In this episode of the BSuite podcast, host Anne Richardson takes a look behind the labels of clean, green, and blue beauty products with lead formulator Jana Blankenship, founder of the sustainable hair care line Captain Blankenship. Jana breaks down the sustainability certifications consumers should seek out when shopping for beauty products, her process for sourcing sustainable ingredients like seaweed, and how clean beauty companies are combating greenwashing across their industry. Don’t forget to subscribe to the BSuite podcast so you never miss a new interview with business leaders who are changing the world for good!
Captain Jana’s Love of Nature and Natural Fragrance
Jana, the “Captain” behind the clean beauty brand, Captain Blankenship shares that she’s loved exploring fragrances ever since she was a little girl. She explains, “I was always that kid who was outside in the garden smelling the mint and picking roses, and it was just intuitive to me. I loved to pick plants and infuse them in water and try to unsuccessfully feed them to my family and friends.” As a child, Jana also loved to mix her mother’s perfumes into unique blends, another early indicator of her future career in clean beauty products. Captain Blankenship, the company she founded in 2009, takes inspiration from Jana’s lifelong love of nature and natural fragrance.
Discovering Self-Expression and Natural Beauty Brands
Jana credits her parents and grandparents with teaching her how to nurture her creativity and follow her passions. With fashion designers, agronomists, naturalists, and authors in her family tree, Jana has been surrounded by those who encouraged a reverence for nature, particularly along the beautiful coast of Maine. Jana also shares that she learned much of what she knows of natural fragrance from perfumer Mandy Aftel.
Listening to Jana describe her early influences, reminded Anne of how she used to watch her grandmother get ready for a night out, sitting with her at her makeup table, surrounded by powders and potions. She suggests, “Maybe we can take away from these childhood memories an important message about watching the women in our lives take care of themselves…how they chose to present themselves to the world, show confidence, and self respect?” Anne and Jana agree that practicing self-care is a form of creative self-expression and that it takes many different forms for different people.
The Hero Ingredient for Captain Blankenship’s Products
Seaweed is Captain Blankenship’s “hero ingredient” not only because it’s great for hair and skin, but also because it helps sequester carbon. Captain Blankenship’s logo, reminiscent of a painting by Matisse, is based on the shape of bladderwrack seaweed. Sourced from a local farm in Maine, seaweed’s restorative properties make it a cornerstone of all Captain Blankenship formulas. The brand even plans to release a product composed of 70% seaweed extract in 2024.
Because they rely so heavily on seaweed, the Captain Blankenship team are eager to give back to aquaculture through their membership in 1% for the Planet and their partnership with Greenwave, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting regenerative aquaculture. Anne mentions Blackstone Point Oysters and Marin’s Skincare, two Maine companies that are also focused on doing good for the ocean through their unique approaches to aquaculture.
Concerns of Greenwashing in the Beauty Industry
Green and clean beauty, Jana explains, are terms that have lost their meaning, just like the words, “natural” and “organic” have become overused when it comes to food. Jana discusses her concern that conventional beauty companies are increasingly engaging in greenwashing by referring to their products as “green” and “clean” when really, their products don’t meet the highest standards of environmental responsibility. In response to the erosion of terms like “green” and “clean” beauty, Jana’s friend Jeannie Jarnot, founder of Beauty Heroes, a clean beauty boutique, decided to take green beauty a step further.
Blue Beauty vs. Green, Clean, Natural and Organic
Jeannie Jarnot popularized the term “blue beauty” which refers to products that are not harmful to animals, plants, or marine life including coral reefs. Blue beauty products must also be packaged in a way that does no harm to the oceans or waterways. Captain Blankenship’s products are all examples of blue beauty which is also indicated by their Leaping Bunny and MADE SAFE certifications. Anne and Jana agree that whether in advertising or the beauty industry, third-party sustainability certifications such as B Corp, Leaping Bunny, and MADE SAFE can be expensive investments for small companies, but they speak volumes about the company’s commitment to sustainability.
Wild Beauty and the Seasonal Family Almanac
These days, Jana is proud to be the parent of “two little potion mixers” of her own. She loves watching them run barefoot through the woods near their home in Maine, the way she did as a child. To share her wisdom not only with her children but with anyone who shares her passion for nature, Jana has written two books, Wild Beauty and the Seasonal Family Almanac which she co-wrote with her friend Emma Frisch.
Hair Care and Supporting B Corp Beauty Companies
Both Anne and Jana agree about the benefits to keeping their respective companies’ offerings narrowly focused. This is demonstrated by Jana’s decision to focus exclusively on hair care products in 2022. Streamlining the Captain Blankenship business model has allowed them to be the experts in their field and lessen their competition all while celebrating the achievements of other female founders whose efforts complement their own. “I loved the face oil we made for Captain Blankenship, but it’s easy to find a good one these days, and there’s no need to be just putting more products out in the market. That is not what the world needs.”
Instead, she prioritizes supporting other B Corp beauty companies such as her friend’s company Meow Meow Tweet. In the end, for both Captain Blankenship and Richardson Media Group, it’s all about offering creative multifunctional products and services that prioritize people and the planet alongside profit with the goal of making the world a better place through business.