Coinciding with May Melanoma Awareness Month, MDSolarSciences is undergoing a rebranding.
That’s fitting since the 10-year-old daily wear SPF skin care brand was founded by Dr. Robert J. Friedman, M.D., a dermatological oncologist and clinical professor. An expert in skin cancer (he developed the ABCDEs detection guide), Robert sought a solution for his patients developing melanomas because they didn’t wear sunscreen; they didn’t like the texture.
The result was MDSolarSciences, which delivers antioxidants, moisturizers, collagen-signaling peptides and pigment-modifying agents to skin via a proprietary ProVention-R liposome complex—in a luxurious formula. His mission was to offer a simple collection of multi-tasking products that made wearing sun protection more than an afterthought.
The lineup is reef safe, clean, cruelty-free and compliant with the safety standards set by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
There are 21 SKU’s including sunscreen, skin care, makeup, lip and kids with prices ranging from $18 to $98. In the pipeline is an oil-based cleanser and a glow range.
The kid’s line actually attracted Renee Plato, the current Chief Executive Officer, to the company in 2019. A departure from what she had been doing (she was Senior Vice President Media Analytic Consulting at Nielsen and has a background in digital media business development), Renee was convinced when her then five-year-old daughter tried the Mineral KidCreme. “She was used to thick mineral cream that was hard to spread. I asked her to try MDSolarSciences KidCreme she said, ‘mom I love this… want to wear it every day,’ I was hooked,” Renee recalled. “If I can get a kid to wear sunscreen this is golden.”
For the last decade, MDSolarSciences has been a leading brand in dermatologists’ offices. Under Renee’s direction, the brand is casting a wider net.
Here, CEW Beauty News speaks with Renee about the line’s refresh and how she harnesses her digital and analytic background to help position the brand for future growth.
CEW Beauty News: Talk about the brand’s new positioning.
Renee Plato: When we stepped out of dermatologists’ office, we became a digitally native brand stemming from our dermatologist heritage. Twenty-somethings are on board with skin care. They shop ecommerce. We launched on our own platform, MDSolarSciences.com, then on to Amazon and other ecommerce platforms.
We made that pivot and the brand has done extraordinary well in reaching an audience that wants this type of product and are shopping on this platforms. Through my background I had the tools to understand and synthesize analytics to push the business forward.
CEW Beauty News: What changed with the packaging?
RP: We are proud of our formulas and we feel our new brand look really resonates with consumers and is a great reflection of our formulas.
Our packaging is more harmonized—before our SPF 50 was in a red package, another was in a green package and our balm was in a blue. It was confusing and busy. Our new look is clean, simple and easy to understand, just like our formulas. On the front of the package are all the key attributes of the formulas—the SPF level, what the antioxidants are and what the product is meant to do, protect and nourish or protect and repair. It is an easy way to navigate the products. There is also clear iconography on what is in our products and what isn’t in our products.
One of my main objectives is making MDSciences more accessible. Everybody deserves great skin care especially since environmental factors are so harsh these days. We need more protection than ever.
I wanted to bring forward more of our dermatology identity and what we offer through our formulas. We have an incredible story. I wanted to take that narrative and shift into a look that is more of what consumers want today. Not only are we clean formulas, we are mineral based, we don’t have any harsh chemicals, we have a ton of naturally based antioxidants and we have a strong sustainability statement.
It has always bothered me that people say we are clean, yet they put the formulas in a package you can’t recycle. That’s not really clean. We walk the walk—our packaging is all recyclable. We don’t have foils on packaging because then it isn’t recyclable.
We spent considerable money on testing to ensure we passed the highest standards by the FDA and that our products are safe for the environment. We are Skin Cancer Foundation and Dermatologist recommended.
We are evangelizing what we are in a bigger way.
CEW Beauty News: What happened during the pandemic to your business?
RP: We transitioned very quickly—I’m thankful for my [Walt] Disney business development background; we were very regimented. We actually grew 14% and were 33% more profitable. All of our messaging was “go outside, take a walk and wear your SPF.” Because we are mineral based, we also have blue screen protectants and that was part of the narrative—you are probably sitting near a window for 12 hours a day. Because of the digital nature of our distribution and maybe because people weren’t spending on things like traveling there was more discretionary income for some and the ecomm side of our business did very well.
Our growth goal is to double the business this year and we are exactly on target.
CEW Beauty News: What are your distribution plans?
RP: We have a relaunch of our own platform to reflect our new brand identity [mdsolarsciences.com]. There is far more digital video—it is such a great medium to tell our story. My mantra is the three C’s—content, community and community drives commerce. That’s the foundation of our storefront that launches this month.
We also built a new storefront on Amazon. We will be launching across the The Hut Group, on target.com in July and also moving forward with the launch across six international countries on Amazon and launching in China on Tmall. We are in conversations with select brick and mortar. We have a significant footprint across derm and spa partners—we are in more than 700 locations.
CEW Beauty News: What’s the social strategy?
RP: We have partnerships with leading derm influencers—it melds our heritage being dermatologists developed and our new influencers. We have a partnership with Dr. Chris Tomassian who is a dermatologist on social platforms like TikTok and Instagram and also a partnership with Dr. Andrea Suarez whose handle is known on social as. Dr. Dray. It is great to have men and women influencers since 30% of our clients are male. We have a host of influencers we are working with and we hope to work with more local, micro influencers, who are dermatologists but on local areas.
We’re launching on TikTok in a big way. We are also growing on Instagram and our Pinterest has grown over 1000%. We’re doubling down on all of our platforms and using our partnerships with our influencers to drive more awareness and trial. We’re excited about the unique products we bring to market and how we’re in line with consumer trends for clean ingredients, dermatologist developed formulas and sustainability being part of our brand story.