C2 California Clean founders, Dr. Clarissa Shetler and Dr. Christine Falsetti are two scientists with a desire to create a skincare product line that was truly safe.
The two, who are based in Northern California, sat with SWAAY to discuss their journey to the beauty industry and joint desire to launch products that were free from known carcinogens and were sustainably derived. According to the founders, ingredients like PEG, dioxins and EDTA, which are commonly included in many products can affect a person's hormones, metabolism, endocrine system, and may even lead to cancer.“When we started looking we started to realize that all of the products have a bunch of junk in it; they had these [outdated] formulations," says Shetler, a licensed pharmacist. “No one's really taken the time to go through and really evaluate the effectiveness on our bodies and how it affects them. We wanted something you could feel good about putting on and not worry about the toxic or carcinogenic effects."
C2 California Clean, which has been awarded EWG certification (a nonprofit dedicated to protecting human health and the environment), utilizes only clean ingredients like apple and citrus stem cells, for anti-aging properties. The line, which is priced between $39 for a hydrating primer and $97 for the brand's hero Apple Stem Cell Rejuvenation serum, is comprised only of ingredients that have been each evaluated scientifically as well as with various wellness experts to ensure there are no negative effects on the body.“Both of us wanted to do something with our chemistry and biochemistry backgrounds but we didn't have the high tech, so we ended up more in Silicon Valley," says Falsetti, who is former NASA scientist. “One of the biggest problems is when [beauty companies] combine ingredients, even good ingredients, they don't even think about the complex and how it will react."
After Falsetti's son Ben passed away from cancer at 7 years old, she became even more passionate about creating a product line that wouldn't affect human health adversely.
The two met with laboratories both in Italy and the US before launching its first four products, a skincare primer, the apple stem cell primer, a replenishing oil, and a moisturizer. Each includes ingredients like fruit stem cells and squalane oil from olives.
“One of the things we talked about was that plants were probably the most resilient living things on the planet because they're stationary," says Shetler. “They withstand wind, sun, ran, sleet, and they have a much more complex defense system than humans because we're mobile. So we started extracting ingredients form the plants using those complex compounds into the line."
Both Shelter and Falsetti plan to continue using scientific research and education to drive consumer choice and civic action. They plan to launch additional products in 2017 that are anti-pollution, and support a clean lifestyle.
What separates your brand from other brands in today's crowded market?
There are oodles of products in the skincare world and we have learned that many women get overwhelmed by all the choices. C2 is a brand that wants to simplify your life by giving you a skincare regimen that is easy-to-follow and offers you the best ingredients to feed your skin. We wanted a line that was safe to use on the whole family.
There were three main ideas that we thought of when we started to create C2:
1) Clean: a product line that wouldn't compromise your health.
2) Effective: a skincare system that actually works and shows results.
3) Simple: a regimen with simple steps.
What are some of the hidden dangers in skincare brands today?
Many of the culprits of skin care today are the Ingredients (active and inactive). All products must list their ingredients and they are long and complicated words -- no one really understands them. Many of those ingredients have long term effects on our body and system. Here are some ingredients to look for on the back of the bottles.
1. Benzoyl Peroxide: This ingredient is common in many acne products. However, Benzoyl Peroxide has been linked with causing DNA damage in cells and a possible tumor promoter. Alternative: Use tea tree oil for acne.
2. Fragrances: Many of the fragrances in personal care products are hormone disrupters which can increase the risk of cancers and also cause reproductive problems (such as early puberty). Alternative: Use products that scent with natural oils.
3. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)/Sodium Laureth: SLS is used in soaps and foaming cleansers. Studies have show that SLS can cause skin damage, eye damage and liver toxicity. Alternative: Use non-sudsing liquid soaps.
4. Synthetic Sunscreens (Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Benzophenone, Ethoxycinnamate, PABA): Synthetic sunscreens may cause damage to DNA in cells and lead to endocrine disruption or even cancer. Alternative: Use Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
Please speak a little about the genesis of your brand.
We both have personal stories that helped drive our passion to find a good skincare solution. Christine's son was sadly touched by cancer and passed away at an early age. Clarissa has a childhood skin condition called ichthyosis (fish scale skin) in which dermatologists only had a recommendation of Crisco lard. One day during a hike, we started talking about our skincare choices and what was out there. Due to our own personal experiences, we had already peeked inside other brands and saw the dark side of the ingredients in many products. On that hiking day, we decided that we could do something better -- something clean.
What are some of the challenges of launching a "clean" line?
Testing and evaluation. We want to find healthy and effective ingredients that help address real issues.
What are your primary marketing activities? How do you find and attract new consumers?
Right now, we are trying to develop brand trust in the marketplace. We are working with influencers, bloggers and other wellness brands who share our vision to help spread the word. We are also verified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) which endorses and shows the safety profile of our products. In 2017, we plan to launch an ambassador program.
Can you speak about how technology can help skincare brands be safer for consumers?
The internet is the avenue of information. Technological advances are helping consumers make “on demand" decisions in the market place. We are from Silicon Valley and are watching how devices are giving consumers the power and knowledge to make more informed purchases. For example, EWG's SkinDeep app allows the consumer to check out products while they are shopping at the store.
Can you describe your target customer?
Our target market is women and men, 18 to 80. However, our products are safe from babies to grandmas.
Tell us something that would surprise us about skincare.
Many skincare and personal care formulations haven't changed since the 1950s.
What is your favorite product in the line and why?
Clarissa's fav: Ageless Squalane + Vit E oil - I need the intense moisture and hydration due to severe dry skin.
Christine's fav: Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Primer. I like the primer because it feels fresh and clean -- it has a nourishing quality.
What is your expansion plan? What can we next expect from you?
We have a unique roadmap of products, philanthropic involvement, thought leadership & education, ambassador program and cool promotions with other wellness brands.
Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl
There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.
So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.
I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.
For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.
Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.
Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.
"My Lifelong Partner"
Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."
While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.
This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.
In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.
Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.
The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.
Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.
So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.
Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.
Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.
Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.
Being powerful is a big responsibility.
To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.
While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.
© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019