In Conversation

Creativity, Curiosity, Innovation

Dr. Robb Akridge

OPULUS Beauty Labs’ founder Dr. Robb Akridge (aka Dr. Robb) is a scientist, entrepreneur and all-around Renaissance man. Texan by birth and education, he earned his PhD in microbiology studying parasites and immune escape mechanisms. Subsequently, he worked in diverse areas of research from plant pathology to immunology on projects ranging from mycology to the AIDS virus. Before setting up OPULUS Beauty Labs, he worked on Sonicare toothbrushes and was a co-founder of Clarisonic. We asked him for some insights on how he got to where he is today and how he intends to go forth.

What makes you well suited at what you do as an inventor and entrepreneur?

Having the scientific background and established a sound clinical methodology has enabled me to apply my skills in a whole diversity of disciplines. I’m also flexible enough to appreciate that other disciplines, even though they may seem way off in left field, may have something to offer my own.

Everything I have done, studied or mastered in the past has added up to where I am today in beauty formulation and technology, however indirectly. It might not be logical that a guy who studied schistosomiasis parasites in freshwater snails would today be involved with encouraging collagen formation in the skin, but in my case, it’s worked out that way. And I’m so grateful for it.

What kinds of projects inspire and engage you?

I really enjoy the collaborative aspect of seeing an idea from concept through fruition with other experts and thinkers. The world gets bigger and it’s an exciting ride.

How has your relationship to beauty evolved over the years?

I’ve been involved with beauty for the last 15 years so I can count myself an expert now. Having worked on science in immunology and sonic cleansing of the skin, it was an easy step into cosmetic – or specifically cosmeceutical – applications. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about beauty from entrepreneurial, business, legal and regulatory perspectives.

But the biggest insight I learned when I segued into beauty from hard science is the critical importance of the consumer. When researching a virus in the lab, we don’t ask the virus what it likes or how it feels. But in beauty, we’re in business to ask and to listen deeply too. No matter how elegant or exciting a breakthrough technology may be to us, if it doesn’t adequately serve and engage the consumer experience, it’s DOA. At the same time, when we come up with something that end-users love, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.

How did you come to establish OPULUS Beauty Labs?

The light bulb moment hit me in a beautiful chocolate shop in Paris where looking at the hard outer shell and liquid fillings of various bonbons I thought, “Why can’t skincare be housed like this?”

A challenge we’ve often had in skincare formulation gets down to basic chemistry. Some ingredients that work brilliantly together on the skin don’t necessarily stay stable when blended together as a premix in a bottle. This was a way we could house temperamental ingredients together yet still keep them at absolutely peak potency. Hence, the Opoule™ Treatment was born.

From there, we brought in the engineers to develop the Opulus Activator™ appliance to blend and warm an Opoule Treatment into application-ready form. The appliance had to be versatile and robust so that the blended result could be one of many thicknesses or textures whether a serum, lotion, cream or paste. Whatever the end product, each would be freshly blended, luxurious to the touch, warm and ready to apply for optimal absorption.

How do you see this technology being able to impact the future of skincare and healthcare?

We have numerous patents pending, or in the patent pipeline, for the technology and the possibilities are endless. We’re starting with skincare but there are all kinds of possibilities for hair care and body care products as well as topical pharmaceutical therapies for eczema, psoriasis, burns, wound healing or physical therapy.

It’s conceivable too that later on we could partner or license with other beauty brands as well as with medical or pharmaceutical companies.

Name 3 of your favorite everyday things.

My partner in life and in business Greg Peterson (who’s also a PhD), our two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, and lots of visual art on the walls, in books and in magazines. Imagery is essential for delight, and delight is essential for a good life.

Describe your home.

We live and work on 30 acres of land (complete with our own creek and lots of happy, healthy salmon) outside of Seattle, Washington. From the beginning, we felt our responsibility to nurse the land back to health and create a natural and sustainable wildlife reserve. Everything is thriving now. With real pioneer spirit, we initially lived in a small shed whilst planning and building out the rest, all keeping environmental integrity front and center.

Surrounded by nature, we have three greenhouses, an extensive garden and everything we need to prosper, discover and grow. Oh, and we had an osprey (a fishing hawk - sea hawk) who had made her nest on the property, but we haven’t seen her for a season or two. We’re hoping for her return.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

Street food would be a green papaya salad at a roadside stand in Chiang Mai, Thailand. On the high end, we were honored to be invited to a banquet for 15 in Beijing, China that was themed along the seasons, each complete with a poem, tableaux vivant and astonishingly delicious food.

What’s the best travel experience of your life so far?

Impossible to say. We travel a lot (or at least we did before COVID). As a learning experience, travel teaches, inspires and humbles. We’re just so eager to get back to it.

What do art and science have in common?

Creativity, innovation and curiosity.

How does having a passion outside of work make you better at what you do?

Outside interests are big stress relievers in addition to making your mind more elastic. Sometimes a big breakthrough comes at precisely the time your mind is NOT occupied with a big breakthrough. When the mind is at play, amazing things can happen.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about creativity?

That you have to be wacky and flamboyant; that’s absolutely untrue. Creativity comes in all guises.

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We’re starting with skincare but there are all kinds of possibilities for hair care and body care products...

Dr. Robb Akridge, PhD.
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