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A Moment with Circumference

Jina Kim wants to save the world, one skincare product at a time.

In Kim’s traditional Korean household growing up, skincare was almost sacred. So, when she began to learn more about corruption in the beauty industry, she took it personally: Why were most product lines overly complicated, environmentally irresponsible and toxic?

That discontent inspired her to take her fashion industry background and partner with her husband, Chris, to start their very own line, which would prize consciousness, responsibility and truly amazing native ingredients over all else. After much research and work to find the most like-minded and trusted partners, Circumference was born—skincare that “looks good,  feels good and does good in the world.”

Here, the true believer tells us why skincare is a “lifelong journey”: 

Live The Process: Can you describe the role that beauty played in your upbringing and how that influenced your perspective?

Jina Kim: My love for skincare started at an early age through the influence of my mother and aunts. Growing up in a traditional Korean household, I was taught early on by the women in my life about the discipline of maintaining healthy skin. I have a lot of fond memories of observing and learning from their routines.

Throughout my childhood, I learned a skincare philosophy which is not about quick fixes or changing your skin; it’s about building and instilling a habit to promote the healthiest skin possible and protect it from the outside elements that we deal with daily. So, when we started Circumference, we committed ourselves to never resorting to shallow tactics, tricks or miracle claims. Instead, we vowed to focus on empowering fellow skincare consumers by delivering healthy, sustainable, skin-nourishing ingredients and sharing why they matter within your skincare routine.

LTP: What are some of the unethical industry norms that you uncovered while researching before starting your line and what are you doing differently? 

JK: The list is endless and, unfortunately, continues to grow every day.

The beauty industry has largely remained unchallenged for decades. For so long, a handful of big, global corporations have not only defined the messaging behind beauty but have largely controlled the supply-chain with a focus on maximizing profits instead of our health and the health of our planet.

To start, the personal care and beauty industry is one of the top plastics producers in the world today. Rampant use of single-use plastics, as well as un-recyclable plastics, is the norm, resulting in over 8 million metric tons of plastic ending up in our oceans every year. And, unfortunately, the plastics industry is growing at a faster pace each year.

Further, many consumers today are under the impression that “natural beauty” is synonymous with “environmentally friendly” or “sustainable.” Truth is, the rise of natural beauty as a trending category has been a major culprit in exacerbating environmental issues that exist today. From farming and sourcing of unsustainable, limited natural resources, deforestation and destruction of biodiversity through mass cash-crop plantation developments, and exploitation of human and child labor through unfair compensation, it’s been an eye-opening series of lessons for us.

Having discovered this, we couldn’t consciously start another beauty brand that piled onto these issues. Instead, we committed very early on to the following: 

  • We spent a large part of the last two years intentionally sourcing each natural ingredient we include in our products. Our mindful approach is to source only sustainably grown plants from their own native, indigenous regions. We rigorously vetted our partners, tracing the origins of each and every plant from which we derive our ingredients. We have to know how each plant is cultivated and ensure that the ingredients are raised sustainably and treated with integrity, and the producers are compensated fairly.
  • We then bring the raw plant materials to the US, where our partners either cold-press extract oils or employ a method called phytoextraction (a lengthy process which preserves—without chemical solvents—the highly valuable nutrients that end up in our bottles).
  • All bottles are packaged in recycled, recyclable and reusable packaging whenever possible. Our products come in glass bottles and are packaged in recycled or recyclable paper materials.

In turn, our customers are able to experience truly natural, native plants. Native plants have formed symbiotic relationships with native wildlife over thousands of years. Having adapted to unique environments, climates and soil conditions, they often possess unique molecular signatures and skin-nourishing, nutrient-rich compositions—antioxidants, fatty acids and various enzymes—that cannot be replicated when artificially introduced and cultivated outside of their own regions.

All in all, the foundation is always: effective, sustainably sourced natural ingredients, guided by boldly ethical practices. No toxins, no shortcuts, no harm, no guilt. Ever.

LTP: What makes the products themselves special? Do you have one in particular that you cant live without?

JK: We launched just this past May 2018. Our five-product line is the result of two years of research and building close relationships with our partners, who share the same values as we do. The relationships we built were extremely critical to us. Our ability to deliver on our mission hinges on us working with the right partners who we can trust fully to never cut corners. 

And, as I described, we’re so proud of the ingredients behind our products. We believe the next wave of skincare must go beyond a well-hyped ingredient list—as what’s inside the bottle isn’t the only thing that counts. It’s the where and how that ultimately determines the quality of nutrients that are delivered to our customers.

I use all of the products consistently, depending on what my skin needs on any given day. But if I truly had to choose one product that I am absolutely proud of, it would be our Pure Balancing Face Oil. It’s layered with multiple botanical oils including sacha inchi, sea buckthorn, prickly pear and marula, among others. It embodies the time and effort we took in formulating and sourcing of our ingredients.

LTP: Aside from your own line, what are some of your current beauty and/or wellness obsessions? What rituals keep you feeling balanced and healthy?

JK: I’m actually in the third trimester of my pregnancy, so wellness beyond my skin has been a major focus within our household. Being pregnant and launching a business can be quite a lot to take on at once. So, my husband (and business partner) and I try to find a balance and time for ourselves, as we can often get lost in the New York City hustle. 

My morning ritual is very important to me. I start most mornings early with tea (usually ginger, tumeric or raspberry leaf) and then put a face mask on for 20-30 minutes, while I stretch or do some light yoga. Not only has it been great for me physically, but it’s also a bit of a meditative time to prepare myself for the day. That short window has become somewhat of a sanctuary—some calm and peace before the busy day. I also know this will all change very drastically once the baby is here, so I’m trying to embrace this ritual as much as possible!

As for products we absolutely love, we’ve been deep in researching our microbiome, general gut health and the effect it has on our overall well-being. I’ve been a big fan of the team over at Seed.com and the astonishing work they’ve done. It’s truly inspiring to see how brands are innovating on their products through sustainability. Creating healthy products and practices for our health, as well as our planet’s health, is paramount for our future. 

LTP: What does happiness look like to you?

JK: I believe that your state of mind can be greatly influenced by the people and community with which you surround yourself. We have an incredible group of friends and family who support us in so many ways. Having that love and trust in our community is true happiness.

LTP: What does it mean to you to Live The Processand how can we all do that more each day?

JK: To “Live The Process” in terms of beauty starts with a belief that skincare is a lifelong journey. I believe in slow beauty and building up healthy routines. All too often, we’re bombarded with miracle claims that build up false expectations—”achieve perfect skin overnight,” “reverse your aging,” “shed weight in just days” etc. etc. We’re all familiar with the societal pressures of being the perfect human. 

The reality is that, much like our health, maintaining healthy skin is part of our journey; and our skin goes through seasons, for better or worse. The best we can do is feed our skin the healthiest ingredients possible and allow it to heal and protect itself from the elements.

To “Live The Process” is to never take shortcuts and to embrace the ebb and flow that we as humans experience.