A therapeutics designer and a medical diagnostics professional have created a handheld device that delivers skincare ingredients below the surface of the skin to improve the outcome for everything from wrinkles and fine lines to acne and dark spots. But according to cofounder Madhavi Gavini, that’s not what she and cofounder Rathi Srinivas set out to do with Droplette—rather, they were working to solve a grave medical problem that plagues children.
“My research had been in drug design and drug development,” Gavini tells COOL HUNTING. “I had worked for several years designing small peptide drugs to treat rare pediatric diseases. I worked specifically at designing drugs for pediatric cardiomyopathy, so very different from the beauty world. And we initially built Droplette as a transdermal drug delivery technology. When we first built [it], we really weren’t even thinking about the beauty category. We were trying to solve this fundamental problem in medicine, which is around the inability to deliver some of the drugs that we create effectively into skin.” Gavini and Srinivas’ research centered specifically around large molecular weight drugs like gene therapy.
Gavini and Srinivas decided to focus specifically on treatments for Epidermolysis Bullosa or EB, a group of rare genetic disorders that makes skin blister and and easily tear; it’s more commonly known as Butterfly Skin Syndrome. They decided to pursue a solution to this painful genetic disorder—which affects one in about 50,000 children and can prove to be fatal—after presenting some work they’d done on a drug targeted at pediatric cardiomyopathy, which earned them an orphan drug designation from the FDA at a pediatric conference in 2017.
Gavini tells us that she and her cofounder realized they had designed the perfect drug to treat pediatric EB patients—but, ultimately, those patients would still die because there was no way to deliver that drug effectively under the skin. “You could design the perfect thing but then not get it to the patient,” she says. “That was kind of the frustrating problem that we set out to solve.”
In the end, their work on EB was what inspired the design and creation of their Droplette device, which delivers product 20% deeper than topicals without any pain or contact with the skin. It’s been so revolutionary that it’s currently supported by the National Institutes of Health for continued research for treatment for EB, and the team at Droplette is working with the Walter Reed Army Institute to use the Droplette device to treat blast wounds that impact soldiers in the field. When they were working on the prototype of the Droplette device, their work even scored funding from NASA through the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) as a potential delivery device for treating wounds in space, though Gavini admits that’s still very far off.
“We had this idea around basically creating an alternative to a needle-free jet injector. Needle projector technology is super-cool. It’s been around for quite some time, decades at this point, and what they do is they take fluids and they create a high-speed jet and it just incises skin and you get large molecular weight biologics into the bloodstream. They’re able to do without needles,” Gavini explains. “What we had hypothesized is instead of a jet, what if you had a tiny little droplet, and that individual drop of liquid was moving at very high velocity and the same way that the jet is, but instead of getting into the bloodstream, you’re just going to get more shallow, you’re going to get just past the stratum corneum. You’re just going to get into the skin. If the droplets are small enough, you’re not going to experience any pain from it, right? You’re not going to get any inflammation.”
Gavini says that the Droplette team is still very much a biomedical team, even though they’ve created a consumer device used to keep skin even, supple and younger looking. By Gavini’s admission, their first device iterations weren’t exactly friendly looking. It wasn’t until they paired up with an industrial designer who had spent some time at Keurig, the coffee pod company, that they came up with the friendly-looking avocado shaped diffuser. Though the company began in 2017, Gavini says that by 2019 they knew that they were going to launch this as a consumer-facing device.
The device offers serums that contain everything from retinol and collagen to pharma-grade human stem cells and tranexamic acid, which is used to help diminish dark spots. All you do is pop a tiny, recyclable pod into the diffuser, close the cover and press the raised button on the side to start the jet. Move the device around your face until the flow stops, or the device turns off and you’re done. Most treatments take less than two minutes. We purchased our own device at the end of 2022 and have been using Droplette’s Wrinkle Repair Regimen (a blend of collagen and retinol capsules), the Growth Factor Regimen and the 17-Volt Lip Plumper. We’ve been most impressed with the immediate results of the Lip Plumper and the Growth Factor capsules. In both cases, we notice firmer, plumper and more hydrated skin both immediately after application and throughout the day.
When Droplette launched, the brand created an iPhone app that connects to the device and allows you to dial the power of the diffuser up or down, based on which treatment you’ve chosen. Droplette recently launched an Android counterpart, as well. When you purchase a regimen, the company sends along a mailer with a pre-addressed label so you can send your used capsules back for recycling. They also include a pair of cleaning capsules so you can be sure that the device is clean before switching regimens.
Droplette serums are cruelty-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free, gluten-free, soy-free and phthalate-free. Some are also vegan friendly. They’re also easy to use and the device stays charged for nearly 30 days, based on our own testing.
THE REALITY IS THIS IS A REAL PERCEIVED PAIN POINT FOR PEOPLE. PEOPLE GENUINELY HAVE SKIN CONCERNS OR SKIN CONDITIONS THAT CAUSE THEM MENTAL STRESS AND ANGUISH
Gavini says that she’s a Droplette user, alternating between the Glycolic Treatment and Tranexamic Treatment, but that her true passion for the device lies in helping people deal with difficult and painful medical ailments at the same time that she hopes to bring consumers more confidence and security about their skin.
“Coming from the drug design world of course, I’m extremely passionate about designing things that can cure disease. Anyone who’s worked in the field I think feels that way to an extent,” she says. “On the consumer side, it took me a while to fully warm up to it. When we were first starting because when you’re comparing a life-threatening disease to something consumer, it certainly feels less high stakes. I’m certainly not trying to compare it in that regard, but the reality is having done this for a couple of years and having spoken to thousands of customers at this point, and users of the technology, the reality is this is a real perceived pain point for people. People genuinely have skin concerns or skin conditions that cause them mental stress and anguish. I think you’re empowering users by giving them technology that actually allows them to achieve the thing they’re hoping to achieve with the products.”
Gavini says that the company has shipped more than five million capsules, and they’re not going to stop pushing advancements both on the medical and the cosmetic side. They’re continuing to work with NASA, the National Institute for Health and Walter Reed to advance the technology, but they’re also focused on supporting consumers as well. Droplette will be releasing a second generation of the device next week and the company will begin offering one-to-one, real-time appointments with Droplette-licensed estheticians who can offer personalized recommendations and regimens.
“We think there’s a ton of scope to expand. I mean, ultimately, and this isn’t the sexiest analogy, but we want to be like the electric toothbrush where everyone used to manually brush their teeth and now everyone uses an electric toothbrush. It’s just become the new default way of doing a thing,” Gavini says. “We kind of want to see the same thing happen in skincare.”