Dermatologist Gary Goldfaden, MD, was doing clean long before “clean” became a thing. Dr. Goldfaden was driven by a clear vision that consumers needed medical-grade but chemically clean products that could mimic the effects of his in-office treatments. The culmination was Goldfaden MD, launched in 2013.
BeautyMatter chatted with Lauren Wolk-Goldfaden, VP of Sales at Goldfaden MD, to discuss the origins of the pioneering clean clinical brand, the challenges of being first to market, and the future plans for the business.
Can you share a bit about the origin story of Goldfaden MD?
Goldfaden MD is the first dermatologist-developed, naturally inspired skincare brand on the market. It is the perfect marriage of plant-powered ingredients and clinical-level results. And it fills a huge void within the beauty space—one that consumers increasingly demand. They want clean products of the highest quality that deliver on their benefit promise.
The brand was co-founded by my father-in-law, dermatologist Gary Goldfaden, MD, and our family with the intention to create products that could mimic the effects of his in-office treatments, using clean, natural ingredients that actually work. Dr. Goldfaden has always had a creative approach to medical solutions, so problem solving for his patients naturally steered him toward product development. “I remember developing formulas for my wife and young children as they began to encounter various skin issues—it was a genuine and instinctive passion,” says Dr. Goldfaden. “When I began practicing dermatology in the late ’60s, the anti-aging movement hadn’t reached the majority of everyday skincare routines, and most patients sought in-office procedures as the first line of defense. As I grew my private practice, I realized just how significant preventative at-home skincare could be for my patients and how it could hopefully reduce their need for more extreme corrective measures in-office.”
But the beauty industry was also missing products that delivered visible anti-aging benefits that could be tolerated by sensitive, post-surgical, and allergic skin types. “It was clear to me that consumers needed a medical-grade, yet chemically clean line they could trust, and Goldfaden MD would be the answer,” Dr. Goldfaden explains.
Goldfaden MD was doing clean long before “clean” became a thing when you launched the brand in 2013. What’s been the guiding principle from a formulation standpoint for the brand? How has it evolved?
The genesis and foundation of our formulas is focused on providing solutions based on the in-office procedures that Dr. Goldfaden has been performing out of his dermatology office for the last 50 years. Our guiding principle, first and foremost, is to treat the skin, and Dr. Goldfaden’s philosophy has always been about using clean, plant-based actives. To allow for the actives to properly penetrate the dermis, we formulate without “fillers,” or ingredients that have been shown to prevent the actives from providing the most effective treatment. This includes ingredients like alcohol, parabens, silicones, and mineral oils. By leaving unnecessary ingredients out, we focus on formulating with the highest percentage of actives possible, while ensuring that even the most sensitive skin types can tolerate our potent, plant-based formulas.
Advancements in the uses of natural actives, or ingredients produced by a live organism, in medicine have been significant. In the last few years, we have witnessed a massive shift in demand for “clean” products. New natural active ingredients with unique benefits are introduced almost daily, so we are constantly working to stay at the forefront of discovery, sourcing the best possible ingredients for our formulas. Oftentimes, studies find that natural actives are scientifically proven to deliver an equal or greater treatment benefit than a chemically based alternative.
You were one of the pioneers of the clean clinical positioning. Sometimes being early on a trend isn’t always an advantage. How has the consumer shift to clean impacted the growth of the business?
That is correct, we have always formulated out certain ingredients such as parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, silicones, artificial fragrances, or colorants, anything that may be a skin irritant. If you were a new or emerging brand, there used to be very specific categories: brands were categorized as either clean, spa/wellness, or you were clinical. So starting a brand that straddled multiple categories was a positioning challenge. When we launched the brand in 2013, we were told countless times that “clean, natural skincare” does not work and we couldn’t be considered a clean clinical brand because you had to be one or the other. Retailers did not know how to merchandise and launch the brand into their spaces because we were the disruptor that bridged multiple categories before clean beauty was even a category.
Consumers at the time didn’t believe that naturally based products could be effective or luxurious enough. But we have been able to conduct testing and consumer studies to prove just how effective and prestigious our natural, physician-strength products are. This data has allowed us to become a leading player in the natural beauty category.
Consumers’ knowledge has also shifted exponentially over the last five or so years, and the megatrend of focusing on natural products is only getting started. Since we were one of the very early adopters, we’ve been able to have continual explosive growth year over year.
Given the proliferation of new beauty brands in the category, the amount of VC money fueling some of these start-ups, and the fact that there is no regulation around what constitutes clean, as an independent business how do you remain competitive and break through all the noise?
When Dr. Goldfaden started formulating products, he instinctively created a “do not use” list, which was already well beyond what was restricted by the EU and Canada. We have been stringent about researching and compounding the purest ingredients without adding in any sneaky chemicals.
Not only do we continue to have strict guidelines in place for what we constitute as “clean” ingredients in our formulas, we also abide by both the UK and EU regulations, which have much stricter institutions set in place to ensure that the claims being made by beauty companies can be substantiated. Given the ever-evolving nature of discovery, we are always striving to make tweaks and changes to create the cleanest, safest, and most effective formulas on the market.
Our mission has always been to make solution-based products that are inspired by in-office treatments, formulated with naturally based actives. We are not trendsetters, which has allowed for us to stay on brand and message. Dr. G wanted to help more people than were able to come into his South Florida practice, and as a family, that is our number-one priority.
The Doctor’s Scrub has become a hero product that took microdermabrasion from medical settings to consumers’ homes. Can you share the role this product has played in the building of the business?
The Doctor’s Scrub was really the light-bulb product for the entire brand. It was the “magic scrub” that all of the Goldfaden family’s friends would need to take home when they came for a visit. Dr. Goldfaden’s son, Rob Goldfaden, would get bombarded with calls from old friends in desperate need of the scrub for years. It was at that point we knew that we had access to something really special and we made it our mission to bring Goldfaden MD to market.
This product has always been a top seller not only here in the US but globally in all of our international markets. It is the formula that makes it so unique—the emollient- and vitamin-packed ingredient list combined with the Ruby Crystal technology instantly makes skin brighter and more radiant. Over 35 years later, our award-winning Doctor’s Scrub makes up approximately 25% of overall sales and attracts a huge variety of customers from 16 to 70+, including A-list celebrities like Kate Hudson, who credits it as a staple of her red-carpet beauty regimen.
What’s been the biggest challenge for the business to date?
At first, our biggest challenge was pioneering the clean clinical space since “clean beauty” was not recognized as serious skincare. Now, our number-one challenge is to grow while ensuring that we make thoughtful decisions along the way. Our distribution model has been very calculated and strategic over the last three years, and now we have incredible momentum. The next chapter is about continuing this success on a larger scale, with the right support at retail as well as smart collaborations and partnerships. We plan to maximize these opportunities to ensure the greatest visibility and expansion here in the US and globally.
The brand has had a rather traditional and successful distribution strategy. Can you share how your brick-and-mortar strategy has evolved?
We’ve developed a secret formula for success through education and a strong, clear philosophy. We strive to open distribution thoughtfully and methodically and have found success in the traditional, wholesale distribution model because we were able to build and capitalize thanks to community and brand awareness.
We see 2021 as a transition year from a retail perspective, since brick-and-mortar is a bit stagnant due to COVID—not to say there is no growth, but it’s in recovery mode simply due to the fact that quite a bit of distribution is international and these markets are still shut down.
Where are you seeing the growth opportunities for the brand?
Before COVID, we were in the process of investing in our digital strategy and community by updating our website and email marketing campaigns. We were seeing the shifts in consumer shopping habits and wanted to capitalize on the online growth that allows for more opportunities to tell our story and reach a larger audience with creative content. Coming out of COVID, we’re seeing an explosion in the desire to shop, connect, experience, and play.
This time gave us the opportunity to have a deeper, more profound connection with our community and retailers through Zoom master classes. We’ve also brought our PR and social teams in-house and aligned ourselves with a partnership expert who has been instrumental in helping us expand and better engage with our community to tell our storytelling while tapping into different categories and industries that are like-minded.
Additional global expansion in existing and new markets is also on the horizon, and we’re excited to continue to build on our global business overall.
The pandemic has created personal and professional challenges for everyone, but the beauty industry, and the skincare category especially, has been resilient. What have the past 12 months been like for Goldfaden MD?
We are incredibly grateful for our team given the tough times and massive loss that we have all experienced over the last 12 months. We ended last year with not only exponential growth (+30%), we were very proud of the way that we were able to pivot and adapt to the needs of the business, which went into a 100% digital transformation almost overnight. We have adapted new strategies that we will continue to implement into the business and bring into the retail effort as stores continue to open and consumers come back to have that personalized, in-person experience that we know will continue to ramp up as we come out of COVID.
The professional challenges that we experienced over the last 12 months included a supply-chain breakdown, being separated from our close-knit team and community, and working virtually. Focusing all our efforts digitally was new for us, and the void of the personal interaction was something that had a big impact on us all. We love interacting with our community!
The past 12 months have been nothing short of busy as we launched our new body product category, elevated and relaunched our website, expanded upon our collaborations, and became virtual event and master-class experts.
Goldfaden MD is a family-run business. Do you think this is a competitive advantage for the brand?
There are so many benefits to working in a close family business—especially trust and agility. Having easy access to one another allows for fast decision making, and we have been able to pivot in a timely manner to adapt, in particular over the last 12 months. We’ve also made sure to assemble the best talent around us to help support the needs of the brand. We are so grateful to be working with some of the best leaders in the industry.
What’s the best part of working with your family and what advice would you give to making it work?
The beauty of our compact team is that we all have the same goal in mind, but we come from four different backgrounds (Medicine, Education, Finance, Marketing) and experiences to pull from. There is always a sense of safety, which allows each of us to go out on a limb and know that no matter what, we have each other’s back and the best interest of the business at heart.
The best piece of advice and something that we diligently live by is that we stop working at a certain time and don’t talk about work after 6pm. It allows for us to compartmentalize and enjoy one another as a family too.
Last year you co-founded Mini Bloom, a mom- & tot-friendly line of skincare products. Why launch a new brand rather than just launch a category extension?
Goldfaden MD was born from Dr. G’s experience in working in his dermatology practice on a day-to-day basis. We want to continue to offer solutions to the skin concerns adults deal with, but babies’ delicate skin has different needs. When I became a mom, I was looking elsewhere for baby products. So it made sense to create another line that can fall into different channels of distribution rather than an extension of Goldfaden MD, which falls in the prestige luxury category.
I was inspired to create Mini Bloom in collaboration with a newborn specialist whom I met when I had my first child, Celine, in 2015. At the time, I was astonished that I could not find products for my newborn and for my own needs while breastfeeding that had the unparalleled quality and safety assurance that Goldfaden MD had.
Mini Bloom was created selfishly at first. I wanted stable, natural products I could use on my newborn that I didn’t have to whip up in my kitchen every day at bath time. Beauty is still a widely self-regulated industry and I needed a line I could trust. I spent the last three years working through the meticulous formulation, testing, and certification processes to create the cleanest, most skin-friendly products for parents and their babies. This literally was my longest pregnancy to date.
Every Mini Bloom product is composed of natural, organic-derived, consciously cultivated and sustainably sourced ingredients. I wanted to create eco-conscious formulas, packaging, and supply chain so the brand would not only be better for baby, but also better for the world. Mini Bloom has partnered with manufacturers and supply-chain partners with rigorous sustainable quality-control standards in order to quantify its environmental impact and mitigate overall consumption.
Mini Bloom is more than a product brand, it is actually a community. Our blog, The Daily Bloom, is a destination for inspiration, resources, and expert advice to help you navigate smoothly through parenthood and beyond. It’s the s*** that no one wants to talk about, but everyone wants to know!
What are some of the early indications for the Mini Bloom business?
We are really excited about this business, even though we launched during COVID; in hindsight, this may have been an opportune time to launch, as there is a massive baby boom coming out of COVID. Now more than ever, there is a very clear focus on clean, better-for-you products. Prior to launching with retail, we spent a lot of time building our community through our blog The Daily Bloom, and introduced Mini Bloom through strategic partnerships and collaborations with like-minded and cross-category brands such as Sakara Life and Bump Box. And as a result of this we have had an overwhelming positive response from our digital strategy and community-building efforts.
These past few months have confirmed our initial launch strategy, product demand has been really positive, and as a result we have fast-tracked our product ideation and have a robust product launch pipeline through 2023 with products that truly service the needs of parents and fill gaps within the overall baby and toddler category at large. We are thrilled to be part of this extremely high-growth category and are already fielding requests for international expansion, and have confirmed our UK launch with Liberty London among other retailers in the UK.
What’s in store for the future of the Goldfaden clan?
Professionally, we have quite a few things to look forward to as it relates to brand building and business development. We have several groundbreaking new global launches that are scheduled to hit shelves later this year and into next. Our brand is also growing into new channels and countries that we are really excited about.
Our main focus is to continue to grow as a globally recognized brand and remain the leader within the category that we have uniquely chartered: prestige natural skincare formulated by a dermatologist.
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