I know Royal Apothic for its beautiful tubes of lovely, scented hand creams. So I'm a tad taken aback when founder Sean O'Mara tells me emphatically, "I have always hated hand cream. I didn't want to make them." What? Royal Apothic sells more than 40,000 hand creams per week -- it's their number-one seller! Another startling detail: "I don't like vanilla." Wha? Dude has an Imperial Vanilla hand cream! Who is this guy? And then I figure it out: Sean O'Mara is a person who turns "un-likes" into likes. Plus now he's created the most adorable little pots of lip butter maybe ever.
royal apothic hand cream -- how'd they even happen?
Interesting words like "Procter & Gamble," "Murad," "Wella," "Sebastian," and "Trucco Makeup" on his bio make it clear that British-born Sean O'Mara (above) knows some things about the beauty and grooming industry. Three years ago, with a mandate to put more beauty in beauty, he launched Royal Apothic at Anthropologie. "I knew there was a gap in the market for something that was beautiful at a good price point and that really performs," he says. "We make a product that really works and we put it in packaging that you want to give and receive, and it becomes this beautiful little indulgence at a really good price."
Non-compete restrictions from a brand he'd just left meant Sean couldn't produce beauty products right away, so he debuted a line of candles and room spray. Success came from the unique fragrances he used. "Everyone wanted to wear the room spray as perfume, so our next product was perfume," he recalls.
Hand creams came next. "Everyone just wanted them," says Sean. "I didn't want to do them -- I hated them. I have always hated hand cream. Now I have tubes with me all over because the formula gives me the moisture I need, makes my skin soft, but doesn't feel slick or greasy. I use it everywhere: on my hands, on my arms, my elbows and on my feet." Above: The Gardener's Reprieve Trio ($47 at theshoppingchannel.com), which includes best-seller Royal Apothic Hand Creme in Lemoncello, Violette Orange Blossom and Cutting Garden.
The key to Royal Apothic's non-greasy hand creams is micronized safflower oil. "We spin it very fast to make a smaller molecular size. So it penetrates deeply without sitting on the outside of the skin." Lemoncello is Sean's favourite scent; it's the most popular Royal Apothic scent in Canada, too. Above: Royal Apothic Hand Lotion in Imperial Vanilla ($18 at theshoppingchannel.com).
royal apothic scent philosophy: un-like to like
Although not all are available at each retailer who carries the brand -- i.e. Murale, The Shopping Channel and Anthropologie -- Royal Apothic scent families includes florals, citrus, water and woods.
"We're the fragrance company for people who hate fragrance," says Sean, who creates all the brand's perfumes himself in his own labs in L.A (he moved there when he was 19). "A scent has to be wearable. In the old days, a scent would enter the room before you -- it's called sillage, the scent left behind when you leave. But I think women who are around people need fragrance that isn't overpowering. It needs to be fragrance that you wear easily, that you can change and play with. With my fragrances, you can wear three different scents at once and it isn't too much. You can make your own mix."
When it comes to certain notes he might avoid when creating new perfumes, Sean has a deliberate approach I call "un-like to like." Above: Royal Apothic eau de parfum set ($39.99 at theshoppingchannel.com) of Holland Park, Cutting Garden, Venetian Grove and Lemoncello.
"I used to say oh, I hate this, or I don't use this. But now it's become a challenge," explains Sean. "It was how do I use vanilla in a way that I would wear it. It took me two years, but we got Imperial Vanilla, a wearable vanilla. I counteract the sweetness with wood so it's not sticky, and it doesn't smell like your Nana. It's vanilla in a fresh way."
So what's Sean's next "un-like-to-like" project? "I'm going to make a rose perfume that your Nana won't wear."
royal apothic notables at murale
I met Sean at a Spring beauty preview at Murale at The Shops at Don Mills this week. Here's a look at what's on shelves there:
Royal Apothic Bubble Cream Foaming Cream Cleanser mini ($12 at murale.ca) "Bubble Cream is a cream-based body wash. It's super-concentrated and thick, it comes out as a toothpaste and it activates under water," says Sean. "Instead of water in the product, we've got lots of moisturizing oil like safflower, and Vitamin E, so it leaves the skin perfectly moisturized. And you only need a little bit."Royal Apothic Cream Creme Moisturizing Body Creme mini ($12 at murale.ca) Lactic acid helps keep flaky skin at bay; olive oil and vitamins A and E do the rest. Royal Apothic Hand Creme mini ($12 at murale.ca) Purse size tubes in Holland Park, Lemoncello, Cutting Garden and Imperial Vanilla.
Royal Apothic Scrubbie Sugar Lip Scrub ($12 each at murale.ca) Natural sugar scrubs flavoured with Earl Grey, Fig, Macaroon and Strawberry. Royal Apothic Balmies Lip Conditioner ($12 each at murale.ca)Tint-free balms that include jojoba, castor seed, glycerin, sweet almond and argan oil to keep lips supple. Scents match the Scrubbies.
Royal Apothic Cuppa Cuppa Firming Tea Treatment Mask Kit ($66 at murale.ca and $58 at anthropologie.com)Kaolin and Italian purple clay team up with white, green and black tea in this quick-fix mask. "I created Cuppa Cuppa because of my lifestyle -- I live in London and Los Angeles and spend about 50 per cent of my time on airplanes," says Sean. "I wanted something that would give my skin an instant lift or pick-me-up before a big event. In eight minutes, it brightens, softens, and smooths, and my skin feels more refreshed."
The Cuppa Cuppa mask comes in little travel-friendly tubes. The tea-style tin contains six; you can also get them individually for $12 each at murale.ca. Another must-have on flights for Sean is a hydrating mist; he's working on a tea-based Cuppa Cuppa facial spray for next year.
Royal Apothic Tinties Lip Butter ($14 each at mural.ca) These ridiculously adorable pots of tinted lip butter include grapeseed, sweet almond and argan oils as well as shea butter. I haven't tried one yet, but I can't wait. Shades clockwise from the nearest pot: Pink, Nude, Red and Berry. Look at that Berry! AKA Mine.
Most of the items I mentioned here under the "notable" heading are already available at Murale stores and murale.ca. You'll also find a variety of other items at TheShoppingChannel.com, including gift sets, candles, eau de parfum sprays and soaps. If you're in the US, Aanthropologie.com's selection includes pretty candles I covet as well.
Are you familiar with Royal Apothic? If yes, do you have a favourite I should maybe know about? Have you tried my Berry Tintie Lip Butter??