Meet the Founders of Thrive Natural Care, the Sustainable Skincare Brand That Gives Back
Thrive Natural Care was founded in 2012 on two principles: making skincare that works for sensitive skin and that helps repair the environment that its ingredients come from. Founded by CEO Alex McIntosh, head of research and development Laura Arce and head of regenerative operations Mario Garcia, the brand is revolutionary in its commitment to plant-based ingredients and giving back to the Costa Rican farmland they’re harvested from. All of Thrive’s formulas meet ECOCERT, COSMOS and Soil Association standards, putting clean beauty at the forefront. Keep reading to hear more about how the brand is taking eco-friendly skincare to the next level.
What came first: your interest in skincare or in sustainability? And what made you want to combine the two?
They came at the same time. We saw two gaps and wanted to build a great company to fill them. The first was a gap in skincare; we saw a need starting with ourselves and our friends and families for truly natural products that would be just as effective as conventional products at an affordable price. The thinking behind Thrive in the beginning was to design a line of products that would be really good for people with sensitive skin and truly natural in its formulations, yet still very effective.
The second gap we saw was a business model gap. Our founding team felt it was time for business to go beyond being less bad (i.e. producing ‘less waste,’ creating ‘less plastic’ and ‘less pollution’). Instead, we wanted to actually design a company whose business operations would leave things better. We're using our business model to restore degraded lands in Costa Rica and to boost the livelihoods of rural farmers. This is a regenerative business and we feel it's the future of business, not just for beauty and personal care but for many different types of industries.
In what ways is Thrive a regenerative business?
The most important and foundational element of Thrive’s regenerative model is the super plants in our products: juanilama, fierrillo, and coralillo. We chose these plants from a long list of almost 600 plants native to Costa Rica. We’re re-planting these plants on the degraded, eroded parts of land that our farmers own, which then helps to restore the soil and the biodiversity, bringing the land back to health.
The other element of our regenerative business is all of the other ingredients that are in our products. We have an extremely strict sourcing model that looks at the health and effectiveness along with the ethics and sustainability of the supply itself. We have multiple partnerships sourcing really unique ingredients that have positive footprints from around the world.
The third element of our regenerative business is our partnership with our farmers. One in particular is with Doña Gisel, the president of an amazing woman-led co-op in Costa Rica. Doña Gisel and the farmers in her cooperative are making 40% more today than they were before they began working with Thrive. Their health and the health of their land has improved. Then there’s our packaging. All of our packaging is made of either glass, paper or recycled plastic. We also have several products, particularly all of our tubes, made out of bioplastic — this is plastic made from plants. The last element of our regenerative business is our manufacturing. We manufacture our products using wind energy, meaning we don’t use any hydrocarbons* for our production.
*Hydrocarbons include oil, gas and coal.
Can you talk about the benefits of the “super plants” in your products?
Juanilama has been used by indigenous people in Central and South America for generations to soothe irritation. The plant oil from the juanilama leaf, native to our farms in Costa Rica, is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal ingredient with high levels of antioxidants. Fierrillo has also been used for generations for its healing properties and is native to our Costa Rican farms. It packs a strong antioxidant punch to promote healthy skin and has wound-healing and antibacterial properties that help restore and repair damaged skin. Coralillo is a remarkable medicinal plant packed with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and skin-repairing benefits that help calm and restore sensitive skin. The Mayans referred to coralillo as their 'guardian of the forest' to treat a variety of skin ailments. These ingredients are vital to the regenerative farms, with juanilama acting as a natural pesticide for harmful insects, fierrillo boosting organic soil content and coralillo providing food and shelter for native wildlife.
In what ways do you give back to the farmers who help source the ingredients in your products?
A couple ways the farmers benefit is that we pay them better than fair-trade wages for growing and harvesting Thrive’s plants. The farmers also benefit because their lands are restored to health. Areas that are eroded become healthier over time because of the plants that we’re re-introducing to their soil and the way that we’re growing these plants with the farmers. Another benefit for our farmers is that we avoid using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. This is much more affordable for farmers to farm because they’re not purchasing these synthetic inputs.
The final element of how we give back to our farmers is through capital investments. Thrive has invested in distillation units and transportation purchases for our farmer partners. By contributing to their growth, we're helping them to improve not only their livelihoods through Thrive but the farming that they can do outside of Thrive. Several of our farmers have actually been hired to manage larger farms. These farmers are hired to manage independent farms and show them how to shift to regenerative methodology for the benefit of the land and the farmers' production. As a small company, this is a big deal for us and we’re really proud of our partnerships with our farmers.
Any new products to look out for? Why are you excited about them?
Yes! Thrive launched an amazing new deodorant spray in October. It’s a unisex spray that’s unique in a couple of ways, first in its effectiveness in fighting odors. Laura designed a formula to tackle the four causes of odor. Most natural deodorants will mask odors with essential oils or use ingredients like baking soda in order to prevent odor, but these can sometimes cause irritation. What Laura did is she tackled the root causes of odor and the result is a spray that offers all-day protection. The potent plant extract blend includes horsetail, sage, fierrillo, juanilama and other plant-derived options that effectively deodorize, control microorganisms’ growth and inhibit bad odors from sweat degradation.
Another thing that makes this spray deodorant so unique is that it’s non-aerosol. You can use it under your arms and anywhere on your body, in addition to your shoes, clothes and gym bag. We’ve been testing it for over a year and really love it. The deodorant is available on thrivecare.co and on Amazon.
Photo: Courtesy of Thrive Natural Care