Exeleon Magazine

Serena Advani: Bringing a Waterless Solution to Skincare

Serena Advani

This feature is part of our 100 Most Dynamic Leaders of 2023. Check out the entire issue and listing by clicking on this link.

What according to you makes one a dynamic leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your journey?

A dynamic leader is 1) willing to question the status quo and 2) constantly adapting to bring a vision to life. Seadrop was conceived because I wanted to question the skincare standard from the last few decades – I questioned why our skincare is mostly water (the same water we have on tap at home).

At Seadrop Skincare, we’ve created a patent-pending ‘just-add-water’ facial cleanser tablet that is freshly activated with your tap water (and packaged in a zero-waste refill system). Dynamic leadership is about bringing that vision to others by constantly asking for feedback, staying open to critiques, and changing your strategy based on what you hear.

At Seadrop, we conducted focus groups and surveys with over 400 consumers before launching – all with the goal of gathering data beyond our instincts to adapt our marketing strategies for launch.

What was the pain point that led to the start of Seadrop Skincare?

Four years ago, I found myself dealing with a hormone-related health scare – it ended up being a false alarm, but it got me to start researching the everyday endocrine disruptors in our lives. I was shocked to find that many preservatives in beauty products (e.g., parabens) were linked to endocrine disruption. I was working in the beauty industry at the time and learned that we only need these preservatives in skincare because of its water content (for example, ~90% of a facial cleanser is water), and water breeds bacteria. I found myself asking – why not dehydrate the skincare, sell only the dry concentrates, and allow consumers to mix in the water they already have on tap at home?

I’ve always known that there’s potential for powdered skincare – the women in my family have been making homemade face masks for generations by mixing water with Indian powder ingredients.

For me, one of the brightest moments from my childhood was mixing multani mitti (a clay powder), besan (or chickpea flour), and sandalwood powder with water to make skincare with my mom. Since then – since I was 11 – I’ve known that waterless skincare works. Years later, I learned that the beauty industry creates 120B units of single-use packaging annually (most of which ends up in landfills), specifically because water-based products are difficult to store, ship, and keep stable. In addition, water-based skincare is annoying to travel with – either it leaks in the suitcase, or it gets confiscated by TSA (especially when I travel internationally).

With Seadrop, I set out to create a high-quality, artificial preservative-free, waterless skincare tablet that’s also 100% zero-waste. Each single-dose, patent-pending facial cleanser tablet easily crushes into a powder between your dry fingers, and that powder transforms into a foamy lather with a few drops of your tap water. Our Hydrating Seafoam Cleanser’s Welcome Kit comes with an eternally refillable glass jar, and each Refill Tube (available on subscription) is biodegradable and designed to disintegrate.

What were some of the challenges of starting a first-of-its kind waterless skincare product? How did you tackle the same?

Finding a formulator to bring a product like this to life was surprisingly difficult. Typically, skincare formulators and manufacturers work with liquids: creams, lotions, and gels. They not only don’t have the expertise to work with waterless products (as it’s such a new category), but they also don’t have the equipment needed to bring this to scale. I was determined to find a solution, and I cold-called over 500 formulators and manufacturers before I found a stellar cosmetic chemist who developed our first product, the patent-pending Hydrating Seafoam Cleanser tablet.

How important was it for you to create a sustainable product? Talk to us about the sustainable nature of Seadrop Skincare.

If I’m being extremely candid, sustainability came second for us. Product quality was the most important – I was not going to launch our facial cleanser if it wasn’t the best facial cleanser I had ever used. I wanted the cleanser to leave my skin feeling clean, but never tight. I wanted the lather to rinse off dirt and makeup, but I didn’t want it to leave a film behind. I wanted the water-activated ingredients to hydrate my skin, protect my skin’s barrier, and gently revive and exfoliate my skin better than any other cleanser on the market. I wanted to feel the satisfaction in freshly activating my skincare with each cleanser bead. We formulated our cleanser to hydrate skin with Triluronic Acid and Oat Oil, protect skin with antioxidants from Blue Butterfly Pea Flower Powder and Orange Extract, and revive skin with gently exfoliating Papaya Enzymes.

Sustainable packaging was incredibly important, but it came next – I knew that our anhydrous form had potential for truly zero-waste packaging. I sourced a beautiful glass jar that feels great in your hand with a solid base that’s built to last, but I didn’t want consumers to ever have to throw it away. I wanted to create an infinitely refillable skincare system, without heavy or plastic-laden refill cartons.

For our refills, I was determined to find suppliers who could use FSC-certified paper and soy-based inks for maximum biodegradability and curbside recyclability. After interviewing engineers at recycling plants, I learned to avoid any plastic linings in the packaging, and we didn’t use any packing peanuts (only more biodegradable, FSC-certified paper) for shock absorbency. We are proud to now have 100% zero-waste packaging for our Hydrating Seafoam Cleanser!

Finally, what is your vision going forward for the brand? What are you most excited about?

Seadrop is truly first-of-its-kind, and freshly activating each Hydrating Seafoam Cleanser bead at the start of my skincare routine is honestly my favorite part of my day. My dream is for Seadrop to set the standard on how we see skincare – I’d love to see a world without wasteful single-use skincare packaging, unnecessarily water-laden products, and freshly activated skincare for everyone. I’d also love to partner with an ocean conservancy organization to not only keep new plastic out of our oceans, but also clean up the existing debris. And finally – I hope that someday, Seadrop will be available at a beauty retailer like a Credo, Ulta, or Sephora to bring sustainable skincare to consumers at scale!

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