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‘Set up to fail’: Australian professor calls out acne market for pushing false promises to consumers

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Acne derma beauty Cosmeceutical

Too many acne products claim to be a ‘miracle in a jar’ with consumers being set up to fail, claims a leading Australian academic and practitioner behind a new breakout kit for the condition.

Adjunct Associate Professor Elissa O'Keefe is the founder and director of Science Skincare, an Australian brand established in 2019 that specialises in tackling problem skin with medical-grade products.

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Asia,​ O’Keefe said the brand drew from her 40 years of medical experience as a nurse practitioner, where she dealt with patients suffering from conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, sensitive skin, and acne.

“I'm not particularly interested in making people look younger or more beautiful. What I wanted to do was help people to have their best possible skin, their most healthy skin.”

The clinician and educator said acne sufferers are “set up to fail” ​by cosmetic companies that promise miracles.

“There’s no miracle in a jar, no one product that will fix acne. We have some unrealistic expectations in this market. People expect acne to melt overnight and have perfect skin in 14 days but that is not how skin works.”

Her own personal experience with acne has motivated O’Keefe to develop Breakout System, a kit developed to help people who suffer from acne, which is set to launch in the first quarter this year.

The Breakout System is O’Keefe’s response to products that make claims of fast and effective results. It consists of five products – two for day and three for night – and approaches acne from various angles.

“It works on the skin barrier to improve the overall health of skin and repair the skin. Once we repair the skin, we are then able to deal with the acne bacteria and speed up the healing process. The system is able to reduce the number of breakouts and scarring as well,” ​said O’Keefe.

Users will be able to notice a difference in 90 days, as it typically takes that long for skin to change, said O’Keefe.

She highlighted that the system is listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

“What we've essentially done by going through this process is solidified the junction between medical-grade skincare and cosmeceuticals. If you draw a venn diagram of cosmetics and medicine, that overlap is where we sit with our cosmeceutical and medical-grade skin care.”

The debut of Breakout System was preceded by the launch of O’Keefe’s book, Breakout: Science, Acne and the Keys to Freedom, ​an in-depth exploration of acne and presents science-backed solutions to help acne sufferers navigate this disease.

Global ambitions

With the launch of the book and the new products, Science Skincare has set its sights on the international market to bring this anti-acne treatment to the world.

“We’ve already got great traction in Australia. We have 20 doctors at high-end beauty therapy clinics stocking our products and we feel very strongly that we should bring this to the world. There are 645 million people in the world with acne and if we could just help 1% of the people it would be absolutely amazing.”

The company is open to retail opportunities, noting that the simplicity of the kit makes it easy for consumers to understand. However, the primary focus will be skin clinics, particularly “high-end clinics,” said O’Keefe.

“This really suits the professional setting that the customers that they tend to see. Like I said, there’s no one size fits all with acne and it really takes a highly skilled professional to know how to treat it. What that means is that you can have a very bespoke treatment,” ​said O’Keefe.

The company looking for distributors and is open to entering any market, said O’Keefe. “I don’t think we should restrict ourselves geographically because acne is everywhere.”

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