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we started looking we started to realize that all of the products have a bunch of junk in it; they had these [outdated] formulations," says Shetler, a licensed pharmacist.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.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.