We hand the mic to our CEO and Founder Gabrielle Requena to talk about the challenge of pioneering a new skincare category, her ‘super- f*&^%$ scary’ Shark Tank experience and why she thinks the term ‘anti-ageing’ needs to go.
Q: How did you first land on the name ‘Wrinkles Schminkles’?
A: Nearly ten years ago when I first started experimenting with Medical-Grade Silicone, ‘anti-ageing’ was a marketing term that was on high rotation and frankly it gave me the ick! While we were workshopping a brand name, we were talking to a lot of women (92 to be exact) about how they felt about ageing and skincare marketing. These women talked a lot about anti-ageing messaging; they were tired of being made to feel fearful and insecure about ageing which is, let’s face it, a totally natural process and something none of us can avoid.
Though we’re (very) serious about what we do and the results we deliver, we decided to come up with a fun, light-hearted brand name; something that was memorable, that could make someone smile and that showed that we were a little bit…different. If a brand could be a hybrid of an eye roll and a cheeky wink, then that’s Wrinkles Schminkles!
Q: How did you first discover the benefits of medical-grade silicone?
A: I started to notice changes in my skin texture and sun damage on my chest – courtesy of a childhood in Queensland and parents who weren’t big on sunscreen. When I was developing the Chest Wrinkle Patch (our first product) and I was experimenting with different adhesive materials and prototypes, I went to visit a friend after she’d had a caesarean birth. She showed me the Medical-Grade Silicone tape that was on her incision wound to help minimise scarring. Cue light-bulb moment.
I then spent the next few months travelling all over the world looking for a reputable manufacturer who could make reusable, 100% Medical-Grade Silicone Patches for specific target areas. I found an FDA-approved facility in the US and together we went through what felt like 36,999 prototypes until I was finally happy – and had a viable product range that was suitable for all skins to use. Once we received the clinical proof of the skin-smoothing and hydrating benefits of our patches, an entirely new skincare treatment category was born with Wrinkles Schminkles.
Q: What challenges did you have to overcome in starting WS?
A: Building a brand is a challenge in itself but pioneering a new category of skincare is something else! You’re trying to not only find your audience in a highly competitive industry and prove that your product works but you’re also introducing that audience to a new ingredient and a new skincare treatment that people don’t yet understand let alone trust.
I was very lucky that the Australian beauty media tested the products, experienced the almost-instant visible results and backed us from day dot. It was 10 years before marketing your brand on social media was a thing, so it was all about PR + SEO + Digital Marketing. The PR piece was absolutely essential to gain and build trust, get exposure with a wider audience and grow brand awareness. I am forever grateful to the beauty editors, journalists and TV producers who supported Wrinkles Schminkles from the very beginning.
Q: How do you feel about the term ‘anti-ageing’ as both an industry term and personally?
A: Ageing is entirely unavoidable and not something we should be ‘anti’. I think ‘anti-ageing’ is a really negative term that just perpetuates self-criticism and judgement. To me, it’s really outdated and for all of those reasons, we don’t use it in any of our communications.
While on one hand it’s definitely empowering to see that the ‘pro ageing’ and ‘positive ageing’ movements have really picked up pace, I don’t think they’re entirely the answer either. Just as I’m no fan of all the anti-ageing pressure, I do think it’s incredibly unrealistic to tell people they should just happily accept the visible side effects of ageing and learn to love their lines and wrinkles. Some days I feel very happy in my 40-something skin, other days I really don’t and I want to do something about it!
Ageing is incredibly complicated and individual; if you want to embrace your laugh lines and crow’s feet, go for it, but if you want to invest in injectables, cosmeceutical skincare or even cosmetic surgery then no judgement, either.
Q: What do you like and loathe about the ageing process, personally?
A: Well, I really love the long-term friendships I have, the genuine confidence I now have in myself that I didn’t have in my 20s, and the financial stability that I am lucky to have (through hard work and risk-taking, mind you!). I definitely clock the signs of ageing and the challenges that come with it and on some days, they bother me for sure. But having lost my dear step-father and just recently, a very special and influential person in my life, I try and remind myself of a saying that really hits home: “We have a sacred responsibility to live fully in the face of our losses.” Maybe we can add : ‘…and wrinkles’. LOL.
Q: What was the Shark Tank experience like for you and the brand?
A: Super-f*&^%$ scary! I had to know my business and numbers back to front and on command and be ready to address feedback live; there were no cuts, breaks or fresh takes. The pitch process to the sharks is exactly how you see it unfold on screen: you walk through a dark hall, the doors open, you stand on a cross on the floor and start pitching your brand, knowing that the cameras are rolling continually, capturing every word, every facial expression, every stumble. You’re aware that it’s entertainment but the pressure to perform and present your business in the best possible light was intense. I was definitely out of my comfort zone and really had to stretch myself!
The exposure for Wrinkles Schminkles was incredible and I was genuinely surprised by how many Shark Tank viewers turned into customers. I’m super grateful for the experience, the authentic growth we received and the advice the sharks gave me. It motivated me to look more deeply at the business and that experience even informs decisions and initiatives we’re working on today.
Q: What’s your personal beauty and self-care philosophy?
A: A bit of everything, to be honest! I’m a Libran so it’s a constant balancing act in my world. I’ve learnt self-care isn’t always about what you want, it’s as important to ensure you are giving yourself what you need. I know I need my meditation and yoga practice and my walks. I learnt to meditate with the late and much-loved meditation teacher Tim Brown 15 years ago. He instilled in me the importance of quieting the mind and that practice has helped me get through a lot of personal and professional challenges.
If we’re talking about self-care and relaxation, I do love a foot massage or a delicious facial and I definitely prioritise good skincare, beauty products, nourishing food and celebrating life with good food, wine and travel.
Q: What’s your personal patch routine?
A: As a Chest Patch addict, I wear one to bed most nights. It’s as much part of my nightly routine as brushing my teeth. I also love the Eye Patches and wear them twice a week and always when I’m on an international flight. Nothing beats the difference they make to under-eye puffiness and dehydration lines. And now I’m in my 40s, the Neck Patch has become part of my patching protocol and I really see a difference in my skin after just one night. Honestly, I still get amazed by how well our patches work!
Something else I’m religious about is our Morning After Glow Serum: it’s one of the most underrated products in our range. It’s full of powerful actives and antioxidants and it’s half the cost of similar serums. I worked on it with an Australian formulator who works with a number of prestige skincare brands and we still discuss how proud of it we are.
Q: How would you describe Wrinkles Schminkles in three words?
A: Cheeky. Indispensable. Inclusive.