Having Vanquished Hair Frizz, Living Proof Looks to Skin Care and Cosmetics

12/1/08

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to also move into the skincare and cosmetics segments of the beauty market. “The vision of the company is to eventually be in all [product] categories and all channels of distribution,” he says. “We want to be the next consumer products company in the beauty industry.”

To hear Nashat talk about Living Proof, there’s a well-calculated business plan behind the research-focused startup. “The consumers are increasingly looking for performance that is based on real technology in the beauty category,” Nashat says. “It’s true in pretty much all sectors of the economy, but especially in the beauty category, [consumers] have been promised science and they haven’t really gotten it—and they’re waking up to that.”

The idea for Living Proof originated with Nashat and his partners at Waltham, MA-based venture firm Polaris several years ago. Nashat, who was the interim president of Living Proof (formerly Andora) until late last year, says he and his partners brought their concept to legendary MIT inventor Bob Langer several years ago, and he agreed that there was an opportunity to apply advances in biotech research and materials science to the beauty industry. Langer signed on as a founder, and the firm has since accumulated a library of materials patents from MIT and other research institutions.

Nashat declined to say how much Polaris has invested in Living Proof, but did acknowledge that the firm is its sole investor. And we know from reports that Polaris invested $7 million in the company this summer. In support of the venture firm’s business case for Living Proof are a number of recent high-profile acquisitions of beauty products outfits by consumer products giants. For instance, Proctor & Gamble (NYSE:PG) purchased skincare firm Nioxin Research Laboratories for an undisclosed sum in September. And Clorox (NYSE:CLX) shelled out a whopping $925 million to acquire natural beauty products maker Bert’s Bees last year.

So with all that money on the table and all that science in the bottle, do Living Proof’s products actually work? If you believe the readers who commented on our previous stories, the answer is a resounding yes. But a commenter named Kirsten also questioned their safety, noting that they have quite a powerful odor: “By the time you’ve applied an ample amount the whole bathroom is a fog of noxious fumes, which you can’t escape because they are now emanating from your head of hair and follow you around from room to room.”

So I put the question of safety to Robillard and Nashat. The beauty care industry is self-regulated, Robillard says, and he says the firm tests its products for potential human side effects much as the biotech industry does. As for Nashat? “Let’s put it this way,” he says, “My wife uses it.”

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