sans[ceuticals] Founder, Lucy Vincent, On the Sustainable Luxury Space And What’s to Come
BY SOPHIE CHUNG
"For the last three years, we have been working on a significant project that will fundamentally change the way people use beauty products."
24 AUG -2022
“You have to carefully consider what feedback you want to take onboard — and sometimes it really is best to trust your intuition on the big decisions!”
Over a decade ago, truly clean beauty brands that delivered scientifically-backed natural formulations in sustainable packaging were very hard to come by. Add on the demand for something with a luxurious flair and there wasn’t a single option to choose from. It’s only now; since climate change, plastic pollution and skin sensitisation has caused a glaringly obvious need for change; that we are seeing this wave of ‘clean beauty’ products come through.
One of the pioneers who brought together the then-unthought-of troika of clean-sustainable-luxury is Lucy Vincent, Founder of sans[ceuticals]. An advocate for sustainability and locality, she’s a renowned icon in New Zealand and you would have no doubt experienced sans[ceuticals] in upper-tier hospitality hotspots like Hotel Britomart.
When Lucy became ill in 1995, that’s when she looked into natural healing methods that would support the body’s immune system long term, rather than singularly treat a disease or just the symptoms of a deeper root problem. It started a path of curious learning into how we eat and consume as well as the influence we can make through voting with our wallets.
Born out of frustration of not being able to find products that were natural, results-driven while being thoughtfully designed and sustainable, Lucy began to develop sans[ceuticals] in 2007 that ticked all of these boxes. With the help of a biotech scientist researching in the field of cancer, Lucy learned how ingredients and cells work at a fundamental level to create performance-driven hair and body care products, sans the nasties.
"At the heart of what we do, our focus has always been to strip away the unnecessary, offering a vision of a better way to live."
Your branding was ahead of its time - sporting a minimalistic design, unisex colour palette and imagery that champions a positive representation of women, there is an honesty to it that sets it apart from other clean beauty brands that have gone for a more commercial vibe. What was your creative process when it came to brand and package design? Was there any negative feedback? And how did you consider/implement it, if at all, during this process?
Part of my personality, and very much my creative process, is curiosity. I seek people’s point of view because I find other perspectives interesting. In the early stages of development, I did get quite a few lukewarm responses — and few suggestions to add some gold or swirly fonts. While there is no ‘right’ when it comes to visual preference, you have to carefully consider what feedback you want to take onboard — and sometimes it really is best to trust your intuition on the big decisions!
When Sans launched, I had two boys under five. Life was full speed, and as a result, I’d consciously seek out ways to reduce noise and declutter. Sans is really an amalgamation of that time. The minimalism had a dual meaning.
Firstly, the brand had to reflect the science behind what we do and who we formulate with — a nod to the efficacy and quality of our products. Secondly, I also wanted it to be pared back, understated and soothing. It was important to me that we sought quality, active ingredients that were at their peak, so it made sense to formulate them with facial-grade ingredients and make them multifunctional, where you could use them across multiple applications more frequently thereby retaining their potency.
With fragrance being the #1 skin sensitiser, creating the natural signature scent of sans[ceuticals] would have been a roller coaster. How did you create such a divine natural fragrance? What were the hurdles you encountered?
Scent is my biggest challenge as I have no sense of smell. As I was developing our signature Sans scent, my sense of smell was at 5%. The key notes in our signature scent are the last notes I was able to smell and really loved — lemon verbena and warm spicy notes. For me, the biggest challenge was finding someone with whom I could develop with, had a great nose and had the ability to communicate really well — this ended up being my dearest friend Mel.
Right from the outset, my aim was to create a signature scent that worked across the whole collection. I wanted products selected based on skin or hair type, ingredients and desired results as opposed to selecting on the basis of scent preference.
Protecting the planet is one of your highest priorities as a brand. What were the steps you had to take to ensure your formulation process and packaging would be true to your philosophy?
Sustainability is something fundamental to our culture at Sans. Not just a footprint, but a way that we live, interact with each other and the choices we make on a daily basis. At the heart of what we do, our focus has always been to strip away the unnecessary, offering a vision of a better way to live — better products that make people feel better about themselves, in the service of a better world.
From design to delivery, we exhaustively research and consult with environmental scientists. Our packaging — both product and ecommerce — is kept to a bare minimum to reduce waste. Our highly edited ingredients are traced back to source — cruelty-free, sustainably harvested and 100% biodegradable.
For the last three years we have been working on a significant project that will fundamentally change the way people use beauty products. We are refining and finalising the last bits of design and are anticipating to launch February 2023. It’s been a huge undertaking with a lot of twists and turns but we feel very proud of where we have got to.
Since the boom in popularity of ‘clean’ products in not only self care but also home care products, greenwashing has never been so rife. How does one distinguish whether a brand or product is truly green?
Unfortunately, this can be very hard to do. First of all, it is about arming yourself with knowledge. When it comes to personal care and sustainability, there are two material areas that our industry needs to prioritise: carbon emissions (energy consumed to produce and transport) and waste.
When it comes to waste, take recycling for example, diving into this you will soon discover that if a piece of packaging is made of mixed materials, it cannot be recycled. If a plastic lid has a gold coating, it cannot be recycled. Recycling is a complex beast. Only 6% of packaging globally is recycled so we have to think beyond this and innovate.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as applying a level of cold logic. If a refill comes in the same material (plastic) as its original version, is it really serving its sustainable purpose? Is it a big enough leap in the face of the current crisis?
When it comes to emissions, it pays to ask the question, where is the packaging produced? Where is the product made? How is it shipped? Is this offset? There is a lot to consider and why we have worked really hard with our up and coming launch to combine both of these elements while delivering a sophisticated and luxurious experience for our customers.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
A little bit of what you fancy does you good — Lucy’s mum.