Episode 51

 

Like a lot of teenagers, Marisa Vara Arredondo had acne – really bad acne. But unlike a lot of them, she let that experience inform all of her career choices. As the founder and CEO of Phace Bioactive, she’s been laying the foundation for the first pH optimized skincare line since college, but not in the ways you’d think. She never became an aesthetician or dermatologist, and didn’t major in chemistry, either. Instead she went to Stanford, got an MBA, spent 12 years on Wall Street, then finally did what she always wanted to do – give acne sufferers some long-overdue relief.

Announcer

Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.

Jodi Katz

Hey everyone, I’m excited to say I’m sitting with Marisa Arredondo, founder and CEO of Phace Bioactive. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Thank you very much for having me.

Jodi Katz

Yeah, we’re super excited to have you here, and we’ve just been chit-chatting and chit-chatting before hitting the record button and I’m like, “Wait, wait, wait, let’s just take this into the podcast.” So, give us a little sense of what Phace is all about.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

So, Phace Bioactive is the first line of pH optimized skin care. What that means is when I was growing up, I had really bad cystic acne and I tried everything. I used buff puffs and sulfur and benzol peroxide, antibiotics and Retin-A corticosteroid injections in my cyst, which was really unpleasant.

Jodi Katz

Wait, really? A needle into the actual [crosstalk 00:00:53]

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Oh yeah, with the tears coming out of the sides of my face.

Jodi Katz

How old were you when…

Marisa Vara Arredondo

When that happened? I was probably around 15. And then eventually I was prescribed Acutane and the Acutane worked for a short while, but then the pimples came back in my early 20s and that’s really when I resolved to solve my skincare issues.

Jodi Katz

So, I’m staring at your skin right now. I mean, it’s not beautiful lighting in this room but your skin is really incredible.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Well, thank you very much.

Jodi Katz

There’s not even any scarring.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Well the key to having beautiful, healthy, radiant, clear skin, is protecting your skin’s natural pH balance, and all of us have mild… pH just measures… it stand for Potential of Hydrogen. It just measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. Our skin is acidic. We have this thin protective layer on the surface of our skin and its function is to seal in the moisture, to keep your skin firm and elastic, and to inhibit bacteria so you don’t get pimples or inflammation.

The biggest mistake we all make, men and women, is washing our face with alkaline ingredients. That’s anything that foams, anything that has sulfate in it, anything with soap. Because what that does is, it strips your skin’s protective barrier, this acidic protective barrier and dries out your skin. And dry skin ages faster than acidic skin.

Jodi Katz

So, I’m wondering if everyone sits next to you, whether it’s a retailer or the media, and is doing what I’m doing, which is I’m kind of hearing your words, but I’m really staring at your skin and it’s incredible.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

It’s so funny that you say this, because now I have the before and afters so you can actually see the ugly me and you can see, obviously, right now the me after using my products. But what happened as a function of my job, I graduated from Stanford University and I went to Wall Street to become a biotech analyst and invest in dermatology, cosmetic and biotech companies, so that I could learn how to correct my own skin issues.

Jodi Katz

Was that really the chief motivator in [crosstalk 00:02:39]

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Oh, 100%. Because I figured, by being a research analyst, I’d spent my summers in college doing investment banking, which wasn’t nearly as exciting as being able to research and meet with the CEOs, the heads of R&D, the scientists, the chemists that are actually making products. So, I went to a company called Janice in Colorado and what I did there was literally meet with the heads of R&D, top dermatologists from all over the world and product developers.

That’s where I learned about pH balance. I used to cover a company called Merck Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey, and it was through their head of R&D at an analyst day that I learned about the importance of pH… not only in formulating products but actually in skincare.

Jodi Katz

So, you went to college thinking, I’m going to find a job in an industry where I get to be around the people who know the answers to my questions?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Well, when I was in college is when you start thinking about what you’re going to do so, it was a natural kind of trajectory for me to go into banking because that really deals with business, you can make money. So, that’s where I spent my summers. And then through experience and getting focused and getting exposed to the different facets of banking; research banking, sales and trading, et cetera, that’s where I learned research is the place for me.

Jodi Katz

Right, but really with the goal of trying to solve this problem.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Oh yeah, I’m going to start a skincare line, yeah. But I needed to know what I was going to do. I needed to get the confidence to be able to do it and have the capital. So, that’s why it took a few more years. 12 years of Wall Street and an MBA to actually jump ship and make Phace Bioactive happen.

Jodi Katz

This is really fascinating to me because, I meet a lot of founders and a lot of them have this kind of “Aha” moment at some point and they are doctors or lawyers or whatever, and then all of a sudden they’re like, “Wait, no, I need to do this.” But you actually crafted this plan for yourself many years before starting your brand. You were laying the foundation super early.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Yeah. I would say plan is a very firm word. I had a dream and the question is how was I going to get there? So, it’s kind of like putting the pieces of the mosaic together so I felt ready enough to do it, and candidly you never really feel ready. But I got myself to a certain point where I could jump ship and just make it happen.

I had a good career in finance so it was hard to leave a steady paycheck with a lot of fingers. But ultimately, this has brought me a tremendous amount of joy. It’s a lot of work and it is a labor of love but, I’m so passionate about what I do every day that I just… I’m ready to go when I wake up in the morning. So, it’s a different level of excitement than I had in my prior job.

Jodi Katz

So, let’s go back in time to being a teenager, because you seem like a very confident, comfortable, at ease person. What was it like to be a teenager with cystic acne?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

I mean like any teenager, I just felt totally insecure and self-conscious and not great in my own skin. And you know I was always good at sports, I was always good at academics so, I had confidence in that regard, but those feelings of insecurity never leave you in your life when you suffered as a teen, and my acne was really bad.

So like I said, this has been a labor of love because it was so personal and I didn’t want other people to suffer that way. And the one beauty of having an understanding of having suffered myself is that I have tremendous empathy when I receive emails, which is regularly, from customers on my website that just want to throw their hands in the air because they’ve tried everything and nothing works. I’ve been there.

So, I think from a marketing standpoint, since it is so personal for me I’m able to connect better with my customers because I understand where they’re coming from.

Jodi Katz

So, do teens use your products?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

All ages. It literally, not teen as in 15, 16, but like 18, 19 all the way to 76. As far as I know, these are just the customers that have written to me. So, pH balance and your skin really applies to all ages, and as we get older our skin becomes drier and more wrinkly. That’s because it’s naturally becoming more alkaline as we age, because you have to use produce less collagen and you produce less elastin. All the more reason to be using acidic skin care to keep your skin hydrated and youthful and glowing.

Jodi Katz

So, why wouldn’t a 13 or a 14 or a 15 year old use these products?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Why wouldn’t they?

Jodi Katz

Yeah.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Oh no. They can use it. It’s just that they’re a little expensive for that age, and you know I would encourage… My objective in launching this skin care line isn’t just simply about introducing great skin care, it’s also about… It’s much broader than that. It’s educating people on the importance of pH balance, because when I was 13, 14, 15, 16, and first coming into these wonderful skin issues, I didn’t appreciate that what was going on with my skin, I thought I was dirty. Like my face was greasy because I played a lot of sports. So, I’m 42 and we didn’t have the Clarisonic and when I was a teenager. We’d buff puffs, and I would sit there and scrub with a buff puff and soap thinking my skin was incredibly dirty, and that’s why I was having these break outs, and these redness, and this peeling. That’s exactly what you don’t want to do.

I was actually exacerbating the symptoms of my acne because I was stripping off that protective barrier that’s acidic… it inhibits the bacteria that causes the acne. I was actually exacerbating those symptoms and also creating wrinkles and redness, other great symptoms of aging which I didn’t need.

So, this whole concept of pH balance… I hope even if you can’t afford the products at a very young age, that enough people will hear about this and they’ll make it part of the vernacular and not a scary scientific term.

Jodi Katz

And do you remember being a teen and like thinking, “I’m the only one who has acne this bad,” or were you in a group of friends where you all sort of suffered the same problem?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

It was a mix. I mean we’re three girls in my family; my oldest sister suffered from very bad cystic acne, my middle sister didn’t have and ounce… not one pimple, and then there was me. So my friends, varied all over the place. I don’t think I was comparing myself to my friends saying, “Oh. I wish I looked like her.” I didn’t have those kinds of feelings, it was just more personal.

It was just I didn’t feel great in my skin and so certain experiences were very stressful for me. Going to the beach was a biggie because I would try to put foundation, concealer on my pimples, and getting into the ocean with your friends, you’re worried that the foundation’s going to come off and the pimples are going to show or the concealer’s going to show in polka dots. It was experiences like that.

And again, I was an athlete. So, I used to play a lot of tennis and field hockey, and my big fear was wiping my makeup off on the side of my shirt. I know that’s not the most beautiful visual to envision, but these were the things that I was stressed about as a young person. And then when I went to Wall Street, I used to have to give presentations. The firm that I worked at didn’t have very many women, and I would have to present a stock to a group of 20 portfolio managers in a room. I can tell you I should have been more stressed in my presentation, but thankfully I was good and prepared on that front. But I was always nervous about my skin and having people look at me. So like I said, those feelings don’t really leave.

Then the irony of my life as things have changed, is that I’ve become the face of my brand, which I think as we discussed a little bit earlier a couple of weeks ago, I never expected to have to be the face of my brand. My brand is not called Marissa Arredondo skin care, it’s called Phace Bioactive because it’s all about pH balance. That’s been a challenge for me… it’s been a mountain to climb that I’m still getting comfortable with.

Jodi Katz

Really? I’m literally just staring at your face right now and listening, I am. I actually hear this a lot from founders, that their intention was not to be the face of their company, their intention was not to be the star of their Instagram, that kind of thing. But founders are really high. Customers and retailers feel really connected to the person behind the brand. They want to hear from them and they want to know how you spend your time and what you’re thinking about. But, it is kind of hard to say, “Okay, I’m going to embrace that.”

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Especially for someone that likes to ride below the radar screen, never had a Facebook page, didn’t want to touch Instagram. I mean user reality is that I had to accept it if I wanted to be a successful brand. So, it’s been incredibly awkward. There’s no rule book because all of the social media is just so new.

But the beauty of all of this, and this is the way that I just changed my thoughts so that I view it from a positive angle and just embrace the challenge, is that we’re in such a unique point in retail right now, there’s so much chaos. The stores are struggling, the bricks and mortar, and the internet’s fair game for me as it is for L’Oreal.

I mean these influencers just popped up and they’re very meaningful to a lot of brands. So, this is enormous opportunity for me to actually compete with the big wigs, without having that kind of budget. So, I have to view this like, “Wow, you know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Who knows how long this phase continues? I mean the Internet’s obviously going to be forever, but new structures will come into place in the next decade or two.” So, I feel very fortunate to have launched this in the right time. That just gives me the fuel to, ‘Get over it Marissa and just put yourself there.

Jodi Katz

So, I can’t think of a better spokes person for your brand than yourself. Really like, because I’m mesmerized by your skin and your story, and I think that there would be a missed opportunity for the customer not to hear that in your own words and see how that plays out in your life.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

And even myself. I really connect to a story and mine is a story, and it’s a very personal one. Customers write me notes, and what I’ve learned is my objective is to really become a trusted expert in the space so that all of the information… I’m obsessed with skincare, I’m obsessed with science. I used to win all the science awards growing up, so it comes very naturally for me… and it’s a hobby.

What I’ve tried to do on my website, and what I’m hoping to do as time goes on, is to create new content in our blog educating customers on: What is rosacea? Why do we get it? Is it from the skin products we use? Is it from the foods we eat? Where does pH matter outside of the skin? Does it matter in the foods that we eat? Other more lifestyle issues, so that she A gets to know me, B realizes that this is a trusted source of information, and then C comes back for more data and more information. That’s my objective, starting with the brand of Phace Bioactive, but really to build a larger community and instill the trust in the customer, because she knows that she’s going to get the right information here.

Jodi Katz

So let’s talk about pH, because I am also 42 and the way I’ve seen pH marketed I think was a deodorant brand in the 90s.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

By Mennen. Remember that commercial?

Jodi Katz

So, it was all about pH balance for women. I don’t remember what brand it was, but that’s the only time I really ever heard about pH. Is that pH different than the pH you’re talking about?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Not entirely at all. You probably have heard of pH balance related to feminine products as well because we are acidic in certain places to fend off bacteria. The same goes for our armpits as does to our private parts. It has that natural acidity so you don’t get the bad bacteria thriving in there. When something is off, if you smell bad, if you’ve ever had any of those issues … sorry to get a little personal… in the downstairs department, it’s related to your pH being off balance. And again, pH just measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is. It’s a chart that goes from zero to 14. Zero is acidic, 14 is alkaline, seven is neutral, water is neutral.

But like our hair for example, has a pH, it’s naturally acidic as well. You don’t want to strip that protective barrier, and that’s what I didn’t understand. That’s what I’m trying to educate women on and men. Our whole line is mildly acidic skincare. All the products work well together, and they work well with the naturally acidic pH of your skin.

Jodi Katz

So, it’s replenishing that acid that I might have just washed away?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Exactly. It’s balancing your skin. The biggest, the most important step in a healthy skincare regimen is the cleanser. That is the most important step. That’s where most of us make our mistakes because we invest all this money in these fancy serums and use fancy moisturizers, but if you’ve done the damage at the outset and stripped off that protective barrier, those products afterwards are not going to work nearly as well. So, it’s really fundamental to not wash your face with soap. For example; If you’ve ever been to a hotel and used the bar soap, you get out and you’re squeaky clean. But you are super dry for the rest of the day in spite of slapping on all of the moisturizers. It’s because you’ve just stirred your skin’s pH.

And after the age of 40 it takes eight hours for your pH to recalibrate, and during that timeframe you’re exposed to environmental pollutants, you’re skin’s defenseless. That’s when you can get the redness, and the sunburn, and the acne. The key is to always be protecting your skin’s pH and our cleanser does something very unique. Because after just one wash, you’re getting the full-on. Sorry about that.

Jodi Katz

But I’m fascinated.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

After just one wash it improves your skins barrier function, that protective barrier, by 51% instantly. And then we measured it out to eight hours in subjects, and it was still improved by 44%. So, do you want to do something good for yourself when you’re washing your face? Clean, exfoliate, and improve your skin’s barrier function.

Jodi Katz

Have you been on HSN or QVC?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

I have a contract with QVC, so yes. We launched last March, which is very exciting! In Prime Time for an hour, actually it was two hours and eight minutes.

Jodi Katz

Straight through?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Yes it was straight through, two hours eight minutes, no break. And it was my first time on national TV, but-

Jodi Katz

Wait. Two hours straight through on QVC?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Oh yes. And eight minutes.

Jodi Katz

Were those eight minutes the hardest like the last mile from-

Marisa Vara Arredondo

You know what? It just became more and more fun as time went on. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. And there’s a lot of preparation to get on to QVC because you have to do clinical studies on every product, anything you say about a product, any claim. So, if you want to say, “You know this serum improves the symptoms of acne,” you have to have done a clinical study on the right number of people, demonstrating that it improves the symptoms of acne. So, I had to do 12 clinical studies for my five products that we aired that night. And then, there’s a whole, ‘What I can say, what I can’t say,’ and then boom you’re on live, with 20 cameras in front of you and there’s no rehearsal. It’s just go with your host.

Jodi Katz

You seem like a person who focuses on preparation in that sense.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Oh absolutely.

Jodi Katz

Tell me about the weeks or months of preparation in terms of the spiel on the delivery and the comfort on camera. What did you have to do?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

So the preparation; it was a full year between when QVC approached me and when I went on air. And it was a full year of working 24/7 candidly. There was a lot that had to go into this process because I can’t hire someone to write claims on products that I developed. BI’m the one that really knows them, I know what the ingredients do.

So the process was figuring out what claims I wanted to make, then going and finding the right independent third party to do the testing on it, and there’s a lot of other required testing that I have to do with QVC. All of that has to be managed, and that just takes time. But then the claims testing, figuring out my list of questions I want to ask customers, all of the things I want to do with instrumental studies, all of that took a lot of time and you have to recruit 25 subjects per 12 studies. So it was a lot of work.

Jodi Katz

Then you were personally leading this process?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Well, I hired a firm to do this, but somebody has to lead what are we testing for? What are we looking for? What kind of subjects do we want to go for? What age group… ethnicity, et cetera. So I did all of that and then there’s getting the production going. You have to source your bottles and the boxes and get things filled, and get them delivered to the QVC distribution center. And, go see the QVC distribution center to understand how fulfillment works. Make sure that everything’s going to be okay on that front, and make sure that your packaging standards meet QVC’s. All of this is a process.

And then get launched on the QVC website and make sure that all that literature is written correctly. Create a bio video explaining the brand, so that they can put that on the website and air it on national television. And then get going to training, which is literally one hour with a bunch of other people… and then, boom, you’re live. You meet the host 20 minutes before you go on air and that’s it. Then it’s just like, let’s hope you don’t mess up.

Jodi Katz

So, in that moment like 20 minutes to air time over countdown, are you someone who gets like crazy butterflies? You feel like you’re going to vomit? You’re just calm and collected? What’s your mind set at that moment?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

It was the weirdest moment of my life and I’ll never forget it. I arrived at the studios at 8am, but I didn’t go on air until nine. I was in meetings all day by myself. I put on my clothes, I got my makeup done and put my hair in a ponytail, and I just looked in the mirror and I was terrified. I was so excited, I was about to cry because it was my dream come true literally in that moment. It’s a huge opportunity to be on prime time at 9 PM on a Friday night because, you’re hitting millions of people. And I looked in the mirror and just said, “Marissa, I’m going to do my best and be myself and let’s just hope that authenticity sells.”

Jodi Katz

So, you actually said that to yourself, or were you just thinking it?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Oh yeah. No, I looked in the mirror and I just said, “I hope that I’m going to be my authentic self. It’s the best I can do and I hope it works,” and I was terrified. Then I went out there and I had a phenomenal host. But the first eight minutes, I got to tell you, I don’t really know what came out of my mouth. I haven’t been able to see it because I haven’t been able to find the footage of those first eight minutes. But by the end I was relaxed, and then by the last eight minutes, I was like, “This is the most fun I’ve ever had in my entire life, let’s keep it going.” So, it’s very exhilarating. And then when you get off of air, you come into a green room and you immediately can see yourselve. You can see is the customers buying it or not? And everybody can see your sales. So, it’s quite an experience, very real time analytics.

Jodi Katz

So, you said this was your dream come true, right?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Right.

Jodi Katz

So you have this opportunity, how do you honor that moment other than just being in the moment? Like do you set aside time to think about it and digest it, or are you like off to the next thing? Do you have any sort of practical approach to celebrate any types of wins?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

It’s so funny that you say that. That night when I finally got off air, I got home around four in the morning and I just was crying. I was so happy. It was just such a beautiful achievement after so much hard work, so it was very emotional for me. I posted in Instagram, which was nice to get the feedback from customers and people. I took no photos that day other than my photo in the mirror of that moment before I went on air, so a bunch of customers sent photos to me which was nice. Candidly, I don’t really reflect that much on wins like that. At thanksgiving when we go around the family table and say we’re grateful for, that was one of the things that I said. Just having the courage to get through it.

It’s emotional for me because, it was just so challenging and so much went into it. I literally had no social life for easily nine, ten months. It was 24/7 every day, but it was worth it. We sold out of three products, and that’s very unusual in QVC. We had a very strong debut and I’ve been back many times since, but it was just an important day to make it work. And it all comes down to one moment. It’s like being an Olympic swimmer, it all comes down… or Olympic athlete… it just comes down to that one moment and you hope that you bring your A game, and you hope that the customers are… The message is resonating with them and that you’re connecting.

Jodi Katz

The reason why I ask about if you honor that kind of win is because I have this tendency in my whole career or probably since high school or college… I have this achievement and I’m just move on to the next thing, and I really don’t sit with it. I’m just rushed to the next thing. I have mentioned to you that self-doubt is sort of my disease, like in my head. So what I try to do it, I actually sit down and one way or another put a candle in something, dance around, have some sort of moment where I’m honoring this win, so that when the shitty stuff happens later I’m not so overwhelmed with this shitty feeling and I can go back to that winning feeling, because that too shall pass.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Right.

Jodi Katz

So, I’ve been trying to practice this. It’s actually something I think about and do on purpose, to try to overcome that self-doubt.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

I think that’s a great strategy that you have. I haven’t incorporated the same process. For me, it’s more of an annual thing. I keep moving, too. Because when you’re running a business, sad or whatever, you have one achievement and then it’s like, what have you done for me lately? What’s the next thing going to be? What’s the next mountain you’re going to surmount? So for me, on an annual basis every December, I’m a regular journal writer. I do that to reflect on what I’m thinking on certain things.

Jodi Katz

So, you write like most nights on your journal?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

I used to write every day, but I’m not as good now. I’ll probably write three or four times a week now, but I used to be better and my New Year’s resolution will be to get back to my every day. Because it is, I think it was Gandhi or the Dalai Lama, “if you are super busy you should meditate for two hours instead of one.”

I’ve got so many things to do, I’m totally tearing that quite apart. But what I do on an annual basis and every December, I look at the list of goals that I had for myself the year before, and I see what I achieved, what I didn’t achieve, what I was better at, what surprises came into my life, and then I write a new set of goals for the following year. And that’s kind of the moment that I look at things, in addition to Thanksgiving dinner with my family, and really reflect on what I’m grateful for and what I’m proud of myself for. But, I don’t do this on a daily basis by any stretch because I call myself a fire woman. Every day there’s just fires that needs to be put out, and problems that need to be dealt with, and we need to keep on kicking the can forward to keep on growing the business, because there’s so much competition that you have to continue to press forward to continue to be a success.

So, I guess I would say I don’t have that much time for self doubt for my life at this point. Otherwise, I just got to keep on pushing forward, but I like what you’re doing because I wish I was spending more time reflecting like that.

Jodi Katz

You said something about this idea of what have you done for me lately, great success, yes it is awesome to do all those stuff, okay what’s next? In my career running the agency, I’ve started to feel a little disturbed by this piece. Why does there have to be another thing? Can’t we can we keep talking about the cleanser? I know that industry wants newness, and that’s what’s driving sales and driving interests, but sometimes I have this like beauty burnout feeling around it.

Not that I don’t love beauty, I do. That stays the same, but this pace is like forced schedule on my clients and ourselves and the customer too. How do you deal with this and certain stuff? You know that you have to keep innovating and creating something new to stay relevant. You’re being forced to in a sense by the industry…maybe not necessarily what your plans are for the customer and how she would use your products.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

I totally agree with this point that you’re saying, and I feel it and I feel that pressure. What I’m realizing though is in the past you wanted to launch a brand, you got yourself into Neiman Marcus or Saks, and then you sold in retail and expanded that way. Maybe you got into Sephora, et cetera, and there was kind of this cookie-cutter approach to how you launch a brand. Now that retail is in such chaos and dire straits, because that’s exactly what it is. Amazon is just destroying everybody. I think the pressure to launch new products, isn’t the same that it was before. And, I don’t think customers want 10000 different choices. I just think they want to be told; this is what you need, this is a multitasking product, this is what it’s going to do, this is why you want to use it, this is what it costs. Boom. And this is how you use it.

So, what I’m trying to do for myself now as opposed to getting caught in the rat race, because also with publicity the editors are like, “Oh no. I don’t want to write about the cleanser anymore. What’s your newest thing?” And the reality is, you can’t always… This isn’t like introducing the next iPhone that has all the new bells and whistles, skin care isn’t growing and improving from a technological standpoint at that rate.

So, understanding that what I’m trying to do is improve upon the products that I currently have, and spending time developing. As a function of going on air on television, and also as a function of selling products, you get real time analytics and the customers tell you what they like, what you don’t like and what you can do better. So, what I’m trying to do is take those customer recommendations and reviews that they write, take that information and make my current product line better than it is. And one of the things that I’ve observed that hasn’t necessarily been a complaint, but what I’ve been observing has been happening in the world of beauty is that, prices are coming down. What I’m trying to do is work to give the customer a little bit more value than I am presently offering her, by changing our packaging and that kind of stuff. So, I’m looking to enhance and improve what I currently have, as opposed to coming up with the next best thing every six months.

Jodi Katz

And I’m so glad you mentioned the media, because I do think that’s one of the driving forces of this energy that sometimes feels destructive, which is like; ‘I’m going to write about something new, and just keep writing about something new.’ It forces our clients to have to keep developing something new if they want to stay top of mind and relevant, and be part of these stories. But I think it’s a little bit destructive and I think it’s really become contrary to what the customer wants, like you said.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

And the other thing is, the customer… There’s a lot more disposable income in the hands of 20-year-olds and teenagers than there was before. And everybody, the average woman today, is so much more educated than she was 20 years ago on health care information, because she has access to it on the Internet and there are so many relevant websites and she’s getting targeted on her email box.

This woman knows so much more than she knew before. So, trying to give her the next and greatest, latest new whatever, unless you have some brand new ingredient and technology that’s recently been invented, she knows what’s real and what’s not. She just wants to have… where I’m seeing the trends and where I don’t see things changing… is healthy ingredients. Getting rid of the toxic ingredients that work, because we all know that stuff we put on our skin we absorb into our bloodstream. Women want clean products that work. I think it’s less about the new-new thing as opposed to fulfilling that criteria.

Jodi Katz

I think it’s really brave of you to say we’re going to focus on making our current products better and work harder for customers. It really is brave, because the easier thing to do might be to just acquiesce to the publicist and acquiesce to the retailer.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

Ultimately we’ll see what happens with sales. It’s a different strategy than other people are doing out there, but it doesn’t feel internally right. Like I said, it’s almost inauthentic to introduce something. It’s like Tide detergent; Has it really gotten that much better? Every single year there’s a new version of Tide?

Jodi Katz

The commercials get better.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

I don’t want to insult P&G, Procter and Gamble, but maybe there is a new version of Tide that the technology just improves in cleaning. I don’t know enough to know, but I know enough in skincare that it’s not improving at this rate.

Jodi Katz

Right. Well, if you think about these big consumer brands, they have innovations in packaging and in delivery. I have pods and maybe I get a better container for those pods, or better container for that liquid, and they spend millions of dollars advertising their new packaging and the delivery system, because they have the money to do so.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

But also that’s a very important point that I think customers… and I’ve tried to spend quite a bit of time on my website educating women and men on this… when you buy a skin care product and it is not in an airless container, so think about a jar of cream and you open it up, it’s immediately exposed to oxygen and UV light, which renders the actives in the product inactive. And then furthermore, if you’re buying a natural product that doesn’t have any preservative or very little preservatives, and you’re putting your bacteria laden finger into a bowl of cream, which are cream, you are literally filling that cream with bad bacteria that can be harmful to your skin.

So, buying products from companies that use airless containers, and we use a patented airless technology in a glass bottle at Phace Bioactive. I spent a lot of time sourcing these bottles, they come from Italy. And the key is because it’s airless it doesn’t allow oxygen or UV light. It squeezes everything out to the very end so you don’t waste any product and don’t have to stick the q-tip in and get the cream out, and you’re safe and you can use less preservatives because no air is getting in there to contaminate it. Packaging actually is quite important, so if people are taking steps in that regard, that’s a good thing.

Jodi Katz

So, we have time for one last question. I guess I’ll ask you this one. It’s a fun one. Being the head of the company of a lot of jobs, you wear a lot of hats. What’s the least favorite jobs that you have right now?

Marisa Vara Arredondo

My least favorite job will always be my least favorite job; Admin. So, anything related to taxes, and accounting, and corporations, I hate it. But I have to do it and I have to be on it because I have to manage what’s happening from a capital standpoint in our business and really know what’s going on. I’m slow on that kind of stuff. It’s in my mailbox until I have to deal with it. So, the admin is definitely the worst.

Jodi Katz

I can almost remember the day where I really handed everything off to a finance team. I was doing it all and then I did less and less, and then I was like, “It’s all yours,” and-

Marisa Vara Arredondo

What a relief? But was it? Because I feel like I’d have an element of paranoia just letting go of what’s happening.

Jodi Katz

Maybe I just don’t know as much as you know so, I don’t know what I’m missing out on; and I trust my team. They’ve been working here for a long time, so I was…

Marisa Vara Arredondo

You’re smart. I mean it’s the arteries, it’s the veins and arteries. There will be a day when I give it up. I’m still so close to the business. I can’t say we’re in our nation’s stages because we’re profitable, but I envy being in that position.

Jodi Katz

Well thank you so much. This has been so fun and I know our listeners really enjoyed your wisdom.

Marisa Vara Arredondo

It was a real pleasure to be here, thank you so much.

Jodi Katz

For our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Marisa. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes, and for updates about the show, follow us on Instagram @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.

Announcer

Thanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

 

 

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