Of the many inventions beauty tech brands brought to market over the last decade, it’s fair to say sonic skincare devices have proved the most successful.
When they were first introduced to consumers. back in 2011, via L’Oreal’s now-defunct Clarisonic (a vibrating skin cleansing brush), the appetite was slow but steady—and it’s only skyrocketed since.
Like many things in Tech Land, however, it’s not the originators but the innovators that reign supreme.
Case in point: FOREO. When founder Filip Sedic launched the company back in 2013, the market was chaotic and flooded with Clarisonic copycats. Neither of which he wanted to be part of.
Instead, Sedic invented a new sonic skincare device—the LUNA —which outperformed the competition. Rather than having to swap cleansing brush heads every three months 0r lug a heavy devices from sink to plug socket, the LUNA was all-in-one; handheld, silicone-bristled, waterproof, ‘T sonic’-cleansing and the rest, as they say, was history.
In the last eight years FOREO has launched high-tech eye massagers, microcurrent devices, acne wands, toothbrushes, souped-up facial massagers and sonic mask activators to an ever-increasing number of beauty fans.
In fact, the company closed 2020 with an almighty army of over 20 million customers, 3,000 employees, and a brand new CEO that only sees it as the beginning.
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“To be perfectly honest, when I got THE call, I was skeptical,” says Boris Trupčević. “My first reaction was, and I admit, ‘this is not my industry, why would I fit there’. But then I took a closer look and it struck me—we should get married. Immediately. Las Vegas style.”
Having spent over twenty-five years as an editor-in-chief, president, and director affiliated with Croatia’s biggest newspapers, Trupčević felt his experience and insights into digital disruption made the opportunity a brilliant fit.
“Digital disruption first hit the media in a broader sense—music, newspapers, magazines, broadcasting, and advertising. The second in line to take a big blow was the retail industry,” he says. “We are being digitised and transformed whether we like it or not. Those who embrace the opportunity of change will prosper. Both media and retail are forced to run and optimise their legacy business models while acquiring a whole new set of competencies in the digital world.”
While he believes such optimizations—reinventing, harvesting, building new business streams, adopting new technologies—don’t come easily to many, FOREO had already proved itself competent.
“What the brand has achieved so far is outstanding,” he says. “It created a series of products that changed the world of beauty and wellbeing and managed to roll these out worldwide in a very short time. This is rare. FOREO’s goal has simply been to make a noticeable difference in people’s everyday lives, with real innovation, in often overlooked areas rather than simply chasing any hype. And it did.”
Now boasting sales of over 36 million products in 75+ countries, new search data also suggests the savvy Swedish brand is amongst the top three most popular skincare brands globally (and the only skincare device brand in the top ten).
“We believe in breaking molds, challenging standards, and disruptive innovation approaches when creating new products, and we apply this logic to all aspects of the business: communication, packaging, market entry,” Trupčević continues, talking me through FOREO’s “revolutionary but sometimes confusing” R&D strategy.
With a number of award-winning devices already under its belt, the company now encourages each and every employee to bring ideas to FOREO’s internal ‘Institute’ and Design and Engineering teams to develop future technologies.
“In that way, we can have hundreds of projects running at the same time spread all over the organisation. They can be extremely different by nature and sometimes little or nothing to do with beauty products themselves but somehow create meaningful contributions.”
At the moment FOREO is running projects for precision laser beam stirring, computer vision skin recognition, stem cell extraction from the blood, hair removal devices, algorithms for large database optimisation, deep tissue active ingredient carriers, biomarker based real-time diagnostics, period pain suppression and hair follicle rejuvenation, to name but a few.
“Our people are free to connect directly and non-hierarchically, as they please, and work on multiple projects they find interesting. We impose no rigid bureaucracies and don’t demand blind obedience or agreeing on everything,” he says. “Even better if they disagree—let the best argument win. Disagreement provokes creative and critical thinking and often triggers the most important breakthroughs.”
Chaotic? Indeed. But largely worthwhile, should the company’s most recent releases be any indication of the process’ potential.
The UFO, for example, began development over eight years ago, predating FOREO, as a concept to help advanced Ice Roller cryotherapy cool electronically.
“Since then, progress looks like the famous ‘The Road to Homo Sapiens’ illustration by Rudolph Zallinger,” jokes Trupčević.
In subsequent years, FOREO added a heating function, its trademarked T-Sonic pulsation, LED functionality with eight different wavelengths, and over ten different smart-masks with active ingredients that could be used with the UFO to hydrate and treat the skin.
“Connect that with an advanced app that can control all of that and you get a device that is capable of providing you a full facial treatment equivalent to the one you will get in a spa or clinic, for the fraction of time and cost, in the convenience of your home.”
Masking with UFO improves skin moisture levels by 126% after only 90 seconds and, as nothing gets wasted on the surface, the effect lasts up to 6 hours, while UFO has also been clinically proven to significantly reduce the appearance of wrinkles in just seven days.
The FOREO BEAR, on the other hand, is the company’s first microcurrent and EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) device, designed to exercise over 65 muscles in the face and neck. “It’s sort of facial gym, a replacement for facial yoga that you can now do much faster, turbocharged with that technology to the maximum power.”
Soon into development, however, the team realized other such devices were ‘shocking’ skin at maximum power, so they worked to develop technologies that would offer similar gains without the pains.
The resulting Anti-Shock System is now trademarked, of course, and is the only tech of its kind to measure the skin’s resistance to electricity and instantly adjust the microcurrent.
“Do we consider this ‘job well done’? Yes, but there is always room for improvement and even today clinical studies are ongoing in FOREO with different frequencies and combinations to make it even better.”
With a large chunk of the beauty tech market catering to consumers looking for preventative skincare, FOREO will soon be launching a new brand—‘FAQ’—dedicated entirely to anti-ageing.
“We believe that although ageing is inevitable, everyone holds the power to control how they age,” he says, whether it comes in the form of a topical product, food supplements, workout, or device.
“For us, the future is now. Radical disobedience to the usual temporal flow is the only way we can do what we do—make visions a reality.
“The trend we have created will grow for many years to come.”
Though he is currently focused on reaching the millions of people who have yet to make their first step into beauty tech, he doesn’t claim anything in FOREO’s product catalogue will make the mass market leap just yet.
“In 15 years, I have no idea…maybe we’ll see beauty beyond imagination.”