Following a 2018 conference, Harvard Medical School professor and dermatologist Dr. Sarina B. Elmariah was approached by philanthropist and entrepreneur Stephen Kennedy Smith – the nephew of President John F. Kennedy – with a unexpected proposition: launch a new skincare brand. She was skeptical at first.
“I’m not just a skeptic, but an naysayer,” she said. With research focused on neurosensory skin disorders, “I kept saying, ‘I don’t know if I’m the right person,'” to launch the brand, she said.
But Smith persisted, and this month skincare brand Aramore launched with Elmariah on a team of high-caliber co-founders hailing from Harvard and MIT. Focusing on ingredients that have been studied as part of the growing body of longevity research, the brand debuted one supplement and three topical skincare products.
Now director of the Center for Neurosensory Skin Disorders at UC San Francisco, Elmariah said she believed in the direct links between health and beauty that were part of Smith’s vision for the brand.
“The goal for me as a dermatologist who manages very complex skin conditions is to improve the overall health of your skin,” she said. “Everything that goes into preventative health care is about aging better.”
Smith’s foray into the world of skincare began with his philanthropy and investments in biotechnology, where he took a particular interest in longevity. When it comes to skincare, he sees longevity as distinct from the “anti-aging” concept in the beauty industry.
“You don’t want to fight nature. We want to work with nature to optimize our biology so that we can fulfill our human potential. For me, that’s a better goal than trying to look young forever,” he said.
In addition to Elmariah, the founding team of scientists assembled by Smith to develop the products includes Dr. Anna Mandinova, associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School; Dr. Brad Pentelute, professor of chemistry at MIT; and Diana Saville, co-founder of the BrainMind neuroscience accelerator and doctoral candidate in molecular and cellular biology at UC Berkeley.
The brand is the first to launch under Smith’s consumer health company, New Frontier Bio. Moderna co-founder Derrick Rossi is on the company’s panel of five strategic advisors, and the company’s CEO is former Bareminerals CMO Claudia Poccia. It secured $10 million in funding, with Ambrosia Investments and private equity firm Cranmere founder Vincent Mai among lead investors.
Brandon Ralph, founder of a creative consultancy and former chief experience officer at Equinox, is also on the strategic advisory board. The brand’s products will soon make their way to select Equinox stores, which will also offer facials with the products.
Smith, who also founded digital therapy startup Pear Therapeutics, entered the field of longevity by drawing inspiration from the lawmaker side of the family. His cousin Patrick Kennedy, a former House Rep., authored the Mental Health and Addiction Parity Act and founded the One Mind for Research conference which led Smith to invest and philanthropy on the brain health.
“I first became interested in the brain. And that’s what brought me to the skin, because I visited the Harvard Stem Cell Institute to look for models where we could test compounds that would work in the brain,” he said.
The development process for Aramore products involved reviewing existing research on the longevity of ingredients that have shown results in scientific studies. The supplement and topical ingredients are all listed on a page on the brand’s website with studies related to each. The brand plans to make clinical data available on the products themselves in about six months, Smith said.
Saville, who focused on identifying potential candidates for the included ingredients, explained the challenges of developing a supplement.
“It’s such an unregulated space; it’s very hard to verify the quality of what you’re getting,” when it comes to supplements in general, she said. Ingredients in the brand’s $55 supplement include those garnering attention for their evidence for longevity, such as NAD+ and herbal ingredients like milk thistle. The founders say the latter improves liver function in a way that manifests in skin results. NAD+ is also found in the brand’s $175 Night Cream and $150 Day Lotion, while a $185 Night Booster contains retinol.
Longevity research is making its way from biotechnology to the beauty industry. Other brands such as OneSkin were pioneered by longevity researchers harnessing scientific evidence on skincare outcomes.
“Science is ahead of commercialization,” Smith said. “What you’re starting to see emerge is more of these longevity-based brands that are actually science-based.”
Currently, longevity research hasn’t found a way to biologically rejuvenate, Smith said. But he is optimistic.
“There is definitely the possibility that over our lifetimes we can roll back aging,” he said.
When it comes to skin results, the founders promise more.
“There is a biological genetic clock, and then there is an aesthetic clock. And I absolutely think the ingredients we’ve included in our products will turn back the aesthetic clock,” Saville said. Clinical studies of the products will examine collagen, elastin, pigmentation and wrinkle depth.
“There’s actually a fundamental cellular mechanism going on here that prolongs the longevity of your skin,” Smith said.
Beyond the scientific world, consumers are increasingly interested in how to apply longevity research to their own lives. The “Longevity” Reddit group has grown from 64,000 members in 2020 to 137,000 today.
The founders of Aramore expect longevity health and beauty enthusiasts to take an interest in the products.
“There are two types of consumers who are interested in it. There is the health conscious consumer and the beauty conscious consumer. There is a bit of crossover,” Smith said. In market research conducted by the brand, “skincare consumers were very interested in the idea of longevity, but very few had heard of NAD+.”
The brand also wants to reach young “skintellectual” consumers focused on prevention, as well as those experiencing the signs of skin aging.
While science is at the forefront of the brand’s message, it’s still open to celebrities — actresses Marisa Tomei and Julie Bowen attended its launch event in Los Angeles last week.
And the marketing inspiration even comes from the example set by JFK himself.
“I always learned from my uncles that you had to have a message, and you had to have integrity and believe in people that they would understand” the message, he said. As in politics, the brand is keen to keep its message around ingredients and supporting evidence clear and easy to digest. “We’re going to try to explain this to people and hope they respond.”
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