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Meet the Member: Elsa Jungman, CEO & Founder, ELSI Beauty
Member news | October 17, 2019
In our latest Meet the Member feature, we spoke with Elsa Jungman, CEO & Founder at ELSI Beauty.
ELSI is a skincare startup founded in 2018 in San Francisco. ELSI combats the rise of skin conditions and sensitive skin by building a world in which beauty and science work together to produce optimal health. It was selected as one of Hello Tomorrow’s Top 500 DeepTech startups.
Keep reading to learn more about ELSI’s founder, Elsa Jungman, and her strong expertise in dermatology, microbiome and clean beauty.
FACC: ELSI Beauty offers clean and gentle beauty products suitable for the most delicate skins. What made you want to start a skincare brand dedicated to sensitive skins?
EJ: At 18, I suffered from a toxic shock syndrome that sent me to intensive care. It made me lose skin layers all over my body, and my skin became extremely sensitive. All the products that I tried were too irritating. The frustrating journey to find a product that worked, led me to become a scientist and expert in skin health. In 2015, after working in R&D at L’Oréal, I moved to San Francisco and learned about the skin microbiome and its importance for skin health. Since then I am committed to advocate for resources to promote a healthy skin ecosystem as today more than 50% of Americans suffer from sensitive skin and this number is growing. I realized the need to create gentle solutions to promote skin health & longevity by focusing on the microbiome. This is how ELSI was born.
FACC: ELSI skincare makes sure to always include less than 10 ingredients, without fragrances or preservatives that may harm the skin. ELSI is currently selling a Serum, composed of 3 ingredients. Could you elaborate on the steps you went through for selecting those ingredients?
EJ: My selection process included choosing ingredients with a track record of being sustainable, clean & non irritative. For instance, Squalane was sourced from a San Francisco biotech and is a great non clogging oil derived from sugar cane. When it came to Sacha Inchi, I partnered up with a French biotech as they refined it with no fragrances and stabilized it. Derived from Peruvian nut, this ingredient is perfect in bringing extra moisture to the skin while improving its texture. Additionally, Tocopherol is also plant based that has vitamin E activity and serves as an antioxidant. Overall this blend of ingredients represents the collision between France and California.
FACC: Elsa, you earned a Ph.D. in Skin Pharmacology and began your career working in R&D for L’Oréal in Paris. What do you like about research and what have you learnt from it?
EJ: What I love about dermatological research is the focus on the skin as it is your largest body organ and is key for being healthy. It is a mix of biology, chemistry, medicine but also wellness.
Research in general is challenging but it gave me the opportunity to explore areas I never really thought about. After my Ph.D. in skin pharmacology I joined L’Oréal in research & development in the skin absorption team where I was looking at how cosmetics diffuse into the skin for product efficacy.
My path in beauty really started in a lab but being at L’Oréal got me exposed to many different teams, activities & countries, from the Clarisonic brush in Seattle to formulation teams in Japan. Research and teams open your eyes to different cultures that expand your knowledge regarding your own opinion of beauty. I have always worked with people from all around and this is what I love about being a scientist, it is universal.
FACC: Have you seen a shift in the way people purchase beauty products? How do you intend to stay competitive?
EJ: When I first moved to San Francisco, I worked with several biotech & beauty companies. I had the opportunity to work for a startup that was pioneering the skin microbiome research, AOBiome/Mother Dirt. For me, this was life changing in terms of research because I’ve always seen the skin surface as a protective “dead” layer acting like a brick & mortar wall and I started understanding the importance of our all our skin living microorganisms. This completely shaped the way I seek out new products because I wanted to make sure they respected my skin ecosystem, as an unbalanced one is now linked to many skin diseases such as acne, eczema etc. Consumers today start to be aware of the microbiome and are more concerned about skin health but unfortunately today it is hard to swim and find relevant products in the beauty marketing jungle & offer. We tend to stay competitive with major developments coming for our research to always being a step forward in terms of innovation & efficacy and by listening to our community, to make sure we launch products that the consumer will be interested in using. We also believe a lot in communities.
We recently launched Experiences & organize offline events, such as the ELSI Method, a specific facial yoga technique we have developed. If you read this and would like to partner, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FACC: I read that you backpacked in South Korea in 2017. What can the Western World learn from the K-Beauty industry? Is there anything you would like to include in your own brand?
EJ: Well it was an eye-opening experience. First of all, Korea is such a beautiful country with amazing traditional villages & national parks. In stores, I started noticing the importance of more minimalist formulations there. They have also amazing sunscreens, so much more choice! Although unfortunately I am the anti K-Beauty routine, the 9 step one for example. I strongly believe in the less is more. If it doesn’t matter, get rid of it in terms of products & ingredients.
FACC: What are your own, personal goals with ELSI? What do you aim to achieve?
EJ: My goal is to build the future of clean dermo-cosmetics by putting skin health & wellbeing at the forefront of any initiatives. I believe in ridding the world of sensitive skin and making the skin healthier with better products & by empowering the consumer in their skincare choices.
FACC: How did you hear about the French-American Chamber of Commerce and what are you most looking forward to as a member?
EJ: Associate Director of Membership Jeremie Sautter, contacted me when we won the French American Entrepreneurship award last June. This is perfect for us as we are based in San Francisco, but New York has an amazing community of French entrepreneurs and beauty companies. We look forward to expanding our network and organize popup/facial yoga workshops in NY.
Interested in connecting with Elsa? Log into the FACC Member Directory to send her a message.