Ziip Beauty founder and chief executive officer Melanie Simon doesn’t want to be thought of as strictly a beauty company.
Simon said that Ziip, the device she created two years ago that administers electrical facial treatments through varying wave forms, is just as much a tech device as it is a beauty one.
The white and gold bordered handheld tool might be a class two medical device cleared by the FDA that’s designed to target a host of skin concerns, but it’s also powered by an app that allows users to wirelessly upload skin treatments to their device. Positively and negatively charged silver discs, located at the underside of the Ziip, emit tiny energy currents — or wave forms, as she puts it — to treat a number of skin concerns, from acne to dull complexions.
After spending 15 years as an aesthetician specializing in electrical facials, Simon decided it was time to scale her company by way of creating a device that allowed for clients to perform her signature treatments at home. Whether it was to boost what she was already doing in-office or lack of proximity to any of the offices Simon works out of (currently she practices in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Montecito, Calif. and Jackson Hole, Wyo.), she wanted to make her electrical facials more widely available. She teamed up with cofounder and chief operating officer David Mason, who has a background in industrial design and building robotic cars and previously worked as a director at sales force.
But how do these facials work?
Electrical treatments, she explained, affect skin at a cellular level, whereas a traditional facial that might include extractions and the application of various masks imparts change at a superficial level. Simon explained that wave forms have five defining characteristics, including strength (micro or nano currents); shape (square, sideways, rectangular, etc.), and frequency (how many times the waves hit per second).
“Most people [aestheticians] won’t even pick a shape, they will just pick a micro current and put it at 400 to 500 microamps…[but] once you go beyond 500 micro amps, that’s when you start to see cellular death. So I never, ever go above 400 microamps,” Simon explained.
The Ziip Beauty app, which as of today offers seven treatments, takes all of this into account, said Simon, who specifically created each treatment per skin concern.
She pointed out that if someone has melasma and selects the brightening treatment, their Ziip would emit rectangular, negative wave forms that are low in frequency. For dark circles under the eyes, a treatment uses a side wave with a a bit higher frequency and alternating currents to help to relax the blood vessels and bring blood into the tissue. For breakouts and acne, which put off a positive charge similar to melasma or hyperpygmentation, negative wave forms are used.
Depending on the program, Simon suggests using treatments two to four times per week and encourages layering them too, which she said is the closest to actually getting one of her in-office treatments. The time it takes to see results varies from 24 hours with acne to weeks or months with the Energize and Sensitive programs that take the longest but also last the longest.
As far as devices go, Simon’s approach differs from the rest of the industry entirely. The Ziip getting outdated is a “non-issue” for Simon, who instead of relying on hardware and the actual device, relies on software, which is where the updating takes place. Unlike the iPhone that releases a newer, better version every year, all a user has to do to get Ziip’s latest software is update their app. And while the device is pricy — it retails for $495 and comes with a $129 golden conductive gel treatment (also available with a subscription for $39 per month) — the consumer has to buy the Ziip just once.
“We think of ourselves as a software company. When we built it, within the device is a circuit board, and that circuit board has to be able to create the same 10 million combinations that I can on my concept unit. I’ve already built 110 different wave forms, and the seven that are on the device are my favorite and they just work the best…The circuit board can support up to 10 million combinations of electricity or electrical cocktails,” said Simon of why the Ziip costs more than double that of most devices on the market.
She declined to reveal sales figures, but an industry source said Ziip Beauty could do $5 million to $7 million in sales next year. The devices are sold at ziipbeauty.com, which comprises about 50 percent of the business, and retailers including Neiman Marcus, bergdorfgoodman.com, Barneys New York, Revolve, Net-a-porter, Violet Grey and the U.K.-based Cult Beauty’s e-commerce site. Simon said there are plans in the first quarter of next year “to go heavily into international markets” such as Canada, Australia, the U.K. and France (the latter two have e-commerce presences only).