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I met Cin, who makes up one half of GEN Cosmética along with Jime, at work. One day she casually mentioned that she has this whole business that she runs with her friend and I felt like she was telling me that by night she fights crime in a cape. The mysterious lives we lead outside of work, right?
GEN goes beyond just gels, oils, and creams to feel beautiful on the outside. They have a deeper message to those of all ages, identities and sexualities that caring for your body shouldn’t be arduous, it shouldn’t be expensive, and it shouldn’t cause damage to our planet. They proudly state on their site that “we are with you in the most intimate moments of your day” accompanying us while we anoint ourself and take those 5 minutes to create radical self-love that spills into the rest of our day.
I sat down with Cin and Jime to learn more about what they do, why they do it, what it’s like working with your best friend.
How did GEN get started?
Jime: GEN started 6 years ago, that is, that’s when we launched the brand, but actually 7 and a half years ago we began to focus on natural cosmetics and we started making changes for ourselves.
What Cin and I have in common is that we take great care of our skin, face, hair, etc. And during this time, we got into investigating how we can replace the things we were using with more natural ingredients. We started to get together with friends and show them what we were using and the people around us became interested and were like “you have to put together a project, the products are great!”
We did a couple of workshops to have a little more knowledge, but we always made it our own. At some point we decided to put together the whole business plan and take more workshops and courses related to this, and after a year and a half of testing the recipes we brought GEN to the public.
I dedicate 100% of my time to GEN. I created the job of my dreams where I like everything and I can work with my best friend, without a boss above me. It just worked out so well! I’m in a super privileged position because I can do this and I want to grow with this.
How is GEN different from other brands?
Jime: The foundation of GEN, compared to other brands, is that both of us are designers; we do not come from the biochemical side and we have more of an interest in the sociological side. We are feminists. Cin is a fat acceptance activist and I am more into the environment. But our causes always complemented each other very well, really. We are both from the UBA and that has a lot to do with the way we make decisions and the we view social relationships.
In your manifesto it says “cosmetics should not be a privilege”, what does this mean for you?
Cin: When we were starting with GEN, we noticed that accessing cosmetic products is really difficult because of cost. Of course, there are different values given to the products that you can buy. But what happens when a product has a low cost? It makes us ask a lot of things like: where does this product come from? Who makes it and under what conditions? How sustainable is the product? And on the other side, what about expensive products? The other day I saw an advertisement for a cream that costs 75 thousand pesos! Who can pay that for a cream? A very small percentage of people. It’s a privilege.
This is also related to GEN’s values regarding identity and sexual diversity. There are so many people who need cosmetic products to express their identity. And what happens when you can’t access these products? At least the experience here in Argentina is quite dire and people who cannot access the products end up getting risky procedures done. Some are super invasive such as surgeries, peels, and other treatments that have a super low cost in the short term but expensive effects for your skin or health in the long run.
Jime: Our fight is also to go against this myth that what is natural, that is, what is the most essential, is inaccessible or has a very high cost and that it is only for a certain person or a social class. We believe that putting together this product that requires different times and ways of production than we are used to here in Argentina can create networks of accessibility.
Where do you source your ingredients?
Jime: There are a number of ingredients that are like gold which we [humankind] continue to use after such a long time. They are very well tested and we know that jojoba oil or aloe vera works for such and such a function.
The formulas have stayed the same, we haven’t made any modifications. We always took into account where the ingredients are from, if they are from here in Argentina and in which region, or if they were imported from elsewhere. Our idea is to make it as local as possible and make a circuit of local suppliers of ingredients and customers to minimize our footprint as much as possible. Our products have a very short expiration date relative to other products in the cosmetic industry because they’re made of fresh ingredients.
We manufacture and produce everything on demand, just the two of us. We don’t have stocked products. Because yes, they have a short shelf life. People who use GEN know that when they make a purchase that it takes time and they won’t have it delivered to their doorstep in two hours. We have been working with clients for years who have known what our manufacturing model is like and it is terrific.
Cin: With GEN, there is zero doubt about what’s inside the container. It is what the label says is there.
I love the packaging! I also saw that the packaging of the products is reusable?
Jime: Yes! Pre-Covid, we had a really nice policy that customers can return the bottles of their products and receive a discount on their next order. We sterilize them and use them again. This is for glass containers only, which are the majority. For the plastic containers they are completely recyclable and reusable.
Now we are trying to find our way around but it’s difficult with the pandemic. Today we are not doing it just to be careful. But it still means a lot to us if our customers sorted their trash or reused GEN’s packaging.
We did propose a solution though, of how the container can be reused and we launched the refills in compostable containers. It allows us to at least save containers dry products, which are a lot.
How is GEN committed to sustainability?
Jime: With the pandemic, we had to ask ourselves, what is sustainability? And what does it mean that something is sustainable? And all these things that we ask ourselves on a daily basis force us to restructure what we do to continue working in that way.
Cin: Right, when we say sustainability what are we talking about? The business model has to be sustainable too. If you see a product and they [a mega corporation] are offering you a discount for 50% off, is it like how can you offer such a high discount? It is because they are overcharging for the product. And when there are these discounts, the public will make excessive purchases for, I don’t know? Four bottles of cleanser and then just keep them at home!
We offer something slower, a fair price for the product. The idea is that you buy the product, use it, and then buy another.
When we do give discounts it’s so that people can try our products and then buy them again to continue caring for their bodies. Most of our clients are young, and today in this country the economic situation of young people is not stable. We want to give them a product that is not a luxury to buy just once, one that you don’t have to choose between taking care of yourself or buying food.
Jime: We believe that you shouldn’t accumulate things just to follow trends and that you shouldn’t stop using what you already have and buy something new. We are against this consumer trend.
Cin: Yeah, it’s super punk and against the system! Buying from GEN, is not like going to Farmacity to buy yourself a cleanser. It’s a much more conscious process. And it is not necessarily easy to be aware that you are using.
What’s it like working with your best friend?
Jime: People who know us always say that we both are very down to earth and with a very short fuse [laughs]. But we also went against the thought of “How are you going run a business with a friend?” and with the “threat” of losing a friendship. And for us it was like pffffff nahhhh.
Cin: Nothing bothers me more than being told, “You can’t do something.” We are an example of the idea that “you can’t work with your friends” is a total myth. We are evolving together. And honestly, how nice is to work with the people you trust the most? What better way to work than with a person you already know and who shares the same values as you? Jime and I sat down [to discuss the creation of GEN] and it was all like “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Check, check check.” And that’s was it, it was a no-brainer.
Jime: Yeah, we have the same vision.
Cin: Totally, we’re going towards the same goal. Of course, we have different experiences because we are different people, but there are a lot of things that also unite us. Everything that unites us builds GEN but so does everything else in which we are different. We both have the experience of not finding a cosmetic brand that was made for us. But we do now. And the truth is that it’s been quite a positive experience.
And what do you want to do next?
Cin: For me, never in all of these 7 years have I run out of ideas of things to do! My head goes faster than the ability to actually do things and there is always something else we can do. Something to improve. Something to do differently. Something to try.
For example, we learned how to make videos recently. We were like “Hey, everyone is making videos. How do we make videos?” We downloaded Tik Tok. We learned how to use Tik Tok. Now we love Tik Tok. Now we want to make them look more professional and Jime was like “Alright now we gotta learn After Effect.” And now we are doing that.
Jime: We also want to share our knowledge! Before we were doing workshops, like a mini intro to natural cosmetics and things you can make at home yourself. Now we are looking into how to get back into it and adapt the workshop to a digital format. We found that doing the workshops in person is what we miss the most because we get to talk to the people one on one and tell them personally about the products. We hope to bring that back sometime this year.
You can purchase made-to-order products for hair and beard, body, face and lip care on GEN’s online store.