Made to meet the highest expectations - obviously, we’re talking about Physical Nation products here. Dedication, sweat and countless burpees have paved the way to developing our makeup and skincare products with our Pioneers.
But it was all worth it: the results of all of our hard work have turned into real products that we’re now holding in our hands - with so much pride. The journey that brought us here was a long and challenging one. It’s taken us two years to develop the first Physical Nation products; in fact, a pretty typical time frame for the beauty industry. Together with Susanna Knorr, COO of Physical Nation who is spearheading our product development, we’re looking back on 730 days of the rollercoaster ride that has been our product development.
Susanna, for the past two years you’ve spent day after day working on the development of Physical Nation’s products. What was the core intention when you started the product development process?
It was clear from the start that we wanted to create high-performing beauty products. That means our users can 100% trust that our products will live up to their promise and that they will perform exactly in the way our users expect. Waterproof and long-lasting were some of the most important qualities that we wanted to achieve. At the same time we wanted it to be as clean as possible. Especially important to us was the fact they had to be vegan and cruelty-free. You’d think this would be a no-brainer nowadays. But manufacturing 100% vegan required quite a few rounds in development because many labs are still relying on raw ingredients from animals. Through countless conversations with athletes and active women we identified common skin problems that we are now addressing with our products: dry skin, environmental influences like sun and cold exposure and an impaired skin barrier due to frequent showering. It was important to us that our products would meet the needs of active women before, during and after their workout as well as during their regular, busy life.
When you dive into product development in the beauty industry, you quickly stumble across one particular term - the European Cosmetics Directive. It’s a list of ingredients that excludes particular substances that should not find their way into beauty products. Can you elaborate on that?
In the EU, the European Cosmetics Directive specifies which types of ingredients can be used in what concentration when it comes to manufacturing beauty products. The use of ingredients is clearly regulated by the government. 1.378 hazardous and environmentally harmful substances are currently prohibited as ingredients in cosmetics. Fun fact: In the US, this list is much shorter, only 11 ingredients are listed. But we wanted to take it to the next level. Our Physical Nation Blacklist goes way beyond this standard, which resulted in another few rounds of development. But it was worth it to us. We’ve extended the official EU blacklist by a few more ingredients that we don’t want anywhere near our makeup and skincare products. Why? It’s simple: Just because something isn’t banned, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good for us, or the environment. And some things that are still considered harmless in the EU could already be banned in other countries. Better safe than sorry! When speaking with cosmetics experts, we were often told that our expectations and requirements were practically impossible to implement. But we didn’t give up. And to that I say: I’m holding our first products in my hands right now!
Let us in on your secrets: did it all work out? Did the Physical Nation Blacklist make it to the end of the production process like initially planned?
We went super-deep on our ingredient choices, had countless conversations with dermatologists and experts in the industry and developed our own opinion with their feedback in mind. For example, we noticed that not every ingredient that’s gotten a bad rap over the past years is in fact as harmful as presented in the public. Again and again, we’ve changed, expanded and revised our initial blacklist in order to honor product performance while always keeping the question in mind as to how we rethink the product in order to meet our goals of being clean and high-performing.
You keep mentioning high-performing products - what does that mean?
The performance of our products relates to their ability to do exactly what you expect of them. For our makeup products that means: they are long-lasting, waterproof, sweatproof, bulletproof. Our skincare products cater to the needs of active women. That means our so-called hero ingredients, like cannabis seed extract or Bakuchiol, are used in amounts that are considered to have real efficacy - and not just in an amount sufficient for being able to write the ingredient on the packaging. The ultimate performance test was done by our Pioneers. The Pioneers are the 70 women that helped us develop our products. They box, they jog, they dance--they are business women, mothers, students… Only when our products pass their tests through all of their workouts and daily challenges, do they get the green light from us. Not a moment earlier! If there wasn’t a green light at the end, then it went straight back into another round of product development…. over and over again.
So looking back now - in hindsight - what have been your personal takeaways from the development process? And what will be important in the development process moving forward?
The biggest learning: innovation in the beauty industry requires a lot of patience. I’m convinced that it will become more and more important to create products that are geared towards the needs of the skin of physically active women. We’ve got so much stuff in the pipeline - so get excited for the future! #staytuned