Credit: Ellus and Krue

Ellus and Krue have changed the way we think about skincare. Their own experience with skin cancer has set out their mission to help all Australians make better choices for their skin.

Ellus and Krue are a family owned company have been touched first hand by the harsh reality of the Australian sun – skin cancer. Since then, the brand has made it their mission to help all Australians make better choices for their skin and help the people who have been affected by skin cancer. 

We had a chat with co-owner, Kimberly Verchuur, who helps run Ellus and Krue with her father and three siblings. 

How did your company actually start? What was the story behind it?

It was all because of my dad. My dad was the type of person in the 60s and 70s who basically used to lather himself with olive oil and then go out into the lawn to sun bake and didn’t care about the consequences. He was a recreational fisherman who used to put a hat on and a bit of sunscreen on his nose and that’s it.

Then when he got to about the age of 50, he started having basal-cell carcinoma removed from his face. He had eight in total over about a 20-year period. He’s also had a melanoma removed as well. But each time he had the basal cell carcinoma is removed, they used to give him this topical ointment that ripped the top layer of healthy cells off which left him bright, red and raw for two weeks. It got to the point where he was just tired of it and he was seeking something more natural.

He’s a cancer and ageing scientist at the Cancer and Ageing Research Laboratories in Brisbane. His work centres around on finding out why we get cancer and why, as we age, our risk of cancer increases. And so, he’s trying to pinpoint that protein and stop cancer before it starts.

It’s very expensive research. So he spends a lot of his time trying to fundraise and get donations. Professor Derek Richards actually said “Hey, I know a lot about plant actives, I know a lot about what’s good for the skin. How about I start tinkering around with some ingredients and making up a serum?” And then he met dad and dad’s like, “Oh, I suffered with skin issues. Can I drive your prototype?”. Dad tried it and thought it was amazing and from there it all started. He started the skincare company and got all three of us involved. We’re a family run and owned company.

For your hero product, the EPI-Gen Serum, was the procedure to test the product and make sure all the ingredients were at their correct levels, a long process?

Credit: Ellus and Krue

So Professor Derek Richards spent over a year testing the product and also formulating it. He’s really passionate about getting the right ingredients at the right percentages. He wanted to create something that’s not already on the market. He wanted to create something that’s brand new that comes from the knowledge that he’s going through with his research. So it took him over a year over year and the whole way through, he was tinkering with different levels of ingredients, adding some more in when he needed to and just really trying to formulate the best type of serum. It was really fun playing with the different versions as well.

How many trials did it take before you found the right percentage of everything?

I think we went through about four or five revisions. I don’t know the exact number because some of the ones we we were kind of using. I think it took just over a year and we only came to market in March last year.

There are a lot of skincare companies out there now all saying they do different things and have various benefits. So what really makes your company different to other skincare companies on the market?

I think what makes us quite different from the rest of the people is that we do have the cancer and ageing scientists to formulate our own EPI-Gen Serum. A lot of people might have scientists at their companies but they’re mainly figureheads. They don’t actually have any involvement in making the products. We’ve actually had a scientist collaborate with us to formulate a product based off his knowledge and expertise of what nature and science can really help us with.

I think also the fact that we are Australian made, we manufacture in Brisbane and we’re a family company. So it’s quite different. We don’t have a big international office and hundreds of people working for us.

I think that it also comes down to our customer service as well. We’re very personable and we’re very approachable because we are a small company. But I think also what makes us quite unique is our packaging because we really tried to hero Australia. So the the cream colour was inspired by the beaches of the Gold Coast. The brown is inspired by the the red centre of Australia and the real earthy dirt that you get out there. The green is inspired by the the lush tropical rainforests of North Queensland, and then the black is inspired by the night sky, think when you’re out in the middle of Australia and you look up at the night sky and its just pitch black with little sparkles through the stars. So we tried to hero Australian our packaging cause we’re very proud to be Australian made and owned.

With the ingredients as well, we’ve really tried to hero plant actives because nature has hundreds of thousands of compounds in its library. What Prof. Derek did with the serum and with all the other products is to, especially with the serum, is try to hero those plant actives. You’ve got a French lilac in there, he’s got niacinamide, he’s got curcumin, we’ve also got a compound in there that you find in citrus fruit, which is very good for skin brightening. We’ve got Wakame in there that’s like seaweed, which is a fantastic marine antioxidant. Then we’ve got hyaluronic acid, we’ve got peptides.

We’ve really just handpicked and chosen the best ingredients. Then the rest of the range supports that vibe as well. Kale and the clay in the detoxifying exfoliant and help clear out impurities. You’ve got cucumber and aloe vera. We love aloe vera. I think it’s the best six out of seven of our products have aloe vera in them. I think this serum is the only product that doesn’t have aloe vera. I think that makes us very different from the other companies you may see, and I know a lot of people do have plant actives, but our plant actives are high up on the ingredients list.

Credit: Ellus and Krue

Moving forward with skincare in Australia as a whole, we’re really starting to look for more vegan friendly and cruelty free products. Have you found that challenging to encompass going forward? Or was that something that you really feel passionate about?

We we set out from Day Dot to be vegan and cruelty free, we’re certified by PETA as vegan and cruelty free, and we are also glycogen and paraben SLS free. We use recyclable and renewable materials and we also we also use Australian supplies where we can. We can’t source everything in Australia, unfortunately, the aim is to eventually have everything from Australia. But we’re also B Corp certified, that’s an international organization which makes its company strive towards being better and to be using more local suppliers and more renewable sources as well. So it’s a very good certification for an early stage company.

Besides the certifications, did you find it difficult to source most of the ingredients you required for the EPI-Gen in Australia? 

We do try and source as much as we can from Australia, but you know, things like the French lilac in the serum as the name has it, we have to get that from France. Those things that you can’t get here. We get acid free tissue paper from a company just literally about 50 meters away from where we’re based. We really try and source local, we use a lot of Gold Coast suppliers and then we get manufactured in Brisbane. We do also get a lot of things from Sydney as well and also from Melbourne. We also have these lovely little pouches that we put a little sachet samples in, and they’re from a guy that’s about 20kms down the road, so we always try and source local.

So for someone that’s quite new to your brand, what would be your advice to them? Are there any products that you would recommend besides your hero product EPI-Gen Serum? 

I guess it depends on your skin type and skin issues. All of our products have been designed to be unisex, especially with the packaging as well. We wanted it to be able to sit on the counter and be neutral for someone to be like “OK, I’m going to try that”, not it looks too feminine or it looks too masculine to be able to try it. So it neutral, unisex. It’s for all skin types and all ages.

I’d say one of my favourites is the hydrogel cleanser because it’s nice and gentle. It’s also loaded with aloe vera and cucumber. But when you cleanse, you don’t feel like your oils are getting stripped out, sometimes when you cleanse your face feels a bit tight, but with this you just feel nice and refreshed and hydrated all over. It’s also got a bit of sunflower oil in there as well, so it’s great for getting rid of makeup. Just fantastic.

My other favourite is the intensive night repair, because that one’s good for all skin types as well. It’s got a nice, velvety texture, but it’s light for a night cream. So when you pop it on, it quickly absorbs. You don’t have to wait 10 or 15 minutes before you go to bed or wake up with an oil slick on your pillow. You actually wake up with nice, hydrated, refreshed and plump skin.

One of my favourite ways of describing it comes from one of our customer reviews left on the website, she called it “beauty sleep in a jar.”

I know I was only supposed to choose one but I really have to choose these two. They’re incredible.

I’ve tried so many different skincare products and always feel like maybe I don’t know something about my skin style. What are the common mistakes you often find your customers making when choosing skincare products?

I think one of the biggest myths is people with oily skin think they don’t need a moisturiser. They just stay clear of moisturisers when if fact they actually need a moisturiser. They actually need hydration, and they need to lock in and also repair the skin barrier because the whole part of skincare is to help your skin barrier to protect your skin. But people with oily skin stay away from moisturisers because they say, “Oh, they’re oily”, but just don’t choose moisturisers that have an Oleic acid in it. So make sure they don’t have olive oils or coconut oils and things like that. Or if they’ve got it make sure they’re in low levels. You can still have plant oils cause they’re good for your skin but you jut don’t want to choose the wrong plant oils. But always remember, everyone needs a moisturiser!

Now that you’ve mentioned it, what would you recommend for someone who needs moisturiser? I keep putting it on, but it just keeps absorbing and nothing seems to change.

If you’ve got the dry skin, I go for the tandem of always morning and night. A serum and a day cream in the morning and then at night, a serum and a night cream. So you’re getting the double hydration. Something like the hydrating day defence is loaded with lots of plant oils, you’ve got the macadamia in there, but you’ve also got squalene. Squalene is something that naturally occurs in our skin, it’s a natural compound in our skin and as we get older, it depletes. So you’re basically putting back in that moisturiser into your skin. That one is fantastic, because that really gets you through the day, it’s very rich and creamy. But I definitely go for moisturiser and serum in the morning and then a night cream and a serum at night.

You can’t help but be in complete awe of Kimberly and the mission she’s set out on – to redefine the way we think about our skincare and what we’re putting onto our skin. To have a company so invested in plant actives and highlighting the beauty of Australia and importance of Australian suppliers, it really makes you wonder why all these multinational corporations aren’t taking similar steps to not only better our skincare but also our environmental future.

Their hero product, the Epi-Gen Serum, is the one product I need to have in my bathroom. I’ve only been using it for over a week now and I can already see the difference in the appearance of my skin.

Check out Ellis and Krue’s products on their website!

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