Phytosurgence has quickly become one of my favorite brands. I reach for their cream blush in Smolder almost every time I wear makeup these days, and I don’t see myself stopping! So, we were so excited to get the chance to interview Jason, the owner. I had so much fun putting these questions together and loved seeing Jason’s responses! We hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did!
And by the way, if you haven’t tried anything from Phytosurgence yet, do yourself a favor and pick something up. You won’t regret it! As always, feel free to let us know who you think we should interview next!
IM: You’ve spoken about how Phytosurgence came about, from name to concept, in your Q and A’s. (I thoroughly enjoy reading them, by the way!). Would you mind expanding on that process here? I would also love to hear about your branding process!
J: Yeah, I think I’ve spoken quite a bit about how we came to be on our Q&A’s. But essentially, I’ve always been a huge skincare and makeup enthusiast. People would always ask me what one product I would recommend. From the get go, I was evangelical about facial oils. So, I had this crazy idea that I should go ahead and create my “perfect” facial oil that I could give/sell to friends and family.
Due to my virgo perfectionism, I just wanted it to feel like a complete idea with a brand, logo, etc. and not like a jar of homemade jam your grandma made. I never meant for it to be a business. I just thought “Phytosurgence Regenerative Facial Oil” came off much more enticing than “Jason’s Face Oil”. That’s really how the brand was born. How it took off from there really is more of a blur than anything haha. It’s been a wild ride.
The name Phytosurgence really just embodies the connection I want people to have with nature. Phyto means being derived from plants, and surgence is self-explanatory. Whether it is finding wonder in the colours of a flower or sunset, to feeling good by nourishing your body with ingredients found in nature, I just wanted to distill those practices & feelings into a consumable form of beauty.
IM: Can you talk about why you don’t call Phytosurgence a “clean” beauty brand and your emphasis on transparency?
J: I think somewhere in its origin, the idea for clean beauty was maybe well intentioned. Unfortunately it’s become such a scare marketing tactic with elitist connotations that I feel it’s not something I would comfortably associate with our brand. The idea that something is clean is implying that there are dirty products out there, which really there aren’t. As long as you are formulating according to cosmetic regulations, a product on the market is not going to be “toxic”. Anything can be toxic in adequate amounts – even water and oxygen.
Our focus on transparency includes educating consumers on what I just mentioned above. But, it’s also about showing our customers what goes on behind running our business. From conception of an idea down to getting a product on someone’s face, we show it all. I feel it adds so much value to a customer’s experience and knowledge when they buy something and just know it was created with purpose and care. It also helps them understand why there’s a difference between products you could create in an ideal world vs. what can be achievable in reality for a small business.
IM: What has been the most challenging part of launching and growing Phytosurgence? What has surprised you the most about the process of growing a small business? What has been the most rewarding part of it?
J: The most challenging part has definitely been the unexpected growth and the bigger bites you need to take along with it. I always reiterate that I never meant for this to take off. For instance, it pained me so much in the beginning to spend even $100 on printing labels. Now, I just casually drop thousands of dollars to buy supplies on a regular basis as if it is just a normal occurrence. It all happened so fast that I feel like I still operate on adrenaline sometimes because I feel like I never got to slowly adapt to each growth phase? But at the same time, it is also the most rewarding part too when I actually take a second and look back on how far we have come in our timeline.
I’m also terrible at customer service and pretending that the customer is always right. Am I allowed to admit that? Haha. That’s a very challenging aspect.
IM: You speak frequently about how long formaulting your makeup products can take to get the exact formula you want. Do you always have a formula in mind when you start creating a product? Or do you end up figuring out what you want during the process of formulating?
J: Typically speaking I do have some concept of a texture, purpose, colour, etc. in mind that I want. Usually the most important thing to me is texture. It starts out with a very very basic formula (ie. wax + oil + pigment) just so I have some ballpark area of what I need for a texture to be a mousse, balm, liquid, etc. Once I feel like the texture is close to what I want, I will begin to work with the different types of pigments, adhesion modifiers, emollients, etc. until a final product is fleshed out.
IM: Can you speak to the process of deciding what skincare to create and how you carry that out? I’m especially curious about how you research skincare ingredients.
J: With skincare, I kind of think of current trends in skincare, strip it back to why it’s become trendy (ie. does it even make sense). Then, I design a product that reigns it in a few notches so it can be a staple rather than a fad product. When you have a background in biological sciences and human anatomy, your bs meter and research skills are pretty fine-tuned.
You know that Tyra Banks “Hoe, but make it fashion” meme? Yeah – that but skincare.
IM: What about color and shades? From where do you draw inspiration for the color of your products? I’m not just referring to your makeup here (though please talk about that!), but also your skincare, like Verdant Forcefield. Were those mostly a product of the ingredients?
J: With our skincare, the colour of the products were all unintentional and secondary to the ingredients we wanted in there mainly for their skincare benefits. Sea Submerge is this beautiful orange hue from the black seaweed extract, Verdant Forcefield is vibrant green from the green tea CO2 extract, and Regenerative Facial Oil is turquoise from blue tansy & turmeric extracts. Moonlight Afterglow doesn’t really have a colour, but it is probably my favourite formula from our skincare offerings!
When it comes to make up, the colour inspiration does mostly come from nature, hence our “Inspired by nature” tagline. For instance, Flash Florescence cream shadows is a play on words of combining florescence (the flowering of a plant) and fluorescence. The names of the shades really gives away where I drew the inspiration from. Sun stressing, for example, is when a plant turns a rich golden, red, or purple hue from exposure to high amounts of light. Every colour in that line comes from something from the plant world that has given me some inspiration. I could go on forever, ha.
IM: Which product, skincare or makeup, was the most difficult for you to formulate? Which product are you the most proud of?
J: 100% Spectral Shine. I like to think that our make up helps one master the art of making subtle statements in their beauty routine, and I think Spectral Shine is the epitome of that. Anyone who has used it knows that it is essentially like a veil of sheen that draws light to the skin versus bouncing it off like a mirror as with traditional highlights. Making a product that makes even the user think “Did I do something new with my skincare routine? Is this because I’ve been eating more vegetables lately?” when they see themselves in the mirror… is a pain in a butt. The texture, particle size, emollience, dry down, etc. were all so difficult to nail down.
IM: Which one of your products do you use the most often? I always love hearing how founders use what they create!
J: Oh, this is so hard. Skincare wise, probably Verdant Forcefield. It is such a beautiful one and done skincare product. For make up, it has to be Spectral Shine right now since it doesn’t leave a mark on your masks (given our current climate). Otherwise, it would be Skin Spark because I am so emotionally tied to our blush line.
IM: Recently, you launched your highlighters, the Spectral Shine line. You’ve mentioned that afterwards you have been near sold-out of everything. A huge congratulations from us! How was the experience of selling so much product? Do you have plans to scale in any way?
J: First of all, thank you! I was completely numb for about 48h and barely ate anything. Each launch that we do…. we blow the previous launch’s numbers out of the water. It is crazy, and I am so so thankful. Once the reality set in, I was then inundated with fear over how I was possibly going to manage fulfilling all the orders haha. It took us a few weeks but we did it and caught up! In terms of scaling, I want to keep things within the company as much as I can. I am such a control freak and perfectionist I just cannot see myself outsourcing. If anything, we’d hire and grow our internal team as the company grows.
IM: What was the process of building the community around Phytosurgence?
J: It was actually super organic! I told myself from the beginning that if I was going to run a business, I was going to do it my way. I wasn’t going to call everyone a babe, or post random photos of the beach with a “Dreaming of summer” caption that I poached from Pinterest.
I think people just gravitated to the fact that there was a real person and voice behind the brand, one that doesn’t just leave a little heart emoji on a photo they’re tagged in. It’s the little things that really add to the community’s appreciation of a brand. If someone messages us, I make it a point to find out their name so I can address them properly. If I see a repeat customer, I make sure I acknowledge that in their thank you card we put into their orders. Granted, this is all stuff that I feel may become less feasible as the brand grows but I’ll fight to make it last as long as possible.
IM: Where do you see Phytosurgence going in the future? What goals do you have for your brand? (And when is the concealer coming, lol!!)
J: Honestly… no clue haha. We’ve already surpassed any hopes and dreams I had for Phytosurgence in the beginning so I’m kind of scared to even think about what could happen in the future. Ideally, I want to be able to hire a small team and take things more internationally, but still remain direct to consumer. Complexion products are a dream dream dream item for us to make… I’m not sure if we’re quite ready but I have ideas and thoughts already!
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