“Clinical skin care had been long established but there wasn’t a brand like ours that looked to nature and algae, and delivered cutting edge science with visible results in 10 days,” Algenist CEO Rose Fernandez told Happi. “Today we remain unique in our positioning and have brought other levers forward through biotechnology. We are 100% vegan and focused on creating exclusive ingredients in the same spirit which we were born.”
The Algenist brand was developed by Solazyme, Inc., South San Francisco-based producer of renewable oil and bioproducts from microalgae. Solazyme’s scientists unexpectedly discovered the skin care potential of alguronic acid as they studied thousands of microalgae strains for renewable energy solutions. It turned out that alguronic acid demonstrated significant regenerative and protective properties that made it ideal for anti-aging skin care formulas.
In 2011, the industrial biotechnology company debuted a four-product skin care line on QVC, and the brand entered 800 Sephora stores.
During the past decade, the brand has grown its product line, earned several patents and racked up an impressive resume of 50 awards for product and ingredient innovation.
Algenist’s current technology portfolio includes eight patents and six exclusive ingredients.
The brand’s exclusive ingredients include its hero alguronic acid. Fernandez emphasized that the material is derived from regenerative microalgae.
“Regenerative for us means it’s born in the lab, which is important when we think about sustainability as we cannot keep taking from natural resources. Many plant ingredients in skin care are derived from an extraction process, literally taking from natural resources to create the formula, which is a long-time practice. A regenerative process is a modern approach to formulation and was born from the science of biotechnology. This is unique – it considers our future,” she said.
Other exclusive components include blue algae vitamin C, a pure L-ascorbic acid from spirulina; a non-GMO microalgae oil; green-algae encapsulated vegan retinol; algae-derived prebiotic; and active vegan collagen.
According to Fernandez, its latest patent for alguronic acid delivers advanced skin brightening properties that enabled the company to create a clinically-effective dark spot correcting peel.
Algenist was also an early player in vegan beauty; it rolled out its first 100% vegan formulas in 2019.
Algenist’s bestselling product is its Genius Liquid Collagen, which debuted in 2017.
It features three of the company’s exclusive alguronic acid, suspended microalgae oil bubbles and vegan collagen in its highest concentration.
“We sell one every five minutes,” Fernandez boasted.
A new product has quickly become a top seller, too. Triple Algae Eye Renewal Balm, which launched at the beginning of this year, has climbed to the No. 2 spot, according to the company. It has been clinically shown to reduce dark under eye circles in just 10 days.
Another new launch is Algae Niacinamide Moisture Veil, which fills a void in the category, according to Fernandez.
“We have an underserved customer, who is experiencing oily skin for myriad reasons; stress, hormonal imbalance, over processed skin, and yes, naturally occurring, but this customer wants all the benefits of a moisturizer, oil control, with clinically proven results and make it gorgeous too. We did that,” she said.
According to Fernandez, the hero ingredient enables the formulation to smooth fine lines, wrinkles and boost performance. The algae concentrate controls oil and niacinamide helps with the overall complexion.
“Algae Niacinamide Moisture Veil is best described as a liquid moisturizer for anyone who wants a natural glow without the shine,” Fernandez explained.
Algenist became a standalone company in 2016 when TerraVia (the new name of Solazyme) signed an agreement to sell to Tengram Capital Partners. In that transaction, Tengram and TerraVia formed a partnership focused on leveraging TerraVia’s algae-based ingredient platform and Tengram’s brand-building and investment expertise to pursue what they called “compelling new opportunities in the beauty industry.”
TerraVia filed for bankruptcy in 2017.
Under the Tengram umbrella, Algenist has flourished.
“Since then we have really grown across all areas,” said Fernandez. “We built out the infrastructure to run the business, defined our distribution strategy with Sephora and QVC being key partners, developed a significant business in China with Sephora and have tripled our dot-com business.”
Fernandez joined Algenist in 2016 after posts at Jurlique, Kate Somerville and Murad. She took over as CEO in 2018.
While the company didn’t disclose revenues, Fernandez said the firm is expecting to see “mid double digit CAGR” going forward.
As Algenist readies for its next decade, Fernandez contends she has a team ready for any challenge—which they proved during the pandemic.
“We are a team of doers who are incredibly human so we managed from this perspective – people first,” she told Happi.
Keeping staff in the know helped, too.
“We were transparent with our team on the state of the business, the unknowns, and the pivots required. As we have a business in China we had a preview of what was to come and were able to transition to a digitally focused business fully operating under this model by April. This decision along with many other operating decisions put the business is a position of strength,” Fernandez noted.
As the world emerges from the dark days of the pandemic, Algenist’s team is anxious for the reset in retail.
“Today, as we see vaccinations increasing, COVID cases declining and restrictions relaxing, we look to the getting back to a more omnichannel approach. We believe in the need to engage with the customer in person, so we are very happy to get our staff back in stores,” Fernandez.
Looking ahead, Algenist plans to grow its presence in existing markets and looks to new avenues for growth.
“We see a future that has us growing in North America, expanding in Asia, and exploring new channels. Our DNA is innovation, we’ll continue to push the limits of algae, plants and biotechnology to bring not-seen-before ingredients that deliver on our promise of ‘10 Day Results. Always.,” she insisted.
Even through all the changes in the beauty business during the past decade, Fernandez said one thing remains constant: a “consumer that demands efficacy, science to back it, and formulas that are made with the highest standards and aesthetic appeal. Product that delivers in all areas,” she said.
After a decade of success, Algenist already has a record of rising to that challenge.