HYPEBEAST x AKT by Emily Jenson
Your website mentions a lot of the things that aren't in your product, like plastic and parabens, a common trend we see in how natural beauty products are marketed. Why was it important to note not using those specific ingredients?
ED: For us plastic free was always our biggest priority when developing the product. The plastic crisis is overwhelming and, in a kind of selfish way, we didn’t want to start a company that would be a contributor to that problem - because it’s too much of a burden on the conscience!
ANDY: We also thought if we could pioneer a change in the cosmetic industry that can only be a good thing. Nearly every deodorant in the world has plastic packaging- that’s just too much to comprehend being thrown away each year. With fully aluminium packaging it’s forever recyclable. 75% of aluminium in circulation is apparently already recycled.
ED: With the ingredients, for us it was important to understand what’s going on the body. The underarms are one of the most sensitive areas of your body… if you wouldn’t apply it to your face, why would you apply it to your underarms?!
ANDY: Also, sweating is one of your bodies most natural functions - it does it for a reason. Using aluminium salt based antiperspirant deodorants blocks your sweat glands to stop you sweating. Would you take a pill to stop yourself from peeing?
How did you develop the formula? What were the most important aspects in its capabilities in the development?
ED: Before making deodorant I was a professional dancer in London’s West End. It’s where Andy and I met. I started making deodorant for myself because, quite frankly, I stank. Doing 8 shows a week, under hot lights; training during the day, rehearsals, gym, class… you can imagine. I hated how I was throwing away t-shirts every week because of yellow pit stains that wouldn’t wash out (I now know to be caused by aluminium salts in antiperspirant). Something had to change.
I spent about 3 years formulating, researching and testing in my kitchen in Camden, London. Using friends in shows to try it out on, getting feedback, improving it.
I honestly just wanted something that would work, because nothing else did for me and I tried EVERYTHING.
I had a checklist of things it had to do:
- Keep me smelling fresh until the next morning (no matter how intense my day had been)
- Not stain my clothes (I now have t-shirts that have lasted years)
- Keep me feeling dry
- Make me smell like an adult and not a teenage boy!
I didn’t intend it to be a natural product, because of the bad rep they often have, but It’s a nice bonus I guess that it’s natural, vegan and cruelty free!
Can you share the key ingredients in the formula that combat body odor and how they work?
ED: We use a few things. We created a proprietary blend of plant and mineral powders called DEO-BARRIER COMPLEX™, which cleanses the skin on contact, absorbs moisture to prevent bacteria from multiplying and neutralises odours throughout the day.
ANDY: Those powders rest invisibly on the skin and are blended with natural oils which are not only antimicrobial, but also moisturise and nourish the skin too, like calendula, coconut and shea butter.
Were you already regular users of natural deodorants, as opposed to traditional aluminum-based antiperspirants before making the brand?
ED: Not particularly, because I had tried them and they really didn’t cut it. 2 hours into my day and I’d stink
ANDY: And I can vouch for that.
ED: I didn’t really know much about aluminium chlorohydrate and its potential effects when I first started formulating. But as I was developing I thought… best to steer clear.
It seems a recent trend that deodorant has become a more covetable or stylish beauty product. Did you feel it was a risk to make a more luxury or premium deodorant?
ANDY: For us design is a big part of our lives. Since this form of deodorant isn’t particularly well known it was important for us to do something no other brand was doing. Deodorant is a saturated market and it just wouldn’t work for us to sit alongside the likes of axe, dove and sure. We don’t even want our product associated with them because their ingredients are questionable and their packaging is harmful to the environment. We want our customers to take pride in the fact they’re using a product that not only works really well and looks beautiful, but is good for them and the planet.
ED: I think it’s important that consumers know what effect their products are having on the environment too. Aerosols, which are the most commonly used deodorant contribute to air pollution: 600 million aerosols are used in the UK every year! If you look at the ingredients in aerosols too most of it is just propellants, with a bit of fragrance, alcohol and aluminium chlorohydrate. No wonder it’s £3. That’s what you’re paying for.
ANDY: It is a risk, but it’s about changing people’s perception. Yes it’s more expensive than what you might be used to, but the benefits for yourself and the planet are worth it. And it actually works!
Your marketing mentions self-care as being a part of the experience. Why did you want to include that in the development of the brand?
ED: You have to remember that the underarms have a huge concentration of lymph nodes. They’re a really delicate area and need to be taken care of. We developed a really beautiful tool inspired by the Chinese practice of Gua Sha to not only apply the deodorant, but also to increase microcirculation to the lymph nodes, which helps boost your immunity, and encourage lymphatic drainage. It’s a really caring, mindful and energising start to the day.
ANDY: But the care extends further than that too. It’s not only taking care of yourself and being more mindful about what you’re using, but caring for the planet too. You can feel super positive that by using Akt you’re reducing your plastic waste contribution massively.
Your brand includes many aspects that seem to be important trends in the beauty industry, such as the fact that it's gender-neutral, natural and made with sustainable packaging. Why do you think these are such big trends across beauty?
ANDY: Look, everyone sweats. It is a little bit hilarious when you go to the supermarket and you see all the men’s deodorant in black and grey packaging with all this sporty, “Xtreme” messaging and then all the women’s stuff is pink and white with “gentle and soft”, “cotton fresh” type branding. It’s 2020 people!
We created our fragrances to be for everyone. They’re all inspired by scenes in nature and aren’t gender specific. The reaction so far has proved that too.
ED: The brand too is inspired by our time in theatre… I mean the company is called “Akt”! The typography on the boxes is inspired by the old billboards on the front of theatres and our scents are named after scenes: “SC.01 EXT. Orange grove” which is “Scene One, Exterior, Orange Grove”: much like how a script is written. Gender just wasn’t a part of our brief when developing it.
ANDY: The packaging industry needs more development for sure. We spent a year trying to find a supplier to make caps that weren’t plastic! Consumers are proving that there’s a demand, I think big companies too need to put the pressure on to make the change. There are alternatives if you really try and our planet needs triers!
What has been the reception thus far to Akt? Do you have plans to expand the brand to other products?
ED: It’s honestly been overwhelming. The reviews have been incredibly positive. In our first week of launching we were featured on the UK’s most popular morning show, “This Morning”; we have retailers all over the world jumping at us and sales have gone super well. It’s not even the end of our first month! It’s a real great sense of achievement after so many years working on it.
ANDY: We have lots of plans for the future. We always want to improve and make this the best deodorant out there, but deodorant is our main thing. We have requests for soap bars, candles and even perfumes. Some of our customers have told us they rub the deodorant on their wrists and necks because they like the smell so much!
ED: I love formulating, so I’m always trying out new things. Watch this space!
Read Emily's Article "Why Natural Deodorant Has Gone Luxury" here
Images by Eddie Lee/Hypebeast/Libby Christensen