By Claire McCormack. This article originally appeared on Beauty Independent, on June 18, 2019.
Codex Beauty, a multibrand company established by scientist, investor and entrepreneur Barbara Paldus with a focus on sustainability and clean skincare, is kicking off with an update of seven-year-old Irish line Bia Beauty.
Paldus has traveled the world to uncover under-the-radar earth-friendly beauty brands incorporating potent native ingredients to bring into Codex’s fold. She says, “If we combined their on-the-ground knowledge with the latest technology, we could take these beautiful lines to the next level of efficacy together.”
Bia is the brainchild of Tracey Ryan, a medical herbalist who grew up making potions from plants that thrived in the fields of Ireland near her mountain home. After creating the brand on her kitchen table, it matured to entered retail partners in Ireland like Avoca, a lifestyle concept chain similar to Anthropologie. Up until the Codex acquisition, Ryan ran Bia as a family business with no more than five people in its workforce and a small factory in Cork, where the company is based, manufacturing its products. She will continue at Codex as master formulator for Bia and managing director of Codex Beauty Ireland. Paldus serves as Codex’s CEO.
“This is really new for me to be part of a big team and be able to have the experts that I’ve always wanted to have at my fingertips now, experts in regulations, sales and marketing,” she says. “It’s absolutely a dream come true for a small brand like Bia.”
When she began Bia, Ryan was a new mom and college student. She describes herself as “absolutely broke” at the time, but she managed to get the brand off the ground with a credit union loan of 5,000 euros. Early on, investors also supported Bia. However, Ryan promptly bought them out because they didn’t share her vision for the brand. She says, “Basically, we survived off our profits. We ran Bia on a shoestring from day one right up until we were bought out.”
Ryan met Paldus last summer and felt Codex’s ethos aligned well with her company’s. “The whole idea of Codex is ‘discovered in nature, perfected by science.’ That just sums up who I am as an herbal scientist and formulator,” she says. “As a formulator, my philosophy has always been about connecting the ancient practices we have in Ireland. We have a long tradition of herbal medicines we can trace right back to pre-Christianity. For me, it was always about honoring what we have here in Ireland, the knowledge that we have and building on it with modern scientific tools.”
To elevate Bia’s products, Paldus urged Ryan to spotlight ingredients cultivated in Ireland. “Barb helped me to realize that people across the world would be interested in these ingredients, practices and this knowledge,” says Ryan. In its improved formulations, Bia uses an essential oil extracted from bog myrtle unique to Ireland’s 10,000-year-old bogs. Ryan says bog myrtle is rich in antioxidants and has been shown in clinical trials to be effective for treating acne.
“If we combined their on-the-ground knowledge with the latest technology, we could take these beautiful lines to the next level of efficacy together.”
A benefit of teaming up with Codex is the ability to conduct clinical trials, which Ryan previously couldn’t afford. Discussing the clinical trials run on a blend of herbs Bia puts in its products, she reports, “The results of the trial have been outstanding so far. We have found, on the final day of the trial, 100% of people have seen a hydrating effect on their skin.”
Another benefit of operating within Codex is funding to pursue patents to protect ingredients and manufacturing techniques. Bia has filed for a patent on a new plant-based preservative that’s less harsh than existing skincare preservation options. Patents are a strength of Paldus. She’s been awarded over 30 United States patents. Prior to Codex, Paldus was the CEO of Finesse Solutions, a bio-processing company that was purchased by Thermo Fisher Scientific, and developed Picarro Inc., a provider of solutions to measure greenhouse gas concentrations.
Starting June 27, Bia will make five unisex facial care—a wash, two moisturizers, an eye cream and an oil—priced from $45 to $90 available on its website. Ryan says the plan is to roll Bia out to retail partners in the near future. The products are produced at a contract manufacturer in Ireland that will be used for all Codex brands. Codex’s European headquarters are in the country, but it plans to expand beyond it soon to Asia. Codex also has a presence in the U.S., where Paldus is managing partner of Sekhmet Ventures. The beauty and wellness investment firm, established in February, has backed superfood ingestible startup Stamba, natural perfume brand Heretic and liposomal supplement specialist Needed.