Product launches are biggies. They are years in the making. And full disclosure, our newest product Phaze took longer than most. That’s because this isn’t the first time we’ve tried to create a foaming face wash for sensitive skin, prone to breakouts. It’s the third. Our most recent attempt was back in 2018, when we got really far down the line – but decided not to launch it because it just wasn’t perfect.
“We’ve tried and failed to formulate a foamy wash a few times over the years, and rejected the formulas because they were too drying,” says Sarah Brown, Founder of Pai and CEO. “So it’s satisfying to have tried again and this time succeeded.”
Five years later, we’ve done it. “It’s our first true face wash that can be used in the shower,” continues Sarah. “We know there’s a whole tranche of customers who prefer this fresher type of gel-wash sensation over cream, oil or balm cleansers. This is for them.”
In fact, we think it's been our most-requested product ever. “Our customers let us know that we were missing a foaming cleanser that can be used on wet skin and still be highly effective,” explains Rhea Patel, Pai’s Senior NPD Product Manager.
“We knew the difficulties around formulating and manufacturing a foam cleanser, but that didn't stop us. We're innovators and always up for the challenge.”
Formulating with foam
Those five years were crucial to getting this formula right. It gave us time – first, to get the best team in place to make it happen. Second, time to allow for huge advancements in cosmetic science and technology. This product just couldn’t have happened before now. Phaze was meant to be born in 2023.
We’ve spoken openly over the years about why we’ve always said no to launching a foaming face wash. And the clue is in the name – foam. It’s incredibly hard to create foam without sulphate-based detergents or surfactants (like SLS and SLES). And their drying, tightness-inducing after-effects are no friend to sensitive skin, often disturbing and irritating the skin barrier. So we had a lot of research and a lot of innovation to do to find another way. A more Pai way.
John Monoyioudis, our Head of R&D explains: “Without these surfactants, formulating a foaming, mild, hydrating face wash is very difficult. There are few surfactants that meet all the strict COSMOS criteria. The introduction of other actives further complicated the formulation, increasing the risk of disrupting the internal structure – and therefore the texture and viscosity of the final product (the foam!).”
As our regular customers will know, we formulate and manufacture everything at our factory in London – and producing an entirely new style of cleanser wasn’t without its hiccups. Production Manager Katarzyna Morsztyn tells of how they had to redesign the area and implement new methods of weighing the raw materials. But all that frothy, bubbling foam was a challenge to blend, too.
“We had to avoid creating foam when adding components,” she explains. “One round of production takes two days. I personally call this product ‘premix’, as there are quite a few premixes which need to perform before they’re added to the main vessel, in order to achieve a transparent product.”
It took time, but it was worth it in the end. “Fortunately, we developed a formula that delivered,” beams John. “And there’s no better reward than when your toughest critic Sarah – who was very sceptical from the outset – approves the formulation.”
A new Phaze in sensitive skincare
With the formula finally getting the green light, we then had the tricky task of naming this wonder wash. We don’t go in for boring names at Pai. “The aim is to find a name that sums up the product, is memorable, distinctive, protectable with a trademark, and has a bit of fun and Pai personality in it,” says Chief Customer Officer Ed Saper, who chose our new cleanser’s title.
“Five minutes into the product briefing with John and our Head of NPD Danielle, they said, “This is the face wash for people who can’t use face washes” – and inspiration struck me: these people are missing out. But not anymore!” says Ed.
“I’d already jotted down ‘foamy’ and F.O.M.O. (Fear of Missing Out). Then I changed it to F.O.M.I. (Free Of Maddening Irritation). I showed it to Sarah who glanced at it, looked at me, shook her head and then carried on with the meeting. Genius is never understood in its own time.”
The more we talked about the formula, the more we realized we wanted to pay tribute to its hero ingredient, the exfoliating polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) that gently remove daily dirt and unclog pores.
“By the end of the meeting I’d come up with Phaze,” explains Ed. “Sarah and John were extolling the virtues of PHAs – pronounced P-H-Ayze – so the name is what it is, but also refers to skin phases and being unfazed by whatever life throws at you. I did also try Phazed & Confused, Phazer, Out of Phaze (both a bit Star Trek) and New Phaze – but Phaze worked best.”
You can read more about how our foam face wash works and its incredible lineup of clarifying and nourishing active ingredients on our blog. When you’re ready to try it for yourself, you can shop Phaze PHA Clarifying Face Wash here – and we hope you'll agree it was worth the wait.