The beauty industry is fixated on disruption — or at least the idea of it, anyway. Promises of elaborate new rituals, fancy 10-syllable compounds and exotic plants that are the One True Secret to perfect skin are popping up constantly. Most of them disappear just as quickly, subsumed into the next hot thing that will get those flame emojis going. But then, every so often, something special comes along — something new, unique and legitimately innovative. Something, perhaps, like the practice of at-home microneedling.
Microneedling, a process that uses tiny needles to make small abrasions in the skin to allow products to penetrate more deeply and help stimulate skin's natural collagen production, started making waves back in 2016. Popular in dermatology offices and with estheticians professionally trained to use the devices, microneedling tools didn't become at-home skin-care options until more recently. It's the treatment that seems to be on the tip of ever influencer's tongue; not only is it Kardashian-approved, but "Queer Eye"'s resident perfect skin haver Tan France is also a devotee. And the at-home accessibility of it is all thanks to a single brand: BeautyBio, the makers of the GloPro device.
A hybrid of an LED light and a needle-covered roller, the handheld GloPro melds two treatments that had previously been reserved for big spenders in dermatologist offices and allows people to take them into their own hands — literally. BeautyBio, which makes the tool as well as an accompanying product range, is the brainchild of skin-care research and development veteran Jamie O'Banion and her biochemist father, Terry James. It in just a few short years, it's gone from being an unknown name to a major player in the American and European beauty markets. Its business is going so well, in fact, that it has its sights set on the $100 million sales mark for 2018.
So how did the brand go from being a three-person team to selling $400,000 worth of microneedling devices within the first 12 minutes they went on sale? Ahead, CEO and co-founder O'Banion opens up about how she built the blockbuster brand.
How did you get into the beauty industry?
I like to say that I kind of fell into it. My father started out as an anesthesiologist, and then got into dermatology, and then biochemistry and became a partner in one of the big R&D cosmetic labs in the U.S. I ended up joining his company, and we worked on ingredients for a lot of top brands. He was the original ideator of the concept of microneedling, and from there, we went down the path of not only whether we could do this in a clinical environment, but also that this is something that someone can do at home.
And that's when you started BeautyBio?
We first started on the skin-care side and then moved to GloPro. We filed our patent for it 13 years ago, and then it took seven years to issue. We actually hold the patent for microneedling, which is incredibly exciting to really own an entire vertical.
Has the device changed much from that original concept all those years ago?
Oh, yes. We have so many years of experience now and we've had so many clinical studies and clinical trials. You know, when we first started out it was like, 'needles on a stick'? We didn't even know to change the head every three to four months like a razor or a toothbrush, so there's definitely been that journey.
Now we have three different technologies in the tool: the red LED, the microneedling and the vibro-tactile pulsing, which really helps penetrate deeper into the skin. We've also found that, just like it's not better to run a marathon twice a year and then not work out, we found that microneedling at least three times a week gives you a better long-term result.
How did it go with the initial launch?
HSN had reached out through some industry contacts and said 'We'd love for you to come on air.' I honestly had never shopped with them before, but I loved the idea of having a megaphone on HSN where it was just me sharing my knowledge. Whenever I step on set I'm not thinking about selling something, I'm thinking of helping people understand it. Because HSN is pretty big volume I think we did over $1.5 million in our first half year.
I mean, I was running a $10 million business with three people! But with HSN and QVC it was actually possible. You can do it because of them, because I didn't need a huge field team.
It's been really fun growing the team, growing that family and who are. We have a team of 30 in Dallas, a little office in Tampa and a team in New York which are both fewer than 10 people, and then we have a field team of 60.
Since that first launch in 2016, you guys have really taken off.
It's been incredibly exciting to have something you love and you're passionate about and share that with the market in a way that everyone responds to in an equally passionate manner. We launched at Nordstrom less than a year ago and we were their number-one selling beauty SKU literally 30 days after we launched. We won the Allure Best of Beauty Award, the Total Beauty Award and the New Beauty magazine award all within, like, three months of each other.
We have all of these incredible influencers using the brand, and not just using the GloPro but using our cleanser and our eye patches, and it's incredible to see that community grow. We haven't paid anyone. We haven't engaged with a single influencer and that, to me, is such an amazing litmus test. The momentum of that is so real and the only way that happens organically is that the product has to work, it has to be providing a result.
It definitely seems like social media has had a big influence in spreading the word about the brand. Has digital technology affected your brand strategy?
We've always stood by the phrase "truth in beauty," that's been our guide. I think everyone in the market wants to know more, to have more of an active voice and to connect with their brands. We formulate to what the need is from our consumers and from the marketplace. We have two new launches coming out this fall that solely came about from listening to our customers.
The connectivity that's available now to be DMing with your customer base is phenomenal. I always tell my team, 'It's right in front of you, you'll always know the right answer if you put your customer hat on.' If someone has paid their hard-earned money to invest in our brand, I want to make sure that they have the most amazing experience and that's a high standard, but that's absolutely how you have to establish who you are and what you're setting out to do.
Since the brand really made its name on innovation, I've got to ask: What's next?
I'm working on a book right now to hopefully publish by the end of Q4 to try and gather all of these messages and figure out what people want to know and to put something together that I hope can be of value to someone who's trying to do what I did.
We have an amazing launch coming this fall called the Quench, a new cream that's packed with the same four lipids that your body naturally makes. We also have a neck product that's incredible for lifting and contouring coming up this fall. I have two different patents that I've filed. And some fun body options that will be coming out, really an entirely new way of doing targeted body treatments.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Homepage photo: Courtesy of BeautyBio
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