Clean skincare has become the new normal. With the spring equinox that just passed, people are reevaluating their lifestyle choices, nutrition, and also the ingredients in their personal care products.

There is no more buzzy biocompatible brand that fits into a shift like the wildly popular Drunk Elephant. Started by Texas native Tiffany Masterson over eleven years ago to target her own skincare concerns with a range of natural products free from The Suspicious Six, a term she trademarked, which includes essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes, and SLS.

We had the opportunity to sit down with this incredible female founder Masterson, on a recent trip to Toronto in a luxe suite at The Four Seasons to dish on her unconventional path in skin care, her current self-care routine, how she managed to stand out in the beauty space, and how she overcame her fear of cream by overmixing a salad dressing, among other topics.

Enjoy our chat below.


Sidewalk Hustle: As a busy founder, how do you prioritize self-care?

Tiffany Masterson: I take care of myself. I use good skincare. I take my supplements. I try to eat well, I’m not perfect at all. I make mistakes all the time. And feel like why did I do that? I can’t think of things as 80/20; I want it to be all or nothing, so it’s hard for me to be the 80/20 person, but I guess I probably am in fact.

My first self care intention every day is more my emotional, mental health. I like to exercise. And that helps my emotional mental health. I don’t have an issue with mental health, but I don’t want to have an issue of mental health because there’s a lot going on… I get a little anxious. I’ve got four children, and you know, I’m juggling lots of stuff.

So just making sure I get my exercise, I eat well, I get a ton of sleep, and I’m doing what’s good for me so that I can be what I need to be for my work and for my family and for my friends. So I can show up and be that person.

So I guess that’s not a short answer. But it’s how I think about it. I don’t ever put myself first, you won’t find me out there doing a lot for myself, but I do okay. I find little ways to make it happen.


SH: What’s one lifestyle change you’ve made that’s changed your skin for the better?

TM: I’ve quit cleansing in the morning. Over-cleansing is just a bad thing. Cleansing at night with a great cleanser, and then putting great biocompatible products on your face that can absorb and support your barrier and then waking up and doing nothing is a great thing.

I don’t wear foundation; I just go straight in with my C-Firma in the morning after a shower. I pat my skin dry because I don’t want that acid mantle to come off. I see a layer of great lipids and oils on my skin, the good bacteria, the good stuff that people have on their skin that is protective.

It’s our first line of defence. If you strip it, then you get opened up to all sorts of bacteria and acne. Bad things happen when you’re in that compromised state all the time. I just have this visual of that barrier being on there and everything I do is supportive of keeping all that on there. You look dewier, and your skin can actually be healthier. It’s not a bad thing.

When people take a cotton pad and acidic toner and wipe until there’s nothing left – those are cells – that can be some good stuff you’re taking off. Washing at night with a good cleanser (if you wash well,) will remove what’s not supposed to be there and leave behind what’s good — it’s worked for me and has been game-changing.


SH: The beauty space is super crowded. How have you managed to continue to separate yourself from competitors?

TM: I had a unique philosophy from the very beginning and I was very convicted in it. I did not look around or go in thinking these products weren’t at Sephora when I launched the brand. For two or three years, I had been very strictly using just an oil or bar cleanser that had nothing in it, so I wasn’t even familiar with the current offerings. I was searching for something that would work.

I stayed true to my gut – I didn’t use anybody from the beauty industry… my designer made invitations in Houston and I thought she had great style. I always wanted a white clean house with pops of color so I think [Drunk Elephant] was me getting the pops of color out.

I’m very visual. I did a logo myself. I love square. I love matte.

I don’t know that I was comparing and trying to stand out as much as I was just following my personality and my taste.

It’s what I like and I wanted to see on my countertop. I think I stood out. There was nobody with color in skin, nobody with a whimsical name in skin. Nobody with my philosophy in skin and I was outside the industry, so it came kind of out of left field.

The formulations are what got the consumer excited and coming back. If it didn’t work, I think the colors and the name wouldn’t matter and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But I do think the fact that the colours are so bright and happy, and the name is so silly and whimsical… it does kind of mislead people that it’s maybe not serious. It’s fun, and it’s also the most serious skincare formulations I think money can buy.

They’re all high levels of acids and actives and they’re very sophisticated formulations with ingredients that are all research-backed. We do clinicals on all the formulations and all the pH levels are just so, we’re very serious about the fact that I want them to work and do what they say they’re going to do but they don’t look as serious on the outside.


SH: How do you feel about non-vegan beauty, like ancestral ingredients such as tallow, for instance?

TM: I’ve been using tallow at home, and it’s amazing, but I’m afraid you can’t always use things that some people believe are awful. And we’re not going to change their minds.


SH: Are there any buzzy innovations in the clean beauty space, besides tallow?

TM: That’s it, actually, I guess. It’s not a new innovation, though. That’s not to say we wouldn’t use synthetics obviously, because synthetics are just major, we need them to prevent and make our skin better.

But this whole idea of going back to natural, back to raw milk and eating a lot of beef, raw dairy, raw honey, fruits and all of that, what you’re supposed to eat. That’s what you’re supposed to put on your face – natural oils and natural fats and all the things our skin can recognize and use. It’s not exactly an innovation, but that could be the direction we’re heading.


SH: What are some of the products you love right now with the seasonal shift?

TM: So many. I can’t live without Wonderwild [miracle butter] and F-Balm [Electrolyte Waterfacial Mask]. Protini [Powerpeptide Resurfacing] Serum with 10% lactic acid is my favourite thing ever. Loving A-Gloei [Maretinol Oil] moisturizer and retinol at the same time. D-Bronzi Bronzing Drops, B-Goldi Bright Illuminating Drops, and O-Bloos Rosi Glow Drops –  I can’t live without them.

I mix all three every day, which gives you a two-dimensional realness. You’ve got a little bit of all of this in your face, if your skin is healthy, that’s what these are inspired by.

Those are my favorites right now… and Bora [Barrier Repair Cream] the new one; I use it every day.


SH: Are there any skincare tools that are essential to your routine?

TM: I’ve never used a skincare tool. They don’t interest me at all. I would never spend the extra time for sure. I don’t know if I believe they really work (I’m sure they do and people say they do) but I haven’t looked into them.

I love a good IPL treatment at the doctor for hyperpigmentation. I’ll do it once or twice, and get results, but I don’t do it regularly. I went to the dermatologist recently, and they did one of those scans on me where they can see the layers beneath your skin. They said they haven’t seen anything like it… that I almost have nothing. They asked what I use, and I told them Vitamin C, a lot of Retinol, and physical sunscreen. They said whatever you’re using just really really works on your skin.


SH: What led you to create Bora Barrier Repair Cream?

TM: So I’ll tell you first about Protini [Polypeptide Cream] and Lala [Retro Whipped Cream] really quickly because Lala really came out of not wanting to use something that would clog my pores. I had Marula oil but I was scared of cream. This idea of whipping oils together came to me when I was making a salad dressing and I left the blender on too long and it whipped into this thick dressing.

I was like oh my gosh, I wonder if you can do that with oils!? I called my chemist and explained I wanted a light, airy, whipped, bio-available oil, not a heavy oil with a whipped effect. That’s Lala.

It’s more moisture maintenance that supports the existing skin barrier. It’s for all skin types at every age.

Protini [Polypeptide Cream] targets collagen maintenance to promote production, prevent breakdown and support everything that you already have. Amino acids and all these great antioxidants and oils. It’s a very light gel-cream that absorbs immediately. It’s more suited to that person who has chronically dry skin, a stripped barrier or compromised skin and can’t seem to get it moisturized. Aging skin that’s dry due to hormonal changes, young skin that’s dry because they’re on medication, sunburned skin or compromised skin that’s maybe been laser treated. Protini fixes any kind of compromised skin to reinstate the barrier.

Whereas Lala [Retro Whipped Cream] is more of a barrier supporter. Bora Barrier Repair Cream feels richer and more dense, but it actually absorbs just as easily as the other two. It’s also clinically proven to provide deep moisture for twenty-four hours.


SH: What’s one skincare myth you wish you knew sooner?

TM: That Retinol was toxic. That’s the truth; I used to think that because Retinol has the ability to irritate and sensitize skin. There’s a difference – the research is incredible on Retinol, but there are all these complaints about redness, irritation, and flaking.

I really thought in the very beginning, Retinol was bad. Just stay away from it. You don’t need it. But you need it!! It’s really one of the best things you can do and is like the jack of all trades for your skin.


SH: What advice do you have for someone experiencing acne from hormonal shifts in aging?

TM: There’s not a lot you can do for hormonal acne. The only thing I’ve ever said about it is to try and avoid the ingredients that trigger issues in skin. What I have found for myself is that I quit breaking out when I eliminated triggers that made it reactive.

I would also look to see if it’s something in the diet, a medication, or stress. If your skin is happy and balanced and where it should be, and you’re using the right ingredients, I think you weather the storm a lot better than you would if you were using any of the Suspicious Six like essential oils or drying alcohols.

I’m not a dermatologist, but you just never know what triggers your personal skin – there’s a lot to it. If you’re putting something on your skin that’s triggering a reaction, when it comes time for your hormones to kick in, your skin goes along with it and becomes reactive as well.


SH: What advice would you offer someone wanting to start a business today or grow a side hustle into something bigger?

TM: Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons – that’s the main thing. A lot of people start brands for the wrong reasons and I’m not judging. I had formulated this philosophy in my head, I didn’t set out to do a skincare line, I really just wanted to help people to try to figure out what was happening to solve their skin problems. When I figured out this philosophy that nobody else was doing, that’s when I decided to do a line.

If you have a real conviction and feel a real need. You’ve got a purpose, that’s not about you. I wanted a great skincare brand to use, and I thought I could stay behind the scenes. I didn’t necessarily think that I would make a ton of money or be famous, I just thought this is something that could really help people.

Find something that a consumer needs and wants that can help people. Don’t be cocky and stay true to your vision, your own path and don’t look around too much. Keep things basic in the beginning, follow your gut, and your heart. If you have those things you’ll never lose your way, even if you become big.


*This interview has been edited for clarity.