Common Heir — a plastic-free skincare brand that launched just over a year ago — isn’t interested in following the beauty business as usual. In an industry where terms like “sustainability” and “inclusiveness” are more often used as buzzwords or symbols than as practical efforts, the brand, founded by Angela Ubias and Cary Lin, wants to redefine what is expected of eco-friendly skin care.
Common Heir’s attempt to reinvent sustainable skincare began with no shortage of potential hurdles. The launch of its first product – an encapsulated vitamin C serum – was planned at the start of the pandemic. Because of this, the majority of the founders’ work, including some of their early meetings, was done remotely.
“Having to build everything together remotely was a huge challenge for us, and not part of the plan at all,” Lin, who is also CEO of Common Heir, told Fashionista. “I think the benefit of working together remotely, as complete strangers who had never met before, was the transparency and clarity we gained from each other.”
“Communication was just paramount,” adds Ubias, who is also the company’s chief product officer. “We had to be the most authentic all the time and there was no room for misinterpretation of anything. It forced us to really get to know each other and have these conversations that would have been uncomfortable if we had them. had in person.”
The couple had conversations early on about sustainability, inclusivity and even the future of the business, and while Ubias initially balanced Common Heir with another job, she eventually joined the corporate brand at full-time. “During the pandemic hiatus that was imposed on all of us, I was in a really lucky position to be able to think about what I want to leave behind,” she says. She eventually took the plunge and quit her job, believing in what Common Heir could build.
Both women have a personal approach to beauty that inspired them to found the brand: Ubias spent her life learning from a grandmother who saw her Sunday mornings as a time to participate in beauty rituals. Lin, who was introduced to the industry as an intern at a beauty company, became aware of the impact plastic packaging can have on the environment while strolling along a California beach. Seeing a shoreline strewn with plastic bottles, she dreams of starting a business conscious of its environmental impact.
Both Common Heir products are serums that contain powerful active ingredients known for their volatility; they must be packaged in airless containers to maintain their effectiveness and avoid rapid degradation. Where most skincare brands turn to airless plastic pumps, Common Heir chose to break their formulas into tiny, single-use pods made from a plastic-free, biodegradable, vegan material that can be melted. in boiling water or simply thrown away (again, it’s biodegradable!). The capsules are packaged in a fully recyclable paper tube.
After launching its first product, the 10% vitamin C serum, the brand focused on creating a retinoid, which it launched in February. Constantly requested by customers, Common Heir’s Retinol Serum uses a small percentage of the prized anti-aging ingredient.
The company’s first two products rely on fairly common staples in the skincare world, vitamin C and retinol. However, what sets Common Heir’s product development approach apart from other skincare brands is its focus on grounding said formulas in the idea of community and accessibility. “When we decided that, yes, we were going to do retinol, we decided that we wanted to go with the same priority of making it an accessible formula,” says Ubias.
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Initially allowing friends and family to test the product, the couple quickly realized that they were making a retinol specifically focused on serving melanoma skin. “Once we had that aha moment, we really leaned into it and thought about how we could take additional steps to make sure we do it in the most thoughtful way possible,” Ubias said.
They have focused their attention on clinical trials, ensuring that testing is done on multiple skin types and tones. “We had this moment where we realized that, wait, clinical trials are kind of broken, because they’re not designed to be inclusive in a really holistic way, and that’s what sets this retinol so apart,” says Ubias. “When you formulate something that’s truly inclusive and you create a product that actually works for everyone, it shouldn’t exclude certain skin types. You should catch everyone.”
Lin noted of the testing process that, “In clinical trials, by default, you don’t get a lot of representation of skin types; it’s whoever fits and meets the criteria, so you’ll get a lot of people who look alike. We decided we really wanted to hit everyone.”
The two hope that by even challenging the standards of clinical testing, future brands may be able to take notice. “Inclusive product development and sustainable product development should be the default standard for luxury beauty, if not all beauty,” Lin said.
While Common Heir remains mum on what’s next from the brand, Ubias admits that she dreams of one day taking control of all your vanity. Until then, she, along with Lin, wants to continue to invoke change in the industry.
“We want to prove that it should be possible to do the right thing if there’s enough creativity and intention behind it,” Lin says. “We both love this industry and we just want to see it move in a positive direction…I think it would be really awesome to inspire other people to create the change they want to see in the world.”
“This is a true representation,” adds Ubias. “It’s about seeing someone who looks like you, who comes from a similar background. I definitely came into this industry in a very non-traditional way. I don’t have a degree in chemistry, I don’t I don’t have any of those degrees. So that aspect of performing is what I care about most and that’s the kind of legacy I want to leave behind. You can do that, if you really want to.
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