Bacteria has gotten a bad rap. From bathing ourselves in hand sanitizer to combating acne with nuclear-strength acids, our pursuit of cleanliness has often been at the cost of destroying the microcosm of bacterial balance on our skin like bulldozers decimating a rainforest. Not all bacteria may be created equally, but that of the epidermal microbiome is getting some much-needed TLC after years of abandon and destruction. It is this fascinating world of yin and yang, a flora and fauna of the face if you will, as depicted in Ed Yong’s book, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, that lured Rob Calcraft out of retirement and into founding biomecare brand Cultured.
“The microbiome is just such a game changer. In all my years of skincare life, this is the biggest thing that has ever happened. There are hundreds of millions of dollars and proper science going into it. It's revolutionary,” Calcraft explains. Funding the launch with his own personal savings, he spent years developing and testing the formulas that constitute Cultured’s three-piece regimen consisting of a cleansing balm, serum, and mask.
As the founder of clean and sustainable beauty pioneer REN, Calcraft had achieved what some might deem the pinnacle of success: an indie endeavor that was acquired by industry behemoth Unilever in 2015. Rather than resting on laurels past, the future-facing enthusiast is looking to share this new approach to skincare with the world in hopes of giving consumers a new understanding of how products can support the skin function, rather than attack it. It harmonizes with a new consumer generation that is looking to remove terms like “anti-aging” from the industry playbook and embrace beauty in all its individuality. It also shares some values that REN helped promote, such as increasing transparency and an ingredients-first focus.
Equally, Calcraft’s passion for microbiome skincare brings a new approach to the category. “The whole trend of ‘no lists’ and negative/suspicious ingredients is not a path that we want to go down. There is a much bigger, more exciting story which is actively supporting the microbiome and actually working with it,” he comments. Calcraft and his team developed formulas from the ground up, focusing on how the microbiome can influence skin behavior. “You can achieve things from a skincare point of view, in terms of hydration and skin renewal, which are incredibly exciting. That microbiome 2.0 is the bit where the interesting science happens,” he explains.
The average person has over 1,000 species of bacteria co-existing in their skin microbiome, equating to a plethora of potential helpers in the pursuit of healthy skin. Cultured’s approach is one of harnessing that power to improve skin, rather than simply adding in one “microbiome-friendly” ingredient (their branding is completely devoid of the term) and calling it a day. Instead, formulas are packed with microbiome-based actives such as prebiotics, postbiotics, ferments, counter-preservatives, and micro-algae extracts to help improve skin function, resulting in better elasticity, moisture levels, radiance, and resilience.
In regards to different microbiome requirements depending on age, ethnicity, or gender, Calcraft notes: “Even if your skin points are a little different, by working with your microbiome, the ingredients help normalize the skin and recalibrate it. There are exceptions, like hormonal teenage acne, but watch this space.”