Co-founders Clarissa Shetler (left) and Christine Falsetti at their C2 California Clean storefront in Los Gatos.
During a hike through Rancho San Antonio Park four years ago, Clarissa Shetler and Christine Falsetti had their lightbulb moment. Shetler, a pharmacist, was lamenting the lack of clean ingredients available to treat her ichthyosis, a condition known as fish-scale skin that she’s had since childhood—and that dermatologists had recommended using Crisco to deal with. Falsetti, a NASA scientist, was taken aback by this so-called treatment; it seemed like there should be a better option. It also didn’t sit well with Falsetti—who lost her son to cancer at a young age—that many of the chemicals used in personal-care products are widely recognized as carcinogens and neurotoxins. So the pair set out to be the change they wanted to see.
Together, they traveled all over New Zealand and Europe to research organic, plant-derived ingredients for cleaner skincare products than the ones they could find at home. “The average woman exposes her skin to around 168 chemicals every day, just from the different products we use,” says Shetler. (According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the EU has banned more than 1,000 chemicals from cosmetics, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only banned or restricted 11.)
The self-described chemistry nerds founded C2 California Clean, a nontoxic plant-based skincare line for women and men, based in Los Gatos. The Ageless body oil, their first product, was a game-changer for Shetler’s skin condition—a sign they were on to something. They’ve since launched a line of cremes, serums and oils for the body and face using ingredients like regenerating stem cells from apples and citrus, oils from sugarcane (a bio-sustainable plant) and Irish sea moss. While Shetler geeks out on the details of pore-to-molecule size ratios, it all comes down to the strength of plants. “We look at plants as a vital miracle source if used in the right way,” she says. This fall, C2 offers up a new daily cleanser, exfoliating cleanser and V-Factor, an aloe-based feminine moisturizer developed with organic quinoa, green tea and oat extracts (it’s latex-friendly too).
In addition to developing products, both founders speak out about the need to know what you put on your skin to members of organizations like Miss California and the Girl Scouts. “People really need to look under the hood of their products before they use them and look for what we call ‘naughty ingredients,’” says Shetler. She recommends checking watchdog organizations like Think Dirty; Leaping Bunny; and the Environmental Working Group, a toxicity standards group that has verified C2 products. “We really believe that people have to take a 360 approach to their life,” she continues. “It’s not just about having beautiful skin. It’s also about what you put inside your body, exercising, reducing toxins and trying to maintain a fit life.”
Originally published in the September issue of Silicon Valley