LONDON — The U.S.-based natural luxury skin-care brand Immunocologie is expanding in the U.K. with an exclusive launch in May at Urban Retreat, Harrods’ beauty services destination.
Launched in January 2015, the company began by growing its retail accounts in the U.S. such as The Cure in New York, Dr. Miller in Boston and Fred Segal in California. A U.K. expansion has always been part of its growth plan, as Immunocologie products are designed with European Union compliance laws in mind.
“Throughout my career I’ve seen that the European customers are incredibly sophisticated with their understanding of skin care and there has been a shift towards those brands who excel in science and those that are natural,” said founder Karen Ballou.
The brand focuses on the immune health of the skin through products employing Vital Oligo Science, a proprietary technology that makes use of ionic minerals in raw earth clays.
Ballou, who has worked for beauty brands such as Redken and Elizabeth Arden, developed the idea eight years ago.
After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Ballou was told to drink a tablespoon of raw earth clay every day to calm her skin’s inflammation. The improvements prompted her to harness the ingredient for a range of skin-care products.
“Raw earth clays drastically limit the amount of synthetics included in a product without reducing its efficacy and at the same time do something completely new for the skin by supporting its immune health,” Ballou said in an interview. “By focusing on immune health, we’re making sure the skin has what it needs not only to protect and defend against environmental stressors, but also more efficiently metabolize the actives we put in the products to treat specific needs. This was, and still is, our vision today.”
The range consists of 12 products including cleansing and exfoliating lotions, a mist, a clay mask, face and eye serums, as well as day and night creams. Prices range from 45 pounds, or $65, for a 30-ml. cleansing lotion, to 199 pounds, or $289, for a 30-ml. bottle of the Super 7 Elixir face cream.
In addition to earth clays, products contain seed oils and borojo extract, considered a natural antioxidant on the skin. There’s also snail mucin, said to aid healing.
All ingredients are sustainably sourced from Africa, Europe, and North and South America.
“Our partners were discovered primarily through the work of our chemist, an industry veteran who has formulated for the likes of Dior, L’Occitane, Clarins and more. He has gone through years of foraging journeys through places like the Sahel and the Amazon. Locals have direct partnership stakes in the business, so it’s not a zero-sum game,” Ballou said.
Immunocologie has also been working to support the socioeconomic well-being of these communities and preserve their knowledge and traditions.
“Many of the communities we work with in the developing world are agrarian and have a long history of producing crops. Given the advancements in modern agriculture, we’re helping implement educational programs that allow them to more efficiently harvest their crops. Additionally, we provide these communities with resources that allow many of the children located within them to receive a formal education,” added Ballou.
One of the challenges in developing an all-natural skin-care brand, Ballou said, has been anticipating assumptions about the category.
“What the word ‘natural’ does not do very effectively is describe results and what the product does for your skin. Just because a product is natural does not mean it’s better for your health or that it will be efficacious. The phrase has been diluted in many ways and the biggest challenge is fighting against a narrative that’s evolved into something that unfortunately misses the point,” said Ballou.
The brand plans to continue its rollout in France, Germany and Korea.
The brand declined to share sales estimates but industry sources estimate that Immunocologie will generate $500,000 to $1 million in retail sales in 2016.