Peter Thomas Roth, Founder & CEO of PTR, on Building a Legacy in Ingredient-First Skincare

Amanda Kahn
Amanda Kahn
May 28, 2024

In our 130th episode of Earned, Conor sits down with a legend: Peter Thomas Roth—founder, CEO, and visionary behind his beloved, namesake skincare brand. PTR has long been a consumer favorite, and it shows no signs of slowing down: the brand achieved a 106% YoY growth in EMV in 2023.

To start, we dive into how Peter’s problem-solving formulas for acne and anti-aging have propelled his products to top-shelf status. Peter then walks us through his brand's evolution and shares how he leverages social media to fuel growth. Next, Peter pulls back the curtain and reveals how he manages production costs and inventory, as well as why he chooses to remain an independent company.  To close the show, we discuss the challenges of navigating the retail landscape, and Peter shares his strategies for marrying the art of skincare with the science of business.

We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen!

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The following interview has been lightly edited for concision. 

“It won't go out unless it's an A or an A+”: Peter Thomas Roth on his Process for Creating High-Quality, Ingredient-First Products 

Conor Begley: I think one of the reasons that [Peter Thomas Roth] has had so much success over time is because you've had a real obsession around creating really good stuff and being ingredient-first. How do you think about that part of the business and the focus on it?

Peter Thomas Roth: So I've always been like that. I'm kind of a perfectionist. I have to let go of that a little bit because sometimes you actually have a deadline and it's not an A+, but it's an A. We don't do B's, but we do A's and A+’s. You want to hear an example of an A-? Instant FirmX Eye, the product that went viral. It has a black cap and a black tube. We bought a quarter of a million tubes, and 100,000 caps were white. That was an A-. I'm like, the caps are either black or white, but they're both the same ingredients. But those are the kind of things that we think about, and that's really minor if you think about it.

I couldn't work with these other labs. You go there and you’re like, “No, it smells a little, or it's sticky, or I don't like it at 10%, put it at 15%.” And most labs aren't willing to play ball with you. They play ball with you like three times, and then they go, “We're done. This is it. Take it or leave it.” So we made our own lab.

I produce everything in New Jersey, in our own lab, with my own chemists, and if I say, “Put 10% in,” they go, “Sure.” Usually what happens is, I put too much of the ingredients in and [the product] doesn't work. It separates, or it's too strong and it burns your skin, or it doesn't develop, and then we backtrack.

So, I look at something like retinol. Let’s start at 5%. Oh my god, we put it on the skin and we got beet red. Then we went down to 4% and 3% and 2%, until we found the right level, and that takes time. And then, now that we got the right level, what do we want it to sit in and what can we boost it with? That's why our products are so great and unique, because I spend the time in our labs with our product developers and our chemists. We could do it in three tries or we could do it in 300. It doesn't matter. It won't go out unless it's an A or an A+.

Keep up with new episodes of Earned by following the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, or by subscribing to our YouTube channel. To catch up on our previous episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Revolve, K18, Meta, Stanley, and Roblox, visit our Earned Podcast page.