Nita Sederholm Targets Acne in a New Way

Nita Sederholm moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. from Finland three-and-a-half years ago with two suitcases, two cats and a dream to better understand why consumers buy what they buy.

So in 2017, she started a company called Cocoon, a machine learning platform to understand what products and what product interaction works for consumers depending on their ethnicity, age and skin condition.

In a short time, the platform amassed a database of 40,000 consumers, which is capable of calculating for people what products and ingredients have the highest probability of working for them.

And out of that platform has come an even bigger dream for Sederholm — to change the beauty industry by using data-driven analytics to fill need gaps.

Last February, Sederholm identified a large white space in the data set — where skin care ends and makeup begins for acne-prone skin.

“I’m an acneic person, and I thought there has to be a way to figure out what works for me with the highest probability,” said Sederholm. “We noticed that women had a lot of barrier stripping and they were covering their skin with heavy, paste-like foundations, and then they’d strip it again with a heavy cleanser and treatments that use a lot of acids. It is a vicious cycle.”

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Sederholm decided to tackle the issue and the result is When Life Gives You Lemons, whose name is supposed to invoke the change in attitude the entrepreneur is hoping to effect as well. (“Skin almost has a mind of its own,” Sederholm said. “There is no brand in the world that can change it — we can only change your attitude to it.”)

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Lemons launches on its own website on March 5 with two products — Hi-Function Foundation, available in 30 shades at $39, and Oil-Balance Booster, which is said to reduce sebum with marine algae, hyaluronic acid and niacinamide and will sell for $54. Both products can be bought as a bundle for $78.

“Everything we do is defined for acne — it’s not a byproduct or a side note,” said Sederholm. “It is going after the terrain and understanding what the consumer need looks like.” She said the foundation doesn’t cake, while the Booster helps reduce sebum production minus the harshness of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. More products are planned for September.

Nita Sederholm 

Industry sources estimate sales this year will reach $2 million, a figure Sederholm declined to confirm. She did note, though, that she envisions building Lemons into a full-fledged brand, completely led by consumer needs.

“For now, we are producing skin care-makeup hybrids, but we go where the consumer goes,” said Sederholm. “The way that I look at our consumer is that acne is the common denominator, and whatever they need — shampoos, nutriceuticals, detergent — we will build a supply chain around, rather than thinking we can only play in a certain category because that’s what we’re set up to do.”

Distribution will be entirely digital for the foreseeable future, and Sederholm will continue to mine the data for growth. “People with acne have always been grouped into the treatment category, but they have just as much need for cool new things, just things that don’t aggravate their skin,” she said. “That’s what those 40,000 women have told me and taught me.”

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