Thirsty Turtl sees beauty’s new launch culture, sceptical consumers as main sustainability challenges

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Thirsty Turtl says it is mitigating industry challenges while staying sustainable by prioritising responsible growth and developing staples that consumers will return to. [Thirsty Turtl]
Thirsty Turtl says it is mitigating industry challenges while staying sustainable by prioritising responsible growth and developing staples that consumers will return to. [Thirsty Turtl]

Related tags Skin care Australia Sustainability

Australia-based skin care firm Thirsty Turtl says it is mitigating industry challenges while staying sustainable by prioritising responsible growth and developing staples that consumers will return to.

It is no secret that beauty is fundamentally unsustainable, with the industry driven by new product launches to create excitement and attract consumers to keep on buying in pursuit of their ‘holy grail’ product.

“We know that brands can launch something new every six months. One week they tell you they have developed the best product and then the next they have another new ‘best’ product,” ​said Jasmin Jenkins, co-founder and director of Thirsty Turtl.

Thirsty Turtl was founded with the goal of combining cosmetic science with Indigenous knowledge and sustainable agriculture.

Staying true to its sustainable ethos can put the brand at odds with the business growth, said Jenkins.

“Our mission is to put these ingredients on the global stage. But we are conscious that we should not scale in a way that is not sustainable and displaces communities, causing a negative impact on First Nations communities. It’s about managing the balance and growing but growing with your suppliers.”

She added that the company was not interested in jumping on transient trends, instead the priority was creating evergreen products.

“We hope to develop a suite of stayers – products that people will come back to again and again. At the same time, we can feature seasonal ingredients or limited-edition ingredients. We’re exploring how we can [create excitement] sustainably. We want to follow the seasons and harvest sustainably.”

At the same time, brands like Thirsty Turtl must contend with consumer challenges.

“We’re trying to sell to a customer who is more informed, more sceptical and facing a cost-of-living crisis. You have to deliver on what you say you will,”​ said Jenkins.

However, the brand has also observed consumers becoming more conscious and mindful of their purchases.

“What’s interesting is that we’re seeing people buying less products. They are keeping to a smaller routine and giving up the extra face oil or booster. This way, they have a core set of products that they are happy to pay more for. So, they are keeping up their spend while scaling back the number of products,” ​said Jenkins.

“We also balance it out by trying to offer more value with bundles or giving out mini version as a freebie. This way we can surprise and delight our customer while allowing them to try a product without having to take the risk of spending on a new product.”

‘Beauty outsiders’

Thirsty Turtl was founded by Jenkins, as well as Alisha Geary and Ellen Thomas.

Jenkins described the team as “beauty outsiders”,​ having a background in finance, chemistry, sustainable agriculture, as well as entrepreneurship.

“I guess what that means is that we have no preconceived ideas about beauty products. We’ve started with a blank piece of paper.”

Thirsty Turtl was partly inspired by Geary, an Indigenous entrepreneur who strongly believes in the potential of native ingredients.

“Alisha is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Being a First Nations entrepreneur, she is really passionate about showcasing her culture on the global stage and expressing it through accessible consumer products,” ​said Jenkins.

Since it officially launched the brand in January 2023, the brand has been growing organically through word of mouth, selling on its website as well as pop-up events and markets.

It also collaborated with a local restaurant to showcase the same native ingredients it uses in its products, such as the native Australian tomato which exhibits strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and skin hydration actions to help protect the skin against sun exposure and other environmental stresses.

In 2024, the company is focused on rounding up its product line-up, which currently has three products. This project will be funded by a grant it has received from the Australian government.

Lastly, the company is aiming to start exporting to new markets and has identified the UK, the US, and Singapore as potential markets.

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