The beauty landscape has long been overdue for a refresh. In an industry that puts a premium on trendy ingredients and unending product drops, it can be difficult to keep up, both as consumers and brands. Moreover, it’s the environment that’s been paying the price — from the accumulated plastic waste, to toxic ingredients polluting waterways.
Recognizing the problem, Alex Gentry, Kim Reyes-Palanca, and Rina dela Calzada got together to build Pure Culture — a mindful brand that seeks to flip the script on beauty and our approach towards consumption. “It started out as a passion project. I found release in the world of soap-making, and it snowballed into this obsession in learning about plants, nature, and what it can do for us and the skin,” said Alex. “I called Rina and Kim, both very good friends of mine. We knew we didn’t just want to start a beauty brand, but a platform to help create a change.”
Last August 5, Pure Culture officially launched to the public. The online event, which was held via Zoom and hosted by Nicole Morales of The Beauty Edit, was a culmination of years of rigorous testing, scouting for the right suppliers, and perfecting formulations. “Some people may think of beauty as superficial. But to us, beauty can be self-care and a step towards loving yourself,” shared Kim. “That’s why, we really thought about the experience of Pure Culture — the scent, memory it gives you, the feeling, and even packaging. It’s our way of elevating local beauty.”
A return to nature
As a conscious brand, every aspect of product development is carefully considered. Pure Culture’s products are founded on three main pillars: natural and bio-compatible ingredients, sustainable local actives, and biome-friendly bacteria. Its name reflects their ethos, with ‘Pure’ describing their focus on natural ingredients, and ‘Culture’ relating to bacteria. Meanwhile, their tagline ‘wild, sexy skin’ refers to their mission of reconnecting skin with nature.
“‘Rewilding’ means to restore and return to its natural state. That’s our promise: wild, sexy skin,” emphasized Rina. “Your skin is a natural microbiome. You don’t just put anything on it, you need to make sure your products are formulated ethically using natural ingredients, and eco-certified actives — all of which give your skin’s biome new life.”
A guest speaker at the event, Dr. Anna Caybyab-Rufino delved deeper into the topic of our skin’s microbiome and the importance of caring for it. “The skin is home to trillions of bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms that help protect and keep it healthy,” explained Dr. Anna. “If your skin barrier is damaged, these organisms can become pathogenic and cause illnesses. Many things can disrupt it, such as environmental factors, pollution, cosmetics, and stress.”
In response, Pure Culture’s biocompatible ingredients nurture the skin’s healthy bacteria to help preserve a healthy balance. “There are controversial ingredients like preservatives, emulsifiers, parabens, phthalates. These all affect our systems,” said Alex. “When we say ‘biocompatible,’ we mean non-toxic and does not affect your body’s natural processes. For example, we’ve been able to develop our products using bio-active preservatives that come from nature. Some preservatives we use are from rose and carnation extracts, and even our emulsifiers are plant-based and clinically proven to be safe.”
Changing the skincare game
This commitment and attention to detail is far from simple, and the brand has had to go through countless trial-and-error to ensure high-quality formulations. Alex revealed, “We’ve had to abandon products we were working on simply because it did not react well with one of us, and we also had issues with suppliers not reaching our standards. One of the things we don’t compromise on is finding partners who share the same values as us — not just in ingredients, but ethical labor, environment-friendly processes, and sustainable packaging. We thought, if we're gonna do it, we want to do it right.”
At present, Pure Culture is the first natural skincare Philippines brand that’s Safe Cosmetics Australia certified. Their other certifications include Australian Certified Toxic-Free, Naturally Made Safe™, Allergy Certified™, Cruelty-Free Certified, and Vegan-Friendly Certified. They are also a two-time Bronze winner in the Clean Beauty Global Organic Skincare Awards. “Getting all these certifications was hard, but we wanted to make sure that people understood what we wanted to do,” shared Alex. “We had to open up our formulations and processes to various boards, including where each ingredient came from.”
While going through such lengths to build credibility is an arduous task, to Pure Culture, it’s a necessary step in changing the industry game. “When you go to a shop, you see products labeled ‘natural’ or ‘organic.’ We’re careful with that because people use these terms loosely,” clarified Kim. “More than anything, we want to educate consumers, teach them how to read labels properly, and open up the discussion.”
Aside from their dedication to promoting intentional consumption, Pure Culture also aims to share the importance of giving back. Their most passionate advocacy? Our oceans. “Last year, the Philippines contributed 36% of the world’s ocean plastic waste,” said Alex. “We want to make sure we never add to any of that. Our packaging, for instance, uses glass that’s infinitely recyclable. Our last-mile shipping is plastic-free, everything’s compostable and upcycled. We also donate a portion of our revenue through 1 Percent for the Planet.” Kim added, “We use a lot of marine ingredients, so it’s common sense to give back to nature.”
Planet-positive for the future
Indeed, Pure Culture is a luxury skincare brand that walks their talk, in the hopes of blazing a trail for a more sustainable skincare Philippines. “It’s challenging to translate world-class skincare at a reasonable price and packaging,” shared Rina. “At the same time, we want people to know that we’re natural, and have a purpose. So how do you marry everything? We’re happy to try and make it possible.” Alex concluded, “We’re not a perfect brand, but our goal is to be planet-positive and fully circular in the near future.