Launching into the beauty marketplace was increasingly challenging even before pandemic started its unfortunate outreach around the world. However now more than ever innovation and perseverance play an important role in how businesses are evolving, so I was confident that a new Dutch beauty brand, Bloomeffects, that already was picked up by Credo Beauty & shopping channel QVC, would intrigue you, as much as it did me, when I came across it on Instagram a few weeks ago.
Started by two colleagues, Kim Van Haaster and Monica Aurigemma, who are also firm friends, Bloomeffects pioneers the use of tulips in skincare, as well as PICEA wood tubes as part of brand’s signature packaging.
With Kim based in Netherlands, Monica in New York and me in London, we managed to cover plenty of subjects during the e-mail based Q & A. From the meaning of beauty to favourite products, effect on pandemic on running a brand and importance of sustainable packaging, I hope you will find something to inspire you, as well as learn something new. So without further ado, Kim & Monica, welcome to The Curiosity Gap brand spotlight.
What does beauty mean to you?
Kim: When I was a teen, the word “beauty” was charged with the overwhelming feeling that I had to subscribe to a certain look. Beauty then represented one girl. Nowadays I feel like that message has changed. As a second generation South East Asian Australian, who lived in NYC for almost a decade and now living near the tulip fields of the Netherlands, I can say beauty means confidence. The more confident I feel, the more beautiful I feel.
Monica: To me beauty means feeling happy in your own skin. Whether it’s applying my favorite mascara, getting a little extra sleep, splurging on a skin treatment, wearing my most comfortable sweater, getting a little sun on my face – it’s about doing what helps me feel a little closer to my personal best.
How did you two meet & what personal qualities help you be an effective Bloomeffects team?
Kim: Monica and I met in corporate beauty (PZ Cussons Beauty) leading the Americas division. We were the original team that took St. Tropez to what felt like a start-up to the leading self-tanning brand in three years – winning brand of the year at ULTA in my last year. You could describe us as ‘ying’ and ‘yang’. Monica is very considered in her approach, calm and level-headed. She’s extremely creative and has an exceptional eye for detail. I, on the other hand, see the world in broad strokes. I dream big and I supercharge projects. I’m extremely results-orientated. I like to get things done and waste no time doing them.
Monica: We met in NYC in corporate beauty… we were part of a small team, which helped form the entrepreneurial mindset we have today. We have very different personalities, but I think it’s our differences that help us balance and keep evolving. While we have different approaches, we usually always land on the same decision and align on the bigger picture, although we have different angles to get there sometimes. I believe it’s this balance that helps create the best path forward for our brand.
What inspired you to launch Bloomeffects?
Kim: Secretly I have always wanted to start my own skincare line. I worked in pharma back home in Australia and learned a lot about my own skin condition – eczema. Then in NYC I worked in every department of beauty you could think of, from fragrance to color, nail to skin and even hair. But in all that time I never found anything that was suitable for my skin, yet didn’t talk to me like a patient. I wanted something beautiful, effective, clean and sustainable. Skincare that made me feel confident in my own skin, feel good about my purchase and looked beautiful on my vanity.
Bloomeffects is my answer.
I quit my beauty exec job in NYC and moved to NL for the love of my life (my husband Hein is a 4th generation Dutch tulip farmer). When I arrived it was tulip season and the fields were in BLOOM. Rainbow stripes of colourful tulips as far as the eye could see. I was blown away by how stunning my husband’s fields were, but my beauty brain also went off. I asked “what’s in a tulip and what can they do for the skin” – a question I later learned was actually quite difficult to answer.
Monica: this is all Kim!! I was thrilled to get on board when she told me the idea… the tulips, the love story, it sounded too good to be true. It was just perfect.
What makes your skincare brand different ?
Kim: We are the FIRST beauty brand to harness the botanical powers of the tulip.
In fact, no one has ever researched tulips in that manner. We are so proud to be awarded two Dutch government grants. The first to determine what is in a tulip and how it can be used to benefit skin. This research in conjunction with the University of Leiden (home to the first Dutch tulips in the 17th century) is the foundation of our current Proprietary Tulip Complex.
The second government grant is in progress now and is going to revolutionize the bulb growing industry. Once complete, we will have successfully found a way to reduce waste and the carbon footprint of the tulip bulb agricultural industry, identified a new revenue stream for these farmers and help mother nature (and your skin!) in the process.
We are 100% clean beauty, wildly effective and sustainable. We use the botanical benefits of tulips but are always 100% fragrance free.
Monica: We have such an authentic story. On top of the research and the amazing skincare benefits… the story is beautiful. Being on the 115 year old farm in the Netherlands is so breathtakingly beautiful, filled with flowers and warmth, and it is a family-operated business. Seeing the floral/farm side merge with beauty and skincare is really a cool thing!
What was the first product that you launched in 2019?
Kim: Our best seller – hero product – the Royal Tulip Nectar. We launched all four products within a few weeks in early October.
Which of the four Bloomeffect products is your favourite and why?
Kim: The Royal Tulip Nectar is my personal favorite. During development both Monica and I were pregnant, but unfortunately my skin was really struggling. The hormones and my inability to use cortisones during the pregnancy left me with terribly sore, itchy, flaky and rough skin from head to toe. I had what looked like facial dandruff. While testing our lab samples of Nectar I realised that we had discovered something special. The Nectar not only soothed my angry eczema, but I noticed a dramatic difference in radiance and texture. My skin felt healthy for the first time without prescriptions. Now it is visibly plumper, more hydrated and extra glowly.
I continue to use Nectar everyday. At night as a sleep mask and in the morning as a topical treatment alternative on my dry and flaky patches.
Monica: The Dutch Dirt Mask is my favorite, hands down. I have normal/combination skin, but have always had issues with my pores, especially with congestion around my T-zone. I use the Dutch Dirt as a mask twice a week, leaving it on for a good 15 minutes before rinsing it off. It leaves my skin so smooth and pores visibly smaller. I also use it as a scrub in-between, if my skin is feeling particularly congested (especially if I’ve been traveling a lot or wearing more makeup or sunscreen than usual). I always finish with a moisturizer or night cream to give a little extra hydration to the skin.
While reasearching your brand I was intrigued by your PICEA wood tubes. Tell me about your packaging and why it was important from the beginning to make sure that is was sustainable & recyclable?
Kim: Clean Beauty does not unfortunately mean sustainable, even though some brands may lead you to believe otherwise. Sustainability is a big part of our mission. It’s important to Monica and I on a personal level and also part of what makes the Dutch an incredible culture. They are years ahead of the world in waste management, reducing water consumption. Married to a Dutch farmer, I have learned so much about the more sustainable Dutch agricultural industry. They don’t water the tulips and manage the water system through the ground and canal system. The fruit & vegetable producers in the Netherlands are one of the most efficient and sustainable in the world. Producing 20 times the yield vs the US with the same acreage.
We celebrate Dutch heritage and suitability is just a way of life here. Our next mission is to go circular and be the first to support tulip circular farming in the beauty industry.
We are very proud to be the first to launch PICEA tubes in the US. These tubes are made from German saw dust and have a much smaller carbon footprint than regular tubes. Our cartons are 100% recycled and uncoated FSC certified, printed with soy ink. Other than the PICEA tubes our other components are glass, which are infinitely recyclable.
I haven’t come across tulips as ingredient in skincare before & am quite curious about your Proprietary Dutch Tulip Complex. Can you please share your insight into this ingredient & any other one in your formulations that are worth spotlighting to beauty enthusiasts?
Kim: Our Proprietary Dutch Tulip Complex is a secret recipe blend of our Dutch tulip stem cells which are rich in amino acids, antioxidants and other nature moisturizing factors. Hydration is the corner stone of Bloomeffects and the tulip itself.
Have you ever noticed that a freshly cut bunch of tulips is standing straight and tall initially, but by the second day flopping over the edge of the vase? That is the tulip’s superpower. They are one of the only flowers that continue to grow once cut and hold its body weight in water. If fact the stems are so full of water that when snapped tulip “nectar” easily flows out. This is mainly due to the plant hormone Auxin which is vital in plant cellular growth, allowing the plant’s cells to plump, retain water and elongate.
We are the first to use Dutch Tulips in beauty and our Proprietary Dutch Tulip Complex is in everything we do. Our formulas are also rich in other plant, flower and fruit extracts and active ingredients including peptides, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid.
How did the pandemic affect the way you interact with your customers & the way you run your beauty business?
We are very fortunate to have a global based team and in some ways the pandemic has not affected the way we work at all. I am in the Netherlands, Monica splits her time between NYC & Florida, our warehouse is in NJ and social and digital teams in Australia. So by very nature we have always needed to rely on video conferencing.
The timing of the travel ban and lockdowns did however negatively affect us.
- We missed our QVC US on air debut, as I was unable to fly to the US
- Our annual press event and inaugural pop-up store in Amsterdam during tulip season was cancelled
- Our launches with our retail partners reduced to online only. Our retail partners have been incredibly supportive though and we can’t wait to launch in bricks and mortar, when its safe to do so.
Kim, you live in Netherlands. Monica, you are based in NY – do your locations affect the way you approach your daily skincare & selfcare routines? What practises help you balance running a business & having a family, without compromising your well-being?
Kim: I have tried to adopt the more Dutch approach to most things re: beauty, medication and being outdoors. Dutch believe less is more, especially when it comes to makeup and medicinal remedies. I no longer do my full face of makeup with contouring and lashes (that I used to do in NYC) and my skin is happier for it. EU standards and regulations are much stricter vs the US, and so naturally I eat better and use cleaner products. I had to give up all my steroid based prescription creams when I was pregnant and even now with a five month old baby I have completely discontinued using them to treat my eczema. I eat out less (pre-Covid) and generally eat more organic food, as the produce is so fresh and affordable here. I also try to get out to the fields for some fresh air and long walks as much as possible to support my husband and his business.
Monica: Living in NYC with a lot of congestion and pollution, I’m always thinking about my skin. I don’t wear a lot of makeup – it’s really about skincare first for me. I like to get a professional facial once every month or two and upkeep with clean skincare (with Bloomeffects being the foundation). I spend about half my time in Florida, which is obviously opposite of NYC in terms of weather (among other things!), so I try to keep my skin as stable as possible – I make adjustments in my routine to combat the different climate. Juggling business with baby/family is definitely tough, but for me it’s about learning when to take time for yourself and carving out uninterrupted time with my family (I like to take morning walks with my family and keep dinner time without my phone).
In the US your products were picked up by Credo Beauty – why do you think stores like theirs resonate so much with consumers & niche beauty businesses like yours?
Kim: More and more consumers are looking for more natural and cleaner options in beauty. However, it can be overwhelming and confusing. Partners at Credo have made it easier for consumers to understand ingredients – their purpose/claim and their source. Credo have become the namesake and gold standard in clean beauty and pioneering the path forward for other major retailers.
At the brand level consumers are also overwhelmed by choice. There is so much noise out there and it is challenging to cut through. We are clean by Credo standards and quickly becoming known as THE Tulip brand – which is ok by me.
Monica: Finding a clean skincare and beauty routine can be a very daunting task since there is no universal standard for “clean”. Credo makes the process of selecting clean skincare easy – but also fun and elevated. We are in such good company with other amazing clean brands and really feel part of something special. Not only does Credo care about clean ingredients, but they also care about sustainable packaging, which is part of our brand DNA and something we are consistently striving to be better at.
Can you please share your individual secrets that help your skin look healthy, happy & glowing?
Kim: There are no tricks or quick fixes. Its routine, routine, routine! I use the same products daily to avoid a flare up and if I do try something new, I keep everything else the same – so I know who the culprit is. Drinking lots of water, short warm (not hot) showers and good amount of sleep helps keep my eczema at bay.
Monica: Lifestyle-wise, I try to get enough sleep, drink enough water, and get outside for some fresh air! I never miss cleansing my face in the morning or before bed and exfoliate or mask at least 2x a week. I keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water and applying a super-hydrating night treatment before bed. And always wear sunscreen.