Startup Behind the Clarisonic Skin-Cleansing Brush Acquired by L’Oreal

11/10/11Follow @curtwoodward

The folks who put sonic wave technology in the Sonicare toothbrush have hit another homerun, and a major consumer brand couldn’t sit by and watch any longer. Pacific Bioscience Laboratories, the unassumingly named makers of the Clarisonic skin-cleansing brush, is being acquired by cosmetics powerhouse L’Oreal USA, the companies announced today.

Terms were not disclosed, but L’Oreal indicated that it will be keeping Clarisonic’s new Redmond headquarters and manufacturing facility—in a release, the company said it plans to “create in Redmond an outstanding center of innovation for L’Oreal.” The senior management team at Pacific Bioscience Laboratories also has committed to stay on board after the acquisition “to maintain the continuity of excellence,” L’Oreal said.

Clarisonic was founded in 2001 by electrical engineer David Giuliani and a team of people he’d worked with at Optiva, the company that developed the sonic-wave-powered Sonicare toothbrush before being sold to Royal Philips Electronics. The Clarisonic device works by employing the same kind of sonic-wave technology, but applying it to the face to gently but powerfully remove makeup, dirt, surface bacteria, dead skin cells, and oils.

It’s not hard to see why a major brand would want to snap up the Clarisonic device and its team. As Luke detailed in this story, Clarisonic topped $100 million in annual sales last year, more than doubling its performance from two years earlier.

At that time, president Jack Gallagher said the company was “very profitable” and had added about 100 employees in the previous 18 months, bringing its staff up to about 300 people. The device, which retails in three versions at prices ranging from $149 to $225, has picked up a long list of celebrity fans, including Oprah and Lady Gaga.

Early investor Dan Rosen, chairman of Seattle’s Alliance of Angels, even predicted that “Clarisonic will be one of the great success stories of Seattle entrepreneurship.”

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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