While the pandemic had most of us staying home and slowing down, the beauty industry was innovating—and sustainability was top of mind. We saw next-gen hair and body care bars, supply chain transparency, and a push towards recycled packaging in the drugstore and beyond. And as the year comes to a close, one of the coolest pieces of plastic-free tech we’ve ever seen is coming to transform the industry as we know it. Enter: The Opulus.
The Opulus—which launches in January, and will be priced around $300—is the brainchild of Clarisonic creator Robb Akridge, who set out to create a device that would have skin-care connoisseurs breaking up with their bottles once and for all. “It’s the first beauty appliance that serves up freshly activated beauty ingredients at their peak potency,” says Opulus Beauty Labs chief brand officer Michelle Balmer, who calls it an “appliance” instead of a “device” because it isn’t used directly on the skin. “Our vision was really to take the best of what people already love—and what we know has been proven to work—to see if we can amplify it and make it better.”
The appliance works by taking solid, plastic-free pods (which are not dissimilar to Keurig cups) called “opoules”—which have a hard outer shell and soft center, both of which are made exclusively with skin-friendly ingredients—and heating and blending them in its chamber, à la a high-tech mortar and pestle, over the course of 40 seconds. The result is a single dose of skin care that’s more potent than what you would normally get from a pre-made serum. “Formulation chemists have been locked into what they could do because of the jar,” says Dr. Robb. “We know that actives are very fragile, and when they’re exposed to oxygen, they start to degrade, or bacteria gets in to contaminate them. Some ingredients can’t coexist at the same time, or will start to separate. It can take two to six years for a consumer to get a jar into their hands, [and that lag] can actually cause issues with irritation or redness.”
Because the ingredients are combined moments before you apply them to your skin, they’re not floating around in a jar, which prevents any sort of oxidation or degradation. Plus, studies have shown that warm products (which is what the appliance delivers) are better absorbed into your skin. This means that the Opulus has a one-up on the rest of the beauty world in terms of both sustainability and efficacy.
The first opoules to hit the market are part of the brand’s “Retinol plus” collection, which encompasses three different concentrations of waterless retinol formulas. The opoules’ outer shells are made from ceramides, hydrosoluble vitamin C, and vitamin E, which means they provide a buffer to protect your skin from some of the usual irritation that comes along with using retinoids, and since you’re only mixing up a single serving of the product, you’ll know exactly how much to use. The opoules are delivered in a four-week “kit”—kind of like a skin care advent calendar—that starts with the weakest concentration and builds up to the most intense. In addition to the retinol doses, it also contains skin-soothing overnight mask opoules that are meant to be used on your non-retinoid nights.
But retinol is just the beginning. Dr. Robb and the rest of the Opulus team have major plans for the brand’s future. They’re eyeing expansion into pro-grade skin care (think: chemical peels and brightening treatments that are similar to what you’d get in the derm’s office) as well as hair and body care, and see a lot of potential in partnering with legacy brands to bring their products beyond the bottle into opoule form. The options are truly endless, and we can’t wait for the shelf space they’re going to save us.