The Inkey List Gets Into the Lip Balm Mix

The Inkey List is setting its sights on a new category.

The brand has introduced a lip product called Tripeptide Plumping Lip Balm, which launches at Sephora U.S. on Aug. 28 and The Inkey List’s website on Sept. 1. It retails for $12.99.

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Stephanie Davis Michelman, the brand’s recently minted chief executive officer, noted that the product doesn’t cause tingling or irritation like traditional topical lip plumpers. “It’s driven by science, not irritation — that’s our main claim,” she said. “It maintains moisture, it strengthens the barrier and simultaneously, it helps plump with the tripeptide complex and hyaluronic filling spheres.”

Other ingredients include chia seed oil, squalane and mango butter, among others. A clinical study showed that when used three times a day, the product could plump lips up to 40 percent in four weeks.

Industry sources expect the launch to reach $10 million in global retail sales during its first year on the market.

The lip balm is coming to market at a time of growth for the category, as well as a deluge of launch activity. It’s also an early launch for Michelman, who joined the brand in May. She was previously the chief marketing officer for Nest Fragrances. “I know what it takes in order to drive strategy, and to make sure that you are building the right connection with the founder and balancing both brand and founder simultaneously,” she said.

Part of her vision for the brand is extending hero products into franchises. “We have such a great portfolio,” Michelman said, positing that the brand had untapped credibility in key ingredients like hyaluronic acid and concerns like acne. “There are a handful of products that are tried-and-true, completely tested and that consumers love. So, it’s finding the balance between investing in innovation and also coming back to your core. It’s a new strategy for this business.”

Two of those products include the brand’s hyaluronic acid serum and oat cleansing balm, she said. “They’re two products that have been part of our portfolio almost since the beginning, and they’re more universal products. Hyaluronic acid is all about hydration, which we believe healthy skin starts with,” she said. “That’s a message that we have equity in, and we should continue to share over and over and over again.”

Though the brand carries products with ingredients targeted to acne, Michelman thinks it’s a category that The Inkey List can double down on. “We whisper about acne,” she said. “If you look at the product portfolio, from salicylic wash to our glycolic toner, we have an entire portfolio that focuses on prevention, active acne and post. But we haven’t come out yet and said we’re experts in that category.”

It’s also one of the largest categories on The Inkey List’s website, Michelman said. “We have an opportunity to take that category to a whole new level and talk about it in a way others aren’t talking about it yet. What are the different types of acne? As a knowledge-focused brand, what are the lifestyle changes that bring it about? We want to be that brand that people turn to, whatever reason they have acne.”

The Inkey List is available in more than 30 countries, and Michelman is focused on growing each of those businesses. “My focus today is growing what we have. Our two biggest markets are the U.K. and the U.S., and we have so much potential there. Whether it’s online or offline, we are just beginning to get awareness to the point where we are more competitive,” she said.

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