HAPPI: Tell us about why you and your partner (Carole Aponte, MD) decided to launch PREP. Was there an “aha!” moment?
Kelly Barker: There was definitely an “a-ha” moment. I have been wearing sunscreen every single day since my mid 20’s. One day it hit me that I was only putting sunscreen on my daughter at the pool, at the beach and at soccer. As a working parent, I am so consumed with so many things that I just completely missed daily sunscreen protection for my kids. The very next day we headed to the Nordstrom beauty counter and I asked the lady if there were any gentle sunscreens + moisturizers that were safe for my daughter (at the time she was only 6 and my son was 14 months old). The kind lady walked me to every beauty counter and sadly, there was nothing for my daughter. There were tons of anti-aging products and several moisturizers that included chemical sunscreens, along with a few baby products, but there was nothing for the girls in the middle of these two disparate groups. I thought about it for a few days and scoured online but I didn’t find anything geared toward girls that was super fun and that included a safe, chemical free sunscreen. That weekend I saw my friend, Carole, who happens to be a board-certified dermatologist, plus she has a daughter; I told her my revelation and within a few weeks, PREP was born!
HAPPI: There are other lines geared for teens in terms of skin care, so how is PREP different in terms of products or approach or both?
Barker: Our approach is unique and our products are different. We created PREP Cosmetics to really help educate each girl on the best way to care for herself and her skin today, tomorrow and for years to come. We do this in an age appropriate way that is fun and engaging for the girls while keeping moms’ best interest in mind. Moms are rejoicing because we are teaching healthy habits and girls are actually listening. We believe so strongly in educating girls that we designed every product with an educational guide because tween and teen girls don’t have the skin care experience of a thirty-something year old. Each guide dives into why they should use the product, how to use the product, and when to use the product. We give girls a daily skin care routine based on their skin type. We also have a YouTube channel that has how-to videos so girls can start their skin care regimen the correct way.
Our products are simple. I remember meeting with a few press folks a year or so ago and they asked me what was the “latest and greatest” ingredient that we were using; clearly the mindset comes from talking to hundreds of anti-aging brands. And when I said, “no new ingredients,” they were shocked until I explained that at this age girls just need good tried and true, safe ingredients that won’t cause them harm as their bodies develop over the years. It goes without saying but I’ll mention here that every product in our collection is sulfate free, paraben free, phthalate free, oxybenzone free and the list goes on.
HAPPI: What do you consider your signature or hero product?
Barker: We are very passionate about the sun and sunscreen! We teach girls the importance of daily sun protection and we explain how wearing sunscreen every day is a healthy habit that is just as important as brushing your teeth and washing your hands. Our hero product is our SPF 30 daily moisturizer; it’s only active ingredient is 22% zinc oxide and it is A-MAZ-ING. The zinc oxide doesn’t leave any greasy residue and it blends into the skin beautifully. I wear it EVERY SINGLE DAY. We literally have had pediatricians and aestheticians tell us they have never been so impressed with a sunscreen. Although this is geared toward tween and teen girls, we have lots of moms (and dads and brothers) that are using the sunscreen, too.
HAPPI: Ingredients really matter, especially when it comes to younger skin which can be sensitive. How did you go about developing your formulas and do you work with a contract manufacturer? Was it easy to find them?
Barker: Young skin can be tricky, especially when it comes to cleansers, since most girls under the age of 14 have never used a true face cleanser. We have a list of “no-no” ingredients that we will never use. Since Carole is the dermatologist, she takes on the science component and works with our team of chemists to research the highest quality ingredients for all of our products and she takes special care to avoid any potential hormone disruptors or irritating preservatives. Carole and I try each product multiple times on ourselves and we constantly go back to the drawing board to tweak and perfect. We are very picky. Carole then tests the product from a dermatologist’s standpoint. Then we test the products on our husbands and our kids. From there we run focus groups, we ask lots of questions, we get initial feedback and make changes before we send it off to an accredited laboratory to run a full battery of skin and ocular sensitivity tests. It sounds silly, but you’d be surprised at how many formulas don’t pass the hubby or kiddo test!
It was certainly tough to develop our own formulas from scratch and to find the right chemists and contract manufacturer. It helps that Carole is a dermatologist and that my undergrad degree is in biology. But still, we had a lot to learn about formulas. When we first started we were so small that no one wanted to take us on. And couple that with our “no-no” ingredient list and it was super hard to find the right chemists and manufacturing partners. We are happy to be beyond this point.
HAPPI: Tell us about the PREP storefront in Dallas—are there plans to open additional doors?
Barker: No plans to open additional doors. Neither Carole nor I have a retail background and as it turns out, retail is very different than what we expected. With today’s shoppers buying through multiple channels outside of brick and mortar, our time and energy is best spent on growing through e-commerce, cross collaboration and of course, getting into more retailers’ doors.
HAPPI: The brand is making its way into Target this holiday, which is very cool. Tells us about this development and are more products expected at this retailer after holiday?
Barker: In our retail store we also sell bath bombs and bath salts. Target reached out to us earlier this year as they had a need for bath salts in their specialty bath section. We originally planned on rolling out our bath salts in Spring 2018 but Target decided to also pick us up for holiday in 1300 stores. Look for our super cute bath salt gifts sets in Target the first part of November and for our full-size bath salts in the specialty bath aisle the first part of 2018. There are no plans to date to incorporate the actual skincare line since that is under a different department but we do have plans to roll out our sunscreen on target.com in late spring 2018 and Target is also looking to do a test run in stores.