The Doctor’s In: Visha Skincare Founder And Dermatologist Purvisha Patel Prescribes Multitasking Natural Products
Purvisha Patel, a veteran dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon, wasn’t trained to treat the skin with natural remedies. However, her interest piqued in them eight years ago when her patients, predominantly people of color, started looking for hydroquinone- and paraben-free products to rectify everything from melasma to basic dehydration. Around the same time, Patel’s daughter was born at 26 weeks, and she spent three months in an intensive care unit. Patel wondered if the synthetic chemical-laden products she’d been using on patients while pregnant could have played a part in the premature birth.
Sensing there was a gap in the market for effective natural products safe for pregnant women and nursing mothers, Patel teamed up with a chemist to patent a formula that would become Illuminotex, a skin-brightening complex for aging skin and hyperpigmentation. She initially sold the formula as a serum only to patients. Within two years, 4,000 of them were relying on the product, asking how they could buy it online and requesting additional offerings. Today, Patel’s brand, Visha Skincare, encompasses 10 items. Beauty Independent checked in with the doctor to discuss the investment she’s put into her brand, turning down Walmart and Costco, not quite breaking even and what’s coming out soon for customers.
What was your early vision for the brand?
I wanted something my patients would use that would be safe for them and helpful for the skin. I also wanted it to be as easy to use as possible. There’s research about how multistep routines are harder for people to follow, so our products always help serve more than one purpose. We have a moisturizer that works on the face and vagina. We have a balm for pregnant women that helps with stretch marks and can prevent eczema on babies. And I wanted to make the products affordable.
How did you set Visha’s price point?
Product prices can get really get exorbitant. I was losing trust [from] clients [by] selling them expensive products, and recommending peels and treatments. Everyone thinks the doctor is trying to make a buck, and nobody likes being sold to all the time. The serum costs $65, and I was able to frame it to patients as, “Now, you have these affordable serums that will help your every day and the inexpensive price could free up money for a chemical peel down the line.”
What is Visha’s bestselling product?
Our RejuVenating Moisturizer. Our first product was the Advanced Correcting Serum with Illuminotex and, then, we made the Mommy Brightener with Illuminotex, a serum safe for pregnant women or nursing moms. But we couldn’t just have two serums, and patients were asking for a moisturizer. I think people are more aware of what they’re putting on their skin, and they see that these products are safe, and they trust that. They’re also coming from a doctor, and we’ve kept our packaging very clinical because this is a doctor’s office product.
How did you get the brand off the ground?
I’ve been using my own money. To launch locally for everything from the chemist work, production and advertising, it was about half million dollars. Since launching nationally, it’s in excess of a million.
When do you expect Visha to reach profitability?
I really hope to reach profitability soon. We haven’t gotten there yet. We’re still growing. We get great feedback. One great thing we’ve noticed is that whoever uses the products stays loyal. The majority of our sales are [repurchases]. We just launched this year, so we’re still at that [getting the] ball rolling stage, but I’m very optimistic. What makes me feel hopeful and puts me in a good mood is that the people buying it are using it. The month of May was the highest on record for sales.
What’s your distribution strategy?
We started just selling out of my office. Then, patients wanted a way to buy it online, so I got a Shopify account and started selling that way. Now, we have wholesale accounts like a local OBGYN that sells our mommy line, and we sell locally to spas and wellness centers. We have two international accounts and, then, the website, of course. We also have Amazon sales.
Why did you decide to put the brand on Amazon?
It was a big decision to sell on Amazon. Amazon is competition to a certain extent. Ultimately, I’m a doctor. I just take a lot of advice, do a little math and see the wisest way to maneuver. I looked up other brands, and underlying all of this is my goal to get this into as many people’s hands as process. Amazon wasn’t considered a hurdle.
What is your social media strategy?
We just hired the agency 5WPR in December. We have an organic influencer outreach program right now and we have 10 to 15 influencers post organically to influence. We’ve seen an increase in followers and engagement that way and, eventually, this will lead to more macro influencer programs.
Is there a dream retailer for your brand?
I think we’d be a good fit for retailers like Sephora and Ulta, which would be amazing for the brand. Target is working very hard on embracing all skin types and non-paraben and sulfate-free products, so I’m not opposed to target. I was asked by Walmart and Costco sell the brand, and I declined because I don’t think we’re there yet. Costco wants to package the products in boxes of threes, and sell the serums and everything in big packages. I don’t think it’s the right fit.
What have you found most challenging in building a beauty brand?
I had to step out of my comfort zone as a physician and a dermatologist. My goal is to make people’s skin better and, when I suggest something to my patients, I already develop that trust and rapport where they do what I say. Stepping into the beauty industry, a forum that’s so saturated, I’m a nobody. So, it doesn’t really matter what I say. It’s almost like it doesn’t matter that I know skin. I’ve had to get in the game, and learn the lingo and get to know the right people. Beauty is an ever-changing landscape, but medicine never changes. So, the brand messaging never changes, and I’m never going to stop being a dermatologist. I believe that people will get that.
Where is your brand headed?
Since we’ve started selling online, it’s really changed the game from when we were solely selling it out of the office. But the vision and message hasn’t really changed. The goal is help people get better skin with safe, natural products. People have cried to me in the grocery store about acne going away without needing expensive peels or laser treatments. We have all these testimonials from people, and that’s what motivates me to keep putting money into the company. We’ve got something that works. If enough people use it and realize it, it will be successful. I’m constantly excited by our results and by where we’re going. I have a fitness line in beta testing for people to use on jock itch and folliculitis, so it can be used on various parts of the body. We are coming up with new ideas and, hopefully, we’ll be profitable by the end of this year.