Who exactly are Rainmaker supporters SBTRCT and what is waterless beauty?
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We recently met with SBTRCT Founder Ben Grace when he was visiting Bristol to celebrate the sustainable solid skincare brand launching at the high end H Beauty, the new luxury Harrods beauty stores which you can find popping up across the UK. Over a coffee (and a glass of water), we talked everything sustainable skincare, Frank Water, World Water Day and what’s next for this wonderful brand!
Ben, we’re big fans of SBTRCT at Frank Water (our Founder, Katie, was probably one of the first customers), and hugely appreciate the support you give to the charity. We love how much you value water and we’re thrilled that you’re supporting our water stewardship work.
Q. Tell us a bit about your background in skincare and what lead you to starting SBTRCT?
My skincare journey actually started over 20 years ago (!!) in my first job out of uni. I’d joined a marketing agency and my main account was Beiersdorf (so all the NIVEA brands). After a number of years marketing various consumer product brands, I joined the founders of Bulldog Skincare to launch the brand in May 2007.
My journey at Bulldog was fantastic. I was fortunate enough to join the founders before we launched, and was even invited to invest, as they were still fundraising at the time. In joining, my hope was to expand on my experience beyond marketing. There were only 3 or 4 of us for the first few years and so I’m delighted to say that was absolutely the case – whether it was sales, formulation, manufacture or supply chain, we all worked across everything. It was great fun and I found that start-up life definitely suited me.
I look back on it very fondly and it was a privilege to be with the business right the way through to our exit. At the same time, I also view the experience as being as close to being a founder of a business, without actually being the founder of the business. That was an itch I really needed to scratch and I guess SBTRCT is the result of that!
Q. Please tell us about SBTRCT, how it came about and what your motives were behind setting up SBTRCT?
Having moved on from Bulldog in 2017 I took some time off to re-evaluate my life and figure out what I wanted to do next.
I am naturally minimalist and environmentally aware and of course the fact that I wasn’t earning meant I bought less and focused more on what really mattered to me. I found myself happier and more content. It was this lifestyle that was the genesis of SBTRCT and perhaps more tellingly, our one guiding principal; less is more. I believe that, by stripping out the things we don’t need in life, we are more able to love the things we’ve made a conscious choice to keep. I believe that this is the future of consumerism and I decided to apply this to the creation of a skincare brand.
From this, ‘Subtract’ was born. But with a desire to thread the ‘less is more’ ethos through everything, the removal of the vowels seemed the obvious next step. Subtract became SBTRCT and I set the mission; to create the highest performing expert skincare with the lowest environmental waste.
Q. What makes SBTRCT’s products stand out?
Innovative and formulated from scratch, SBTRCT is a range of expert skincare bars formulated using the very best proven ingredients in a concentrated solid state to deliver the very best skin results. The range consists of cleansers, moisturisers, and serums, including two world firsts; the Rejuvenating Night Balm (the first solid retinoid) and the Vitamin C Booster (the first solid vitamin C serum).
100% plastic-free with domestically compostable packaging, palm oil-free and with nominal water content, we also address the three biggest environmental challenges facing the beauty industry: plastic pollution, water waste and over-reliance on palm oil. It really is where expert skincare meets sustainability.
Q. Why is sustainability in skincare so important?
Everything from the milk we drink to the trainers we wear to the way we carry our shopping, water and our coffee is changing for the better – small conscious choices can cumulatively make a big difference in reducing our environmental impact. But the world of premium skincare has been slow to sit up and take notice.
It seemed ironic to me that an industry created to cleanse and care was – and still is – making our planet a dirty place and having such a disastrous impact on the environment.
The beauty industry is responsible for billions of units of packaging every year (much of it plastic). Brands use water (up to 80% in some products) as a key ingredient when they don’t really need to and over-reliance on palm oil is also a real problem.
I wanted to create something that would help to tackle these problems. We want to empower people to reduce their environmental impact, starting in the bathroom and by applying the ‘less is more’ ethos. We call this SBTRCTIVISM. Now we don’t need to leave our ethics at the bathroom door.
Q. Where do you see the future of skincare heading?
I see the future of skincare as being regenerative. This is a vision for our industry that represents a challenge to create processes and practices that actively support the planet and enable its ecosystems to thrive. Systematically addressing every aspect of a product’s lifecycle whether it be how we farm our ingredients, the carbon generated through the broader supply chain or the waste left by our packaging.
For me this is a galvanising philosophy that gives purpose to the business well beyond its product offering.
As a start-up we’re only at the beginning of this journey. Through our innovative solid state formulations we have initially chosen to focus on what they see as the three biggest environmental challenges faced by the beauty industry and importantly where it feels it can have the largest and most immediate impact…
Recognising that truly regenerative beauty is a lofty goal for any business, I believe we will achieve this through industry and cross-industry collaboration with other pioneering brands and organisations who truly want to have a positive impact.
Q. Tell us where we can buy SBTRCT?
Online you can buy SBTRCT at sbtrct.co.uk, harrods.com, Sephora, naturismo.com.
In store you can find us in Harrods’ H Beauty stores in both Bristol and Newcastle, as well as in Bobby’s of Bournemouth and a number of fantastic independent conscious lifestyle retailers.
Q. As Rainmaker Supporters of Frank Water, if you could give our other supporters one key piece of advice about skincare what would it be?
Recognise that doing right by the environment no longer has to mean a compromise on performance or brand aesthetics when it comes to skincare. Do your research to understand the products you’re buying, why they are good for your skin and also how you can minimise their impact through your own actions when using the products and disposing of the packaging. Demand transparency from the brands you choose and expect them to be making real progress when it comes to sustainability.
Thank you Ben and SBTRCT, we’re so proud to have you on board as Frank Water supporters!
In support of World Water Day 2023 and the work that Frank Water does, for the week of Wednesday 22nd – Wednesday 29th March, SBTRCT will be generously donating 20% of all their website sales to Frank Water. Do check out SBTRCT’s online shop now and support Frank Water!
If you or your business would like to support our vital water security work, please do take a look at our corporate partnerships page of our website or contact Lizzie in the corporate partnerships team at email@example.com