There’s nothing more inspiring than learning how today’s business leaders got their first start. Susie Wang from 100% PURE is no exception. Susie first began her career as a freshman at UC Berkeley when she figured out a way to stabilize vitamins to prevent oxidation in skincare products. In between classes, she filed patents for this invention and received an immediate flood of job offers from some of the largest cosmetic companies in the world. She put school on hiatus and began working on product development, formulations, innovation, and technology. What she discovered, however, was that hundreds of unsafe chemicals were being used to formulate conventional cosmetics; furthermore, these companies were falsely claiming “no animal testing.” This pushed Susie to resign from her prestigious positions and inspired her to create 100% PURE, a company that was exactly that: a truly natural, cruelty-free line of skincare and fruit pigmented cosmetics made with only the highest quality ingredients and free of all toxic, harsh chemicals. I had the honor of chatting with Susie to learn more about how clean, cosmetics journey, how her Korean heritage plays a part in her role as a beauty industry leader, and her steadfastness toward cruelty-free products.
What inspired you to go into the beauty industry?
During my freshman year at UC Berkeley, I purchased a vitamin C serum that quickly oxidized. This inspired me to figure out a way to stabilize the vitamins in skincare and prevent this from happening. Eventually, I started my career working for some of the world's largest cosmetic companies. It was there that I learned all about the carcinogens and toxins being used in cosmetic formulations. This pushed me to start 100% PURE and create natural, healthy, and safe beauty products.
What was the first product you created for 100% PURE?
The first item I created was our cult-favorite, Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream. I desperately needed a product that helped my eyes look awake. As such, I developed a formula that does just that, brightening dark circles and de-puffing the undereye area, while deeply nourishing and correcting signs of aging.
When did you realize that your idea of taking the chemicals out of beauty products and exposing the truth about the industry was going to take off?
We first launched 100% PURE to produce healthy, all-natural, clean cosmetics more than 15 years ago. At that time, it was unheard of and very unpopular. It was an uphill battle because people didn't understand that toxins in cosmetics caused birth defects, cancer, disrupted the endocrine system, etc. Regardless, we were determined to continue educating our community and keep producing products that we knew were safe.
What shocked you the most about beauty product formulations when you first started out?
I couldn't believe that brands were able to falsely claim cruelty-free practices. The claim of no animal testing meant that the final formula wasn't tested, but each individual ingredient could be tested on animals. Separately, it was surprising that the chemicals known to cause diseases in people were being used in cosmetic formulations. I was shocked that the beauty industry wasn't more responsible.
How has your Korean heritage played a role in your career in the beauty industry?
Korean culture emphasizes a lot on self-care, skincare, sun protection, beauty, glowing skin, healthy living, and exercising. In Korea, families and friends often gather at "jjimjilbangs," which are spas that have different types of rooms. For example, an herb room, hot clay room, pink Himalayan salt rooms, cedar rooms, ice rooms, spring baths, essential oil steam rooms, etc. Each room offers a place where people can gather to socialize while relaxing and getting body treatments like Korean body scrubs. As such, growing up with these priorities impacted how I live my life and how I think of beauty, especially when it comes to product development.
In addition to being at the forefront of clean beauty formulations, 100% Pure is also known widely as a cruelty free brand. To what lengths do you have to go through to be a truly cruelty-free brand?
To be truly cruelty-free is easy for us. Plain and simple, we won't use animal-tested ingredients or animal-based ingredients (except for honey in some of our older formulas). We also won't sell in China in the traditional way because it requires animal testing. Instead, we sell directly to consumers in China since this method doesn't require animal testing.
What pets do you have?
I have two rescue dogs -- Joy and Victory -- whom I loved very much.
You have proven that red lipstick can actually be vegan through fruit pigments. Why do people still think that’s not the case?
There's a stigma that natural products don't work as well, and that's just not true anymore. We use fruit pigments from healthy ingredients like cherries and pomegranate to make our red lipsticks. We're able to get a stunning color pay-off and long-lasting benefits with our formulations. We never have and never will use bug blood or synthetic dyes, which can be full of heavy metals!
Where do you draw inspiration from for new formulations and products?
Most of my inspiration comes from extensive research, including clinical, while the rest comes from my intuition and instincts. I also always do a lot of testing before producing the final products.
Can you take us through your beauty routine? What are your must-have products?
Absolutely! I have a very dedicated routine for morning and nighttime.