Why We Need To Talk About Circularity In Beauty
Circumference founder Jina Kim has forged a successful skincare career based on her end-to-end beauty philosophy
Fourteen years ago, Jina Kim was pursuing a career in medicine.
But in the time between filing her application and commencing her study, Jina fell into a project manager role while helping a friend on their tech start-up.
"It sparked a decision to make a drastic change," Jina says, adding that she was quickly drawn to the face pace of being in a creative role.
This pivot led Jina to work across a number of different start-ups and agency, eventually leading to her joining the launch team behind sustainable activewear line, Girlfriend Collective.
"The whole experience was truly eye-opening that again, sparked something in me," Jina says.
"Everything from being able to help create something tangible to the consumers' response to the products and sustainability as a whole. It just felt like a natural progression."
After many years of development, and in partnership with her co-founder husband, Jina's lightbulb moment materialised into Circumference, a range of no-waste skincare with sustainable innovation at its core.
Ashleigh Cometti caught up with Jina to discuss how she's future-proofing her brand by adopting a circular business model — creating opportunities to use byproducts or end-of-life resources to form something truly beautiful.
What are some of the sustainable considerations you made when dreaming up Circumference?
Our focuses gravitated towards ingredients. We were fascinated by the process of how ingredients are sourced and engineered. We realised that sustainability and efficacy are deeply connected — in how they’re extracted and the method in which they’re processed that uphold the integrity of its nutrients. This is what sets us apart.
Our ingredients are of the highest quality — sourced in their native habitats, to preserve bioactive integrity — and processed in a way that allows us to return leftovers to the Earth as compost.
Can you explain to our readers what your Waste-Not Initiative is? Do you believe other beauty brands need to follow suit?
After two years of research and development, we launched an industry-first initiative in sustainability called Waste-Not Sourcing Initiative in 2020. Instead of looking at traditional waste as just that, we see it as a viable resource and seek out agriculture-driven industries to source their byproducts and upcycle into skincare.
Most recently, we partnered with modern pantry essentials brand Brightland to source an incredible ingredient that we incorporated into our Daily Regenerative Gel Cleanser. As Brightland works to craft high-quality olive oil products, there naturally comes a point in the process when there's an excess of unusable botanical materials — olive leaves — that have no purpose in Brightland's final good.
To prevent these precious resources from going to waste, we stepped in to steward them to their next phase as Olea Europaea (olive leaf) extract — a highly potent, bioactive skincare ingredient that powers our cleanser.
Once we’ve extracted what we need from the leaves, we then reintegrate the residual into the farming cycle as compost to fortify the soil once more. This level of innovative sourcing practice and transparency is truly unprecedented in our industry and we continue to expand on our portfolio of ingredients including grape leaf extract from the wine industry and more.
Our hope is to inspire other brands and industries to follow in stride and integrate into their own business models.
What are your thoughts on the phrase "clean beauty"?
Everyone seems to have a different definition, but consumers today are more knowledgeable and nuanced than ever. They understand that there is purpose in both natural and synthetic ingredients.
Often times, synthetic ingredients can be far more sustainable than natural ingredients given the amount of natural resources that are required to cultivate or harvest plants. Our formulations are a careful blend of both synthetics and natural ingredients.
Obviously there are synthetics that are harmful to our health and wellbeing but we’ve found that many of the fear-mongering angles associated with synthetics and chemicals are more marketing than reality.
We don’t use simple marketing buzz terms such as “clean” or “organic” as there are so many layers and complexities to how skincare formulas are created. Our responsibility is more in helping consumers understand what place ingredients (both natural and synthetic) play in skincare, because both are absolutely essential.
How did you navigate running your own business during a pandemic?
COVID-19 affected our business operations at every layer. From supply chain issues which we’re (still) working through, to how it affected the local economies and small businesses, it forced us to reassess all aspects.
A number of our small and large retail partners were facing some real challenges as their doors shuttered through a large portion of 2020 which meant we had to shift our focus toward other avenues for revenue.
We’re still feeling the ripple effects as our supply chain and production cycles still face major delays but luckily we’ve been able to come out of it with a better, leaner understanding of our business operations.
What helps you to remain focused during a busy day?
By trade, bringing order to chaos is something I’ve specialised in. I understand that productivity (for me) is closely tied to how organised I can be with my thoughts and tasks. It’s important to write out tasks that are actually manageable in a day, and see them through.
It helps to take breaks too — a quick meditation, breathing exercise or walk around the block — can help give me a reset when I’m feeling cloudy.
Can you share three tips on how Viva readers can make their beauty routine more eco-friendly?
We hope to be a clear and transparent voice amidst a world of greenwashing and fear-mongering. Our followers have asked for this type of information and insights, so we have started to share more lifestyle tips on social. For beauty, I would say:
- Due diligence — Ask questions, email the brands, research their practices and founders. You’ll notice enough dissonance between what brands are claiming and what they’re being transparent about. Empower yourself as a consumer to best understand where your money is going.
- Minimise — The minimalism movement isn’t just about pretty aesthetics but a philosophy that can be applied to your life as a consumer. Cutting down on making unnecessary purchases and buying essentials that you know you’ll actually use can make a big difference.
- Support the brands you believe in — Whether its environmental, social, or economical issues at hand, support the brands that you feel strongly will make a positive impact. There are a lot of brands who are doing incredible things and your money stretches a lot further in the impact you can have by supporting these brands. As the brand grows, so does their reach, which ultimately helps to grow their impact across the industry.
Talk me through your daily beauty routine (skincare, makeup, haircare).
My skincare routine is very simple — I use our Daily Regenerative Gel Cleanser, followed by our Toner as the first steps to “prime” my skin. It helps to really hydrate and open up my pores.
I then layer on our Vital-C Antioxidant Day Serum — literally every day — followed by either our Active Restorative Moisturizing Cream or Pure Balancing Botanical Face Oil. Depending on the day, sometimes both if my skin needs the extra moisture.
Act+Acre is another New York-based brand that has educated me on the importance of scalp health. I love their entire line of cold processed haircare. Their new plant-based hair capsules have made my hair so incredibly soft.
As New York City is opening up, I’ve been getting back into my makeup routine. Recently, I’ve been really loving Westman Atelier’s Eye Love You Mascara and Baby Cheeks and Saie’s Glowy Super Gel for a quick get-out-and-go look.
What's next for Circumference in 2021?
The focus for the immediate future is continuing to expand on our Waste-Not Sourcing Initiative by finding new partnerships for ingredients. We’re also continuing to develop new formulas and revisiting old ones to see where we can find improvements in our supply chain. It’s an ongoing auditing process for us that ties into our evolving launch calendar.