The Story Behind The Violet Paste
My love affair with beauty started before I turned 13.
I recall walking into the very first Body Shop in Falls Church, Virginia: the year was 1986. Running my hands along the rows of simple, utilitarian plastic jars and bottles with exotic labels – Japanese Washing grains, Blue Corn scrub, Tea Tree oil blemish gel – through each of these I felt that I could travel to exotic places as well as understand the stories of the people that had created them. They were about as far away from my own predictable, suburban existence as you could imagine.
Over my 18-year career in marketing, my fascination with culture and what that means for business only grew. Asia, Brazil, China, Africa and the Middle East were markets I visited frequently, but what made these trips fascinating were always the people, their routines and the products they used – the cultural aspects of what defined their everyday moments and lives.
It was 2016: from a business perspective I could see that the classic “coming of age beauty rituals” specifically within skincare, were undergoing seismic shifts, compared to my own experience 20 or so years before. Younger consumers were discovering and consuming brands in a completely different way to previous generations. Working exclusively on female-centered brands and businesses really set the stage for creating my own beauty brand – which was what I did next.
During research, it became evident that cultural beauty narratives for younger people had most definitely evolved. We heard from young people that the everyday products that were marketed to them as they came of age felt sort of generic; a bit bland. Many of the young women we spoke to said that they felt patronized by brands and that they were being offered fundamentally out-of-date ideologies and childish ingredients – “phoney science” that they didn’t buy into.
Most critically: beauty, well-being and mental health were becoming inextricably linked. During our research, we saw that every conversation around beauty seemed to lead back to anxiety and mental health. Physical well-being and emotional health were the new currency for “a life well lived” with younger customers and with their parent’s awareness of these issues reaching a real tipping point.
The idea of Violet Paste came to me because of what we had heard from so many young women and men – of feeling hormonal and having struggled with blemishes. I also drew upon my own experience of depressive illness and the habits I had developed to improve my own resilience and mental health. There seemed to be an existing narrative around “cover up that spot with some slap and get on with it” mindset. Many of the people we spoke with talked openly about the shame of having bad skin and feeling isolated by it.
So, we decided that with Violet Paste we wanted to send the opposite message to young women – that actually, having a blemish is totally normal. So, if you have your period and you feel a bit teary, put on some Violet Paste, play some sad songs and get in your cosiest pyjamas and just go with it.... What we know is that it's important at that moment to have a licence to wallow a little bit and take care of yourself. So, putting on some blemish paste can be a mundane, functional act, or it can be a recipe to be at your very best, mentally.
Unlike some traditional blemish remedies that rely on ingredients that can be drying, Plenaire’s paste is perfect for even the most sensitive and delicate skin. It soothes and treats over time, rather than making unrealistic claims or promising instant results. The Plenaire formulation relies on 3 active ingredients: Salicylic Acid, which helps control excess sebum production to prevent acne and refines pores; Zinc Oxide which calms redness, soothes irritation and purifies the skin and Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate (Azelaic Acid derivative), which brightens, balances and evens skin tone, and helps prevent blemishes.
Plenaire Violet Paste has become our best-selling product. No hype, very limited marketing support, all just word of mouth. We couldn’t be more proud of our collaboration with Caroline Hirons and Skin Rocks on this release.