The Center Launches Dermatologist-Backed Brand: Prequel – WWD

Ben Bennett, founder of Los Angeles-based brand incubator The Center, has teamed with board-certified medical and cosmetic dermatologist Samantha Ellis for his latest venture: Prequel.

It’s a skin care brand launching July 25 with three products, available for purchase on There’s the $18 Gleanser, a cleanser with 50 percent glycerin, to remove makeup and excess oil while maintaining the skin’s moisture barrier and pH. It’s also formulated with inulin, an aquaporin-stimulating active arginine, oat extract and aloe. There’s an $18 multi-purpose ointment for dry, cracked and chapped skin. It’s non-greasy and created with 45 percent USP-grade petrolatum, bisabolol and a skin barrier complex. And there’s a $22 Moisturizing Milk for the face and body, with 10 percent pure urea, shea butter, glycerin and niacinamide. All are fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and safe for sensitive skin.

The brand is estimated to make $10 million in first-year sales, according to industry sources.

A year in the making, Prequel launches with three products on July 25.

The two met through Susan Yara, founder of Naturium, one of the brands owned by The Center (which also owns Phlur, Saltair and Make Beauty). Ellis had been advising for Naturium.

“When Susan knew that I was interested in doing something with a skin care brand and that Ben might be interested, she put us in touch,” explained Ellis, who has a private practice in the Bay Area. She graduated from UCLA before earning her medical doctorate from the University of Michigan, and completed her dermatology residency training at UC Davis — where she’s now a clinical instructor of dermatology. She’s also a content creator, sharing her daily life and skin care advice with her 100,000 Instagram followers.

“Obviously through our brands, we’ve worked with a lot of dermatologists, a lot of cosmetic chemists, and my team at The Center has always been a fan of doctor Ellis,” said Bennett. (Founded in 2020, The Center received a $15 million minority investment from Prelude Growth Partners in 2021, which backs Westman Atelier and DpHue.) “We love personalities in the beauty space, and we just felt like — and I tell Sam this all the time — there is this effortlessness and this ease in the way that she speaks about skin and skin care.”

Working as a dermatologist, with her practice in Danville, California, Ellis saw a gap in the market for her patients: “I see where the pain points are for patients in terms of finding products that fit specific niches, that fit what they need and also for products that they can incorporate into their skin care regimen if they are also taking care of a chronic skin disease. So, for example, if they have psoriasis or they have eczema, they don’t just need medication. They also need skin care that’s going to complement anything that they’re doing. And I just didn’t feel like there was a brand or product that could take the tried and true basics of things that a patient of mine might find in the drugstore but then elevate them to a place where they’re more enjoyable to use, inspiring to use. A lot of patients also struggle with compliance…And then the last tenet of that was if I ever launched a skin care brand, I really wanted to make it affordable and accessible for as many people as possible.”

“I admire her desire to be able to create formulas that utilize… those tried and true, data-backed and supported ingredients, but elevate them to make them more experiential, more sensorial, more elegant, with the intent to convince her customers to use their products on a daily basis and get them to a place of enjoying skin care,” added Bennett. “You talk to any dermatologist, and they can tell you that 90 percent of their patients barely use a moisturizer, barely wash their face on a daily basis. So, this is a completely different audience. And it is really a broader-reaching audience that Sam is talking’s not the skincare fanatic on TikTok or Instagram.”

They aim to reach this audience through education via word of mouth, social media and their respective communities in dermatology and the beauty industry globally.

“I’m not a believer in a d-to-c brand only,” Bennett continued. “We’ve always believed in brick-and-mortar retail in addition to having a strong digital presence,” she said, adding they plan on working with or collaborating with a retail partner to build brand awareness.

Samantha Ellis and Ben Bennett

Samantha Ellis and Ben Bennett

Courtesy of The Center

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