Patti Pao’s trip to a Norwegian salmon hatchery planted an idea for a beauty business.
After seeing the hands of the workers who herded salmon fry from a synchronized hatching process into their next holding tank, Pao, who has a beauty background that spans Avon, Elizabeth Arden and Guerlain, was stunned.
“Everyone’s hands were in this hatching water…their hands looked like they were 20, and their faces looked a lot older,” Pao said.
Her line, Restorsea, was born after Pao teamed with academics affiliated with the lab to take the water from the hatching zone, which contains an enzyme Restorsea calls Aquabeautine XL that helps the salmon break out of their shells, and pumped it into her products, she said.
“They can’t peck their way out like a chicken, so the enzyme dissolves the eggshell and creates the opening,” Pao said. “When you apply this enzyme in a concentrated state to human skin it has the same effect….It’s the only exfoliator that we know of that selectively cleaves. It only digests the dead skin cells and leave the other skin in tact.”
Launched in 2012, Restorsea has 53 high-net-worth backers and has raised $55 million in capital. Pao holds exclusive rights to the enzyme.
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After a brief stint in Bergdorf Goodman, Pao changed up the brand’s strategy — and moved it out of retail.
“I didn’t stop to think, ‘Is my brand really a retail brand?'” Pao said. After that, Restorsea went direct-to-consumer and brought on actress Gwyneth Paltrow as the spokeswoman.
“The strategy was very effective in terms of building brand awareness,” Pao said. But the upkeep around a celebrity as the face of the brand was too expensive.
“[I decided] to go back to the bench and create another line — a medical grade skin-care line designed for sensitive-skin patients who can’t tolerate prescription Retin-A or suffer from eczema and rosacea and…to sell that line to doctors.”
Right now, the brand is in about 120 offices, and said to be doing about $3 million in sales. Pao’s plan is to get the line into 300 offices in the next two years —in that time frame, it’s likely Restorsea will get up to $10 million in sales, according to industry sources.
According to Pao, the doctor channel, which she approached by starting at the top with leading dermatologists and plastic surgeons, is working. “All of the medical-grade brands are sold online, through Amazon, through spas — [doctors] were tired of recommending brands to have the patients buy elsewhere,” Pao said.
But Pao isn’t looking to just keep the Aquabeautine XL technology with Restorsea and in doctor’s offices — she’s looking to license it out and potentially to help licensors with product development. The idea is that Restorsea would remain the most potent line with the most Aquabeautine XL, while other products could be developed with less potent yet still effective formulations and a different price point and branding strategy.
“We’re finally at the point where we can actually seriously embark on phase two, which is to license our IP to a big institutional investor or to a strategic investor,” Pao said. Those plans to not include a sale of Restorsea, Pao said.