In a world where the giants of the cosmetics industry with teams of scientists and millions of research dollars at their disposal are constantly researching and developing skincare ingredients, I am sometimes asked, “why do you focus so much on whole-plant extracts and botanical ingredients?” It’s a totally valid question and one that I love answering.
Let me start with a quick bit of personal background. I received my degree in biological oceanography from Stanford, and then I spent 8 years as a plant geneticist. After all of that I became the chief scientist at a skincare company. Science has always been a passion of mine. I love how science begins by asking a question and then moves to explore every conceivable avenue to seek evidence to answer that question. Science can get it wrong sometimes, but it is always trying to come up with the next question and the next likely answer.
I don’t formulate plant-based products because I’m rejecting the merit of many of the ingredients used in traditional skincare products. It’s because I know that there are limitations to how scientific trials are run with individual ingredients and because there is a mountain of evidence that shows that with the incredible diversity of compounds found within plants, the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts.
With many clinical skincare ingredients, the discovery of the compound was based on a plant extract that showed a benefit. The plant was then analyzed and a single compound was shown through trial and error to be the primary driver behind the benefit. Then that ingredient was purified or synthesized and shown to still have some degree of benefit. The problem is that this approach ignores all of the other compounds found in a whole-plant extract that often modify or enhance or balance the benefits of the singular ingredient. Whole plant extracts offer a way to deliver the benefits without some of the drawbacks of purified ingredients.
Founder, and product formulator