To the dismay of much of the beauty world, in 2019 Clarisonic announced that the brand would no longer continue to make its iconic facial cleansing brushes. But one of the original founders of the brand, Dr. Robb Akridge, wasn't sitting still. Continuing with his long tradition of innovating in the beauty-meets-tech space, Akridge recently launched Opulus Beauty Labs, a first-of-its-kind skincare system that uses a special thermal blending technology to help potent skincare ingredients better absorb into the skin. The idea is that if you can get better absorption, then you'll get better results for the products you're slathering on day-after-day.
"I knew if I was going to create another brand it had to provide the consumer with something truly innovative: new and improved treatments both in skincare results and usage," Akridge tells CNET.
"The idea for our first innovation came to me in a beautiful over-the-top chocolate shop, where they had so many varieties of chocolate in terms of texture, shape and creativity. Most of the chocolates were individual morsels and each created an experience that you can only get at the time you bite into them. A light bulb went off and I thought, 'Why couldn't skincare be like this?'" says Akridge.
Like the individual chocolate bon bons you might buy at a specialty shop, the Opulus utilizes tiny Opoules, or individual pods that contain a custom skincare product blend. You pop them into the Opulus Activator appliance -- and they are single-use, kind of like the Nespresso pods of the skincare world. The activator heats and blends the ingredients using thermal blending technology (more on that later). Opoules are notably more sustainable than an espresso pod since there is no waste from the single use: the entire pod is heated and blended in the activator machine.
You can purchase custom regimens to use with the Opulus activator based on your needs. "The skin is changing all the time, and your needs in skincare are also changing; in fact, your needs in beauty as a whole are always changing," says Akridge.
One ingredient that's notably tricky to use is retinol, which the brand is focusing on with its initial skincare systems rollout. The retinol regimen comes in three different levels, which is supposed to gradually increase the dose of retinol you use over time to prevent irritation and other side-effects that you can get from using retinol. Whether you choose the 1, 2, or 3 level depends on how often you've used retinol before and how sensitive you are to the ingredient.
The idea is that each day your skincare system is laid out for you (you use one Opoule each day), and the brand strategically places "recovery" Opoules in your system depending on how often you will take a break from using the retinol.
How does thermal blending work?
According to Akridge, what truly sets the Opulus apart is the fact that the thermal blending technology allows the brand to combine skincare ingredients that you typically can't combine in normal skincare products or packaging.
"Many active ingredients aren't compatible in a cosmetic formula. In traditional cosmetic chemistry, there are often compromises that need to be made, when it comes to which ingredients can work well together and at what concentration, without causing degradation of the ingredients or separation due to incompatibility," says Akridge.
The other thing that Opulus can do that many other brands can't is formulate products without preservatives or fillers since the products are "fresh," and used once.
"Because we are separating key ingredients in two formulation parts (the outer part of the Opoule, and the inner core), we can minimize or eliminate the use of preservatives, optimize ingredient concentration, and prevent the loss of potency, which may occur when these ingredients are combined and stored together for a long period of time," he says.
The thermal blending also heats the product, which is supposed to help the skin absorb it better as well.
To use the Opulus, you insert one of the pods, which the box separates individually into a daily schedule, into the Activator. Press the button on the device and wait as it thermally blends the product, and it's ready to apply in about 1 minute.
Who is Opulus for?
Opulus is definitely an investment, with a retail price of $495. The starter system includes the activator and one month of skincare, and once you use that you'll need to purchase an additional regimen monthly for $165.
Serious skincare geeks (e.g., the person who has tried every product and wants more) or someone who is looking to invest in a quality retinol skincare system will appreciate this innovative system. Otherwise, the system is a serious investment (and an ongoing one), making it financially inaccessible to many people.
Akridge says the Opulus is just the beginning of what he has planned for the beauty space. "We started in skin treatment with retinol, as we saw this as a huge opportunity. But really, the sky's the limit for us. We see hair treatments and body treatment in our future," says Akridge.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.