"I wanted to create a cleanser for all of the different cleansing moments throughout the day, but have them all be super gentle."

By Erin Lukas
Updated Mar 17, 2020 @ 6:30 pm
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Credit: Holi Frog/Poke PR

Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.

An omelette for dinner sounds great when you've only got a couple eggs in your fridge, but when you have the choice, you probably wouldn't eat the same thing for breakfast and dinner.

HoliFrog co-founder Emily Parr believes in taking a similar approach to washing your face. Instead of using the exact same formula no matter the time of day, season, or your skincare concerns, Parr advocates situational cleansing. However, in order to tweak your cleanser based on your skin's current needs ,she says you need an entire "cleansing wardrobe."

Enter HoliFrog's cleansers. The skincare brand launched in September 2019 with four face washes, each formulated for a different skin situation. There's Tashmoo, a calming milky wash for dry to combination skin, Shasta a potent, but gentle AHA acid wash that treats acne, clogged pores, and uneven texture, Superior, a deep-cleaning gel, and Kissimmee, a makeup-removing balm.

"I wanted a rich, milky cleanser for the morning, an acid one I could use post-workout, and I wanted to double cleanse every night with a balm that removes sunscreen and a deep-cleaning gel that didn't strip my skin," Parr tells InStyle. "Those became the four core products that we would launch with."

While Parr's co-founder Majeed Hemmat first suggested a brand of all cleansers, Parr became sold on the idea when she realized that washing her face a handful of times every day was causing her skin to freak out. That's why the brand is taking its first year in business to educate people on common cleanser ingredients and the benefits of switching up your face wash based on what you're doing and how your skin reacts to said activities. However, there are plans for HoliFrog to expand into other skincare categories in the future.

Here, Parr explains why cleansing is the most important part of any skincare routine, how to do situational cleansing right, and more.

Tell me how you broke into the beauty industry.

I started off working in the fashion industry as a publicist for Vera Wang. Within the two year mark, I wasn’t passionate enough about fashion to excel in my career. After some soul-searching, I figured out the beauty and wellness space was what was important to me. So, I started cold-calling and guessing the emails of CEOs in the wellness industry. My first choice was Equinox because they were the cold cut leader in fitness. The Equinox CEO actually replied to me, so I went in for an interview, and within a few months they opened up a job for me in the PR department. I loved this job because it morphed all of my interests together, and help me discover my passion for niche brands. I met Eric Helms, the owner of Juice Generation, because they had opened up a few juice bars in certain Equinox locations. We became friends, and I ended up going PR for them for free because I was so passionate about the benefits juicing can have on your body and skin. Ultimately, Eric asked me to be his official publicist, and he paid me a retainer. This is how the world of PR agencies first opened up to me.

I opened up my beauty PR agency, Poke PR, in September 2012. I landed Salma Hayek’s brand Nuance by Salma Hayek as a client through working with Juice Generation. She Eric's silent partner and saw all of the press I was getting for Juice Generation and became convinced I should do her brand’s PR. Salma’s brand was sold exclusively at CVS and was a huge client. After that, I didn’t take on more accounts because I needed more retainers, I would get an itch for a brand and want to represent them. One example is Drunk Elephant. I reached out to the founder on Twitter, and eventually started working with them right before they entered Sephora. When I started HoliFrog, Poke had 12 amazing brands as clients, all in the clean beauty space.

Why did you decide to start your own brand?

My now-business partner Majeed Hemmat approached me and said we should start a brand together. I wanted to do it with him because he came from the retail side of the beauty industry and knows everything I don’t know. However, the market felt saturated, so I suggested we wait until the market calmed down. A couple months later, he came back to me and suggested we launch with just cleansers. I wasn’t sold on the idea and quickly dismissed it.

Then, on an especially hot Memorial Day weekend, I realized that washing my face multiple times a day was sending my skin into a confused spiral. Between waking up, running, going to yoga class, going out to dinner, and getting ready for bed, I was washing my face an upwards of five times a day. It dawned on me that we could launch cleansers with different properties and various strengths, benefits, and consistencies. I wanted to create a cleanser for all of the different cleansing moments throughout the day, but have them all be super gentle.

How did you land on the name HoliFrog?

I was touring Dr. David Colbert's holistic center in New York City, and the man giving me the tour was telling me about the effects of pollution on the skin. He told me that scientists use frogs to gage pollution levels in the environment. When I left the center, I Googled it and found all the research confirming frogs are truly an environmental gage because of their permeable skin.

At the time, I didn’t connect the story to my personal brand. Three of my clients were launching anti-pollution skincare products and I was going to pitch a story to a publication with the frogs as the hook. A week later, I was in a yoga class and noticed my Manduka Yoga Mat that had a frog logo. It hit me I could use the frog story as the foundation for my brand story. If frogs have permeable skin, they absorb everything and can’t live in heavily polluted areas. Our whole approach to formulas is that every ingredient really matters, and I want to use the best possible version of ingredients for each function.

VIDEO: Double Cleansing Is the Foolproof Way to Really Get All of Your Makeup Off

Cleansing is still an afterthought for a lot of people. What do you think people still get wrong with cleansing?

Cleansing is a controversial topic because it’s a product that doesn’t stay on your skin, so people just assume it’s not important. But, I truly believe a lot of skincare issues can be corrected by swapping out a cleanser that’s too harsh or loaded with surfactants. The other reason people think cleansers don't matter is because they’re only washing your face for 15 seconds. However, if you do spend a minute washing your face with a cleanser that has too many surfactants, you will strip your skin. In our first year as a brand, we’re focusing on educating people. Our cleansers only have 3 to 8 % surfactants and we also dialed back the water in our formulas so we could up other ingredients like aloe vera, and rich oils. For me, I believe you should wash your face for one minute or two if you’re wearing makeup. And if you do this, cleansing starts to feel like a treatment and a ritual.

Which of the four cleansers are people particularly loving?

I thought Shasta, the acid cleanser, was going to be the star because that was my original vision. It was the first ingredient profile I dreamed of making. I love acids and I wanted to make a 5% AHA acid that didn’t strip people’s skin. However, Tashmoo was the first one to become popular. This cleanser is special to me because it’s named after my dad’s favorite lake on Martha’s Vineyard. He passed away right before we launched, so it really made me feel like he was a part of this when every beauty editor and influencer grabbed it right away. Now, the two are neck and neck, and all of our retailers can’t keep them in stock.

Your new product, Como Popp-E Renewal Scrubby Wash, just came out. What can you tell me about it?

Como Popp-E is a gentle, exfoliating scrub. I felt strongly about having a physical exfoliant in the line because while I was doing research on skincare routines during product development, I discovered more people than you think still use them. It has a oil-gel vitamin E base with very fine bamboo powder and poppy seeds as the physical exfoliants. Creating the formula was a Goldilocks effect; the percentage of the physical exfoliants had to be just right because I wanted it to be gentle enough for people to use every day.