Undercover Colors is a beauty brand with a difference. Its tagline describes it as “the first fashion company empowering women to prevent sexual assault”, and its products do just that.
The company’s first, highly talked about invention is a nail polish which changes colour when it comes into contact with date rape drugs such as Rohypnol and GHB. So any woman can check if her drink has been spiked by simply stirring it with her finger.
The company began when four Materials Science & Engineering students at North Carolina State University put their heads together to tackle a serious problem which has touched all of their lives. “As we were thinking about big problems in our society, the topic of drug-facilitated sexual assault came up,” says co-founder Ankesh Madan. “All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience, and we began to focus on finding a way to help prevent the crime. We wanted to focus on preventative solutions, especially those that could be integrated into products that women already use. And so the idea of creating a nail polish that detects date rape drugs was born.”
“While date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection,” states the company’s Facebook page. “Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.” Obviously it is never the responsibility of the victim to prevent the assault from happening, but the widespread media and social coverage of Undercover Colors suggests they have tapped into a genuine need.
Undercover Colors received $100,000 in funding from the K50 Startup Showcase, where the company was a finalist, in addition to $11,250 from an entrepreneurial initiative at their university. The team is also embarking on a fellowship which will enable them to continue using North Carolina State’s resources for a six month period after they graduate, in order to get their product market-ready.