Bite Beauty Founder Susanne Langmuir Kicks Off Brand Incubator SL&Co. With Waterless Skincare Concept An-hydra
Serial entrepreneur Susanne Langmuir isn’t afraid to shake up routine beauty products.
With Bite Beauty, she developed lipsticks from food-grade ingredients, and let people see how they were made and customize formulas to suit their preferences. With Susanne Lang Fragrance, she encouraged layering to allow consumers to concoct signature scents distinct from ubiquitous celebrity and designer perfumes. Now, at SL&Co., she’s pushing the envelope on natural, eco-friendly and inclusive formulas beginning with waterless skincare brand An-hydra.
“SL&Co. is an incubator for brands with clean and sustainable ingredients that challenge and look at the things we do every day with fresh eyes,” says Langmuir. “We are looking at categories that could use innovation, and I think there are a lot of opportunities. We’re starting in personal care, home care and lifestyle. It could be something as simple as a dish soap that we do better and differently to make it more sustainable and still be really effective.”
Langmuir sold Bite Beauty to LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton in 2014, where it resides in the Kendo division. She left the brand in late 2018 and, during her hiatus from the beauty industry, suffered from chronic pain in her hands, neck and back, and extreme fatigue that went undiagnosed until a couple of months ago. It turned out to be the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis, and Langmuir currently takes an arsenal of medication to control its effects.
Langmuir’s health setback forced her to reevaluate her beauty and personal care products. She pulled them together to study their ingredient lists, and noticed they were often packed with preservatives and water. She estimates their formulas were upwards of 80% to 95% water. Not too long after Langmuir scrutinized her beauty and personal care stash, she and her son Thomas traveled to Japan early this year to explore amino acids as healthy alternatives to traditional skincare surfactants.
“SL&Co. is an incubator for brands with clean and sustainable ingredients that challenge and look at the things we do every day with fresh eyes.”
An-hydra is the result of Langmuir’s personal metamorphosis and professional investigation. Launching on Nov. 21, its $66 first product, The Powder of Youth No. 1, is a cleanser, exfoliator and mask containing the amino acids of sodium lauroyl glutamate, sodium myristoyl glutamate and rice powder as its surfactants. Its formula also features lactobacillus ferment to foster good bacteria—the skin microbiome is a huge focus for Langmuir—glacier clay, magnesium aluminum silicate and bentonite clay for detoxifying; sodium hyaluronate and aloe vera for hydrating; vitamin C and willow bark extract for brightening; and pomegranate enzymes for exfoliation.
“An-hydra is water-activated. It’s about this idea that, when you remove the unnecessary ingredients—water and preservatives—you have the opportunity to load the entire formula with actives at high concentrations,” says Langmuir. “It’s very purposeful, and it’s very small. You can fit it in the palm of your hand, and it provides three months of skincare.”
The eco aspects of An-hydra come from its water-free formula, eschewal of excess materials—its bottle was specifically chosen to be the size of a FedEx label to ensure it can be shipped without extra packaging—and refill capabilities. The brand will offer refills in packaging Langmuir describes as resembling “a tall sugar packet.” Refill pricing hasn’t been finalized, but she figures it will be in the $50 range. As far as the brand’s inclusivity, Langmuir underscores An-hydra’s product doesn’t discriminate based on gender, skin tone, skin condition and age.
“Great skin and sustainability are very universal goals. The products and formulations I create are really one for all,” she says. “My 19-year-old Thomas uses the same formula as I do twice a day. We are a generation apart and have different needs, but creating something universal that would work for both of us was really important to me.”
“The products and formulations I create are really one for all.”
An-hydra is kicking off with a direct-to-consumer distribution model because Langmuir didn’t want the pressure of performing at retail to impact the brand’s direction at the outset. However, she’s open to retail and mentions clean beauty stores as likely candidates for future distribution. Langmuir has self-funded SL&Co. so far, another move she’s made to avoid outside influence over her decisions. For example, while she had several products in the wings she could have released for An-hydra’s debut, she stuck with a single item to concentrate the brand’s message on a product that requires greater consumer education than most products. A serum is in An-hydra’s product pipeline, and a moisturizer could enter it as well.
Langmuir says she’s invested “a few hundred thousand dollars” to erect an 1,800-square-foot lab in Toronto stocked with 300 ingredients she’s testing for the many products she plans to unveil at An-hydra and additional SL&Co. brands. For its initial year in business, her goal is for An-hydra to reach $1 million in sales. SL&Co. has two more brands in the hopper and, by the end of spring next year, Langmuir forecasts the second brand will be revealed. While she’s held off external investment to date, she’s willing to consider it to support SL&Co.’s growth.
A key lesson Langmuir has picked up from introducing numerous products is that, before they hit the market, successes frequently feel the same as failures. She continually improves products—and seeks the room to do so—to turn any blunders into boons. Langmuir says, “I’m fanatical about making adjustments along the way and using my intuition. Gut instinct goes a long way. I love innovation, and I love the process every time.”