Few people have had a bigger impact on the skincare industry than US chemist Joe Lewis. He is credited with developing and launching the world’s first alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) product in 1983, the key ingredient in most anti‑ageing skincare products, and has since developed and introduced hundreds of formulations containing AHAs into the marketplace. In 2004, with his expert knowledge and decades of experience, he launched his very own skincare brand, PRIORI®.

The skincare and cosmeceutical market is highly competitive and with good reason; last year total revenue was $9.5 billion in the US alone. To carve a slice out of this market for themselves, PRIORI must offer something different to their many competitors. The answer could be Joe himself and his scientific approach.

‘The big thing that separates PRIORI from other brands in the professional skincare market is it has a scientific background. I’m a chemist and PRIORI is a scientist brand and there aren’t any other brands like it. There are a lot of doctor brands, every dermatologist in the US seems to have their own brand now, but they don’t make the product, they have to hire chemists like me,’ said Joe.

Being a chemist with 35 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry has allowed Joe and PRIORI to develop products that are proven to work, as well as the knowledge to develop more effective products with the latest ‘must have’ ingredient.

‘You can trust that we will always have these great innovative ingredients in the brand because we are innovation leaders. We started the whole cosmeceutical revolution with the launch of AHAs in the 80s and we’ve continued to innovate ever since. So we’re not followers, we’re leaders. That makes a big difference for the brand when you’re first to market with a lot of these new technologies and having other people copy you is a great form of flattery.’

Alpha hydroxy acids

It is perhaps appropriate that the man credited with developing the first AHA back in 1983 is still innovating and developing the newest formulations of AHAs for PRIORI’s Advanced AHA Cosmeceutical® product line.

AHAs do two things that no other compound does as well — they moisturise and exfoliate. Most moisturisers are a mix of oil and water, the water evaporates leaving the oil to form a barrier on the surface of the skin preventing any transepidermal water loss. AHAs use a completely different method. AHAs stimulate fibroblast in the skin to make hyaluronic acid (HA), the skin’s natural moisture retention molecule. As HA levels increase so too does the water retention in the skin, causing the skin to thicken. This increases epidermal and dermal volume and has the effect of pushing out fine lines and wrinkles.

Next comes the exfoliation properties of AHAs. They remove the dead cells that give you a dull complexion and allow the newer cells to rise to the surface of the skin and line up more uniformly to allow for a more radient glow.

‘Moisturisation and exfoliation made AHAs world famous. It’s not just a fad either — we launched AHAs in 1983 and they’re still the number one anti-ageing skincare ingredient in the world today, because they work and nothing else does what AHAs do.’

Clinical trials and consumer education

Joe and PRIORI know their products work because they do something many skincare brands will not; they put all their products through rigorous pharmaceutical grade clinical trials. Joe believes clinical trials are the only true way to evaluate the effectiveness of a product and would never opt for consumer perception trials as he believes consumers are not equipped to judge the effectiveness of skincare products.

‘A true clinical trial is sponsored by an institution review board, you need clinical investigators, which has to be a MD dermatologist. You also need very sophisticated equipment and camaras to measure the changes in the skin so they are objective changes and not subjective changes. And when these photos are graded, they are double-blind so the graders don’t know the before and after pictures,’ he explains.

It is through this stringent process that Joe believes PRIORI achieves a greater level of integrity over many of their rivals who do not go to the same lengths to prove the effectiveness of their products. However, despite the measures Joe and PRIORI have taken, he still believes the average consumer is not well informed on what they should be buying.

‘If you go into a woman’s beauty closet there are dozens of products. The reason for this is that they are just going around trying this and trying that without any real knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. While consumers are beginning to use the internet to read about ingredients and do their research, this can still be quite scary as they are often reading things that aren’t true. So while they are being more savvy than they used to be, there’s still a long way to go.

‘I’m a scientist and I get it, I understand the physiology and the chemistry, and the biggest challenge for me is to communicate that to the end user. To stress the importance of what they should be using,’ he continued.

Pyramid approach

Recognising the importance of educating the consumer, simplifying the message of how their products work, and communicating the effectiveness of PRIORI’s skincare range, Joe and the team at PRIORI developed the pyramid approach.

‘The pyramid approach for skincare is a road map so the consumer can stick to using the ingredients that are really proven to work, so now they don’t have to spend all their time trying different products without any real knowledge of what the results could be.’

Joe describes the pyramid approach as a three tiered system designed to clearly define the different categories of products available to consumers.

‘The base consists of SPF, antioxidants, and DNA repair products. This covers topical skin protection and repair. Everybody on the planet who is interested in preserving their skin and fighting the signs of ageing should have a product from the base of the pyramid. If they are not willing to sign up for the base, do not bother with anything else. This is what I call the consumer must-have.

‘The core of the pyramid is retinoids and AHAs for moisturisation, exfoliation, and cell renewal. This is the need-to-have. If the consumer doesn’t have a lot of money they should find one product from the base of the pyramid and one from the core. That is the fundamental stuff you really need.

‘The products at the top of the pyramid are perhaps not as vital as those at the base and the core. A lot of the products with peptides and growth factors are more expensive. They are nice to have with great science behind them but that’s what they are: nice to have, they’re not absolutely necessary,’ he explained.

Joe has already had a lot of success with the pyramid approach, not just with consumers, but also doctors themselves who are now able to use the concept and diagrams to better explain to their patients how sunscreen, antioxidants, and DNA repair all have different properties and offer cumulative protection for their skin. This early success has bolstered their plans to push the pyramid approach at the American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting 2014.

Future developments

Next year will also see PRIORI take a different approach to how they market their products. This involves re-designing the current PRIORI product lines, consisting of Advanced AHA Cosmeceuticals, Idebenone Complex Superceuticals®, and Coffeeberry® Natureceuticals™, to be skin condition focused. The aim is to make it easier for the consumer to understand exactly what product they need.

Along with the repositioning of their current products, PRIORI are focused on continuing with their innovation and bringing new products to market.

‘We got the ball rolling on antioxidants and now they’re really popular globally. I’m a big fan of antioxidants and we’ll be creating the next generation and launching them in our brand next year. One of these will be an antioxidant that is 5000-times stronger than vitamin C. We’ll also have the first ever AHA–retinoid hybrid technology, which is a big development because it will have the benefits of both in one.’

‘Finally, we’re doing a big push in the US with PRIORI MD®. I’ve done a lot of work with the pharmaceutical companies in the past and licensed away the rights so I couldn’t sell in the dermatology market. Now I have a host of new products and I’m going into the market next year in a big way.’

Joe seems determined to continue to innovate and bring new technology to the skincare market. And with his proven track record, perhaps he could revolutionise the industry once again.