Founders Cary Lin and Angela Ubias started their beauty brand Common Heir with a question in mind: “Is there a way to make plastic in skincare completely optional?”
At Byrdie, we’ve written extensively about how plastic is a problem for our planet, yet it’s ubiquitous in our industry. The stats never fail to shock me: There might be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, and the bulk of this comes from packaging.Only 9 percent of the world’s plastic has been recycled, and it will take more than diligence in sorting our trash to fix this problem. “Recycling is a business,” Lin explains, “even if it gets to your municipal sorting facility, it can get sorted out. If a material isn’t profitable for them to recycle, then the facilities won’t do it.”
That’s why Lin and Ubias launched the first vitamin C serum with completely plastic-free packaging, the hero product from their new brand Common Heir. As beauty industry veterans, they saw progress around clean ingredients but wanted to extend that progress to the whole supply chain. Their 10 percent vitamin C formula comes in biodegradable capsules, which are stored in a recyclable paper tube.
I sat down with the Common Heir founders to chat about sustainable packaging and get an exclusive first look at their new formula—which has become a staple serum in my morning routine.
About My Skin: Oily and Sensitive
In the past, certain products (vitamin C included), have made my skin break out, so I was a bit wary when trying this serum. My skin is also oily, so I am very particular about my routines and the density of products that leave my face looking and feeling extra greasy.
The Ingredients: Clean Inside and Out
Common Heir’s 10% Vitamin C Serum is OECD 301F-certified, which states that their product is readily biodegradable—neither the capsules nor the serum inside them will harm the ocean, and they’ll degrade naturally within the environment within a very short period of time. The plant-based capsules break down quickly in warm water, which you can test at home (or use to discard your used capsules and minimize waste).
Lin also pointed out that their product is lightweight—the capsule delivery method means they don’t have to add filler ingredients like water, which add extra pounds in transport. “The alternatives to plastic are often glass or aluminum or things that are quite heavy,” she said. “I think people feel like a product is luxurious when they can feel the weight of it. We wanted to upend people’s expectations of what plastic-free premium skincare could really look, feel, and apply like.”
In addition to their no-plastic policy for their packaging, Common Heir has also sworn off microplastics, the tiny pieces of plastic found in beauty products that often get washed down the drain and ingested by marine life. Common Heir has donated one dollar to the Ocean Blue Project for every customer that’s signed up for their waitlist, and each dollar has helped remove one pound of microplastics from the sea.
The Formula: Soothing and Healing
Common Heir uses Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (THD) vitamin C in their formula instead of L-ascorbic acid, the form of vitamin C most commonly used in beauty products. Compared to L-ascorbic acid, THD is:
- More stable: All regular vitamin C users know that products have the potential to turn funky, with a strong smell and burnt orange color. The extra packaging (pumps, thick glass, opaque plastic) is often meant to protect the product from oxidizing. Common Heir’s THD is super stable and oil-soluble, so it will stay fresh without water inside their capsules.
- Less irritating: “It’s gentle enough for a novice user,” Ubias explained to me. Before Common Heir, Ubias herself wasn’t a fan of vitamin C. All the L-ascorbic acid formulas she’d tried (or worked on) in the past gave her what she calls “The Listerine Effect.” But their THD formula offers all the benefits of vitamin C without the stinging or irritation, and now she’s a convert.
- More penetrating: Many vitamin C serums contain 20 percent or even 25 percent L-ascorbic acid, which contributes to the irritation factor. Common Heir’s test showed the same results with only 10 percent THD in their formula because the derivative penetrates the skin better, especially when paired with other products.
Vitamin C is an illuminating antioxidant that stimulates collagen production, improves hyperpigmentation, and protects against environmental stressors. You can read more about where it fits into your skincare routine in our full ingredient guide.
The other ingredients in Common Heir’s formula include soothing and healing vitamin E, anti-inflammatory marshmallow root, and illuminating licorice root.
The Feel: Hydrated
On my oily skin, the formula felt heavy when first applied, but dried down to that perfect satiny finish. Even when I paired it with my most intense nighttime facial oils, I never felt too greasy, which is rare for me.
My favorite part is how much product they manage to fit into each little capsule, plus the viscosity. I can drizzle and spread the serum easily, yet it doesn't drip everywhere. And miraculously, there’s enough inside for the neck. When products recommend that I use “one to two drops on the face and neck,” I rarely have enough for the whole area, or the serum dries down too quickly to spread it. Because the Common Heir capsules are single-use, I want to take advantage of every drop, and I’ve been giving my neck extra love—a crucial part of anti-aging care.
The Final Verdict: Lit from Within
Like Ubias, I've also had trouble with vitamin C's “Listerine Effect.” In the past, the irritation has made my sensitive skin break out. Using Common Heir, I experienced no stinging and no breakouts, just glow. My skin looked hydrated and lit from within on day one, and I’m excited to reap the long-term benefits of the active ingredients, like a more even skin texture and tone.
Sixty capsules come in each $88 package, a good value when it comes to capsule skincare options (only slightly more expensive than some drugstore formulas, when you consider many packages contain just 30 capsules). All in all, it’s everything I could want from a vitamin C serum, plus keeps plastic out of our environment—I’m sold.
The new PLASTICS economy: Rethinking the future of PLASTICS & catalysing action. (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/the-new-plastics-economy-rethinking-the-future-of-plastics-catalysing-action
Plastics: Material-specific data. (2021, January 05). Retrieved March 16, 2021, from https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/plastics-material-specific-data