Eight-year-old Thrive Causemetics is committing to skin care. On Wednesday, the philanthropic, direct-to-consumer beauty brand launched Bigger Than Beauty, bringing 10 new and reformulated products to its customers.
“There does not need to be another skin-care brand,” said Karissa Bodnar, founder and CEO of Thrive Causemetics. “Bigger Than Beauty is about more than selling skin care. It’s about making an impact on the world, and that starts with our customers. I want our community to feel so amazing about their skin-care routine. I want them to feel empowered, I want them to feel smart. Our instructions need to make sense to a 5-year-old. We’re really intentional about creating intuitive products.”
Ranging in price from $18-$59, the vegan skin-care line is a result of customer feedback, in reaction to skin-care products previously launched under the Thrive Causemetics name. Bigger Than Beauty will live on its own section of Thrive Causemetics’ main site, and each product will differ in some capacity from what the company has offered under its “Skin Care” tab since 2018. The launch follows a long line of predominantly makeup-focused releases by Thrive Causemetics, including its breakout Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara beloved by Venus Williams and Hillary Duff.
Three of the 10 Bigger Than Beauty launches are entirely new products, including the Liquid Brilliance Super Serum, the Moisture Flash Conditioning Toner Mist and the Defying Gravity Lightweight Moisturizer. Each formula is vegan, sulfate-free, fragrance-free and gluten-free, and features a unique individual proprietary hero complex.
The remaining seven items are elevated reinventions of what was originally featured on the site. Ingredients have been added or removed, based on community feedback, and price points have been lowered to better meet Bodnar’s “approachable luxury” goal. The full Bigger Than Beauty collection also features a 40% reduction in plastic packaging, compared to the original Thrive Causemetics products.
“It’s as simple as emailing our customers, getting on phone calls with them, getting on Zooms, and bringing them into our office,” Bodnar said of researching customer needs. “We ask what problem they want us to solve, and then we call these dermatologists and cosmetic chemists and ask the best way to solve that problem.”
Better Than Beauty’s launch day included a full-afternoon beach cleanup in Venice, Calif. for media and other supporters of the brand. Select participants were invited to meet at Thrive Causemetics’ headquarters to get better acquainted with the products, and offered shuttles to and from the beach.
To further market the new brand, Bodnar will spend 30 days in New York City, visiting various nonprofits and Giving Partners, while hosting launch events that coincide with charity. One event, for example, will take place at the Bottomless Closet, empowering women to succeed in the workforce.
Tierney Wilson, head of strategy and consulting at January Digital, called the launch rollout “unique,” compared to other beauty product launches. That’s particularly due to Thrive’s minimal focus on awareness, thus far.
“Instead, the mission and product take center stage, and the branding of both is very intentional,” Wilson said. “Though the reach can be much lower [by taking this approach], the credibility it signals and loyalty it [potentially] creates with customers are seemingly immense.”
While Thrive Causemetics hasn’t put influencers at the helm of its marketing, Wilson said the brand can use them while still staying true to the brand. “I can imagine there are plenty of influencers and creators who are happy to organically partner with Thrive Causemetics, simply because their personal missions are aligned with the brand’s mission,” she said.
Bodnar, who previously served as a product developer in L’Oréal’s premium skin-care and color cosmetics departments, is grateful to have the funds for hiring “the best people in the world” to bring requests to life. “I may have a perspective, but this is not Karissa Bodnar cosmetics,” she said. “I want to be working with the most kickass experts.” Bodnar declined to share the company’s financials. Forbes reported that Thrive was expecting $150 million in revenue in 2022.
Greater consideration around sustainability was also something Thrive Causemetics’ consumers requested, and Bodnar listened. Bigger Than Beauty’s toner, for example, doesn’t require a cotton pad because it’s a mist meant to be applied directly onto the face. “You’re removing a step and reducing waste,” Bodnar said.
As Thrive Causemetics expands, Bodnar has made some adjustments to reflect the company’s growth. Among them, she’s brought in a team of sustainability experts, along with dermatology and plastic surgery expert consultants. The company also launched a carbon offset program: With every purchase, the company makes a donation to plant trees. This is on top of Thrive’s longstanding Giving Program — it’s supported more than 500 charities, to date.
That said, Bodnar’s apparent efforts haven’t come without controversy. In Oct. 2018, a lawsuit was filed against the founder for failing on her promise to donate one product for every product purchased. Bodnar and the plaintiff reached a settlement.
According to the brand, in an effort to be transparent, it publishes an annual giving report — the 2021 report is the most recent iteration that’s currently public.
“There are a lot of brands getting a bunch of funding, and maybe they’re going to IPO or sell their company. That’s not what I want to do,” Bodnar. “Our customers are our investors. I care very much about the numbers of a profitable business, but I care more about impact, and I don’t want Wall Street controlling how we give as a company.”
At one point, however, Bodnar reportedly considered her options. In July 2020, she apparently met with an adviser at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., who said the company could be valued at several hundred million dollars. Bodnar declined to comment on the report, but adamantly stressed that she has zero plans to sell the company at this time.
In fact, she has her sights set on evolving the company into a beauty incubator à la Kendo Brands.
“Because Thrive Causemetics has been built profitably since day one, we have the ability to continue scaling our business and launch additional brands through the innovation that we have in-house,” she said. “Bigger Than Beauty is the first step.”