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The Interview: Chris Hobson, Founder, Patchology

Sadiyah Ismailjee
15 October 2020

Revolutionary skincare brand, Patchology was formed around the idea that truly effective delivery of great skincare ingredients, on the consumer's terms, is a game changer. Over ten years ago, Patchology’s founders first began developing patch technologies for the medical field.

Now, that same expertise in accelerated and effective ingredient delivery is presented in an innovative and game-changing selection of sheet masks and gels. Tackling major skin concerns while balancing busy lifestyles, the targeted treatments are designed to adapt to the everyday life schedule of consumers following the brand’s ethos, “beauty at the speed of you.”

From hydrating eye and lip gels perfect for multi-masking, to serum-enriched sheet masks and solutions for major concerns; the brand provides universal skin care essentials that do more, work faster and deliver better results. Founder of Patchology, Chris Hobson tells's The Beauty Edit more: 

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?

I started my career at Procter & Gamble learning the P&G way to build a brand and run a business. I also learned that I’m much more entrepreneurial than the typical P&G employee was at that time, so I decided to go to business school to round out my experience.

After graduating I was obsessed with entrepreneurship, and was involved in starting or leading a couple of startups, one of which we sold successfully to Fidelity Capital in 2006. Joining (the company that became) Rare Beauty Brands was an opportunity to combine my background in consumer products with my experiences as an entrepreneur.

When did you launch and what was the response like?

We launched the Patchology brand in 2014 and the response was immediate. Consumers and the press instantly understood the benefits of using patch technology to deliver higher concentrations of ingredients to the skin than possible with topical applications. And retailers recognised an opportunity to capture white space in the market for highly-effective, time-saving skincare products.

What brought Patchology to life?

Not surprisingly, the brand really took off when we got past the technical underpinnings of the products such as the deep transdermal delivery of actives, and focused more on the end-benefits for consumers. People told us they wanted to address problem areas such as under-eye puffiness or dehydrated facial skin, but they wanted the results more quickly than with traditional solutions.

When we used our technology to come out with the first 5-minute under-eye patches (FlashPatches) and sheet masks (FlashMasques), they were really revolutionary. That quick performance, combined with fun, approachable branding have been key to the success of the brand.

What is the unique value proposition your brand or products brings to the category?

Part of Patchology’s Brand DNA is the approachable, attainable nature of the brand. Our products are effective and priced at a point to deliver not only overall value per treatment, but also packaged in a way to hit different price points to ensure all Patchology fans can embrace the brand and include it in both their daily regimen and their special occasion indulgences.

A key element of our value proposition is the recognition of your time. All of our treatments provide tremendous performance, but we also deliver that benefit as quickly as technology will allow. We know that our consumers are busy, and it’s important to us that we push our development team to ensure our products not only deliver the best experience and best results – but also in the quickest possible timing.

Who is your target audience?

Our target audience are Millennial Women. But with that said, we find our brand has a huge halo in both the GenX and GenZ Audiences as well.

What is your current route to market?

We are very proud of our retailer partnerships. Ulta, Nordstrom, bluemercury, Morphe and others in the US. H-Beauty, SpaceNK, and CultBeauty in the UK. Sephora in the EU. Mecca in Australia. We work hard to cultivate and collaborate with our retail partners. Due to these relationships, Retail makes up a very large part of our business.

We have also actively been working to ensure that our eBusiness Channels are developing to help give consumers an option to directly interact with us as a brand if they would prefer that method. We consider eBusiness both our DTC platforms + Amazon.

What set yours apart from other sheet mask brands?

Most other sheet masks require anywhere from 15-30 minutes for maximum benefits, but with our HydraSurge technology Patchology sheet masks only take 5 minute for all of the key ingredients to get deep into the skin in the quickest time possible. Of course you can wear it longer if you’d like, but you’ll get all of the benefits quicker than other sheet masks.

With that, we allow masking to become an everyday opportunity and not just a once in a while treat when you have more time to indulge in a self-care day of pampering. You can treat your issue whether it’s dryness or luminosity right then and there and you don’t need to be late or only set it aside for Sunday nights.

How do you come up with new ideas for your products?

New ideas can come from anywhere! We have a New Products Team that works very closely with our Brand Team to set out a plan for innovation each year. Our Internal Team, our Retail Partners, and – of course – our Consumers, give us our inspiration for our new products.

What are your top 3 product recommendations?

Rejuvenating Eye Gels, Perfect Weekend FlashMasque Trio, PoshPeel PediCure

Where is the current skin and personal care market heading?

In addition to the trend toward at home self-care, we are witnessing the consumer trading down to value and migrating back to trusted brands. When the rest of the world is risky and economic prospects have been compromised, the consumer seeks value and trust.

What have been the biggest skincare trends of 2020 so far?

I think we are seeing a big movement to at home self-care right now that has been driven by the pandemic and increasing work-from-home patterns around the world. We have seen huge growth in some of Patchology’s top self-care products such as our hand masks, foot masks and foot peels.

Sustainability is becoming a crucial focus for the beauty industry, in what ways is Patchology incorporating sustainability into its business model and brand identity?

Patchology was already taking steps towards sustainability but we have accelerated our path as guidelines have been put forth by some of our retail partners. Sustainability is as important to them as it is to us. We’re actively working to update our products and packaging to ensure compliance to those guidelines set forth. We also keep them in mind with all future innovation, designing with Sustainability in mind from the start has help ensure we will be at the head of the pack.

Is the Coronavirus pandemic one of the biggest challenges the beauty and skincare market is facing today?

Certainly it is one of, if not the, biggest challenge the industry faces. There is the impact on consumer behavior, such as trading down to value, migrating to trusted brands and the move towards at-home self-care, as discussed above. But there is also real trepidation about going into physical retail stores and certainly very little ability for people to try products before they buy.

This has rapidly accelerated the move to online shopping, including all of the education and information sharing that goes with it. It has also meant that many retailers, perhaps who have been overly indebted or who rely too heavily on brick and mortar stores, have been struggling.

Sheets and gels are definitely having a moment. Can you tell us why we’ve seen a sheet mask ‘boom’ and what makes them so effective?

It’s a few things: first, is the immediate, intense hydration and results you get from these products and in our more demanding, ever busier world, that is more critical than ever.

The second is that people are stressed and need a little time to themselves - to slow down, treat themselves and restore their energy. Sheet masks and eye gels represent a ‘spa at home’ treatment that delivers that serenity in a convenient, affordable way.

How has the Patchology direct-to-consumer website been performing throughout this uncertain period?

Our DTC Business has seen tremendous growth through this period – and we have heard the same about our retail partners’ eCommerce sites as well. During the peak of the lock down our DTC Business was up 214% vs. LY. Overall for 2020, we’re seeing +87% vs. the same period in 2019. We love that consumers are coming to us directly, it gives us a chance to more formally add them to our tribe.

In what ways has Patchology been adapting to such challenging times?

We’re adapting in multiple ways – both internally and externally.

Internally, we’re building capability and investment into our eBusinesses. We realize these channels are need to have channels, and we must ensure their ability to deliver the growth we need. We’re also really enjoying our remote work culture. We realize we have to work to maintain the same strong culture we had in the office – but the team has been happy, productive and collaborative while working remote – and that could mean a huge shift as to how we do business going forward.

Externally, we have started pioneering “real time” marketing. Gone are the days of planning out your “conversation calendar” 6-months in advance. The current environment demands current and relevant conversation, promotion, and activity. We pivoted to this strategy in March and have found it to be very well received by our consumers and we plan to keep it that way.

What’s next for Patchology?

A lot of exciting things! We are actually VERY excited for the innovation we have coming in 2021! We have had fantastic feedback for some of our new products and we know that we can do a lot in how we talk to consumers about them. While Patchology very much prides itself on its mission for self-care, it does so with this underlying fun that permeates all touch points with the brand. We have some awesome – and fun – things in the works for 2021!

What advice would you give to anyone starting a skincare brand?

Buckle up for a wild ride! You will have to raise more money than you think, you will have to be more resilient than you thought possible. But it will also be about as fun and creative as you will ever be in your career.

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