From The Mind Of A Former J&J Exec, Fresh Chemistry Delivers Skincare Ingredients At The Peak Of Their Power
Stale skincare isn’t the stuff of good selfies. Fresh Chemistry customers don’t get any.
As a Johnson & Johnson marketing director and brand manager, founder Nisha Dearborn worked on preservative-packed products for Aveeno and RoC that sat around for several months before being purchased by shoppers at the likes of Walmart, Target and Walgreens. After nine years climbing the corporate ladder at J&J, she left the daily grind and her home in Princeton, N.J., for Portland, Maine in 2016 to raise her two children in a place with people who don’t lock their doors. Dearborn and her family quickly benefitted from the new environment—they got active and ate better—and she began to reconsider the business of beauty as she’d known it.
“I was making a lot healthier choices when it came to food and menu planning. I was always trying to reach for fresher foods, making sure I was using the freshest ingredients whenever I could rather than reach into the pantry. We are using the pantry version of skincare,” she says. “Antioxidants and vitamins—so many of the best skincare ingredients—break down over time, but we don’t live in a world now where products have to sit on the shelf. There are so many direct-to-consumer opportunities. I started to think, ‘What if we packaged the active ingredients separately? Wouldn’t that keep them fresher longer?’”
Fresh Chemistry arose from Dearborn’s questions. The brand has serum sets that arrange key potent ingredients apart from bases until customers combine them. Its Wrinkle Release Peptide Serum Set features a base with three types of olive oil-derived emollients and hyaluronic acid that arrives in a box housed in a bottle distinct from vials containing a polypeptide blend and Amazonian nut oil. A supercharged iteration of the set adds a booster with starfish coelomic fluid extract, an ingredient from the sea creature that aids in regenerating its limbs and healing human wounds.
“We are using the pantry version of skincare.”
Instead of the polypeptide blend and Amazonian nut oil, Fresh Chemistry’s Glow Getter Brightening Serum Set pairs the base bottle with vials of vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids. An advanced option throws in a vial with bigger helpings of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. Made in small batches to avoid idling for protracted periods in storage, the sets run from $52 to $75, and are sold on Fresh Chemistry’s website.
“If you think about making fresh bread in your house, the ingredients can sit for a long time as long as the wet and dry ingredients are separated. Once you mix it and make dough, that’s when the clock starts. It’s the same thing with Fresh Chemistry. When the customer gets the product, she opens the active ingredients, pours that into the base serum and shakes it. They are at their most potent and active for the following four weeks,” says Dearborn. “You automatically have a product that’s way more efficacious on your skin than other products out there.”
Fresh Chemistry is formulated to the Clean at Sephora standard. The preservatives in its products are from plants. Noting that different types of hyaluronic acid aren’t equal, Dearborn emphasizes she selects active compounds because of their performance and not price. She believes skincare consumers, particularly women in their late 20s to mid 40s, will be attracted to the brand because they’re disappointed by the results of the products crowding their bathrooms.
“It’s about time women in the industry like myself and others start to be really transparent with what they put out there.”
“It’s a woman who wants good, fresh ingredients that are clean and potent, and she’s willing to pay for a product with quality,” says Dearborn of Fresh Chemistry’s target consumer. She elaborates, “When I was first creating the formula, I didn’t have to hit a margin at all. I just wanted to create the right product. You price it accordingly based on how much you are going to sell. There was a lot more ability to focus on the right ingredients and packaging, and the right away to deliver them to a consumer and figure out the costs along the way.”
Fresh Chemistry isn’t the only skincare brand to concentrate on ingredient freshness. Nuori, for example, has freshness at the core of its model. Fresh Chemistry has an element of customization, too, as it enables customers to pick ingredients they deem suitable for their faces and tweak formulas to their desires. Of course, it’s not the only customization concept. Dearborn isn’t aiming for Fresh Chemistry to be alone in the market. During a stretch in which skincare has been climbing and makeup slumping in the beauty industry, Dearborn places it squarely in a mounting conversation about the roles of beauty brands and consumers that buy their products.
“Women are feeling more empowered than ever to not be ashamed of who we are and be proud. That lends itself to an interest in makeup not to cover yourself up, but to be the healthiest version of yourself, and I think that’s what is driving the skincare movement,” she says, continuing, “The industry has been full of smoke and mirrors for long enough, and it’s about time women in the industry like myself and others start to be really transparent with what they put out there.”
Dearborn declines to divulge the amount of money it took to bring self-funded Fresh Chemistry to life. She says, “There are a lot of women doing their jobs, and they’re moms. They have dreams of, ‘Could I go out and start something like this?’ The answer is, ‘Yes, you can.’ From a financial investment standpoint, it’s possible.” In its initial year available to customers, she suggests raising awareness outweighs achieving a specific revenue total as her primary goal for Fresh Chemistry. She stresses the brand is in its 1.0 stage, and she’s listening to its audience to guide improvements. In the future, retail is a possibility to reach that audience as are assortment extensions into products such as eye cream and moisturizer. Dearborn says, “I have the background and expertise to create this into a large brand and continue to expand it.”