Skin Care

By Arielle Shipper

It’s inescapable: local and natural are trending. From what we eat to the cosmetics we use, people are increasingly concerned with the provenance and quality of ingredients. H2O+, a twenty-three year old company, has embraced this philosophy from the beginning, and will be renewing their commitment to marine-sourced ingredients through a brand re-launch starting this month.

After merging with Pola Orbis, the fourth largest beauty company in Japan, the company is looking forward as they continue with ground breaking research on ingredients, develop new product lines and packaging, and move forward with a redesign of their brick-and-mortar stores that is slated to begin with their Chicago location in July. Look out NYers: the Manhattan location won’t be far behind!

We sat down with Becky Fulmer, Senior Brand Manager, and Anna Kaplan, VP of Product Development, to get their thoughts on what customers can expect from this exciting rebranding.

BN: What can you tell us about your existing customers?
Becky: Going through the rebrand process, we did extensive research into our consumer base and came up with a term we call “young beauty activist.” These people have youthful attitudes, and are very involved in their own skincare regimens. They actively seek out information online and care about magazine editorials. They’re very well informed people.

BN: While you’re developing new product lines for the re-launch, tried-and-true favorite H2O+ formulas will remain the same. What can you say about the naturally-sourced ingredients that you’re already using?
Becky: H2O+ was sort of ahead of its time with regards to ingredients. Way back in the beginning when we launched the brand everything on the market was heavy cream and petroleum based, while we steered more towards water-based, oil-free formulations. We’re very cognizant of the ingredients that we put in, and a lot are already natural from the marine world.

BN: H2O+ already places emphasis on vitamin-rich ingredients sourced from the sea. How will this translate for customers during the relaunch?
Anna: We’ve always used these marine technologies for skincare, but in the past the message was a bit lost in translation. Ocean life is very colorful, and so we’re using those colors on packaging to communicate to customers that this is a marine-based line.
Becky: Additionally, all of our new packaging is recyclable and FSC-certified, which means that money is put towards reforestation to replace trees used for packaging.

BN: As an American company that merged with Japanese Pola Orbis, do you feel you’ve been trying to achieve more of an international focus with the rebrand?
Becky: Actually, we have a strong international presence already and Asia is our number-one market right now. One of the things that really attracted Pola Orbis to us is our big international footprint. Likewise, we look to them for research and product development expertise, so it’s a really nice pairing.
Anna: Working with Polo Orvis on this new development is really exciting because we can partner with 250 additional scientists that can help us bring our products and brand to another level.

BN: If your biggest market is Asia, where do the majority of sales take place in the US, and how can customers find out more about H2O+ and the rebrand?
Becky: Since we only have seven North American retail stores, our number-one store is our website at the moment, and many of our sales come from word-of-mouth and social media recommendations. Our relaunch teaser campaign gives brand-loyal customers a chance to win instant prizes, product offers, and enter to win an ultimate dream trip for two.

BN: Can you speak about the customer experience in your new stores?
Anna: It will be a very modern look. You’ll see a big difference in the customer experience.
Becky: Our new flagship location in Chicago will be opening in July, and that will be our prototype. The next store to open will be in NYC. The stores are designed to give the customer the impression that they’re going deep into the ocean, not just sitting on the shore or in a spa or beach resort. This is serious skincare based on true marine ingredients, and the store is designed to emulate that brand proposition. We have a wonderful tester bar centered in the store that’s the anchor, wehere customers to play with products and interact with sales staff. The most popular and prevalent products will be easily accessible when customers walk in the door. Everything is updated with deep-sea imagery and projection screens.

After speaking with Becky and Anna, I was excited to try some of their must have products that fit my busy lifestyle and simple beauty routine.

I’m a frequent gym goer, and I’m always searching for multi-purpose products in light packaging that are easy to throw into my gym bag. Aqualibrium Cleansing Wipes are gentle enough for my sensitive skin and remove makeup, without the funky scent or greasy feel that – in my experience – usually accompanies pre-moistened wipes. Despite the fact that they’re oil-free, Aqualibrium wipes contain hydrating marine botanicals like wakame and sea lettuce that kept my skin feeling dewy fresh for hours. They were even gentle enough to use before bed without an extra rinse cycle.

Just when I needed a pick-me-up in the moisturizing department I reached for Face Oasis Hydrating gel, one of H2O+’s perennial bestsellers. Despite my t-zone’s tendency towards oily shine and clogged pores, I find that it often becomes dry, especially after a long winter with icy winds and re-circulated air. Face Oasis stayed true to its marine roots by delivering a cool, smooth moisturizing gel experience that’s more beach chair than mountain air, another oil-free formula guaranteed guiltless reapplications.

H2O+ sold at:
511 Madison Ave at 53rd St, (212) 750-8119, http://www.h2oplus.com & http://www.ulta.com

Originally published May 2012
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