Like many other entrepreneurs, I started Chuan Skincare because I had a need. I was under a lot of pressure as my dad’s primary caregiver, and I wasn’t sleeping well due to anxiety and midnight phone calls from the hospital he was in. All of this wreaked havoc on my skin. The acne I thought I had left behind in my teenage years resurfaced with a vengeance.
When I was a teenager, I used ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide to treat my acne and tried every drugstore product I could find. While this helped, it also caused my skin to become patchy and sensitive over time.
In the years since, I’ve learned a lot more about skincare, health and wellness. This time, I wanted to find a product that would gently cleanse my skin, but didn’t contain artificial chemicals, additives, fillers, preservatives or fragrances. I wanted it to be made from natural ingredients that were sourced from reputable suppliers, too. From my experience, I knew packaging was a huge selling point in the beauty industry, but I was looking for a product that would produce extra waste and didn’t require single use packaging or plastic containers.
I did a ton of research, but couldn’t find a product that met all of my requirements and didn’t break the bank. So, I decided to make my own.
I started by developing a clay mask recipe that would fulfill my needs and treat other skincare concerns, too. Coming from the tech industry, I took a pretty techie approach to developing this mask: I used research to come up with a shortlist of ingredients, ordered small batches from an organic apothecary and started mixing them. I tested my mixtures on myself until I found a recipe that worked for my skin.
Then, I sent samples to 15 friends as a beta, a type of test where an almost-finished product is sent to customers for feedback. Because I was sending samples across the country, I packed my clay mask powder in small kraft paper bags. I included instructions and asked my friends to either do the mask while they were on a video call with me, or to fill out a survey as they mixed the mask themselves.
From this process, I got great feedback. I used it to refine my recipe, make my instructions clearer, figure out how different types of skin reacted, and see the results of my mask on people of varying ages, races and genders who had different skincare concerns from me.
The trickiest feedback was about my packaging. I had originally chosen kraft paper bags because: 1) I could fit multiple servings in one bag and avoid single use packaging, 2) bags could be shipped flat which would minimize shipping costs, and 3) there was a low probability that the bag would break in transit. With the exception of the plastic window and sealing mechanism, most of the bag could also be recycled. But it turned out that it was difficult to get the right amount of product out of the bag, and it was less than ideal to store it in or near a bathroom.
So, I looked into other options. Glass jars were more aesthetically appealing, but were infinitely more breakable and would require more packing material for each order shipment.There were quite a few plastic options that I ruled out for sustainability reasons. Paper tubes seemed promising for recyclability, but they ended up being a nightmare to keep in a bathroom, too.
I kept brainstorming and finally landed on rust-resistant tins. My rust-resistant tins can safely hold 12 servings of clay mask powder and be stored with other skincare products. They can also be shipped in a box or padded envelope, are less likely to break in transit than other materials, and can be easily refilled (refills come in kraft paper bags!). Tins can also be repurposed as spice jars or containers for odds and ends, and if you don’t want to keep your tin, tins are accepted by most local recycling programs.
While I was fine tuning my packaging, a friend also suggested including accessories in my shop. Since I sew for fun, adding scrunchies and headbands (to keep your hair out of the clay!) to my self-care kits was a no brainer. Textile waste is a huge issue, so to keep these accessories as sustainable and low-waste as possible, they’re all created with secondhand fabric that would have otherwise gone to the landfill. I source fabric at local non-profit craft stores, like ReCreative in Denver and Arts Parts Creative Reuse Center in Boulder.
The last part of my process was figuring out a sustainable shipping option. The most sustainable option is to clean and reuse external materials like bubble mailers and boxes, but sometimes I have more orders that need mailers than boxes or vice versa. So, I decided to supplement recycled packaging with other options.
I tested compostable mailers (too thin to reliably withstand USPS sorting machines) and sturdier envelopes (hard to put a tin into), before settling on a variety of shipping materials from EcoEnclose, a local company that also happens to be a global leader in eco-friendly shipping and packaging.
As a result, sometimes you’ll receive an order in a recycled Amazon bubble mailer, and sometimes you’ll get a cardboard box made from 100% recycled post-consumer content. I hope you appreciate the steps I’m taking to reduce waste, but if you prefer not to receive recycled shipping materials, you can just add a note to your order!
I continue to learn about sustainable practices every day, and rest assured, I’ll continue to add to and update this commitment as I learn and grow.