The Menswear Style Podcast

Billy Boulos, Co-Founder of LifeJacket Skin Protection

June 07, 2022 Menswear Style Episode 180
The Menswear Style Podcast
Billy Boulos, Co-Founder of LifeJacket Skin Protection
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The LifeJacket Skin Protection story began with personal setback. The co-founders were three healthy young men, who thought they were indestructible. But then, several of their friends – all healthy and in their thirties, like them – were hit by cancer. One of them was Jono, the co-founder. Through this experience they learnt that skin cancer – one of the world’s most common cancers – is not only on the rise, but also that most people don’t think about the need for year-round skin protection. That’s especially true of men who are almost twice as likely as women to die of skin cancer. Emboldened, they created LifeJacket, with the single vision of stopping the increase in skin cancer. If only more people knew the facts, the same tragedies that struck their friends could be avoided. Taking better care isn’t just about preventing skin cancer though. They believe year-round protected skin is healthy skin and healthy skin makes you happier and more confident. That’s why they design products that give your skin what it needs – all year round – for long-term skin health.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Billy Boulos, Co-Founder of LifeJacket Skin Protection about the founding story of this male focussed skin protection brand which aims to educate people on the harmful effects of sun exposure. Our host Peter Brooker and Billy talk about skin cancer, exposure to UV rays, differences between sun protection and skin protection, why men are affected by skin cancer more than women, how the business was funded, product pricing, testing and regulation, branding and brand awareness.

Use discount code: MENSWEARSTYLE to get 10% off the entire store

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

The Mister Mortgage Show
This Guy is Good! Get the info you need to make better real estate & mortgage decisions !

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the show
PB:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker and today I am talking to Billy boo loss he is one of the cofounders of life jacket skin. Life Jacket skin, their story began with personal setback. They were free, healthy young men who fought they were indestructible, but then several of their friends are healthy and in their 30s. Like them were hit by cancer. One of them was Jonno, their co founder. And we're gonna get into a lot in this episode not just about the products, but what the effects have on men in particular, when it comes to UV and UVA. We're going to be talking about branding, product testing all of that. But we should also tell you that there is a discount code for life jacket, skin, and the discount code, very easy menswear style. And it doesn't matter if there's lowercase or uppercase menswear style, just punch that in at the checkout, and you get 10% off the entire store. And the website is life jacket. skin.com. And here to tell us more about it is one of the co founders, Billy Bulus.

Unknown:

Oh, hi, everyone. I'm Billy, one of the co founders, as you said, I haven't mastered this pitch, it's a bit long winded. But I sort of say we're a skin protection brand. It's it's in the name, right. But I guess a lot of people don't really know what that means we're kind of trying to create a new category. So I sort of normally just say, Listen, life jacket is a positive brand on a mission. And we're trying to protect people's skin every day and reduce the incidence of skin cancer. And I know that sounds a bit heavy, when you're introducing a brand. Ultimately, we make skincare, and we make clothing. And we're trying to protect people's skin something that we feel quite strongly about. We believe that that needs to be done on a daily basis all around, whether you live in the UK or Australia or wherever. So that's that's that's as, as you probably gathered, I haven't mastered the pitch. But that is that is kind of how I get there. No, but

PB:

you know what, it does actually open more doors of intrigue because you're not just describing maybe a skincare brand. That's nuts and bolts, like a moisturiser or facial wash. It sounds like there's something beneath the surface. So perhaps you can just drill down on some of the elements that are in your products. And what are the products? Exactly?

Unknown:

Yeah, I might, if it's okay with you just start with this story. Because that might that will educate why we make the products we make. I was sort of in my 30s doing a job I wasn't the most passionate about. And at the same time, I had five young male friends who were all sort of young fit, there's no nothing wrong with them, who got different forms of cancer. One of them was my very best mate Jonno. And he, we were sitting down, he was getting having chemo one day. And we found out that two men die of skin cancer for every one woman. We said, listen, John, when you're better, and he had a bit of background in the chemistry and formulation, and skincare world, when you're better, let's let's shake the tree, let's make a brand that has a mission, let's do something that we're a bit more passionate about. So we sort of said, and we've got rock, John, as Brother involved, Rob, and the three of us all sort of grew up as kids. So let's make a brand with a mission to stop people getting skin cancer. And if you close your eyes and think about skin protection, and I'm very careful with my words there, because we don't want to be perceived as sun protection, which I'll explain shortly. But if you think of skin protection, you close your eyes and think of that sort of stock image of skin protection. It's a woman in a beach and a white bikini with a kid and a beach ball. And we sort of wanted to shake the tree and do something a bit different. So we've made a brand called life jacket, that's a bit more, I don't know, a bit more fun, a bit more active a bit more positive, we have made really great products. And we spent a long time doing that. And all of those products ultimately have the role of stopping skin damage or attempting to stop skin damage. In whatever form damage comes. Because we're all out and about every day in the elements. The skin is the first line of defence for you know when when we are outside and it's the first line of defence to the inside of your body. So we try and protect that. And that's that's what we're doing. And in its worst scenario, skin damage equals cancer. But skin damage could just be redness, it could be soreness, itchiness, it could be discomfort, and so we're just trying to address all of those forms of damage through a range of products.

PB:

Okay, interesting and So quick question is maybe a little bit off piece, but how much is UV and the sun related to skin cancer in men?

Unknown:

In men, there's no sort of men versus women, I think the sun is sun is beating down on all of us. And it is 90% responsible for skin cancer. It's also 80% responsible for ageing. So uv is sort of going deep into the skin, causing damage to the proteins in deep in the skin, and also potentially causing DNA to become damaged. And that is why ageing, skin ageing and is skin damage. And it's why uv is the sort of reason UV causes damage. And in extremist cancer,

PB:

I think people might have the misconception of the sun always being out for there to be UV around. I mean, it could be a completely overcast day, right. And you still have UV out just attacking your skin like relentlessly that right?

Unknown:

You sound like a man who's read one of our blogs, or, or you're unusually sort of knowledgeable, because not not many people realise that. And that's the biggest probably barrier we come up against. And the biggest misconception, and this is going back to my point earlier of why we don't want to be perceived as a sun protection brand. We're a skin protection brand. And you need to protect your skin all year round. And it's precisely for that for the reason you said UV light, as long as it's light outside, there is UV attacking your skin. And I don't want to dwell on UV, because there are other things that attack your skin or damage your skin like, you know, even humidity, central heating, pollution, smoke and so on. There are lots of aggressors if you like. But just focusing on UV. And your question 95% of the UV that touches your skin every day or reaches us on Earth is UVA. And UVA doesn't really vary in its potency during the year. So sort of 95% of UV that's hitting your skin is constant all year round, give or take. And the sort of the misconception that we have in this country, especially is that I only need to protect my skin when it's hot. Or in July and August already or worse. You know, those two weeks when I go on holiday to Spain, nobody thinks well, actually, there's UV just damaging my skin all year round. And even UVA goes through glass even. And so there is just that constant ongoing incidental damage. And that is why we are firm believers in everyday protection, not just you know, when it's when the sun is strong, which is when UVB does peak. So there is a there is an element of UVB, which is the other sort of wavelength of UV that reaches us on Earth. But that's only 5%. And it peaks in summer. And that's the one that causes your skin to burn. And the one we're sort of culturally more familiar with. The one we're not familiar is the elephant in the room, which is that 95% UVA that's just ever present. It's

PB:

nuts. And you're right, I did read a lot of what you said on your blog, which people can find, by the way on the website, life jacket, skin.com. There's some really interesting stories on there. And facts, obviously. But it kind of reaffirmed what I did learn about it must have been about 10 years ago, because I watched a documentary on the beach. And I was working construction at the time. And this is how I know I remember because I was working construction and a lot of it was outside work. And I would be the only guy out of the crew that would at lunchtime, get the sun cream out in the canteen and put some cream on. Even though it would be overcast. It'd be a crappy day. I'd be there loving my skin up because there's documentary about it. And everyone else would be looking at me going oh, Laurie Daffy. Oh, who cares about you and your skin? Well, but I think more for vanity than anything else. I wonder how many guys just want to do something like this? For vanity, not to DHS skin as opposed to have what is weirdly the more horrible consequence, which is what you were describing.

Unknown:

I don't mind really. And to be honest, we don't mind if people protect this with somebody else's product. We just want we genuinely are quite a mission led brand. We want to educate people and then the dream would be that everybody every man uses as an SPF moisturiser every day. That's the dream. And it doesn't have to be ours. But yeah, that's, that's the biggest hurdle for us is is changing that mentality. And that's gonna it's gonna take us 10 years. I think it's a bit like the smoking campaigns in the 80s in Britain. I just think it's going to be a hard, long slog, but you know, hopefully will be in 10 years time. Construction workers and outdoor workers will all be doing what you were doing

PB:

Yeah, hopefully. Well, you mentioned there, there was a difference between the sun protection and skin protection, can you could you dwell on that a little bit and how it relates to your products?

Unknown:

Yeah, so the aggressors that are attacking your skin every day, are UV, that's the big one. That's the sort of 80% That's the elephant in the room, I describe it as. But there are other things. You know, if you're, let's say, in winter, cold, icy wind, low humidity, ultimately, you're trying to maintain hydration in your skin. And there are things that are going to try and remove water from your skin or attack your skin. And so in winter, for example, UV is still a factor, it always is, but cold icy winds, smoke, pollution, dryness, central going in and out of central heating in, some are going in and out of air conditioning, all these things are affecting the sort of equilibrium and barrier of your skin, and the sort of health of your skin. And so protection in the winter might be more about hydration. In the summer, it might be more about blocking UV, but ultimately, we're just trying to equip people with tools that they enjoy using and that will protect them all year round. But as I say, that sort of SPF moisturiser all year round is the one that you know if we could put a poster on a billboard on a on a highway and everybody can see it and and then act on it would be wear SPF moisturiser every day.

PB:

Right? Why do you think it is that men are more prone? And if that's the right word, but you mentioned the numbers, it's two to one versus women. So why is it affecting guys? Well,

Unknown:

there's two reasons. One is, we don't protect ourselves as well, you're in the you're in the minority. But we don't protect ourselves as well. Women typically wear makeup, which naturally has some of the elements of skin protection in it. So maybe a foundation for example, often has or makeup often has minerals in it that are that block the sun, and some of those ingredients even go in sunscreens. And they also host women's moisturisers sort of have SPF in it because Vogue magazine has been telling women for 20 years that the sun causes ageing, and then it damages your skin and women are just more receptive to that message. And when maybe men's media hasn't talked about it so much. The second reason and probably the more the more important reason important in terms of scale, is men are very bad. And this is a generalisation but are very bad at seeing a problem and acting on it in their body or on their body. So you know, the number of men we speak to says, Oh, I, you know, I saw something on my skin. And it's I was picking out it or it led and I just thought I'm too busy life's got in the way kids work, whatever. And they left it too long, by which time it was cancerous. And by which time it had spread. And unfortunately, was too late. And whereas women generally speaking are better at seeing something and acting on it and going to the doctor and having it removed. And so that's why you know, skin cancer is so preventable, we really, we really spent a long time trying to explain to them that protection and detection is the key to long term healthy skin. But as you say, you know, sometimes men don't really think or, or when human beings in general don't think about worst case scenario. And they don't think it's going to happen to them. And it's always too scared and it's too big, I'll just ignore it. And that's why we often just talk about the cosmetic message, which is ageing, and I know I'm sort of moving around a bit, but that that sort of anti ageing element of protection is quite an important one. Because if that's what makes people change their behaviour, then we're happy.

PB:

Yeah, I think, guys, I don't think this is true of women. I think it's exclusive to guys where they will reach a pain threshold and then do something with it. And that could be either a threshold where you're looking at something and go like, I don't know what this is, and it's got to the point of no return. Now I best go to see someone I think TIF is the best example I can think of when YouTube is like, Oh, you just got a little niggle? Well, let's see how it goes in a week or two when maybe it'll go away. Maybe I'll run it off like, like a jogger or supposedly, then after a few weeks, then you have to book the appointment for a few weeks down the road. And then by then it's it's game over. Right. You're in agony. But yeah. So Billy, I'm always curious about the business side of brands like yours and you mentioned the story and that the journey that you went on, how does it come to fruition? Do you then go and source some capital? Do you invest personal wealth into this?

Unknown:

We sort of worked for 15 years Is the three of us and decided to put our own capsule in. We sort of thought but part of the reason we're doing this is because we, we have a mission and a purpose. But equally, we don't really, you know, we're three friends who've grown up together. And we don't really want to have investors or bosses or people shouting at us or asking for financial reports every month, we're trying to do this on our own. Most people listening will probably say, You guys are mad, and they're probably right. But it just means we have to be really patient. We're really careful about decisions we make. But equally, that really hurts when we make a bad decision and invest badly, it's quite important to us that we make the price accessible. So there's no point us having a mission to stop everyone getting skin cancer, if our product costs 50 pounds. So we try and make it as cheap as we can afford. So a moisturiser is 15 pounds for 100 mil which is, you know, quite a lot of moisturiser, 15 pounds, but the ingredients that we put into us, that is equivalent to a very expensive moisturiser with other brands. But which can make it as cheap as we can. So it's accessible but accessible, but we also try and make it such that we don't lose money on a sale, so that we can just keep the wheels spinning, we're not we're not looking to buy customers at a loss in the hope that the lifetime value of that customer will eventually mean we are in the money. We try and make it work on every sale. From the moment we get a customer. And we don't always win in that battle. And we're still struggling to find the balance. But really, that is the ambition is to try and do it on our own.

PB:

Well, I mean, commendable, right? I mean, it's, we have a lot of people on and there's nothing wrong with like the crowdfunding element or the kick starting route. But I do always think there's something to it, where you put your money where your mouth is, I kind of always want to lean on that side. Because I feel like especially where, like you say there's a lot more autonomy. Now you and you, I think you've been an independent, you always want to strive for that independence within the business as well. That must be quite refreshing.

Unknown:

I don't think there's a right or wrong that we have to turn down a lot of really cool, exciting opportunities, because we just don't have the money. And you know, people listening might say, well raise money crowd fund, and you'll be able to go harder and go faster. And I might be right as well. I just we're doing what feels right for us. And, you know, if we do this podcast again in 12 months time, we're probably crossed.

PB:

We've got the angel investors online, too. You should

Unknown:

definitely I'm definitely not smug about what we're doing. And I might be wrong.

PB:

Yeah, no, no, I get Yeah. But it's just kind of where I gravitate towards I think yeah, has gone by. I'm always curious. Also, because my sister's doing a skincare portfolio. She's a beauty therapist, and she's talking to me about the product testing and what it takes to go back to the lab and then the back and forth. How much of a process was it for you, especially with these kinds of products.

Unknown:

So with these kinds of products is exactly the is sort of the opposite are the operative words, because, excuse me, skin protection is basically as medicine like where it's taken quite seriously by regulators. And we're making a product that's has a functional role to protect from people getting skin damage. And so the regulatory hurdles are huge. In terms of testing, and I've jumped straight to testing haven't even start, I should have started where it begins, which is formulation, but I'll work I'll work backwards, and I've started. So you have to do UV testing, you have to test it on people, you have to test it in a lab, it has to be you have to do dermatolog, we chose to do dermatological testing on people so that we can make claims like non greasy. But so the but you're right, the hurdles for this particular product are enormous. And they're also a very limited number of products or ingredients you're allowed to use for it to be deemed safe on human skin. So you're sort of limited by what you can use. So that's why I sort of started there because you sort of have to work back from what you're allowed to use. So knowing what you are allowed to use, you can then go you sort of go to the lab and formulate and you say to the formulator, which was Rob actually who's one of the cofounders Janez brother, this is the dream what we're trying to achieve. So it was really important that we made a product that was non greasy, there was as close to single swipe as possible. That didn't sort of make your eyes staying that it survived sweating that it was water resistant. We had all these criteria. And that was exactly as you described. Your sister experiencing that back and forth in the lab took probably 18 months. Wow Yeah. And then you've got to go through testing. And you've also got to test the packaging to make sure that the product isn't interfered with by the packaging. So there's a it's a lot. It's a long old slog, especially skin protection.

PB:

And is it all done in the UK? Or is this outside?

Unknown:

Our lab is in Devon in painting, and we manufacture in Dorset and Paul,

PB:

right. Okay, that must be an ease on some restrictions, I guess, because you're not dealing with outside sources or having to visit factories abroad or wait on time zones or anything like that.

Unknown:

Yeah, I definitely the sourcing chemicals or ingredients is hard. Because a lot of them come from we use some really, really high quality ingredients from some, some of the best suppliers in the world. And they're both in Germany. So sourcing ingredients, particularly at the moment with all the supply chain issues is proving hard, but your eye being nimble, and being able to manufacture and develop in the UK really is helpful.

PB:

Yeah. What about the branding as well? How did you settle on the branding, you mentioned packaging there, maybe we can just dip into that

Unknown:

I can't really take any credit for that we outsourced the only thing I can take credit for is the name I was on an aeroplane and I just saw on the lid in front of me. You know the the table flap thing said your life jacket is under your seat at the time when I was thinking about the business or starting the business. I thought life jacket that is the that is the name because it is literally a life jacket, figuratively and metaphorically.

PB:

The name by the way, I shouldn't open I should have opened with that. But I really don't think that name. I think it's appropriate for the for the messaging of the brand. But yeah, so.

Unknown:

So I gave them I gave this branding agency the name and explained that the story and what we're doing. And they they did everything else. I mean, one thing they gave us all, they gave us the logo, they gave us the colours, obviously I gave them a brief and I said like I said to you at the beginning, we're trying to create something that is that shakes the tree a bit that isn't like everything else on the market. So they did, they did some brilliant work, we now sort of hand that work over to our own designer who takes it takes the baton on and carries it on in her own interpretation. The brand was not nothing to do with me, I'm afraid.

PB:

No, but it's still you still want it like we're mentioning hoops and obstacles and things that you have to kind of plough through. Branding is such a huge element, not only to kind of make it stand out, but to give your brand the identity that you have in your mind, right you got to transpose the vision of your brand into something physical. And that's not always an easy feat.

Unknown:

That's that's the thing. I struggle with the heart of the most of the beginning, I found that so, so difficult because it was all in my head. And I didn't know how to describe I'm not a creative person. I didn't know how to get what was in my head out verbally. And actually, the moment where it started to take shape was when we got a photographer involved. So I found this photographer on Instagram whose work I loved and I just messaged him and he's been our in house photography is on every single product shoot all our lifestyle photography, but he is the one to me that's brought the brand to life through his photography. He's He's taken what was in my head and put it onto you know, he's put it injected into life jacket. So he's had a massive role to play it.

PB:

And how does it work with the other co founders between the three of you, you're kind of constantly on emails on the phones. I mean, how did decisions and the process get worked out?

Unknown:

We were great friends, John and Robert brothers. We laugh a lot that we haven't we never fight really like we know that John has got a super short fuse. And we we normally probe him Rob and I but the division of labour is simple. Rob is the chemist and he's really he's, he's a brilliant formulator. So he does any new product development gyres, we describe him internally or like Robin eyes, the mule, he just loves repetitive operational tasks. So he does all things supply chain fulfilment, everything, and I quite like I quite like marketing. So that's sort of left with me. So that's how we divide the labour but no, we have a very simple voting system, which is if we're not sure about something, it's three, there's three votes there and to the one.

PB:

That makes sense. Yeah. So I was gonna touch upon the marketing, how do you start with a brand like this? And how do you market it purposefully?

Unknown:

Yeah, 00 to one is really hard. We've been finding, you know, I used to I used to work in a business with some really big brands. And that's just as hard because it's really hard to get growth in old, sort of staid, mature brands, we get tonnes of growth but you know, off a very, very small base and just getting brand awareness and getting getting attention. When people have got such people are scrolling and they just see so many things in front of them just getting their attention is so hard especially our message takes isn't quite you know, I said at the start I struggled to get the pitch across succinctly because it does require a bit of explanation And so it's quite hard to mark it when you do have a slightly I guess a longer story or it does require a bit of description. So, you know, we've done we do, we do all the obvious things we paid avid Ising, on Instagram and Facebook, paid search on Google, outdoor advertising we've just dabbled with, but really, just getting our product out there. And getting in people's hands is great for us. So sampling, attending events, which has only really been possible. Recently, when we do a lot of partnerships with other brands, that's been really great, because we just we share communities, and then clearly, like working with athletes and ambassadors isn't is another element. But there's nothing we do that sort of really stands out, we just do lots of all the things you should be doing. And you're just creating layers and layers and layers of noise and hoping that people pick it up in a few different places. And then it sort of sings in is it's nothing. Genius, I'm afraid, but it's just lots and lots of different touch points.

PB:

Yeah. I mean, I think that that what you might, I don't want to say consider your weakness. So it's, it takes an explanation, like you say, it's, you know, it's not something that you can put in a tweet bio or whatever. But I think that's certainly one of your strengths is that you do have to bend someone's ear and go, Well, if you've got a minute, let me tell you about my brand. And then you've hooked up you know, you're not just telling them about something that's all surface no feeling it's, you know, there's, there's an underbelly to the brand, and I think people really do dig stories. I know I do, whether it's a t shirt brand, wherever you name it, it could be a pair of headphones, I like something that's got something that I can tell somebody about. Yeah, and pass on a nugget, you know,

Unknown:

for sure. Now, that's kind of insane. I mean, we just, we definitely see exactly as you say, someone comes to our site, version rates on our site. Brilliant. And I think it's exactly as you say, they it doesn't need once they're in and they read the story and see the products that the brand needs nice, whatever. They've probably heard it from somewhere else. If you put me in a room with someone, I if you know, we were sitting next to each other in the pub, and I was speaking to you I think the day after you probably think I should probably go and buy this like, why 15 quid, why not? It's it's a good thing to do. It is just it does require that chat and you can't do that with a million millions and millions of people. And you can't get it across quickly on social.

PB:

The website that we mentioned life jacket skin.com Definitely worth checking out. Can't wait to try some of the products. Where do you hang out on the socials? Instagram?

Unknown:

Yeah, life jacket, skin. And Instagram

PB:

is that you're behind there people messaging you when they get through? Yeah, one of us. Yeah, one of the three kids. Alright, great. Listen, love the brand. Keep doing the Lord's work, Billy. Thanks again for taking the time out.

Unknown:

Thanks for having us.

PB:

You've been listening to the menswear style podcast be sure to head over to menswear style.co.uk For more menswear content and email info at menswear style.co.uk If you'd like to be a future guest on the show. Finally, please help support the show by leaving a review on iTunes or wherever you're listening to this podcast. Until next time

(Cont.) Billy Boulos, Co-Founder of LifeJacket Skin Protection