Made In Melbourne: how Hand Combat stimulated love in a time of corona

Hand Combat started life as a dramatic pandemic strategy, yet it has grown into a kind of love story.

Founders Deb and Johnny had spent five years in a lab formulating a bespoke skincare brand, but that dream was shelved when COVID-19 had the whole world in its vice like grip.

By late February, Melbourne’s hand sanitiser shortage caught Deb and Johnny’s attention as an opportunity. For them, it was a survival thing. They never wanted to be the people who sold sanitiser, but who else were they going to be during this once in 100 years event?

Johnny had already spent countless hours in his purpose built lab conducting scientific research and developing formulas, with pages and pages of handwritten formulas ripped out of Spirax notebooks, strewn across desks and taped to walls. The lab would be awash with mixes at various stages of the process – from carefully measured actives, to blends sitting in incubators being tested for bacteria growth. He was quite obsessed. And, when you have that passion, why wouldn’t you put it to good use? 

‘They never wanted to be the people who sold sanitiser, but who else were they going to be during this once in 100 years event?’

Hand Combat HQ, Collingwood

People really like Hand Combat. Deb and Johnny are smitten. With a shared belief that humans have an incredible biocompatibility with the plant world, they wanted to keep things as natural as possible. Most importantly, they take pride in using the highest quality ingredients, and being priced below their competitors. This really suits the everyday self-care essentials bit. You can apply liberally, knowing that you will probably afford to get more when you need it. The brand resonates with customers who have a discerning eye for quality, are keen to shop locally and minimise their eco footprint. From the sanitiser came soap, then balms, and it grew from there. 

Melbourne self-care enthusiast Craig Tinker likes their use of Australian botanicals. He says, ‘The scents aren’t overpowering, and I like that it’s just their vision, not what a focus group has decided. It’s two people who had something they loved, and wanted to bring to life themselves to share with us.’

It’s true, the pair wanted Hand Combat to be a brand that could be trusted, be innovative and have an unmatched ability to heal, protect and nourish the skin. 

Here are some of their latest products:

Bliss Mask Freshener

The idea for the mask freshener came from Deb and Johnny’s own experiences and listening to others. People were finding it laborious constantly washing their masks, and didn’t like the idea of turning over wasteful paper masks. There were also skin irritations (maskne), feeling stuffy and claustrophobic. 

‘Bliss’ can instantly sanitise, freshen and soothe skin irritation with an addictive minty scent that pops a pep in the step! Minty good aromas are known to boost energy, clear the respiratory tract, stimulate circulation, improve mood, relieve nervous tension and stress, and calm feelings of irritability. Stressor be gone! Now we can all enjoy the instant benefit of being able to ‘spray, delay and walk away.’

‘Now we can all enjoy the instant benefit of being able to ‘spray, delay and walk away’.

Hand Combat X HOT FACE

Hand Combat’s lab is in Collingwood’s iconic Foy and Gibson precinct, loved by locals who celebrate upstarts and self-made entrepreneurs forging their creative and innovative paths in business. 

Melbourne bridal designer Craig Braybrook managed more of an elegant pirouette than a pivot during COVID, offering ‘EXTRA AF’ fashion mask options. Deb says that neighbour Braybrook suggested their collaboration, ‘We created a mask freshener for him, aptly called ‘FRESH FACE’ and our own  ‘BLISS’ blend.’ From the sidelines, it’s like when the hectic, extroverted friend balances out the restrained, sophisticated introvert. Deb says that Braybrook was an absolute dream to work with, with no shortage of laughs, and that their circular set up allowed them to formulate, bottle and print labels in-house – with no time to waste.

Braybrook markets his FRESH FACE freshener a little differently, declaring that HOT FACE is ‘to combat your nasty mask breath and that dreaded maskne! For all the people who can’t be f*kd washing their mask every day… ‘ No shortage of laughs, indeed. 

‘It’s like when the hectic, extroverted friend balances out the restrained, sophisticated introvert.’

Our pick from the range – Healing Balm

This Healing Balm is rich and nourishing.. It’s velvety on the skin. The ingredients are sublime – shea butter blended  with a load of Mother Nature’s super oils like jojoba, macadamia, avocado and rosehip oil. It really is decadent to the touch.

Since launching in March, Deb and Johnny are humbled by the way the local community has rallied behind them. The plan is to continue to build it into a broader collection of everyday self-care essentials, with six new products in the lab, including pet grooming just around the corner.

Shop the range here. Kerbside deliveries available within 5 km radius of Collingwood. Ships worldwide.

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