With a versatile range of well-aging skincare products that centre around the lynchpin ingredient of Retinol 8, Verso Skincare is charting a course for bathrooms all around the world. Company founder Lars Fredriksson is dependable at the helm.
Words NICK RICE Photography FELIX SWENSSON
We’ve all felt like the odd one out at a party. Everyone else has something in common but as you’re lacking that something shared, you drift away to the fringes. If you’re lucky, you come across a fellow drifter and maybe have a few drinks together. For most people, an experience like this isn’t life-changing. For Lars Fredriksson, it was the beginning of a nearly 30-year career in the skincare industry.
Fredriksson was fresh out of college, newly married, and — coincidence or fate? — was in the right place at the right time.
— I met this guy and he said, ”A good friend of mine is looking for a person like you, I need to connect you guys.” And that’s how it all started, Fredriksson says.
Fast forward almost three decades and Fredriksson and his wife are running Verso Skincare — a high-end skincare brand with innovative in-house facial products and a striking Scandinavian aesthetic.
— The funny thing is that my wife was a musical artist at that time and so it was actually a premier party… and me and the guy were the only two people at the premier who weren’t in that industry. That’s why we ended up in the bar.
Fredriksson launched Verso in Sweden 2013 and rapid organic growth means the compact range of serums and creams is already available in over 25 countries. As well as being industry-leading in terms of science, the ”proud to display” packaging of Verso has given the brand a highly desirable cachet worldwide. Fredriksson credits his other half with the distinctive branding.
— My wife is no longer in the music industry but she’s most definitely part of the business today! She has the creative mind and is responsible for the dna and the communication and, you know, being the brand director, he says.
Verso is headquartered at the nucleus of a leading scientific-research community near to the University of Stockholm’s campus at Frescati. This strategic location helped to directly inform product development and the ”eureka” moment for Fredriksson came with his Retinol 8 formulation.
Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A acid (the medical substance) found in a wide range of cosmetic products. Every respectable and successful skincare brand has at least one retinol-focussed product and Fredriksson refers to it as the ”golden standard.” In layman’s terms, retinol makes skin cells behave like new-born cells, freshly sprung from the dermis layer of the skin.
Following clinical tests of different concentrations of retinol under the supervision of doctors from Karolinska University Hospital, Fredriksson arrived at a formulation that proved to be eight times as effective as traditional retinol, and half as irritative on top of that. The Verso brand was duly founded with the Super Eye Serum and Super Facial Serum hero products leading the charge.
— What we’ve done, what makes it eight times more potent, is through testing the collagen incentive, which means how powerful and effective it is to produce new collagen, we’ve seen that it actually produces collagen that is eight times better than standard retinol. And at the same time, it’s actually 50 per cent less irritating than the traditional retinol. So that’s really what it’s all about. It just works. It does what Vitamin A is supposed to do and there’s really no more secret to it than that, Fredriksson says, summarising his game-changing proprietary discovery.
For the many people who still don’t have a daily skin regimen to mitigate the effects of age, the words ”it just works” will be reassuring. The company also continues to focus on the best in available science and the constant pursuit of improved formulas. The meld of innovation and Scandinavian design codes has galvanised Verso into a high-performing premium brand in the skincare segment.
The brand’s impressive evolution has not gone unnoticed and at the beginning of the year the leading digital growth investor in the Nordics, eEquity, invested € 2.9 million (30 million sek) to boost Verso Skincare’s global traction. The company is profitable with a turnover of € 5 million and presently it employs less than 10 people. The fresh capital will allow for team expansion, growing the product portfolio, raising inventory-levels, better it, and intensified marketing and international rollout, with Fredriksson maintaining his position as the largest shareholder.
— We’re very impressed by how Lars and his team have developed a strong scientifically-proven brand with proprietary and patent-protected formulations. Verso’s product portfolio consists of 22 products today and Verso Skincare is already an up-and-coming indie brand with a strong brand identity and sales via more than 200 premium offline retailers and 50 e-tailers worldwide. With eEquity’s expertise in data driven business processes, it microservices, and influencer and paid marketing, we have a plan together with Verso Skincare to significantly grow the business globally, says Patrik Hedelin, partner at eEquity.
— I’m not a doctor myself. I studied marketing. I’ve been blessed by working with some really good dermatologists and professors here in Sweden, Fredriksson says, reflecting on the success of Verso to date and the exciting prospects that the future holds.
Responding to how he himself manages to be remarkably vibrant and healthy-looking, Fredriksson doesn’t miss a beat.
— I use the Super Facial Serum. That’s the first product we developed. It works like a facial moisturiser and it just moisturises your skin so perfectly. And at the same time you get all the anti-aging benefits from it, thanks to a high concentration of our Vitamin A technology, he says.
Fredriksson is a great living advert for his product as he looks undeniably good for his age. He’s modest though and emphasises the benefits of Vitamin A for all.
— I strongly believe that everyone should use at least one Vitamin A-based product every day, men and women. I don’t say that you should only use that, but I think it’s a product and an ingredient that has such great benefits for the skin, he adds.
It doesn’t hurt that Verso products look so good as well.
— Yes! They should be a part of your bathroom… you’re not hiding them. They’re more like an interior product rather than a medical product, Fredriksson says.
Another reason Verso has been adopted into the skin routines of consumers all over the world is the versatility of the product range.
— Each and every one of Verso’s products have been developed as a stand-alone product, which means that it can be used by itself, together with other Verso products, or any other product. Verso is a kind of smorgasbord… anyone that is looking for a day cream or night cream, or a moisturiser or an eye serum or whatever, you’ll find whatever you’re looking for, and with our technology, you can add it into your routine and know that it’s going to work, he states.
On the ever-present, unavoidable, and tiresome subject of covid-19, Verso has been fortunate enough to have survived so far without any devastating impact on the business. In fact, revenue has grown.
— From a sales perspective and how things have worked out, we’re actually up. The whole online market has been able to cover all the loss from physical sales and so we’ve actually seen no negative impact in total. We’ve seen a negative impact in terms of the stores but if we look at the top line then we’ve actually seen growth, Fredriksson explains.
Depending on where you are in the world, a strange irony during this pandemic is that our faces are now constantly covered outside of home. Our complexions are concealed. Skin is hidden. But Fredriksson isn’t worried that this odd and unwelcome social symptom will affect Verso.
— I know people… and whenever they take the masks off, they still want to make sure that they have soft and elegant skin… so, we’re here to stay.