If you are at all tapped into the more artistry-focused side of the beauty world, Rèphr is undoubtedly a familiar name. A go-to makeup brush source for renowned, celebrity-and-editorial-beloved artists, the brand is more committed to quite literally giving the people what they want than perhaps any other—and that's all by design.
Rèphr has never been content to just do some market testing and put a product out into the world before moving on to the next. In-depth user feedback and constant updates are at the core of the business, often offering steep discounts in exchange for honest opinions on every facet of the products. So it makes sense then that as Rèphr expands to include just-launched skincare, so does that feedback model. The brand's first foray into skincare starts with the Hydration Cream available today, with a few other products following in quick succession.
But true to form, Rèphr understands perfection is a moving target—and is offering free skincare products in their plan to nail it.
Even if you aren't personally familiar with the Rèphr line, you know the boldfaced names who are. Hollywood makeup artists like Meghan Markle's go-to Daniel Martin, Hung Vanngo (he works with Emily Ratajkowski and Selena Gomez, among many others), and Instagram icon Katie Jane Hughes not only use Rèphr brushes in their personal and professional kits, but regularly rave about them on their platforms as well. Handmade in Japan using uncut natural hairs, the brand's brushes retail for both their regular market-value price and at a steep discount within Rèphr's concept store. In exchange for honest, in-depth customer feedback within 60 days, the brand slashes prices—some of which total more than 50% off—so the team can further perfect the tools and products.
Kenny Leung, Rèphr co-founder, says the practice is something of an inversion on the classic concept of a focus group. Rather than working with just a few consumer testers on in-depth workshopping, Leung likes the larger sample size that invariably comes with everyone's favorite word: free. "In the early days of the brand, we purchased a booth at the NY Makeup Show and gave away thousands of makeup brushes for free—all people had to do was test the brushes on the spot and fill out a feedback form," Leung tells Byrdie. "This gave us the input we needed to eventually launch on Kickstarter, which became one of the most successful campaigns in the beauty category."
Eventually, the idea found a permanent place on the Rèphr website. And now, with the brand's skincare expansion, Leung and his team are readying the discounts once again, albeit with a twist. Réphr's skincare products are pay-what-you-wish, and yes, you can wish to pay zero, in exchange for that all-important user feedback. "By implementing a pay-what-you-want feature, anyone can get access to our latest full-size prototypes at a price they think is fair," Leung says. "Funds we receive through pay-what-you-want will be used to scale the prototype program to our growing community across the globe." And if this first launch is any indication, that global community is in for some immediate, rapid expansion.
The New Launch
The same way Rèphr's signature makeup brushes belie an intimate knowledge of the face, the new hydrating cream proves that the brand's skin studies were indeed extensive. As the first Rèphr skincare product available, the Hydration Cream is technically not yet launched but rather a highly perfected prototype—think of it like Apple's iOS versions and updates.
"With our community’s feedback, we’ll be able to identify any potential improvements, make the necessary changes, and officially launch the product later this year," Leung explains, emphasizing the importance of those user responses. However, the cream as-is is still pretty excellent. Formulated and made in Korea (as all subsequent skincare products will be) using fragrance-free materials and sustainable packaging, the cream is formulated with a blend of classic skincare workhorses and newer, innovative ingredients promising next-level results.
"All moisturizers need a star emollient ingredient to soothe and soften the skin," Leung says. "We found through design surveys that the community is rather divided on coconut oil, which has recently gained popularity in the last few years as an emollient. After spending some time with formulators in Korea, we’ve identified Meadowfoam seed oil as a promising alternative." Meadowfoam seed oil is both remarkably similar to skin's own sebum and impressively resilient. The oil's 98% long-chain fatty acid composition makes it highly stable and long-lasting—and therefore a great choice for cosmetics.
A healthy dose of niacinamide and hyaluronic acid help round out the ingredient list with their famed ability to soothe and smooth stressed skin and help it retain the moisture necessary for bouncy, youthful skin respectively. At 5%, the niacinamide level found in this cream is higher than most moisturizers, a conscious choice from Leung and the Rèphr team.
Finally, the Hydration Cream boasts a special blend of eight different sizes of hyaluronan, designed the penetrate the skin at different levels to maximize that moisture. "Larger molecules help pull moisture from the air to form and maintain the moisture barrier for your skin," Leung explains, "while smaller hyaluronic acid molecules fill in the gaps between the collagen and elastin to maintain elasticity. The core benefits of hyaluronic acid remain the same, but the complex makes for a much more efficient delivery system."
As one might expect from a brand this focused on perfection, Rèphr already has a slew of new skincare products primed for release. Following the launch of the Hydrating Cream, a toner, serum, cleanser, and SPF are all in the works and nearly ready for rollout. Like the Hydrating Cream, these will be offered within the pay-what-you-wish concept, too. And considering the reason the Hydrating Cream even debuts first is because of that user-feedback model, it's not hard to see why Rèphr places so much emphasis on it. "Based on our design survey, the Hydration Cream is by far the most frequently used skincare product, being featured in 94% of our community members’ daily skincare routine," he shares, so it would make sense that Rèphr choose that as the first product available.
Making your voice heard has always been important in virtually any context, but never before has it yielded such excellent skin.
Oh MJ, Cho YH, Cha SY, et al. Novel phytoceramides containing fatty acids of diverse chain lengths are better than a single C18-ceramide N-stearoyl phytosphingosine to improve the physiological properties of human stratum corneum. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:363-371.