Whenever we get the chance to meet with the creators of a brand, we always want to know how they started their company. There’s typically an inspiring story and an interesting anecdote behind the initial idea. But these bits of information just give us a peek into what it’s like to start a cosmetic company, and we wanted more. We wanted to know exactly how a brand goes from conception to packaging to retail shelves. So we tracked down the co-founder of one of our favorite skincare brands, Rachel Edlich, who, with her sister, Liz, created something they originally envisioned as a product to distribute among their friends, but that eventually became Radical Skincare.
Scroll through for the whole Radical story as told by Rachel Edlich.
Like all great, ideas Radical Skincare was born out of necessity.
What happened for us was that it really became our own personal 911 after Liz, being six years older, really started to see the impact of aging—she was looking back at the mirror seeing the fine lines and wrinkles, seeing all the problems that she was facing and that were just showing up so much quicker. And then for me, after I had my second child, I developed rosacea, and my skin care challenges became something I had no idea how to even handle.
The sisters recognized a need (their own), weren’t finding a solution on the market, and decided to create it. Having a collective 20 years of experience in the beauty industry and a renowned reconstructive surgeon for a father didn’t hurt either.
We really had no intention of selling the product. We knew what it took to create skincare products; we had seen so much, even in the products we had created for other people, that when your compensation comes by margins and you’re constantly running your business based on what it is going to profit you, that you start to make shortcuts on what you’re delivering. So we said we’re not doing that; we’re going make this for ourselves, our friends, our family, our girlfriends, and we’re going to put the best of the best in the bottle. We’re going to load it up with everything we could possibly think of from an anti-aging perspective, from protecting the skin from the environmental damages we’re constantly being bombarded with to calming and soothing the skin because that was something that I absolutely needed. So, that’s truly what we did. We got with our scientists, we looked at the different things that we can do to deliver and protect the skin, and utilizing our proprietary Radical technology, we were able to deliver antioxidants, reparative ingredients, and skin-calming agents to the skin without irritation. We put those in little orphan bottles, and we gave those to our friends and family. I used it and saw the difference in my skin within three weeks.
It was such a game changer for my sister and me—people were asking what she was doing, and we had friends calling saying, “Gosh what’d you guys do? This stuff is amazing.” The results happened so quickly. Being able to have something that is impactful and that has changed other people’s skin (and our own), we really wanted to be able to take that out and deliver it to the masses.
How does a product go from nondescript bottles in your friend’s medicine cabinets to department-store shelves? First find people you trust, and then be ready to dive right in.
We had developed products in the past, so we definitely had access to several different manufacturers. When picking a manufacturer, you want to find somebody who really catches your vision and who has a strong chemist on staff as well. That is one of the most powerful things you can do with your business—find like-minded people who believe in your vision and believe in your purpose and your passion. We had a lot of initial investors who also worked with Radical. That really helped in designing the formulas and having buy-in with a team that wants your success because they are actually part of the company.
Just because you’re happy with the product doesn’t mean other people will be. So next comes the testing phase.
We tested our core products through clinical trials to see what kind of results they were delivering. We even tested our antioxidants against other products to see what level our performance was over other antioxidant products, and we were performing at 300% more. When we saw those numbers, we were just blown away. We were seeing texture change, which was really important for me because my skin was so problematic—I needed something that was going to help with the texture. So when our clinicals came out so strong, we said you know, we want to take this and be able to speak to retailers and see what kind of impact we can make there.
Three years, 15 countries, and over 500 shelves later, it all started with just one “yes.”
We heard a lot of nos. You have to be able to hear a lot of nos in order to get to that one yes because you just don’t know until you ask; you don’t know until you knock on that door; you don’t know until you knocked maybe even a second time. We met with Barneys and had given the head buyer our skincare, and basically they were saying that they really weren’t looking for new skincare brands right now. To that we said listen, just try it for two weeks and get back to us. And afterward we hadn’t heard anything, and then we get the call, and she said that people were making comments on her skin, asking what she was using, and were really seeing a huge difference in her skin. And that was literally how we got started with retail—through Barneys, we were in Beverly Hills and then we were in New York.
From 2008 to 2010, Radical was getting its footing.
There were a good three years of product development, positioning, and clinicals. Then, we were getting our logos, our packaging, our identity, and talking to different retailers. That’s the beauty. It’s a bit of a ride. You get to start by creating what you think you like, and then you get other people’s input, and then it starts to manifest and turn into finding what your mission statement is and what your branding strategy will be. That takes time to home in who and what you are before you start presenting.
Liz and I were entrepreneurs at heart, so we used different designers, telling them we really want to identify who we are. With a name like Radical, you can only imagine how many iterations we had of packaging. We had some that were like crazy and completely radical, and we loved a lot of that packaging because it was unique and so outside the box. But at the same time, when you’re dealing in the world of skincare and beauty, people want to feel grounded and that it has efficacy. So it was a real balance. We had several different logos. It’s always great when you do this process that you go back and you look at where you started, and then you see where you evolve to. So Liz and I continued to work on that for quite some time. What we launched within Barneys with was a different look than we have today.
We had our Hydrating Cleanser ($45), our Advanced Peptide Antioxidant Serum ($190), our Youth Infusion Serum ($170), Restorative Moisture ($150), our Eye Revive Crème ($125), and our Firming Neck Gel ($125). Next, we had our Extreme Repair ($150). Our Restorative Moisture really helped with all of our hydration, fine lines, wrinkles, evening the skin tone, but for someone that has mature skin and that has super-thirsty skin, we felt like we needed something a bit more intense. After that, we launched our Advanced Peptide. We had our original peptide, but then we made our Advanced Peptide with even more active ingredients.
There are pads out there that turn your skin red. We didn’t want to do that. But all these products we’re creating—our serums, creams, everything you’re putting on your skin—if you’re not getting some level of exfoliation on a daily basis, then it’s really not going to change the way that you want to. So, we decided to create a multitasking exfoliating pad that had all the power of your alphas and your betas and your multi-fruit acids. We stood at 10% in our pads, so each pad is carrying 10% of those acids. That’s really going to help with cell renewal and to break down the dead skin, giving you a fresh canvas every day. And it also helps to remove fine lines and wrinkles, especially around the eyes, and reduce pore size with the salicylic acid and the different ingredients that really help with clarifying the skin. Again, texture was a big deal for me with my skin and being so bumpy. I wanted to make sure the pads helped with evening out the texture of the skin as well but not causing the irritation. I wanted to be able to use them every day. So we created a pad that really was loaded and with multitasking ingredient to help with firming, exfoliation, pore size, and texture. And that was really our goal of the pads—that they work, and they work quickly, so you can use those and start to see real results feel the difference in your skin within the first week.
Keep scrolling to shop our favorite Radical Skincare products!
If you were going to launch your own beauty line, what you call your brand? Comment with the name below!