Alex McIntosh, the founder and CEO of Thrive Natural Care, realized the world needed a more sustainable, collaborative approach to healthy skincare. Thrive Natural Care uses regenerative farming practices in Costa Rica to optimize super plants. This approach prioritizes ingredients right from their source and supports a healthy ecosystem. McIntosh partners with “ecologists, skincare experts, entrepreneurs, ethnobotanists, and traditional herbalists” from the United States and Costa Rica to fine tune their plant-based formulations. McIntosh’s unique business model respects customers, farmers, and the planet with its circularity.
As a fan of Thrive Natural Care’s product line, I was excited to connect with Alex to learn more about his thoughtful approach to creating high-quality, eco-responsible products.
How did the idea for Thrive Natural Care come about?
The ‘seeds of thrive’ came from two places: a factory and a mirror. The first “seed” was my need for better skincare, which I was reminded of each time I looked in a mirror growing up and in young adulthood. I was born with sensitive skin and, like many others, live an active life often filled with stress. What I wanted, but couldn’t find, was healthy, natural, affordable skincare that worked better than chemically laden, conventional skincare, without the frequent irritation or side-effects.
The second “seed” was my belief that the world needed a better business model. One afternoon, after nearly a decade leading corporate and environmental sustainability teams, I stood in one of the biggest manufacturing plants in America. I watched millions of industrially farmed, plastic-packaged consumer products zip off the lines and ship to stores. I considered the negative impacts, multiplied by the 213 million businesses around the world. We needed to leave our kids and grandkids a better legacy.
What is Thrive Natural Care’s aesthetic and mission?
Our mission, which gets us out of bed each morning, is to regenerate your skin, our planet, and rural farmer communities. Our aesthetic is active, clean, authentic, subtle polish, natural, healthy, and positive.
What is unique about Thrive Natural Care’s approach to ingredient sourcing?
Thrive’s philosophy is “better skincare comes from better farming.” Our approach is unique in that it regenerates customers’ skin, our planet, and local farmer communities. We select from a list of hundreds of species of plants native to Costa Rica, super plants that outperform conventional skincare ingredients. We reintroduce these super plants to beaten down, degraded landscapes in Costa Rica. Then, in close partnership with local farmers, we grow the plants in a special way—regenerative farming—that turbocharges the plants’ skincare benefits. The regenerative farming technique also serves to restore the health of the local ecosystem and boost the lives of the rural farmers. Clinical data has proven that these regenerative super plants outperform conventional skincare ingredients.
How does your approach support the farmers you partner with?
Thrive’s regenerative approach helps our farmers increase their crop yield, [and] avoid buying [and] using expensive and toxic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. [This regenerative approach] allows farmers to move up the value chain to sell high-value products and not just commodities.
What does your relationship with your farmers look like?
True collaboration. Thrive brought a regenerative vision, technical expertise, capital, and true respect to the equation. Our farmer partners brought practical wisdom, hard work, and an uncanny ability to help us develop a practical, scalable model that has already attracted the attention and demand of neighboring farmers.
Our farmer partners are like extended family members. We are in close weekly contact, celebrate life ups and downs together. Additionally, we have developed a deep relationship after years of close collaboration.
How do your ingredient sourcing practices benefit the planet?
Improved ecological health of our farmland communities is a core part of our business strategy. In fact, we and our farmer partners measure our success by the improvement of the Five Cycles of ecological function, just as we measure cost, quality, sales, margins, etc. We measure the progress of our regenerative farms versus nearby conventional farms and versus healthy, natural areas. We built this model from the ground up over 10 years with the help of leading ecologists, ethnobotanists, rural farmers, skincare experts, and entrepreneurs. Our entire business model is based on the regenerative philosophy of “leave it better than you found it.” At scale, Thrive’s regenerative model offers a viable blueprint for not only other skincare companies but also for agricultural, fishery, timber, mining, and other extractive industries.