Brand Profile: How Alpha-H lead the revolution in acids in skincare
Skincare acids have dominated the beauty space for quite some time and Alpha-H was at the forefront of this revolution when it launched in the 1990s. When acids were first introduced to consumers as the best solution for clear and radiant skin, there were a variety of concentrations and formulations to choose from, making it easy for individuals to incorporate acids into their skincare routine in accordance with their preferences. Almost all acids in skincare are categorised into three main groups: AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids), BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) and PHAs (poly-hydroxy acids).
Acid skincare has gone from strength to strength - moisturisers, body creams, hair products and even cosmetics are now being formulated with potent ingredients that aim to boost skin health. The launch of Alpha-H came at a time when beauty enthusiasts may not have known what an acid was or were terrified at the thought of using an acid as part of their skincare routine.
Alpha-H was launched in 1995 by Michelle Doherty. Michelle had suffered from chronic acne for almost 15 years and after trying everything from aggressive treatments to abrasive scrubs to harsh medications, she decided to take matters into her own hands and this led to her discovering glycolic acid. “At that time, many people warned Michelle about using glycolic acid to treat skincare concerns - they said it was too harsh, too aggressive or too irritating, but the critics didn’t deter her and it was only a matter of time before her complexion - and confidence- was completely transformed,” Tina Randello, Alpha-H’s Chief Commercial Officer says.
Doherty was amazed by the results she was able to achieve with one active ingredient, so she developed her own overnight resurfacing treatment. After sharing a bottle of the treatment with her friend, who called it ‘liquid gold’ after just one day of use, the brand’s groundbreaking Liquid Gold™ Exfoliating Treatment was born. From that moment on, Doherty was determined to share her passion for skincare and her personal experience with Australian women and women all over the world. The brand’s mission is timeless – it wants to make healthy, resilient skin accessible to everyone.
At a time when consumers were only encountering acids in a professional setting, Alpha-H was specialising and fast becoming an authority in resurfacing (exfoliating) acids. Although it started in the clinic like many other professional skincare brands, safety and proof of efficacy is something that still drives its innovation process today. “Our innovation process has always started with our customers. We seek to understand the skincare problems our customers are having by trying to identify what is happening with their skin (both extrinsically and intrinsically),” Randello says. “Once we are clear on the problem, the exploration process begins. We strive to find the most efficacious group of ingredients that target the needs we are addressing.”
The brand also focuses on the chemistry between ingredients to ensure that they are complementary before testing out the products themselves. Once a product has been tested and the team is satisfied with the results, they move onto the next step.
Alpha-H prides itself on never compromising, even if it means trying out a product for a year before testing the product with its loyal Trial Tribe. “Our Trial Tribe are loyal customers who are an extension of our team. They test all our products and give us their feedback. The final step of the formulation process is to test the product's efficacy in clinical trials, which gives us the scientific proof to complement our lifestyle evidence,” Randello says. As a trusted brand for accelerated acid skin care, Alpha-H is committed to communicating product claims to its customers in order to assist them in the selection process.
When it comes to the brand’s formulation process, it is always learning and perfecting its approach. “As a brand that specialises in exfoliating acids, it’s important that our active products are used in the correct manner to respect the skin barrier. To help our customers during the product selection process and educate them on the best way to use acids, we developed our 3 pillars of the skin health approach (Activate, Accelerate, Advocate),” Randello says. Everything Alpha-H does comes back to the process of exfoliating the skin. Exfoliation is a natural process that happens every 28 days. As we age, the process slows and our skin needs some help to continue the natural process to remove dead and dull skin cells and reveal luminous and youthful skin.
With the brand’s transformative 3 pillar approach, consumers can reveal resilient, clear and radiant skin. The first step, Activate, ensures the skin is balanced and ready for acids with the help of their pH cleansers. The second and main step is the exfoliation process, which is called Accelerate. This involves balancing out the skin and removing dead skin cells. Over time, collagen production is boosted, which leads to plump skin and a more even skin tone. The final step of the approach is Advocate, which aims to restore the skin barrier with vitamins and hydrators. “For 27 years, this simple yet effective system has worked for millions of Alpha-H customers. We do believe that it is the key to healthy and radiant skin for everyone,” Randello says.
The brand was born out of Doherty’s desire to create a product that would target and treat her skincare concerns and when the brand first launched, they wanted to help people who were struggling with their skin. “At the time, chemical exfoliants were still unknown and were still a scary thing for consumers and skin specialists. Acids were not widely available and they were also misunderstood, which is why we wanted to lead with education to enable our customers to see results first-hand,” Randello says. Educating customers has always been key for Alpha-H. When Michelle shared her story with QVC UK viewers, the brand built a huge fanbase that used their products to treat skin concerns and also maintain skin health. “We continue to work closely with our retail partners and our own channels to educate consumers with the aim of ensuring our acid packed, science-based skincare gets the best results for all skin types across the globe,” Randello says.
The brand’s bestsellers include Alpha-H Liquid Gold, Midnight Reboot and the Melting Moments Cleansing Balm. “Alpha-H Liquid Gold is our bestselling product,” Randello said. “It’s an overnight facial in a bottle that works to slough away dead skin cells from the skin’s surface to reveal a bright, youthful complexion.” The unique low pH delivery system works at the lower levels of the skin to boost collagen. “It really is the gold standard in chemistry for chemical exfoliant treatments,” Randello says.
Although the brand’s Midnight Reboot Serum launched in 2020, it’s already proved to be popular with its customer base. The serum is the first innovation that combines 14% Glycolic Acid with 1% Granactive Retinoid to not only exfoliate the skin but open the pathways for the penetration of the retinoid resulting in visibly smoother, plumper and glowing skin. The Melting Moments Cleansing Balm is another global success for the brand. The cleansing balm became an overnight success on social media through powerful visualisation of its ability to effortlessly remove makeup. The balm removes the heaviest of makeup and SPF in a gentle, nourishing and effective way. “The luxurious balm-to-oil waterless formula combines antioxidants including native Australian Wild Orange Leaf Extract, Sandalwood Seed Oil and Grapeseed Oil, leaves skin hydrated, soft and radiant,” Randello explains.
Alpha-H is making skincare effective and accessible for all through the provision of unisex packaging, widespread distribution and concentrated skincare that is effective for a wide variety of skin concerns that give their customers what they want. “We want to help customers select and use the right products for their skin goals. To support this, we offer complimentary skin consultations and a skin diagnostic on our website,” Randello says. Skin consultations happen virtually and take place with skin therapists who are trained to understand customers’ skincare needs and the products they are currently using. Transparency means a lot to the brand – it doesn’t advise customers to throw out their products in favour of Alpha-H’s in one step but choose to recommend switching out products if an issue has been identified. For customers who want a lower-touch approach, the brand offers a Skin Quiz that asks a series of questions related to skin health before recommending a routine. Alpha-H’s content marketing strategy is focused on education so customers can learn more about their ingredients, how they work and how to use them.
A lot of beauty brands have solution-based skincare ranges and the demand won’t be going away anytime soon. “Most consumers want their skincare products to do more than hydrate, remove dirt and debris and make our skin feel good in the moment. As we age, we want our skincare products to do specific things. We want targeted ingredients, powerful chemistry and proven results. Highly concentrated formulas that work will only continue to thrive,” Randello said. Randello also believes that there is a gap in the market for generalist skin care for people who don’t have specific skin problems to solve and simply want to maintain skin health and maintenance. “The most important thing beauty-loving consumers should remember is that beauty is defined by you and you alone. It starts and ends with you feeling your best, inside and out. It’s about accentuating our natural features, not hiding or changing who we are,” she says.
The brand’s latest launch is the Alpha-H Golden Haze Face Oil. The oil, which is rich in omega fatty acids, contains nine oils of different molecular weights to deliver the perfect level of skin absorption. In addition to providing an occlusive layer to lock in moisture, the oil has a pleasant array of distinctive and subtle scents such as cedarwood, amyris, ylang ylang, frankincense, jasmine and vanilla. “Our research into the skincare industry and feedback from our customers revealed that dehydrated skin is a major skincare concern. We wanted to create a product for people wanting more comfort when using our hero exfoliators, like Liquid Gold. We also wanted to provide customers a solution that was still clinically proven to work when applied directly after the exfoliation step of our 3 pillar approach and Golden Haze is that solution,” Randello says.
So what’s next for Alpha-H? The brand will be launching a new sustainability initiative with Liquid Gold fans in mind and they also plan to introduce more specific skincare products that target the key problems their customers are having at the moment. Alpha-H found a gap in the market for solution-based skincare that is clinically proven to deliver results at a time when acids were still a scary concept for consumers. Randello’s advice for budding beauty entrepreneurs would be to look at what’s already available and ask whether the world really needs your idea or product. “Create a powerful product that customers will be hooked on due to its efficacy and have the drive and resilience to find your customers and build trust, transparency and loyalty,” she advises.