Thrive Causemetics has amassed a loyal following for its vegan makeup products— namely its Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara. The product comes infused with shea butter and castor seed oil and is supported by orchid stem cells, which all power the mascara’s tubing technology that allows for easy removal; it comes right off with water. On Thrive’s website alone, it has more than 30,000 applauding reviews.
Founder and CEO Karissa Bodnar launched Thrive Causemetics in 2014 from her apartment following the loss of her best friend Kristy to cancer at just age 24. Inspired by Kristy’s compassion, Bodnar fused the inspiration of her late friend with her background as a makeup artist and beauty product developer to establish a makeup brand that gives back through each purchased product.
Nearly a decade into her venture, Bodnar has expanded her beauty industry imprint with the debut of Bigger Than Beauty Skincare. The 10-product lineup includes the Overnight Sensation Gentle Retexturizing Solution, Defying Gravity Deep Hydration Moisturizer, Liquid Brilliance Super Serum, Moisture Flash Conditioning Toner Mist, Bright Balance Hydrating Gel Cleanser, Pout Hero Exfoliating Lip Scrub, Defying Gravity Lightweight Moisturizer, Defying Gravity Eye Cream, Sunproof Nourishing Lip Balm and Pout Hero Liquid Balm Treatment.
“It's been such a long time coming, which I'm just so grateful for the team and the chemists and the dermatologists and the plastic surgeons who helped us get to this point,” Bodnar tells Modern Luxury over a phone call ahead of the launch. “We started working on this in 2019— honestly, probably 2018. But it was really our customers that were demanding skincare from us.”
Bigger Than Beauty is skin solutions made simple. Bodnar explains that the lineup of products can be used synergistically, but it can also be used with other brands. “There is room for all of us to thrive in the beauty industry,” she says.
However, Bodnar does point out that the BTB cleanser is the ultimate tool for Thrive Causemetics makeup removal. She recalls telling the product developers and chemists about the near-impossible to remove Infinity Waterproof Eyeshadow Stick and Liquid Eyeliner: “We need a cleaner that is going to remove it, leave the skin feeling bouncy and bright and not irritate your eyes.”
“It's like a one-stop shop. You don't have to have a multistep approach to it,” Bodnar explains. “One of my pro tips for that one is to cleanse your skin in the shower. Then rinse it off and then on clean skin, leave it on for like five to 10 minutes when you're shaving your legs, washing your hair, whatever and it literally acts like a little mini facial on your skin because of the pineapple enzymes and all the other yummy ingredients in it.”
As a beauty brand with a philanthropic mission, customer validation is always top of mind. The very people Thrive Causemetics and BTB support help fuel its product innovation and development. Through conversation with giving partner leaders, Bodnar and team creates products that are truly needed.
One longtime giving partner has been Beauty2theStreetz, a Los Angeles organization founded by local resident Shirley Raines that heads to Skid Row each weekend to serve up a hot, home-cooked meal and bring conversation and connection. They also offer showers and hair wash, color and make-up services and wigs. In support of its efforts, Thrive has given countless products and made financial donations.
During their years of teaming up together, Bodnar recalls Raines explaining the need for multifaceted products. “That was what inspired us to create our primer, which is in the Thrive Causemetics line, that has SPF 37,” she says. “But she also was giving us feedback on skincare products and what we needed.”
Consumer validation is just as much part of the product development process as clinical studies. Confirmation that everything is ophthalmologist and dermatologist-safe is just step one.
“We have over 500 charities that we've worked with,” Bodnar says. “So we reach out to our cancer charities and we say, ‘Hey, what do you think about your cancer patients using this product? Do you think it would be safe for them?’ And so we get a lot more validation than the average brand. And that's really thanks to our giving partners.”
Bodnar shares that they’ve already donated millions of dollars with the skincare products in celebration of the launch, which she says she’s excited to continue to do through the Thrive Causemetics network of giving partners.
But special to the skincare launch is a new scholarship fund for future estheticians and dermatologists. The scholarships will support students at “smaller schools,” just as Thrive Causemetics did with the University of Louisville Breonna Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund in Nursing.
“In the beauty industry, we talk about how we're not really saving lives, but Bigger Than Beauty Skincare is,” Bodnar says. “We're going to be providing grants and scholarship opportunities, and we already have Thrive Causemetics so that there are nurses. We all know there's a nursing shortage. So [now] there are dermatologists that can detect skin cancer with, you know, Shirley’s clients with Beauty2theStreetz.”
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She adds, “I won't work with a dermatologist if they're not willing to go down to Skid Row with me or the homeless community in Seattle or the homeless community in New York. I don't care who you are. I won’t work with you if you aren't willing to donate your time to do skin cancer checks for the homeless community.”
The Thrive Causemetics charity network is made up of a variety of organizations, but Bodnar gets particularly excited about local charities. She credits the Thrive community of consumers for connecting them with the likes of Upward Bound House in L.A., Pampered & Pink in New York and My Sistah’s House in Memphis.
In Bodnar’s home state, Thrive did a private grant for Utopia with her own electrologist, esthetician Olivia Trevino. She explains that electrolysis, as the only FDA-approved hair removal process that’s actually permanent, is a “really big thing” with the trans community. But it’s also expensive.
The grant was a bigger than beauty effort from top to bottom. In addition to providing free services, Trevino put BTB products to work by using the Moisture Flash Conditioning Toner Mist, which has a witch hazel base and comes in a spray bottle. The packaging was an idea from customers seeking a more sustainable product. Instead of applying the toner with a cotton pad, you can spray it directly onto your face.
Before Thrive Causemetics, Bodnar saw what it looked like to disrupt the skincare industry first hand when she worked for Calrisonic and, when the brand was later purchased, L’oreal. In a saturated market of celebrity and legacy brands, she knows the world didn’t exactly need more skincare. But the Thrive community wanted it, and they deserved a beauty routine from start to finish, from bare face to full glam to cleansed and moisturized skin.
“There was no way that I could just put out another skincare brand,” Bodnar says. “It needed to be truly bigger than beauty. Pun absolutely intended.”
Photography by: Courtesy of Bigger Than Beauty Skincare