Ric Kostick, the co-founder of 100% Pure, chatted about blockchain, sustainability, diversity, and of course, advocating for clean beauty.
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Imagine that your job involves formulating skin care products. One day, droplets of the chemical that you’re working with falls onto the table (which happens to be plastic) and erodes it. You’re horrified that this is something meant to go onto customers’ skin. After all, as the largest organ in our bodies, our skin can absorb chemicals that are then able to enter our bloodstream. You vent to one of your friends and the two of you realize that there’s an opportunity to improve people’s lives with healthy beauty products. So, after a year of studying how various fruits react with one another you officially launch your fruit-based skincare line in 2005. This was the origin story behind 100% Pure makeup, founded by chief creative Susie Wang, COO James Wang, and CEO Ric Kostick.
Almost twenty years later, the public perception and understanding of ingredients in skincare and beauty products has drastically changed. Ric chatted with The Wellness Feed about the changes he noticed, how natural is more acceptable, and what excites him when it comes to the next chapter of building a clean beauty brand.
Advocating For Clean Beauty
Twenty years ago, terms like ‘natural’ weren’t widely understood by consumers, retailers, and producers within the beauty industry. When Ric pitched facilities to make 100% Pure makeup and skincare products he found that their mission was often misunderstood. “They wanted to dilute our formulas with water or chemicals to ensure that they would last for 30 years.” Ric mentioned that they received a lot of pushback and feedback- “Customers don’t care. They just want to have something that performs well.”
Determined not to dilute their idea to create healthy beauty products Ric and Susie structured their small team. “We just said, ‘We’ll do it ourselves’ and we converted my garage into a small-scale manufacturing for skincare and bath and body products.”
The second hurdle was being accepted by retailers. Today a lot of makeup brands and retailers are loudly declaring that they’re phthalate, paraben, or PEG-free. That’s because these chemicals are part of a long list of banned carcinogens by the European Union and countries like Japan. In case you’re wondering, they’re still deemed acceptable by the FDA. Yet, advocacy groups like the Environmental Working Group are working to educate the public about these harmful ingredients.
But, a decade ago, simply discussing them was considered taboo among some retailers. Ric was chastised by retailers not to “say anything bad about any ingredients because that’s putting down other’s people’s products.” Feeling that educating consumers about harmful ingredients was part of the brand mission and backstory, 100% Pure Makeup pivoted to sell directly to consumers, educating them about the benefits of natural ingredients at their first store in Berkeley California. “We take an avocado and cold press the pit to get the oil,” Ric explains how they minimally process ingredients to ensure that they meet the FDA definition of natural. “It means minimally processed, from a natural source from the plant from the earth. So, we wouldn’t consider an ingredient to be natural if a chemical is added to extract it.”
Where Do Natural Ingredients Come From?
“With every purchase, try to be more mindful. Educate yourself and read the ingredient list, read the brand story. Ask yourself, where is my money going?“
Ric is excited about the growing momentum behind the term ‘traceability’. “That’s something that is very difficult but is becoming more important to our consumers,” he says about the idea of tracing the origin of ingredients and sharing that information with customers. During the 10+ years that 100% Pure Makeup has been around he’s dealt with a lot of middle suppliers, farms, and distributors from around the world. But, he predicts that blockchain will help both brands and customers to be in a better position to trace ingredients to the source.
“It won’t be long before products offer full traceability so that when you receive something you’ll be able to look into the chain and see where every ingredient comes from,” he says. For now, the brand is working on tightening its list of suppliers to work directly with farmers. “We have a line that is launching soon of cacao products that have a single cacao origin.” What’s also special about this particular farm is that they’ve revived this particular type of cacao beans from going instinct.” It’s also a farm that is organic, offers fair wages, and doesn’t use pesticides.
Pushing For Sustainability & Plant-Based Packaging
“When we started the brand in 2005 we didn’t want to use outer boxes on our products,” Ric explains that in the early days of the brand, they tried to minimize packaging in an attempt to minimize waste. “But, retailers told us that they wouldn’t carry our products without them.” Despite feeling that excess packaging could have a negative impact on the environment, 100% Pure did eventually use outer boxes in order to meet certain guidelines. “But, we did it in a way where we could always use biodegradable packaging and recycled boxes (post-consumer waste). We use the cornstarch peanuts that are biodegradable and soy inks that we try to trace to ensure that they’re safe.”
The 100% Pure stores also have take-it-back initiatives where they will properly recycle their packaging when returned by customers. “Ideally, we want to partner with local recycling plants to avoid fossil fuels and focus on plant-based packaging that is biodegradable in a short period of time,” Ric says about a few of their future initiatives. “Whenever you make a purchase, make it a purchase with a purpose. That’s how we can make a positive impact together as a community.”
As more brands pivot to become sustainable, Ric points out that drastic changes need to be made now. “No plastic by 2025 is too easy,” he says. “We as an industry need to do more. We just really have to focus on innovations to help this planet to be in a better state than when we arrived.” This belief is part of the reason why the brand is looking to do more to decrease its negative environmental impact. Plant-based packaging and supporting local communities where they source their raw ingredients are two environmental initiatives. When Covid-19 hit, 100% Pure began to make and donate hand sanitizer. To decrease their carbon footprint they’ve partnered with Trees.org to plant trees in communities impacted by deforestation and to farmers to regenerate their land. “They give these trees to a families and farmers as a way to not only give them extra food, but also a chance to better the environment.”
The brand is also working on a diffusion line that is more inclusive and affordable. The difference will be that some ingredients will be switched out to keep the costs lower. For instance, instead of cacao liqueur, avocado oil can be used. “They’re still potent ingredients that are great for you, but not as luxurious.” By simplifying the ingredients list the brand can then pass those savings onto the consumer. “We’re dedicated to making the best products with the best formulas to improve as many lives as possible.”