LONDON — Unlike the late Nora Ephron, who wrote a wrinkles-and-all book about the grim realities of aging, Cathy Kangas doesn’t feel bad about her neck.
The founder of Prai Beauty doesn’t want other women to feel bad about their necks either, so in 1999 she started a skin care brand focusing on the 50-plus crowd. Later she began targeting the neck and décolletage, which age at a faster rate than a woman’s face due to a variety of factors.
Kangas is evangelical about improving women’s feelings about their necks, noting that for decades the most glamorous ones used to cover them with scarves or turtleneck sweaters to hide the sagging and the wrinkles. Ephron acknowledged all of that shame and embarrassment in her 2006 book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” writing, “Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth.”
Of late, Kangas has been waging a war on the other, annoying effects of menopause — hot flushes, night sweats and saggy skin — with a new line called MenoGlow. And while the company is more than two decades old, she’s only just begun.
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Kangas, who started her career in sales and marketing at Revlon, launched Prai Beauty to address what she saw as a white space in the market. At the time, she said “the 50-plus woman was forgotten. She was left behind by the beauty industry and it didn’t make sense to me. I wanted to address her, and celebrate her.”
From the get-go, Kangas pushed a “pro-aging” message. Rather than trying to demonize aging, she wanted to normalize the conversation around it. It was a bold move as talk of menopause, and post-menopause, especially in the beauty industry, was taboo.
Indeed, Kangas started her company just a few years after Isabella Rossellini, then 43, was famously removed as the face of Lancôme because she was considered too old. She would be rehired some 20 years later as an ambassador for the French brand as a very wealthy — and older — demographic began demanding more attention and respect from their beauty brands.
At the start, Kangas sold Prai beauty products via TV shopping channels, on the advice of her father, Roy Northway Stephens. The late Northway Stephens had served as chief executive officer and managing director of Selfridges in London, and later as president of Revlon’s prestige division in the U.S.
“He said ‘Cathy, don’t go into retail, it costs too much,’ so I took the products on TV and decided to have the conversation with the customer in her own home,” Kangas said in a video interview.
She launched Prai’s Ageless skin care line more than a decade ago, and it was the Ageless Throat & Decolletage Crème in particular that proved a hit.
Following its launch at Marks & Spencer in 2018, the crème became the retailer’s number-one bestselling beauty product, and turned Prai into the store’s number-one beauty brand. The neck crème is also a consistent top seller on HSN in the U.S.
The company is based between the U.S. and the U.K. Kangas lives in the U.S. and the products are manufactured by Bentley Labs in New Jersey. The U.K. is Prai’s home market and the brand also sells through Boots, Amazon and Ocado.
Kangas still promotes the products on the small screen and is happy to bring on guests in their ’70s and ’80s to show off their plump skin. She promises to transform women, no matter how wrinkled their necks may be, from “turkeys to swans” in a matter of days.
Building on its success at M&S, Prai launched a separate line of menopausal and perimenopausal skin care in conjunction with the store earlier this year. This month, Prai launched yet another range known as MenoGlow, which addresses a similar demographic, and will be sold through the shopping channels and on Praibeauty.com.
The new products include a Hot Flush Cool Fix Serum and a Super Hydrating Sleep Crème, both priced at 28 pounds, and a Collagen Boosting Cremegel Moisturizer, which costs 25 pounds.
The launches — and bestsellers — have been fueling double-digit growth at Prai, which also saw sales soar during lockdown.
For fiscal 2022, Prai is set to report $22.5 million in net sales based on $50 million in retail sales, a 30 percent uplift compared with the previous year. The U.K. is the largest market and generates about half of net sales. The plan going forward is to replicate Prai’s U.K. success in the U.S. and Continental Europe.
There are plans to launch into U.S. retail in the first quarter of 2022, and Kangas said the company is in talks with a variety of retail outlets.
The objective is to grow overall sales by 60 percent over the next three years, and to build up the direct-to-consumer channel. Currently, about 50 percent of sales come from TV; 40 percent from retail, and 10 percent from direct-to-consumer.
The market is ready. Women are much more vocal about the challenges of aging, while a plethora of skin care products, supplements and therapies have launched in recent years to address menopause in particular.
It’s becoming very big business.
According to research commissioned by Prai and published in June, the global menopause market was valued at $14.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 5.7 percent between 2021 and 2028.
According to the report, which was conducted by Grand View Research, the high prevalence of menopausal symptoms and increasing research regarding the advantages of dietary supplements is expected to drive the growth of the market.
“Pro-aging” is just one of Prai’s messages. The brand wants to appeal to as many women as possible and pricing is premium rather than luxury. The Ageless, 24K Gold and Platinum collections are priced between 9 pounds for the throat crème, and 45 pounds for the supersize Platinum Firm & Lift Crème.
The brand is also Leaping Bunny Certified, meaning that it’s cruelty-free, while a portion of sales goes to animal welfare projects such as the Free the Shelters campaign, which sponsors adoption fees for rescue animals. Kangas is also a board member of the Humane Society in the U.S., and an ambassador for Nowzad, an animal rescue group based in Kabul, Afghanistan.