This high-end marine cosmetic supplier is helping to support the growth the US spa industry has experienced and is a leader in sustainability practices. Natural plant-based skin care products have long been available for those who knew where to find them, and are increasingly popular on the mass market. Historically the benefits of sea-based products have been less known in the US, but the reputation of the ocean as a healing force has grown partly thanks to the experience and education efforts of Phytomer.

An international brand, Phytomer supplies skin and body care products made up of minerals, trace elements, and plants present in seawater, seaweeds and sea side plants specifically derived the Emerald Coast of Brittany, France. Jean Gédouin founded the company in 1971 after a seawater solution healed his gout. 

Phytomer’s first product, Oligomer, contains all 104 naturally occurring minerals and trace elements that are present in seawater, elements the company says are endlessly beneficial for the human body. Today, Phytomer operates in 70 countries, distributes products to 7,000 outlets, and its US branch, led by Lenette Casper, president, has fostered the company from infancy to the fast growing spa brand it is today. But through it all, Phytomer has retained two core values: dedication for the healing properties of seawater and ocean life, and respect for the environment.

“This is a company that operated in an environmentally conscious way since the beginning. We have always had a culture of conservation rather than consumption, long before the current hype we’re experiencing,” said Casper.

Taking action

Phytomer carefully harvests its sea-based ingredients, seaweed, seawater, seaside plants, minerals, and elements, and has recently developed new ways to minimize its impact on the local ecosystem. One way is through macro algae farming, which Phytomer spent years researching before implementing the process in 2006. Today, the company grows a significant portion of certain seaweed species it uses in its products to minimize how much naturally growing seaweed the company harvests from the ocean.

A second initiative is the farming of threatened algae species for reintroduction into their natural environment. Phytomer knows that only a well-balanced ecosystem will yield the ingredients it needs, so preservation tactics like these are some of the most recent uses of its resources.

In this vein, Phytomer finished the installation of a filtration garden in December of 2007 that uses local plants to purify wastewater used in the cosmetic manufacturing process.  Casper said that although the company does not add a lot of chemicals to its products, the manufacturing process does result in wastewater that needs to be properly disposed of or treated before it can be returned to the environment. This 300,000-euro investment uses plants containing enzymes that naturally filter and remove pollution from the water, yielding water cleaned without the use of chemicals and a protected habitat for local birds and small animals.  

“Phytomer is the first spa brand supplier to use this completely natural means of eliminating wastewater, but it is only one example of the company’s dedication toward sustainability,” said Casper proudly.

Growing the industry

Casper explained the foundation for the brand comes from the simple fact that the human body is extremely compatible with seawater: human blood plasma is chemically similar to it and assimilates it easily. Phytomer’s first product, Oligomer, can be used alone, but it is also added to nearly every other product the company makes because it helps the body absorb and use the beneficial elements in the rest of the company’s ingredients.

The US Phytomer subsidiary was formed when Casper’s mother, an Esthetician from Finland, moved to this country in the 1960s and set up a spa business. The industry was booming in Europe and widely recognized by doctors, but only just beginning here. In search of high-quality products to use in her spa, Casper’s mother discovered Phytomer and established a joint venture subsidiary in 1986 for the importation of the products.

Casper’s mother also established herself as a Master Esthetician instructor, training therapists around the country who became the first customer base for the new Phytomer Corporation in the USA. Today, the company supplies approximately 600 spas in the US with products and continues to provide education for Estheticians and Massage Therapists. “The spa industry has grown rapidly in this country,” explained Casper. “It has come a long way, but there is still a great demand for qualified personnel working in the field, so we continue to train the spas we work with through a network of regional educators.”

Despite such a high demand, Casper said Phytomer continues to be selective in its hiring process because these products are results oriented: how and why they are used plays an important role in the efficacy. At the moment, the company holds regional training seminars in 20 cities across the country in addition to the multiple monthly training courses at their Salt Lake City training center. 

Casper said the company also supplies its clients with innovative and visual tools to help them educate their customers, such as “shelf talkers” featuring beautiful sea landscapes.

“We also communicate our culture of conservation because that is important to us,” she added. “We encourage spas and consumers to recycle not only our packaging, but also simply to recycle as much as they can. We educate them not just about what our products can do for their clients, but also what they can do to care for the environment these products come from.”