Talking to a skincare legend: Rob Calcraft from Cultured

You may not be immediately familiar with the name Rob Calcraft, but you certainly will be with the beauty brand he founded in 2000, REN Clean Skincare. With its commitment to sustainably sourced, naturally derived ingredients and formulas suitable for even the most sensitive skin types, it was very much the vanguard of the ‘clean beauty’ movement – before there even was a clean beauty movement.
Now, Rob is disrupting the skincare sphere once again. His latest venture, Cultured, is now in store at MECCA, and is the result of years of research into the benefits of a healthy microbiome – AKA the systems within our bodies that consist of trillions of different microorganisms. Utilising this knowledge, Rob has created a concise collection of products that aim to balance the skin's microbiome, creating a healthy and glowing complexion that is literally more than just skin deep.
Cultured itself is on a mission to empower your skin. By caring for your microbiome, supporting your skin barrier and optimising skin metabolism, Cultured works with your skin’s entire ecosystem (yes your skin has an ecosystem) to deliver your best skin ever.

With the worldwide skin microbiome modulators market estimated to reach a worth of USD$2,971.6 million by 2030, the future is looking beyond promising, and an always-savvy Rob is helping to head the pack for beauty consumers. Naturally, I wanted to know more, so when I was given the opportunity to interview the skincare creator I jumped right in!

I heard that it was reading “I Contain Multitudes” by Ed Young that lead to you discovering the science behind the microbiome. How did you get from that initial point to creating a new skincare line of your own?

That’s a very good question. It was like Ariadne’s Thread in the maze of the Minotaur, my interested was piqued and I followed it and followed it. That book had a bit on the skin which was really interesting, so I googled to find out more and started to read the academic literature on the skin microbiome that has been floating around for a while now. There’s plenty on wound healing and approaches to acne etc, but I wanted to know more. I attended a microbiome conference in Boston and it was completely mind-blowing – lots of pharma companies and university research being presented, very medical-focused.
That convinced me it was pukka – you wouldn’t have that kind of conference for clean skincare, if you know what I mean. That lead to me talking to my formulation chemist, and we started working together. When you have the inspiration, the science, the chemist and the bona fides behind it, that’s when it all happens.

After you exited REN, did you ever think you’d create another skincare brand? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just sit back, retire and enjoy the good life?
I hung up my lab coat and thought that skincare had reached its maximum evolutionary point with vitamin C, retinol, niacinamide etc – why add to that landfill? I thought I had nothing more to say at that point, and felt that skincare was becoming all the bloody same. Nobody needs another vitamin A or C or whatnot, it’s a repeating story. Then this whole microbiome thing hit me, something so different that I thought people should know about.
Also, my kids thought I was getting a bit sad and just wanted me to get a life and stop visiting them at university!

What is the philosophy behind taking a microbiome-first approach?
So many skin problems are associated with an unhappy microbiome – everything from breakouts to premature ageing, redness and more. It’s a very different approach to healing the skin, helping the microbiome work with the skin barrier to best produce more of the things that it uses to defend itself.

What are some of the hero ingredients in Cultured?
The fermented actives – which we call ‘future ferments’ – are the bits that do all the magical things, and we use things like fermented oils for the fact that they feel much lighter on the skin and are more nutritious. We use these actives to ensure your skin renews itself at its optimal pace, working from the bottom up rather than just on the surface, like retinol does.

Do you have a favourite product from the line, a non-negotiable if you will?
Are you asking me to choose between my children here? I’ll start with the cleanser, which is a balm formula which would normally be seen in a pot that you have to stick your fingers in etc. We changed that up and made a pumpable balm which becomes a silky soft thing that takes everything away, but also helps your skin restore itself thanks to those future ferments. In terms of texture and loveliness that’s a fave. The real hero though is the serum, which has all of the goodies in it. It just feels different, using it is like putting on a really good pair of trousers that make you hold yourself more confidently. It just makes you feel great.

Who can - and can’t - use Cultured?
In the end, everybody has a microbiome, and our promise is to make your skin work at its best… so it’s really for everybody. It’s like having a personal trainer work out your whole body, a systemic approach that makes your skin better and better.
It's not about anti-ageing or ageless – terms I feel are a bit sad – but rather about creating a future for your skin that looks f**king amazing, that feels firm and glowy and just gorgeous. And not a chemical peel glow, but rather a healthy, just-fallen-in-love kind of glow.

To grab some Cultured of your own, head here.


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