Clean beauty is the harmonious symphony where science and nature converge, revealing the transformative power of conscious choices. In this episode, Amy talks with Clean Beauty Chemist Krupa Koestline, Founder of KKT Consulting, and member of the Credo Clean Beauty Council. Krupa explains what it means to work with a clean beauty cosmetic chemist, and what the process is. She also shares her insights on upcoming plant-based minimally processed ingredients that are the hottest new trends. Tune in and learn about the importance of a clean beauty chemist and their impact on creating safe and effective beauty products with Krupa.
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Beyond The Labels: The Art And Science Of Clean Beauty With Chemist Krupa Koestline
In this episode, I’m very excited to be having an amazing conversation with Krupa Koestline. She is the CEO and Founder of KKT Consultants, which is one of the premier leading clean beauty labs and product development spaces here in the States. I’m excited to have her come on and talk about her work as a Clean Beauty Product Developer and Chemist, the kind of work that she does and also maybe start having a conversation about what we see as trends in the clean beauty space. Krupa, I would love for you to further introduce yourself and share a little bit more about your background.
Thank you for having me, Amy. I am a Cosmetic Chemist but I have a Master’s in Biology so I’m more like a Biologist than a Chemist. I do work as a cosmetic chemist. I own a lab. We are a group of five chemists in the lab. We help brands smaller, bigger brands and all-size brands with their product development needs. I’m very excited to be here.
Tell me a little bit about KKT Consultants and how you started it. What was the inspiration, the light bulb that went off in your head when you were like, “I’m doing this?” You have a group of chemists. You said five. Give us a lay of the land for those who are not that familiar with what a cosmetic chemist does. Take us through how you came up with the idea, how long ago you started the business and how you put it together.
I have been in the beauty sector for a very long time. In my last job, I was a VP of Innovation at one of the leading cosmetic manufacturers. While I was there, I saw that there were a lot of booms with the beauty startups. There were all these founders that wanted to find new skincare or new ideas and have their skincare lines or body care lines. They didn’t have one place to go to that’ll answer all of their questions. It was super simple too like, “What do I put on a label? Do I put silicone in my hairspray?” There was no one resource.
Although I did help a lot of brands, there were limitations on how much I could help because I was with a contract manufacturer. I couldn’t always help. I always felt like I could help so much more. In 2020 before the pandemic, I decided to start KKT Consultants. It was very scary because I gave my notice on March 1st, 2020 and March 16th, 2020 was when the pandemic was declared. It was very scary. It’s all great how it all works out. Despite the pandemic, there were a lot of people who wanted to work with me. There were so many fantastic founders that I’ve known throughout my life that were all there to support me when we were starting.
It’s been great. We are in business for over a couple of years. It feels great because I started on my own. I never imagined that it was going to be big like this. However, I’m very excited because all the chemists that I’ve hired are very new to this space. I feel great that I’m able to teach them the right way to formulate or change their mindset around chemicals.
I don’t know if many people know this but if you are a cosmetic chemist who’s trained traditionally and goes to a cosmetic chemist school, you work with ingredients that the natural industry would never work with. You are trained to use the pegs, silicones, parabens and all these ingredients that you wouldn’t use in the green industry in the clean world.If you are a cosmetic chemist and trained traditionally, go to a cosmetic chemist school. You will have the chance work with ingredients that the natural industry would never work with. Click To Tweet
I had a very hard time finding a chemist who had experience and who would do this. After going through a bunch of learning it myself, it’s very hard to untrain someone. All of my chemists are straight out of college. They’re very sweet and so passionate. Some of them have environmental chemistry degrees. Some of them have sustainability degrees. We understand what we’re doing. We’re a group of all girls with all kinds of ethnicities. We have a lot of fun in the lab.
I love that story. As an entrepreneur, I love that you’re giving such amazing opportunities to young women coming into the workspace, being a mentor in that way and shepherding them along. That is so important. That’s another layer of the amazing work that you’re doing that ripples out. It is a real contribution back in a way. That’s a wonderful thing to do.
For me, mentorship, coaching and all of that is such a big part of the way that I’ve always wanted to give back to other women because as an entrepreneur myself for many years, it’s those women that were ahead of me that were responsible for helping me pave the way for my work. You and I are both on the Credo Clean Beauty Council. I’d love for you to talk about your relationship with Credo and how you got involved with them.
A little bit of my backstory. I started my career with Estée Lauder and then moved on to Neutrogena. While I was at Neutrogena, I was very new to the industry. My manager ended up getting pregnant right after I joined so I ended up managing a whole department in LA. It was very big and I was still so young and learning. I remember that one of the first projects that I was in charge of was switching away from shark-derived squalane to olive-derived squalane. Everybody knows squalane but it brings up nostalgia for me.
I grew up in India and then moved to the States for further studies. Being a vegetarian and growing up that way, I had no idea that there were all these ingredients in cosmetics that could be derived from sharks or endangered animals. It was a very big eye-opener for me. I kept questioning some of the things that labs or manufacturers would do. They would have these signs like, “Pregnant women are not allowed anywhere near the facility.” You would see signs. Most people would walk like normal.
I would always question, “Why do I need gloves and a face mask to handle these ingredients? I don’t get it. They’re just ingredients. I don’t understand.” I started to look closer a lot and then very quickly decided that this is not what I want to do. It didn’t feel good. I remember I used to get Gratis products and donate them because I didn’t even want anyone in my family or anyone to use it. That’s when I decided to switch over to the green and clean world. There was no clean beauty back then so it was more the natural and organic sectors. That’s when I moved to the natural organic sector. Ever since then, it’s been pretty amazing.
I was wondering how you got connected to Credo. For our audience, I want them to know a little bit more about what I mean by Credo. Some of you may not even know what we’re talking about. Credo Beauty is an online and brick and mortar retailer of “clean beauty products.” They are responsible for defining and setting written standards about what clean beauty is. They’ve been helping and collaborating with other retailers, helping them define those terms so they can properly vet but they’re a real thought leader in the space and have made a huge impact in the clean beauty natural skincare space.
What Credo has, for those of you that don’t know, is an advisory council or panel of experts who are part of this adjunct team of experts. Sometimes we’re involved in projects or media stuff or we’re part of their crew in a way. I’ve been a part of the Credo Clean Beauty “family” for a long time since they started. Krupa is also a member of the Credo Clean Beauty Council. I wanted to find out what her connection was and how she got involved and became part of the council.
Throughout my entire career trajectory, I got connected to Mia Davis at some point, who was the VP of Social Impact at Credo. We worked on one of the brands together. We got instantly connected. I loved how amazing, strong and passionate she is. She knows more about the packaging than the ingredients. Over the years, she always reaches out to me and we have so many conversations about ingredients. That’s how it started.
Credo wanted somebody to advise them on their clean beauty, like the no-no list, the restricted substance list that they have. Things are so much more complicated than restricted substance lists. It’s simple but there are so much more complications. She invited me to be on the Credo team and then I said, “Why not? It’ll be fun.”
I also have known Mia for a long time. When she got involved with them and became VP of Mission and Sustainability and all of that there, I was excited for her. She’s an amazing influencer and thought leader in this whole field of ingredients. She’s been doing this for many years. This has been something that she’s deeply passionate about and rooted in. I love that you came in through Mia.
Krupa, I would love to find out a little bit more about how it is that people can work with you. As a Cosmetic Chemist in a clean space, working and mentoring a lot of clean beauty entrepreneurs, also finding a chemist and a lab is one of the biggest stress-inducing searches that a founder goes through. They don’t know where to go, whom to look for or the questions to ask. It sometimes can paralyze the person from even starting what they want to start.
Now that we’re talking on this show, I hope this brings you some new people to ask you questions. I would love for you to explain. How do people find you? How do people start the process of working with you? What does that process look like from the minute they call you up to talk to you to the time they launch your product?
We have a form on our website. Most of our inquiries come from our website. Most of them also are word of mouth. It has been very interesting because we’ve tried to standardize what we offer and the process. We are very versatile in how we work with our clients. Our clients come to us at different stages of their business. There are some clients that’ll come to me and be like, “I have no idea what I want to do. I want to do something. Tell me if it’s even possible. I have all of these products but I want to make them better. What do you think?”
A lot of different brands come to us at different stages. Depending on what they need, we can help them with anything related to the product. It’s what I tell them. Since we have such a great lab and we have an in-house lab, what we love to do is produce. By produce, I mean design their formulas here. We do unique custom formulations in the theme beauty space.
By custom formulations, we don’t have anything sitting on the shelf like, “We have this moisturizer. Add your ingredient to it and call it a day.” It’s a lot more than that. We do like custom formulations for brands depending on what the brand is, what the founder is, what their story is and how they want their product to be unique.
At the end of the process, all of our formulation, IP or Intellectual Property formula ends up going to the client. We don’t retain anything. The process looks very straightforward but the way we are different from most chemists or labs is that we do a lot of collaboration and handholding, especially for brands and founders that need it. We believe that founders hire us because we are the experts.
My goal is to not have the founder worry about the product anymore, let us worry about it and help them with choosing ingredients or figuring out how to make their product unique or if they know how to make it unique, figure out like, “What are the new technologies that people might not be aware of yet that we can incorporate in their product and make it even better?” From the beginning of the process, when we are first contacted, we sign a document to the end of the process, which usually takes 4 to 6 months, depending on what we are making. The process is very collaborative. There’s a lot of back and forth.
I love that you are so involved in not just being expert technicians and being able to produce something that feels good and has all of the properties that you want but you are so knowledgeable. You have that extra layer of expertise in that. This leaves me something about new technologies and this was going to be one of my questions so I’m so glad that was a natural transition into that.
I wanted to ask you as having a clean beauty lab and having your clean beauty theme of chemists and all of that for a couple of years, what do you see as trends as far as new ingredient “technologies” or things that are coming up that you are excited about that you are looking forward to or a direction that you see clean skin hair going?
I have been very excited about how there have been a lot of advancements in ingredients. Years ago, we had a handful of 100 or 200 ingredients to work with when we wanted to make something clean. In 2023, there are thousands of options that we could use, which is so exciting. That means all these things that you could do that you weren’t able to do before. In terms of innovation, I’m very excited about fermentation technology and how biotech has taken such a big role in the industry.
I love seeing all the newness that’s coming out of the biotech industry. I have a Master’s in biotech too. I’m a bit of a nerd there. These bacteria and microbes are mind-blowing what they can do. It’s so amazing that they’ve been able to achieve something like fermentation. It’s such an old age, old process but seeing its applications in beauty is very cool.It's so amazing how biotech has been able to achieve something like fermentation. It's such an old process, but now seeing its applications in beauty is very cool. Click To Tweet
Can you talk to those who are reading and who may not understand what this new trend in fermentation is? If you could break it down simplistically and what its effects are for skincare. Why would someone want to include this biotech or fermentation in their skincare? What would be the purpose and result?
Fermentation essentially is a biochemical process. In very simple terms, you have a reactor and either bacteria or yeast in the reactor. You feed that bacteria either corn, sugar or something and then modify it to produce whatever it is that you want to produce. A lot of times in skincare let’s say, for example, sodium hyaluronate, the hyaluronic acids get produced using fermentation all the time, which is great.
You can make sure that it’s pure because it’s lab made and then also you are not harming an animal to make it. It’s like microorganisms and you are not killing anything, which is great. In skincare especially, there are a lot of probiotic and prebiotic lysates or ferment extracts we are calling. What happens is there’s this broth that has all these growing microbes.
Kombucha essentially. They take all the microorganisms out of kombucha so that in the end, it is just a liquid left, which is called a fermented extract or ferment lysate. That is what is used in skincare. It’s so amazing because it has great barrier repair qualities. Think of gut bacteria, like how we eat yogurt and probiotics for the health of our guts.
It’s in the same way with fermented ingredients. Even though there are no live streams in ferments, it’s very helpful for the overall health of your skin. There are no side effects. Depending on what strain of bacteria you use, it can help with anti-aging, barrier repair, moisturization and all these so many benefits that you can have through fermentation.
Thank you for that explanation. A lot of people are reading that it’s hot and it’s an amazing ingredient but they don’t know what it’s doing and why it’s such an important thing for the skin. That was amazing. Before we wrap up because I appreciate your time, what would be some advice that you would give a clean beauty? Someone who’s thinking about it for a long time and is not sure if they want to do it but they have this idea. What would be some advice for an emerging founder in this space that you would give them?
Something for sure, especially if you’re thinking about starting a brand is understanding why you want to do it. Have a very strong why. It cannot just be like, “I’ve tried all the shampoos on the market. I can’t find the right shampoos. I’m just going to launch one.” No, because the journey of a founder is hard. It can be so hard mentally and physically. It probably would affect every single aspect of your life. It’s very important to find a very strong why to make sure that you go through the whole process and become a successful brand.The journey of a founder is really hard. It can be so hard mentally and physically. It probably would affect every single aspect of your life. It's very important to find a very strong why. Click To Tweet
That is such key advice. That is beautiful. Thank you so much, Krupa. I appreciate your time talking to us about your background, what you’re doing and how much you do for all these emerging clean beauty founders in this space. For those of you reading, I will make sure that you can find Krupa. If you have aspirations to launch your clean beauty brand or anything like that, reach out to her. Krupa, thank you so much for taking the time with me and having this conversation. I appreciate it.
Thank you. This is a lot of fun.
About Krupa Koestline
Entrepreneur and Cosmetic Chemist Krupa Koestline merges her background in biology, biochemistry, and biotechnology with her lifelong practice of Ayurveda to create new concepts and innovations in the beauty space. Starting her 10+ year career at Estee Lauder and Neutrogena, Krupa pivoted her focus to creating safer products after seeing firsthand the impact of potentially harmful ingredients used in personal care products. As the founder of KKT Consultants, Krupa understands the importance of innovation in today’s competitive and saturated beauty market. As an expert resource, Krupa strives to dispel myths and misinformation around clean beauty, to see through convenient marketing tactics and buzzwords, and forecast insights into the next trendy ingredient.