This New DTC Beauty Brand Is Bridging Anti-Aging And Sun Protection For Prevention-Minded Millennials

Hundreds of thousands of millennials have turned to fillers and Botox to foil facial volume loss and fine lines. In 2017, Tai Adaya, then 27 years old, was one of them. “I have always been really concerned with aging. I had ingrained in me at a young age that you want to start early to prevent wrinkles,” she says. “I was spending a ton of money, and I started to seriously look at anti-aging, and what works and what doesn’t work.”

Adaya’s exploration of anti-aging products and procedures led her to a solution that surprised her: sunscreen. She wasn’t accustomed to regularly sporting sun protection, but it was far cheaper and less arduous than injectibles—and it helped greatly to maintain her skin. Three years after seeking Botox, Adaya has shifted away from the needle and to topical sun care, particularly from her forthcoming brand Habit that’s driven to normalize routine application of sunscreen and other skin health preservers.

“Younger women are starting to really spend on things like Botox and Fraxel, and they’re not doing something easy to achieve the same effect. That’s the inspiration for the brand,” says Adaya, former marketing director for Il Makiage and acquisition marketing manager at Casper. “Only about 10% of Americans wear sunscreen daily and, of the 10% that do, it’s seen as something that’s not fun. We want to take a break from that perspective and make product application enjoyable.”

Scheduled to launch March 19, Habit’s first product is No. 41 Mister, a delicate spray with SPF 41 intended to make sunscreen application enjoyable to encourage daily use.

Scheduled to launch March 19, Habit’s first product intended to make product application enjoyable is No. 41 Mister, a mist with SPF 41. Priced at $30 for a standalone purchase or $24 on subscription, its non-aerosol pump yields a delicate spray—seven pumps are recommended for covering the face—that doesn’t have to be rubbed into the skin. It’s formulated to spritz over makeup and has a fresh floral scent. No. 41 Mister’s 1-oz. size bottle delivers a 30-day supply.

“Everything that went into this is designed to elevate the category and make the experience using the products a little bit more luxurious, so you don’t feel you are applying sunscreen, you feel like you are applying a treatment,” says Adaya, adding, “I really wanted to design something that people could take with them, that could sit on their desk or they could throw into their bag so they can incorporate it in their daily life rather than just apply it in the morning.”

“We want to move dollars that are spent on anti-aging into the active drug category.”

No. 41 Mister contains the chemical filters avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate and octocrylene. Adaya explains her choice of chemical filters was due to issues she’s had slathering on mineral sunscreens. Olive-toned, zinc oxide- and titanium dioxide-based products have caused her skin to be pasty and uncomfortable. Adaya says, “I regularly talk with my suppliers, and we evaluate what’s new in the mineral world. A big part of what I’m trying to do is create products that people want to use daily. When the products leave a white or purple cast, it makes them unpleasant.”

Habit’s business plan includes iterating on products. Adaya has established relationships with manufacturers that allow her to generate limited test runs. She doles out the products from those runs to a group of 40 product evaluators she’s assembled from a wide variety of ages, skin types and genders. The group gave a thumbs-up to No. 41 Mister. “I knew going in that women would like the use case of applying it over makeup, and the data really showed that,” says Adaya. “People love that they can put it on without messing up their makeup.” Once customers receive their No. 41 Mister, Habit has implemented a texting system that gently urges them for 21 days to mist it on to foster a daily SPF practice.

Habit founder Tai Adaya
Habit founder Tai Adaya

Adaya reports it cost about $100,000 to develop Habit. She dedicated her personal savings to cover about half of the cost, and raised funds from friends and family members to cover the rest. Adaya is seeking to secure roughly $500,000 from external investors to support the brand going forward, largely in its marketing efforts. She says Habit’s early revenues will depend on the amount of capital it attracts, and emphasizes her objectives are to cost effectively gain customers and run the brand in the black. Adaya asserts, “To me, it’s important to build a profitable business from day one.”

Next up for Habit’s assortment is a caffeine-infused sunscreen stick for the eye area and an SPF water gel item. Although its initial products are in the sun care segment, Habit will expand beyond it. “We are an active drug brand that prevents skin aging. We really want you to have the right information and tools to prevent skin aging, and do it on your own terms,” says Adaya, noting Habit is considering releasing a Retin-A product. The brand will offer information through blog posts and offline activations. Adaya says, “There’s a lot of confusion and fear associated with aging, and we really want to be a voice for our consumers that provides credible facts around aging.”

While Adaya doesn’t rule out traditional retail eventually, she’s committed to focusing on a direct-to-consumer model as Habit gets off the ground. “We want to tell the anti-aging story and start a conversation around it. I don’t know if retail is the right place to do that, and we wouldn’t go there with one product,” she says. Adaya believes Habit can tap into a huge opportunity whether it enters brick-and-mortar stores or not. “The anti-aging market is $32 billion annually. Sunscreen is only a $2 billion category, even though it’s proven to be anti-aging. We are trying to drive that number up,” she says. “We want to move dollars that are spent on anti-aging into the active drug category.”