Melanie Simon is passionate about electricity. She translated her understanding of nanocurrents and microcurrents into a booming business for her electrical facials — which are favored by celebrities including Busy Philipps, Sarah Paulson, Mandy Moore and Eva Mendes. She currently has practices in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Montecito, Calif., New York City and Jackson Hole, Wyo.
With the desire to offer consumers a way to achieve similar benefits at home, she launched the Ziip Skincare Device three years ago, along with business partner and childhood friend David Mason, the company’s chief operating officer and a Silicon Valley-based engineer. The palm-size device links up to an app to formulate a specific electrical facial treatment through varying waveforms.
The free app allows users to wirelessly send any one of the seven vastly different electrical treatments to the device instantly any time and from anywhere. Simon said some of the electrical treatments can sculpt without surgery, contour cheekbones and the jawline while others make eyes look more awake. Also, Ziip can help kill bacteria to ward against acne on the Total Clearing Program or decrease pigment production through its Pigment Treatment. Because of its technology aspects, she said the device won’t become outmoded like some at-home tools. Ziip can continue to deliver solutions to skin-care needs without the consumer having to take any action.
Simon “virtually” comes with the Ziip in the form of videos accessible on the app or via the Ziip YouTube channel. Ziip retails for $495 and is available online at ziipbeauty.com, Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Violet Grey, Cult Beauty, Net-a-Porter and other select partners.
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Social media has been a big impetus, especially Instagram, where almost 21,000 followers tune in for tips on how to use Ziip.
Here Simon talks about how she became a skin-care mad scientist, the surprising age group that buys the most Ziip devices and what mistakes most people make when it comes to skin care.
WWD: How did you become obsessed with skin care?
Melanie Simon: I used to dance and above my studio, there was an aesthetician. I begged my mom to get [me] a facial. So, she’d pay for me to get a facial every six to eight weeks, which was a big deal for a 13-year-old in our small town. My best friend and her little brother, now my business partner, used to go as well. He had an aesthetician at 12. I clung to it and dove in. My mother was also ahead of her time making sure we always had sunblock and that we washed our faces in the morning and at night to clean out our pores and moisturize!
WWD: Later in life after attending college and taking a year off to work teaching snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain, what prompted you to start a facial business?
M.S.: There was an aesthetician school three hours away [in Reno]. I decided to go there because I knew I needed to evolve and I always had a passion for skin care. Through a string of events, someone recommended Biologique Recherche and I learned that part of their technique includes using a machine combining electrical wave forms. I used money I had saved [from selling a property she had purchased in a short sell for $38,000] to buy one of the machines.
I started researching electricity and finding that the lower realms of electricity, nanocurrent, give longer-lasting results. Microcurrents can give an immediate pop but they fall quicker. When you layer in nanocurrent, as the microcurrent floats out, the nanocurrent pops in and gives you a longer arc. There was only one machine out of London that I knew of on the market [that utilized nano currents for facials]. I called them and said if you can get this to me [the next day] and train me I’ll wire you the money right now.
I had a big interview with the Santa Barbara News-Press where my flagship was located. They were able to get a machine from San Diego, they came and taught me, and I incorporated it into my treatment. Gina Tolleson [from the Santa Barbara News-Press] let me know a photographer was coming by to take a small headshot. The next thing I knew I was standing in line for a pastry Sunday morning and I see all these people reading the “Life” section and there was a picture of me and a write-up on the entire front page. There were so many people on my waitlist I had to stop taking clients. Electricity became my calling card.
WWD: What made you decide to create a device for home use?
M.S.: I had features in Town & Country, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and people started reaching out to me and asking how they could get an appointment with me in their own town. I kept getting requests and I knew right then and there I wanted to develop something anyone could use. Technology wasn’t quite there yet, all the things out there were antiquated, and what did exist wasn’t being used correctly. I had to fight an uphill battle because there has been poisoning of the well in terms of what an at-home device could really do. I had to show that this [Ziip] is serious. This can transform skin when done consistently, but it is hard when people say they’ve tried something else that didn’t work. I don’t know anyone doing exactly what I am doing. I am emulating the frequencies that initiate repair. There are also frequencies that will slow down the production of bacteria. All the many things I’ve learned leading up to my 15-plus year mark as an aesthetician have been devoted to electricity waveforms that have been incorporated into Ziip.
WWD: What are products you need to use with it?
M.S. When we originally launched, we only offered the Golden Conductive Gel which is $129 a bottle. We now offer the Silver Gel, which is $50 a bottle. Both of the gels start with the Ziip Electric Complex, a combination of pharmaceutical-grade glycerin, a sugar complex that is a conductor, and dehydrated sea water. Golden is full of anti-aging focused ingredients targeting firmness, sagging and lines, while silver is more for brightening and plumping. We will continue to add gels that our customers ask for and we might eventually sell one for as low as $30 that is simply the electrical complex. Think of the Silver and Golden gels as highly concentrated skin-care masques along with your safe and effective conductive medium.
WWD: Are you attracting young users?
M.S. The younger generation is way ahead of the curve. Kids have grown up with parents who are clients and who take care of their skin and it means so much for parents to see that their kids don’t need to go on Accutane. There are also many users who say they are trying to stave off having to use Botox and fillers for as long as they can. Our number-one demographic on conversions, web traffic and social media is 25- to 34-years-old.
WWD: How will you expand your business?
M.S.: We are a beauty tech company, so we don’t plan to grow in traditional ways. We’ve expanded our treatments from four to seven. New gels are also part of our growth, but we plan to really grow the software capabilities of what Ziip can do for the user.
WWD: Talk about your use of social media, both personally and for your business.
M.S.: I’m not addicted to social media. I know that might sound strange. I look at our feed because so many people ask us questions that way and they expect answers right away. We use social media to show hacks, such as a recent one where we used our Vital Eyes treatment to plump lips. It spread like wildfire and we kept it as a permanent Instagram story. But far and away, our social channels have become like customer support.
I do like to look at certain social feeds like Violet Grey [@violet grey] because it’s sexy, Busy Philipps [@busyphilipps] because it’s honest, Wayne Goss [@gossmakeupartist] because the tips are brilliant, Beautymatterofficial [@beautymatterofficial] because there is a ton of great information, TheSelect7 [@theselect7] because you get to see people’s favorites across all aspects of their lives, Juliette Lewis [@juliettelewis] because she is still punk rock, Kristie Streicher [@kristiestreicher] because she is one of the most talented people I have come across in the beauty world, and my favorite dermatologist, Dr. Rhonda Rand [@rhondarandmd].
WWD: What are the biggest skin-care mistakes most people make?
M.S.: They flip and flop out of products. Jumping to something they just read about because of the hype is the new thing. If you find something you like, and it works, stay with it. You can always try new things if someone you trust recommended it, but don’t be so easily swayed. Also, maintenance is important. If you want to look good, you have to be consistent. Finally, sun protection is invaluable…but look what is in your sunblock. I am not a fan of chemical sunscreen and tend to keep my face out of the sun entirely. I keep a tent, a giant beach towel and a sunhat in my car so I am prepared when I’m going to be outside or at the beach. My advice — invest in a big hat, especially to cover up your face.