With a combined 50+ years in the beauty industry Joy Chen and Victor Casale are veterans. Victor used to be the Chief Chemist of MAC Cosmetics and is the founder of CoverFX, a brand built around innovation and customisation. After 30+ years in the beauty industry, it is safe to say he know’s his stuff.
Joy Chen’s CV is nothing too scoff at either. She has 20+ years of experience in the industry and has held executive leadership positions at top skincare companies, including H2O+ Beauty and Yes To.
Now they’ve teamed up to give us Pure Culture Beauty, a customisable beauty brand that uses data and science to develop products which target the microbiome and improve skin health.
Today, the co-founders talk to me about their experience in the beauty industry and what they hope to achieve with their new brand.
What was it like to be the Chief Chemist of MAC Cosmetics?
When MAC Cosmetics first launched back in 1984, I was a chemistry student at the University of Toronto who just happened to know Frank Toskan (founder of MAC Cosmetics). Neither of us had any prior business experience.
I was studying for classes by day and testing formulas for the business at night. There was a huge learning curve at the beginning – I was making the calls to all of the suppliers, I ordered my own hot plate and measuring scale for formula production, and we were storing everything in kitchen cabinets. Each day brought a new experience, but I learned what it took to start a business from the ground up and how to grow and maintain it.
What made my experience at MAC truly unique is that I could do whatever I wanted – we were all young, creative individuals that were looking to bring a new perspective to the industry, which is something that we ultimately achieved.
There was no mold to fill or expectations to meet, which provided me with free range to develop unusual formulas and experiment with textures and products. If I thought of something, I did it.
My experience at MAC taught me to think outside of the box and to not be influenced by the mainstream players, and it was ultimately a springboard for the rest of my career in the beauty industry.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to budding cosmetic chemists?
When you think you have a perfect formula, try something different – something that you may be afraid to try or something that might not work at all.
Whenever I get to a formula that I love, or a formula that I think is perfect, I always try something else to see if I can make it even better. I have found that pushing myself usually results in a better product.
After working with MAC and creating the hugely popular makeup brand Cover FX, why did you transition to creating skincare?
While I do have experience working in skincare at MAC and Cover FX, I was inspired by technology and science. I felt that I could use it to create better skincare options for consumers.
In my experience, I found that there was not enough of a connection between skincare products and what the consumer actually needed. Historically, consumers were forced to experiment with products on their own by buying different products and trying them out just to find something that would work, and this inspired me.
What ultimately pushed me to develop Pure Culture Beauty was a 23andMe kit – I was fascinated by the amount of data and information it provided me with. The kit linked my attributes to my DNA, and I had the idea that this was something we could do with skincare.
There are new DNA-related innovations coming down the pipeline, including drugs and medicine designed specifically for the user, so I knew I could do something similar with skincare.
In creating Pure Culture, we are developing the next evolution of skincare and creating formulas for the next generation of users.
Is formulating skincare harder than makeup?
Yes, formulating skincare is much harder than formulating makeup because, with skincare, there is not an immediate change in the skin.
When formulating skincare, you need to pay close attention to the subtleties of the formula – the feel of the product, its scent, and the long-term benefits of the formula.
The trick is to get the consumer emotionally engaged with the product so that they’ll love using it enough to begin seeing results.
Makeup is different because consumers fall in love with a product immediately – if you try a new color lipstick, you know if you like it within 10 seconds of putting it on.
Can you tell me where the name of your new beauty brand, Pure Culture Beauty, came from?
We developed the name Pure Culture because we wanted to create pure products for the culture of your skin – it’s as simple as that.
Our products were developed with pure intentions: to deliver clean products that address the various kinds of bacteria and cultures that make our skin unique. When developing product formulations for Pure Culture, we used clean, ethically sourced ingredients that meet both the LVMH sustainability standards and CREDO clean beauty standards, and our ingredients are biodegradable, sulfate free, paraben free, phthalate free, cruelty-free, and mineral oil free.
Joy and I are also committed to a sustainable process, we require every supplier sign an agreement stating that their ingredients and supplies are clean and ethically sourced. This so that our products are beneficial for consumers without hurting the environment or those who are involved in their development.
In addition to the ingredients inside the bottles, each part of Pure Culture’s product packaging is recyclable, even down to the ink used throughout the packaging. Our product packaging is made from glass and sugarcane and all of the paper products we use, including shipping envelopes and boxes, are FSC certified. This ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. We also use uncoated paper to increase the recyclability of the paper we use for packaging, ingredients, mailers, etc.
Most importantly, our products are designed with the consumer in mind. Our targeted formulas are gender-neutral and meet the needs of consumers of all ages, who have a range of different skin types.
Historically, the beauty industry has created products that are marketed to the average consumer, but these products don’t target all skin types. Pure Culture’s custom formulas are designed to meet the diverse needs of all consumers.
What do you hope you can achieve with Pure Culture Beauty?
My goal in launching Pure Culture was to push the beauty industry to adopt a new platform of collecting data and applying that data to product formulation in order to create products that will truly meet the needs of consumers.
With Pure Culture, we are at the forefront of this innovative process of utilizing data, but I want to inspire the beauty industry to be better and I want consumers to expect more from the industry.
By using data and science to create targeted formulas, our products can only get better because as science and technology improves, our system will improve. This process will result in our products living in constant with the way consumers live their lives.
Ultimately, consumers will receive specific formulas based on the season and the formulas will adjust based on their stage in life. Our products will continue to evolve, and we have already begun to adopt new technologies to ensure that our formulas utilize the most up-to-date, clean ingredients to produce the best results for our consumers.
How did you get started in the beauty industry?
When I was a teenager, I suffered from acne. My parents were immigrants from China and Hong Kong who believed in using herbal remedies and other eastern healing practices to treat it.
From an early age I was frustrated by the lack of knowledge and education about skincare and it ultimately inspired me to take on a career in this industry. I wanted to provide people with the necessary tools and information so that they could make informed decisions about their skin and choose from products that were clean and effective.
Looking back, I’m glad that I used natural remedies on my skin rather than peroxide or other fast-acting solutions because natural products result in long-term skin health.
My experience using natural remedies also inspired me to start my career at YesTo, which was a pioneer in the natural skincare industry. I was passionate about the brand and its mission, solely based off of my own personal experience and struggles with skincare. What I know now is that natural products take time to generate results, but the results are long lasting and are better for the skin.
My time at YesTo and H2O+ Beauty inspired me to take the jump and start Pure Culture with the hopes of providing consumers with access to natural and clean products that are designed to meet their unique skin goals.
What is the role of the skin’s microbiome in achieving healthy skin?
Recently, there has been a lot of focus on microbiome in the gut and how it relates to wellness. What many people don’t know, is that our skin’s microbiome is just as important as our gut microbiome in the overall health of our bodies – protecting it from harmful pathogens, supporting the regulation of our immune system, and producing vitamins.
Our skin is the largest organ and when the skin’s microbiome is not taken care of, our skin can suffer from redness, irritation, premature aging, and acne. In order to achieve a healthy skin microbiome, it’s important to adopt a holistic and targeted skincare routine that incorporates ingredients with prebiotics to feed the good microbiome and fight off the bad and probiotics to defend against pollution aggressors, viruses, and other bacteria.
Pure Culture has a three-product regimen, including a serum, moisturizer, and cleanser that are designed to uniquely target the skin’s microbiome. Our formulas include prebiotics and postbiotics as well as active ingredients to promote long-term skin health while addressing the unique skin needs of our consumers.
How do you find out what your skin type is?
Most people don’t know what skin type they have and the only way for consumers to find out their true skin type is to have an expert, such as a dermatologist or esthetician, evaluate their skin by looking at it and asking how it feels – but there is no science behind that approach.
At Pure Culture Beauty, our At-Home Skin Test is objective, and it tests users’ skin barrier and skin condition to inform product formulations and to ensure the users’ self-reported information from the Skin Profile Analysis Test is correct. The data we’ve collected from Pure Culture’s tests found that 75% of customers self-reported their skin type incorrectly which means that these consumers may have been using the wrong products for their skin – unknowingly causing lasting damage.
When our consumers receive their custom products, they also receive a list of ingredients that are included in those products as well as information about what type of skin they have. Victor and I are not only committed to delivering products that work, but we’re committed to helping the consumer understand their true skin type through honesty and transparency throughout our entire process.
Are there ways in which we can protect our skin barrier better?
When our skin barrier is strong and intact, it protects our skin and our body from the invasion of harmful bacteria, viruses, and chemicals and it assists in maintaining the moisture levels on our skin – reducing dryness, redness, and itchiness.
To keep your skin barrier healthy, you should cleanse the skin twice per day, in the morning and the evening, with a gentle cleanser that has clean ingredients that nourish the skin. Gentle exfoliation is great for the skin and it helps to turn over dead skin, increase cell renewal, and give your skin a healthy glow.
Extreme and frequent exfoliation should be avoided as it can cause lasting damage to the skin’s barrier. Hydration is also a key factor in achieving a healthy skin barrier – hydrate the skin with a moisturiser that provides protection from pollution and other radicals and top it off with SPF for sun protection.
While a clean skincare routine will keep your skin barrier healthy, you must also make sure that your makeup products utilize clean and safe ingredients and that the products do not clog your pores.
As the former CEO of YesTo and H2O+ Beauty, can you tell us what the hardest part of running a beauty brand is?
Early on in my career, I learned that you can’t be the brand for everyone, even if you have products that work for everyone.
In this industry, it’s important to stay the course and remain focused on your brand’s mission. The beauty industry is very competitive and hearing about what your competitors are doing can be distracting.
It can be challenging to not compare yourself to others, but if you believe in yourself and your vision, and stay true to what the brand stands for, consumers will see that, buy in to your offering, and ultimately support you long-term.
What do you hope you can achieve with Pure Culture Beauty?
With the launch of Pure Culture, we made a promise to deliver clean, custom skincare to consumers of all ages with a range of different skin types and lifestyles while also providing a level of education to consumers about their true skin type, how their lifestyle contributes to their skin type, and what ingredients they should be using on their skin, which the beauty industry has failed to do.
While we’ve seen improvement in terms of transparency within the beauty industry, that’s still not the norm. We want our consumers to know exactly what’s in each of their product formulas and to have an understanding of what type of skin they have and what ingredients they should be incorporating into their skincare routine based on their skin type in order to promote long-term skin health.
As your skin changes based on your age, where you live, and other life events, we want Pure Culture to be a part of that journey, providing comprehensive and targeted skincare solutions that evolve with and for our consumers.
Images courtesy of the brand
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