Saving Your Skin and the Planet: In Conversation with Jerry Kim, Founder of K-Beauty Brand AROMATICA

Can what your slather on your skin really save the planet? AROMATICA founder and conscious-beauty pioneer Jerry Kim believes so. The disruptor behind one of Korea’s leading beauty brands talks zero-waste hero products and how essential oils can save fatigued skin.

Plenty of people claim to be disrupting the beauty industry but, since 2004, Jerry Kim has been cleaning up the K-Beauty sphere with his all-natural, sustainable hero products.

It was on a trip to Australia that he discovered the benefits of using botanical essences and natural remedies to soothe his stressed out and irritated skin. At the same time, he realised that his favourite skincare products contained a plethora of synthetic fragrances and petroleum bases. So he set about creating his own products free from skin nasties, starting with synthetic-free roll ons that launched AROMATICA.

Fast forward to today. AROMATICA's range extends to aloe-infused sunburn-soothing gels that have become make-up-bag essentials for sunseekers, as well as botanical-based creams and holy-grail hair products - you'll find its revitalising root enhancer in our K-beauty kit. Whatever skin concern you're battling, AROMATICA has tried, tested and extracted the essential oil needed to save your skin. Forget farm-to-fork, this is farm-to-face.

Zero-waste hero products, plant-saving skincare and the importance of essential oils: meet AROMATICA founder Jerry Kim

How did AROMATICA begin?

My first exposure to essential oils and aromatherapy was in 1997, when I visited Australia. That's when I learned that I had been surrounded by synthetic fragrances derived from petroleum in my food, personal-care products and cosmetics. I started to study aromatherapy and DIY skincare.

In 2003, I started my own business importing and distributing essential oils to cosmetics manufacturers such as LG Household & Healthcare and Amorepacific. Yet companies' priorities weren't natural ingredients, so I decided to integrate essential oils into my own skincare products.

I established a small factory hoping that it would have a butterfly effect - if I made the ''right'' products, larger companies would follow on. I installed an in-house R&D centre and formulated our products with organic essential oils, natural preservatives and flower water. We launched our first products of aromatherapy roll-ons in the name of AROMATICA in 2004.

If AROMATICA was a word in the dictionary, what would the definition be?

Sustainable. We want to launch safe, healthy and sustainable products that simultaneously help save the planet.

What makes AROMATICA stand out from other K-beauty brands?

Besides no-nasties beauty certifications, it's also a partner of The Vegan Society, COSMOS, and EWG Verified™ - unlike many beauty brands here, we built our own manufacturing factory. This lets us take control of each and every step, from research to packaging. We are also known for using natural fragrances based on pure essential oils and herb extractions - we don't buy fragrance compounds.

Talk to us through AROMATICA's ethos. How did it become a pioneer for sustainable skincare?

We are known for using pure essential oils and botanical extractions. We use traditional herbal extraction methods to bring out the most of each ingredient. Our in-house research lab does a lot of testing to secure we get the quality and effectiveness of our products. That way, our in-house perfumer can create each of our products for different skin type and consumers' concerns.

Our plastic containers are made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic, while our glass bottles use up to 90 per cent recycled glass. This year, AROMATICA has converted all delivery packaging to paper-based materials, which communicates our environmental ethos.

You started AROMATICA in 2004. How has the skincare and beauty industry changed since then?

Natural and organic cosmetics once struggled to break into the market, but the "conscious beauty" movement has rapidly grown. This has fed two birds with one seed; it has created more healthy and environmentally friendly beauty standards.

What would you like to see next from the beauty industry?

I'm pleased that conscious and sustainable beauty has become mainstream. Consumers are beginning to recognise ingredients and interrogate reviews - the quality of the product has become an important factor in purchasing decisions rather than just brand advertisements. Prestige brands are rapidly losing their customers as conscious-beauty brands satisfy costumer's satisfaction and value for money. I hope this trend will accelerate further.

For those who haven't discovered AROMATICA, which product do you recommend?

The Soothing Aloe Vera Gel is our bestseller. It's an organic, high-quality product that does a great job of soothing and calming sun-damaged skin. People love it - its popularity has really grown through word of mouth over the years. People have shown several DIYs using our product, such as facial masks, moisturisers and even hand sanitisers.

One holy-grail product you couldn't live without…

We are pleased with our first and newest solid bar products: the Shampoo Bar, Conditioning Bar, Cleansing Bar and Dishwash Bar. They come in zero plastic.

What are some of AROMATICA's hero ingredients?

Organic damask rosewater and rose essential oil (otto and absolute) deliver the essence of vitality and hydration. They leave the skin supple and vibrant. In 2005, we launched the very first skincare Rose Absolute First Serum. Now, the upgraded version is called Reviving Rose Infusion Serum.

Another is Tunisian rosemary extract and essential oil: with a name meaning "dew of the sea", rosemary's antioxidant and circulation-boosting properties shine in the bathroom. Our popular Rosemary Scalp Scaling Shampoo improves blood circulation in the scalp and is a source of nutrients for your hair, while the Vitalizing Rosemary Concentrated Essence delivers a natural antioxidant to protect the skin.

How do you source AROMATICA's ingredients?

We import raw materials from international and local suppliers to prescribe organic extracts for all skin types. At first, we imported most of the raw materials from Australia. But now we pick the best suppliers: lavender and cypress from France, tea tree and eucalyptus from Australia, citrus oils from Italy, neroli from Spain, rose from Bulgaria, jasmine and sandalwood from India, organic dried herbs from the US.

Any tips for combating sensitive and dry skin…

The most important tip to keep your skin moisturised is maintaining a balance of water and oil in your skin. My skincare routine: cleanse with Comforting Calendula Decoction Cleansing Mousse and layer as needed with Vitalizing Rosemary Concentrated Essence. Next, I add a few drops of organic jojoba oil in the Calendula Intensive Cream to prevent moisture loss. Fun fact: jojoba oil has similar properties to human sebum, which allows the oil to penetrate the skin rapidly without clogging any pores.

What about negating the effects of aggressors such as pollution and sun damage?

Whether you're new to skincare or looking to change your routine, go for cleanser, serum, moisturiser and protector to get your skin into better shape. You must wash out the aggressors from head to toe and treat them with moisture. There are essential oils and floral waters rich in antioxidants, while jojoba oil contains vitamins A, D, and E. Also use a sun protector.

Finally, what's next for AROMATICA?

We started cutting down on virgin plastic. The reduction of plastic waste is a priority here. Providing refill pouches was just the beginning. The entire body-care collection is made from 100-per-cent post-consumer-recycled plastic bottles. To improve recyclability, all of our containers are transparent, have water-soluble labels and flip caps rather than pumps. We are in the process of designing more sustainable shampoo containers. We also have a couple of exciting launches and big updates coming up, including refill stations. We also want to bring our community and like-minded brands together with programs and events that express our mission.

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