H2O Plus, one of the beauty industry’s biggest skin care innovators from the Nineties and early aughts, is closing after 33 years in business at the end of 2022. The news was first announced on the brand’s Instagram page, which at press time had amassed more than 350 comments and nearly 3,000 likes. The announcement was big news at Walt Disney World Resorts, too, where H2O Plus-branded hair and skin care products have had a presence in Disney Parks & Resorts and on Disney Cruise Lines since 2006.

The brand, which leveraged a marine science positioning and infused items with ingredients such as seaweed, was founded by Cindy Melk in 1989. In its heyday, H2O Plus operated nearly 100 branded stores, several spas, and had prestige distribution in department stores such as Nordstrom.

In 2011 the brand was acquired by Japanese firm Pola Orbis, who named Robert Seidl as President and Chief Executive Officer, and Bill Colli as Senior Vice President of Global Sales & Marketing. Public relations executive Nancy Behrman, founder of Behrman Communications, recalled working on press outreach following the brand’s repositioning.

“Bill is probably one of the best marketing people out there and Bob really understood the landscape. And, they had a relationship with the [Melks]. After a transition year they went through a rebrand and they did some rather exciting things.” For example, H2O Plus brought to light innovations such as the gel moisturizer.

Bob and Bill were soon promoted to take on corporate responsibilities at Pola Orbis, and in 2013 Rick Ruffalo was named in charge of H2O Plus. Rick left the company in July 2014.

Fast forward to 2015,  when Joy Chen was named CEO and H2O Plus moved headquarters from Chicago to San Francisco. It also sold its manufacturing facility. At the time, Joy, who was formerly CEO of Yes To Inc., said the new focus of the company would be on sales, marketing, and R&D. The move also brought the brand closer to the Asian market it served, as well as to its Japan-based parent. In 2015 H2O Plus called its largest retail partners Ulta Beauty and Kohl’s. Branded stores had been reduced to two retail units.

The changing U.S. retail landscape left little chance for the American brand with Japanese parents to win.

“Cindy Melk was a female founder who really was trying to bring innovation into the body care and facial care space,” Joy said. “They were the first ones to come up with this water gel cream, which created its own category. I think they were also ahead of the game; they opened their own branded stores, and then many brands followed suit. But in the last 10 years with brands like Tatcha and others coming up with their own versions [of the gel cream],” it was hard to compete. “It was an innovative American brand that had a global reach to Asia and other parts of Europe. I think that when they were acquired by a Japanese company, I think that the Japanese company knows what’s successful potentially in Asia and in Japan,” Joy said, not necessarily the U.S. where department stores and branded stores aren’t the draws they are in Asia.

Joy left H2O Plus in December 2017, and in January 2018 Junko Gomi took the helm. According to her Linked In page, Junko had been a rising star at Pola Orbis, where prior to being named CEO of H2O Plus she oversaw Global Strategy for Pola Orbis and prior to that oversaw skin care brand Jurlique’s Global Business Strategy for nearly five years.

According to Walt Disney World Resorts online news page, the brand is no longer accepting new orders on their website, with remaining stock being sold on Amazon. On ShopDisney, all H2O+ products have been marked down, with the site saying that they’ll be “gone forever” as of September 30.