Inherit the Earth: Common Heir’s Gorgeous Luxury Skincare is Completely Plastic-Free

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 05/17/2021 | 4 Minute Read

Common Heir offers everything you’d expect from a high-end skincare brand but none of the packaging that will end up in the landfill. That’s right—luxury beauty products and plastic-free packaging don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

“Having worked at some of the largest CPG companies to some of the higher-growth stage ones, it became really clear that no one was designing for what would happen to something after it was done providing value to the average consumer,” said Cary Lin, Chief Executive Officer of Common Heir. “I had this aha moment on a walk on my local beach in Santa Monica, where I came across these old plastic lotion bottles. I started wondering where everything I had a hand in creating might be sitting.”

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Cary started wondering how she could solve this issue—one which many industries struggle with, particularly the beauty and personal care sector—all while giving consumers a luxurious packaging experience with an efficacious product. Through a mutual friend, Cary got in touch with Angela Ubias, and now, the Chief Product Officer at Common Heir. Angela has worked in manufacturing, product development, and formula operations, and she has built well over fifty brands in the beauty world. They bonded over their desire to innovate for an industry that seems stuck in a neverending plastic problem.

“We connected over this idea of removing plastic from the industry,” Angela said. “How can we deliver that experience in a really premium way that feels exciting and also doesn't feel like everything else?”

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Common Heir’s sustainability works its way from the inside out. Angela and Cary carefully select the suppliers they work with and choose ethically sourced ingredients. They don’t buy into the myth that all-natural is always better—in some cases, it might be, but in others, it means stripping a natural resource and doing permanent damage to the environment. As a result, they take a careful look at every ingredient to ensure it’s not petrochemical-derived or harming the earth when harvested.

The first product in the Common Heir line is a vitamin C serum, which alone poses some packaging challenges. “Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it needs to be protected,” Cary explained. “That’s why you have the prevalence of airless pumps and double-walled packaging. It keeps the formulations stable.”

Gel capsule vitamins became the inspiration for their individually packaged portions of serum. Most gel capsules today are vegan and algae or plant-based, making them readily biodegradable and dissolvable in hot water. Common Heir’s serum comes in tiny, bulbous capsules that are unique to look at but also practical—it provides the kind of oxygen barrier that vitamin C needs to remain effective.

For the outer packaging, Angela and Cary wanted zero plastic and a material that could get recycled easily. They considered glass as an option that felt undeniably luxurious, but would add significant weight (and emissions) during shipping. Ultimately, they chose paper for the final product.

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“We struggled with the idea of paper,” Angela admitted. At a premium price, the product needed to wow consumers in a way that Angela and Cary weren’t sure paper would. Although the weight of a beauty or skincare product makes it feel more suited to the luxury space, they eventually agreed this was one traditional packaging cue they could ignore to innovate. “We had so much more control over the overall aesthetic and design work. We could pick out FSC-certified paper, we could use soy-based inks, and we could control all of the finishes so there was nothing that would impact its recyclability. And then thinking about our carbon footprint, we knew this would be extremely lightweight.”

The name “Common Heir” comes from Angela and Cary’s desire to reimagine the beauty classics and skincare rituals—to transform them into something they would feel good about passing down to the next generation. This concept guided them with their vision for the packaging design (done in-house by Semira Chadorchi).

“We reflected a lot on how we inherited our skin, in the same way that we inherit the earth,” Cary said. “And that original person for Angela was her grandmother.”

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Angela’s grandmother loved flowers, so the design is intended to reimagine florals in a way that still feels vintage-inspired but also incredibly modern. They found old etchings and carvings of some of the botanicals included in the Common Heir formulation, like licorice root and marshmallow root, and worked with Semira to make something nostalgic but also relevant to future generations. The look and feel are timeless, classic, and utterly elegant.

Angela admits that Common Heir is the most complex formula that she has ever worked on. She and Cary established limitations from the start with sustainability in mind, and the result is the first of hopefully many luxury beauty and skincare items that ditch plastic. And with any luck, the industry will follow suit—because it very badly needs to.

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“The consumer is ahead of where the industry can meet them right now,” Cary said. “We’re not creating a demand for plastic-free skincare; we're responding to it. My hope for the beauty industry is to move faster in that direction, and for brands to be honest about where they are on that sustainability journey.

“And we’d like one day for everything we’re doing to no longer be special or interesting because hopefully, it will be the new default.”

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