the genesis of VENeffect, the challenges of defining whitespace, and what the future holds for the business.
There are a plethora of brands launched by dermatologists and plastic surgeons. Dr. Booth, as a leading obstetrician and gynecologist, what compelled you to throw your hat into the ring? Does your practice provide a unique perspective?
RB: As a caregiver of women for more than 30 years, as well as a physician who works in an all-female office that provides comprehensive care for women, I feel my experience and passions offer a unique perspective to the beauty industry. In my practice we see 350 to 400 women a day, and while we provide all traditional screenings and gynecologic care, our main focus is education and sharing information. Over the years I have gained a better understanding of how to direct information and resources to help a woman optimize herself throughout her life span, and specifically: offsetting the impact of our biological clock on our fertility, metabolism, mood, and our aesthetic. In contrast to most physicians who offer isolated encounters focused on problems or illnesses, an OB/GYN cares for mothers, daughters, and grandmothers over a lifetime. I have learned so much from these wise women, not to mention what I have learned from caring for my dearest friends and colleagues, as well as my own sisters! There is nothing greater than sharing inside tips among women to help one another succeed in the many roles we take on. It is an incredible gift to serve women in wellness, and this is what inspires most of what Cecil and I do as entrepreneurs, and the content about which I write.
Cecil, you went from working in Big Beauty to launching a brand. What are some learnings you took with you and some things you categorically did not want to do with your brand?
CB: My experience in a large beauty company provided a wealth of learnings including how to manage a brand, not just from the positioning and assortment, but forecasting and budgeting, delivering topline and bottom line, “selling” a plan to management and competing for resources with other brands. Some of my most valued experiences were working with R&D and suppliers to identify technologies and formulate products to meet consumer needs. One key learning, in hindsight after leaving a large company to develop products in the luxury space, was the sheer amount of research and data available as well as the leverage size provides in sourcing and marketing. The things that I happily left behind were the restrictions on formulation potency due to cost and to some extent manufacturing capabilities, as well as some of the bureaucracy of a larger organization. The luxury/indie space affords truly unique product concepts and higher levels of true potency delivery, as well as speed to market. A founder/creator’s vision can be captured without dilution, and that enhances authenticity and allows for more risk taking and more reward for the customer.
Can you share the genesis of VENeffect and how your backgrounds informed the development?
CB: It started in a conversation between two sisters. I was noticing a lack of “bounce back” after my second child at age 40, and asked my sister for advice based on her experience as a mom and an OB/GYN.
RB: What I shared with my sister is the dramatic impact the biological clock has not just on fertility but on the female aesthetic. From our hair to our skin, waistline, mood, and feeling of well-being, estrogen provides an enhancement to both facilitate attraction and allow us to recover to begin the process again.
CB: Learning that my depleting levels of estrogen were directly impacting my skin, hair, and metabolism sparked the idea that women need to know more about the design of our hormonal lifecycle. There were solutions that help offset the particular effect of estrogen decline,but none in the beauty realm—perhaps due to the taboos around talking about hormones.
RB: My experience as a doctor of women combined with Cecil’s background in beauty and product development led us to research a solution for skin.
What is the formulation philosophy for the products you develop?
RB: Our approach was to source a potent solution from the plant world using phytoestrogens—a safe and effective way to mimic the effects of estrogen on skin. These powerful molecules had been used in pharmaceutical development as well as ancient remedies. Phytoestrogens come from the root, seed, and sometimes the bark of plants—the reproductive part of the plant; and by definition they are active on the human estrogen receptor.
CB: We spent two years sourcing and testing various phytoestrogens including red clover, soy, and a particularly potent source that is known more as an antioxidant, resveratrol. As more natural and super-antioxidant ingredients have become available for cosmetic use, we have identified the most potent phytoestrogens and created a library of options to use for a given product’s purpose.
RB: The beauty of phytoestrogens is that they can provide all of the benefits, but none of the risks of estrogen. Even for my patients with active breast cancer, the benefits of topical phytoestrogens can ease the toll the loss of estrogen takes on the skin. They inspire elasticity and luminosity—the hallmarks of peak hormonal vitality.
What is the Venus Effect?
RB: The Venus Effect is a metaphor for the ever-elusive hormonal balance so many women seek. When women understand that feminine beauty is designed to reflect hormonal wellness, they are inspired to maintain this ideal balance throughout their lives. Achieving the Venus Effect requires understanding the goals Mother Nature has intended for our hormones. If the positive effects of our hormones are understood and simple strategies are implemented, balance can be achieved over a woman’s lifetime, optimizing vitality.
Who is the VENeffect consumer?
CB: We support women through all phases of hormonal changes. Estrogen peaks around age 25-27, following closely with the fertility curve. VENeffect is ideal for women from their mid-twenties and throughout their lifetime with particular relevance for women with period-related skin challenges, postpartum effects, and during or after peri-menopause and menopause, all of which are affected by estrogen decline.
RB: We designed our line to extend the biological clock of your skin, and that clock begins ticking much earlier than women realize.
You have been beating the drum of hormonal health well before it became a trend. What have been some of the biggest challenges pioneering that positioning?
CB: From a business standpoint, taking on hormonal variation would have been very difficult in a large company. It requires addressing a sensitive topic with education and personal connection in the relationship with the customer. This is harder work but powerful and needed. We have had a universally positive response with the leaders in beauty buying, virtually all of whom are women, literally asking “Where has this been for the past twenty years?” The challenge is carrying that torch all the way through to the selling floor where addressing customer fears and perceptions can be a daunting task.
RB: The biggest challenge in addressing hormonal variation is the perception that hormones are working against us. When a woman is described, or self-describes as “hormonal,” it is seen as a negative. Ironically, it actually is when our hormones are at a low point, such as pre-period and menopause, that we feel and see the impact. There is generally a lack of knowledge, even among physicians, about the hormonal cycle and its purpose, and how the changes affect us. There is also fear around the data on hormone therapy. Part of my goal in writing The Venus Week was to explain the beauty in our hormones and how we as women can live better in that knowledge.
How has the destigmatization of period care, sexual wellness, and menopause that we are seeing impacted your business?
CB: The new openness to addressing these hormonally related need-gaps for women is helping the entire process of sharing information and, ultimately, the desire for solutions. This is true for the skin of the face as the most visible way we see hormonal change reflected to one another, as well as the “below the waist” needs as it relates to hormonal change. A great example is the recent launch of the sexual pleasure and wellness category at Cult Beauty. We are seeing more brands launch in the menopause area and period care, and all of this collective contribution toward the conversation helps this go beyond a guarded whisper to a stake in the ground that shouts out loud that this is real, needed, and must be shared.
The skincare category is hot right now. How has your brand grown and evolved over the years? What sets VENeffect apart in the current skincare landscape?
CB: We have been steadily growing since launch in 2012 and have kept a measured pace of product development and strategic retail expansion. Since a big part of our platform is information sharing, we started with my sister’s book and followed with the skincare line that was so needed, as literally there was nothing available to head-on address the particular way estrogen decline affects skin. What sets us apart is my sister’s deep understanding of the challenges of hormonal change through her 30-year gynecologic practice and expertise in hormonal wellness. I had worked with some of the best skin scientists, raw material suppliers, and researchers, but it was my sister who illuminated the dramatic way that our aesthetic as women is influenced by what defines us as female, and armed with knowledge, we can seek to optimize that natural variation throughout our lifetime.
What are your thoughts on the cultural shift we’re witnessing in the concept of aging and anti-aging terminology/products?
CB: The language is changing and that is a positive. Early on we talked about hormonal aging, but we found that immediately evoked a negative. We began to evolve toward hormonal vitality and focusing on the beauty in our hormones, and that flips the conversation to the positive.
RB: In my practice I see women through the arc of their lives, and as a baby boomer myself, there is a notable difference in the approach to aging. One dilemma that takes us by surprise in some ways is that while we are living longer, the age of menopause will not change. For the first time in history we are living longer without the support of ovarian function than with it. Our hormonal cycle is designed to last about 40 years, roughly from age 12 to 52. In our desire to look and feel good, wellness is a very strong motivator, and I find women seeking well-being is a more long-range plan to address aging.
The retail landscape has changed significantly since your launch with Neiman Marcus in 2012. How has your distribution strategy evolved?
CB: We have grown our business year over year and have made headway in new markets. We have found that the trend toward embracing younger, independent brands has opened new doors to help showcase true innovations by passionate founder/creators. The potential for knowledge and solutions to hormonal vitality is global in scope. Every woman on the planet is impacted by hormonal change, yet there is little information and few solutions to this universal need. We bring credible, authentic content and well-researched effective solutions to hormonal challenges. Our distribution strategy is to partner with omnichannel retail partners that value this unique platform and are looking to provide a stronger point of difference in their offerings. The current retail landscape and growth of luxury beauty is ideal for VENeffect.
VENeffect is in a very competitive category. How have you funded the business to date?
CB: We self-funded the R&D phase and own our formulas outright. As we began to launch in broader distribution, we partnered with an investor to help fund the expansion. My sister and I continue to be the majority owners.
What would your ideal investment partner look like for the next phase of growth?
CB: Our ideal partner would recognize the need for women to have solutions to the need for optimizing hormonal vitality and share our passion with global reach and infrastructure to further develop this platform in beauty, as well as complementary categories.
What excites you about the current state of the beauty industry?
CB: The innovation in skincare and the acceptance and desire to feature new, independent brands with a unique point of view is very exciting. Economic factors can make it very difficult to research and launch a truly new technology. The barriers are many; however, the current climate is encouraging of the creativity and authenticity of new brands and new ways to solve unmet needs.
What’s next for VENeffect?
CB: Our goal is to grow the brand through: content development, market expansion, and the continued development of new innovative solutions in existing and new segments to address the needs of hormonal variation throughout a woman’s lifetime.
RB: To support that goal, our next “new product” will be my second book exploring solutions to the challenge of our “ovarian retirement plan,” with the specific goal of lifestyle and beauty solutions to manage the biological clock of our aesthetic.