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How Versed’s Melanie Bender created a high-end skincare line with drugstore prices

She was determined to buck the industry trend of adding “marketing ingredients” to products­—just enough of a key element to list it on a label.

How Versed’s Melanie Bender created a high-end skincare line with drugstore prices

A skincare line appeared in Target and a handful of other retailers last year that sold for drugstore prices but contained coveted, high-­performance ingredients such as vitamin C, squalane, and glycolic acid. The brand, called Versed, says that within nine months, it was outselling beauty-aisle mainstays such as Olay and Burt’s Bees. A spinout from Clique Brands (home of the Who What Wear website and clothing line), Versed was spearheaded by retail veteran Melanie Bender, who serves as founding general manager. She was determined to buck the industry trend of adding “marketing ingredients” to products­—just enough of a key element to list it on a label. “It’s sneaky,” Bender says. “There may not be enough of that ingredient for it to actually work.” She and Clique’s in-house R&D team joined with several labs to create products that contain high doses of these ingredients but still mostly cost less than $20 each. They also avoided more than 1,300 known toxins commonly used in beauty products, allowing Versed to become one of the few mass-market skincare brands certified by the Environmental Working Group, which verifies product safety.

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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