Created By Beauty Industry Veterans, New Skincare Brand Urja Has CBD And So Much More
In the beauty industry, inspiration comes from many different sources—and there are advantages to them all. Urja is drawing from the best of those sources to nurture skin stressed by the rigors of contemporary existence.
The new skincare and wellness brand combines advanced ingredients such as vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and niacinimide with Ayurvedic staples turmeric, holy basil and geranium, and plant-based powerhouses bakuchiol, willow bark and CBD or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant. It’s kicking off with seven products priced from $42 to $88: Gentle Foaming Gelée Face Wash, Remedy Face Oil, Calm Moisturizer, Detox Moisturizer, Restore Moisturizer, Be Well Tincture and Let It Roll Calming Oil.
“There’s the underpinnings from clinical, efficacious skincare, so these products will absolutely benefit your skin, but they are wrapped in natural and holistic ingredients to heighten the experience, which is what today’s consumers are looking for,” says Liz Bishop, founder and CEO of Urja. “We don’t just treat fine lines and wrinkles or acne. We bring together natural and clinical ingredients, beautiful formulations and adaptogenic support in the scents you smell in the cleanser, oil and rollerball to help center and calm the body and mind.”
Bishop is a member of a veteran team guiding Urja. Practically born into beauty, her father Fred Quirk dedicated his career to Elizabeth Arden, and Bishop followed him to work for the storied company prior to branching out to pharmaceuticals with positions at Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline and Valeant, where she reentered the beauty sphere as director of sales for the skincare brand Kinerase. Following her stint at Valeant, Bishop headed business development at Aria Aesthetics, where she created skincare driven by oxygen technology, and was VP for product and business development at BIG Beauty Incubator Group, a brand platform established by Philosophy founder Cristina Carlino.
At BIG, Bishop connected with former Philosophy executives that she’s tapped for Urja. The brand’s research and development is helmed by Kerwin Yamanaka, former director of R&D at Philosophy. Mark Harshbarger, senior business advisor to Urja, was previously CFO and COO of Philosophy. Bishop’s niece and Quirk’s granddaughter Molly Argue rounds out the team atop Urja. The brand’s director of marketing, Argue was a part of Lily.B, a skincare line founded by Bishop that ran from 2010 to 2013 and was an early pioneer of the natural movement in beauty. It was Argue’s idea to name Urja after the Hindi word for “energy.”
“There’s the underpinnings from clinical, efficacious skincare, so these products will absolutely benefit your skin, but they are wrapped in natural and holistic ingredients to heighten the experience.”
Since 2014, Bishop has consulted for beauty companies and, five years ago, she had a consulting gig for an emerging CBD business. Long before the Farm Bill federally legalized the hemp trade in December last year, the business was exploring CBD for beauty applications. Engaged in that exploration, Bishop discovered the hemp-derived compound has anti-inflammatory properties suited to skincare products. Around the same time, she learned about the negative implications of chronic inflammation, a lasting inflammatory response that causes attacks on healthy tissue, and can result in skin issues. “I started connecting the dots as to how integrated our skin health is with our entire wellness journey,” says Bishop, continuing, “Inflammation is a component of how quickly we age. It’s also a component of blemishes, and sensitive, irritated types of skin. We really look at the complete package.”
Due to its anti-inflammatory capabilities, Urja put CBD into its multifaceted formulations. The brand relies on organic CBD isolate, and it fuels a complex in the products Urja calls NI2C that targets inflammation. Urja’s wellness products Be Well Tincture and Let It Roll Calming Oil have 1,000 and 500 milligrams of CBD, respectively. The skincare products have smaller amounts of CBD. For instance, Gentle Foaming Gelée Face Wash has 100 milligrams of CBD.
“We are not a CBD company. We are a skincare company, and we recognize the benefits of CBD as one of our ingredients,” says Bishop. “Do I highlight it more or less than bakuchiol or willow bark? No. Because it’s a valuable skincare ingredient, when it became widely available last year, we had to see if it added benefit to the product formulations and, indeed, it did, but we are not hanging our hats on the fact that we have CBD our products.”
She suggests Urja competes with skincare brands like Drunk Elephant, SkinCeuticals and SkinMedica that are known for effective formulas. Sensorial, mood-lifting touches distinguish Urja from the pack of sophisticated skincare brands. A blend of holy basil, geranium, turmeric and peppercorn imparts a raw earthy aroma to Gentle Foaming Gelée Face Wash, Remedy Face Oil and Let It Roll Calming Oil to foster soothing and memorable self-care moments. Urja also boasts clean positioning. Its formulas were devised to adhere to Sephora’s and Credo’s clean ingredient standards.
“We are not a CBD company. We are a skincare company, and we recognize the benefits of CBD as one of our ingredients.”
Remedy Face Oil is the brand’s hero product. Bishop says, “Face oils now are where serums were about 10 or 12 years ago. Consumers are really starting to understand the benefit to skincare that an oil brings.” Urja’s recyclable boxes are decorated with agate designs. Agate is associated with feelings of positivity. Be Well Tincture and Let It Roll Calming Oil are housed in recyclable glass, while the moisturizers and face oil are placed in low-density polyethylene tubes in a nod to clinical products. Urja has conceived a color system that will be used to full effect as it enlarges its assortment. As an example, Detox Moisturizer has blush on it signifying purifying qualities that will be incorporated in future products in the detox category.
In soft-launch mode, Urja went live on Oct. 28 and, so far, the average age of is customers is 30 years old. Women constitute 85% of the customer base. At the outset, Urja is sticking to a direct-to-consumer model. However, it’s considering high-end beauty retailers, spas, wellness concepts and doctor’s offices for distribution going forward. Bishop estimates it cost roughly $100,000 to ready Urja for the market. However, she says that figure could easily reach $350,000 factoring in her, Yamanaka’s, Argue’s and Harshbarger’s sweat equity. Bishop projects Urja will cross $1 million sales in 2020, but she isn’t in a rush to explode the brand.
“We really want to build a community and be a destination for education around inflammation, skin health and health in general, and people interested in functional medicine. That will lead us to what to come out with next,” she says. “Do we take Urja more into the wellness space or keep it primarily skincare with a little bit of wellness? We want to hear from our community what is of interest to them.”