Cannabis beauty start-up Ho Karan: ‘CBD is not a miracle molecule’

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Founder and CEO of Ho Karan Laure Bouguen believes hemp flowers - currently prohibited for use in French beauty products - hold great promise
Founder and CEO of Ho Karan Laure Bouguen believes hemp flowers - currently prohibited for use in French beauty products - hold great promise

Related tags CBD Cannabis anti-stress cannabidiol Skin care Regulation

The potential of cannabis sativa for beauty stretches far beyond cannabidiol (CBD) as so many parts of the plant can be utilised for anti-stress products, says the founder of Ho Karan.

Founded in 2015, French Indie beauty brand Ho Karan has a range of cannabis skin care products stocked in 900 Sephora stores across Europe and several other retail outlets. The company’s current cannabis beauty range targets hydration, detox, regeneration and energy or ‘skin glow’ and it’s about to launch another four ranges this month, including a boosting serum line Cannabooster, and expand into perfume and cosmetics chain Douglas this November.

Ahead of today's free online webinar 'How to Tap into the CBD Beauty Trend the Right Way!'​, we caught up with Ho Karan founder and CEO Laure Bouguen to find out more about the buzz around cannabis and CBD in beauty. Is this a fad or set to stay?

“CBD and hemp, in general, are really considered the new ‘it’ ingredient. For me, it’s not a fad and it’s not just a small trend, it’s really a revolution because cannabis in general is at a cross roads of four big innovations in beauty,”​ Bouguen told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

Wellness, clean, sustainability and community

CBD and hemp played into wellness, clean beauty, sustainability and community, she said. 

Ho Karan's Cannabooster serums will launch at the end of this month
Ho Karan's Cannabooster serums will launch at the end of this month

“We don’t talk about beauty anymore, we talk about wellness – you can see brands like Goop or Moon Juice – you need a more holistic approach to beauty. It’s really about wellness.”

Consumers also increasingly looked for clean formulas and mobile apps now enabled them to scan products and check what was inside, she said.

There were also rising demands for sustainable beauty packaging, Bouguen said, and all of this was fuelled by a strong and growing sense of community.

“Right now, in the wellness industry we talk about communities (…) And in the cannabis industry, you have a lot of community spirit; people beyond the plant who want to support it and want to spread the benefits of cannabis,”​ she said.

But, Bouguen said the benefits of cannabis and potential for the beauty industry stretched far beyond the widely talked about cannabidiol (CBD).

Beyond the ‘miracle’ of CBD…

Ho Karan, for example, used all parts of the hemp plant – which it cultivated and processed into beauty products in the northern French region of Brittany, she said.

“We don’t consider ourselves as a CBD brand but a cannabis brand because we use every single part of the plant that can de-stress people. …We know stress is the plague of the century. It has internal and external roots and consequences and the idea, really, is to de-stress people, thanks to the de-stressing virtues of cannabis.”

Bouguen said the company worked with hemp seed oil, along with cannaflavin flavonoids, CBD and hemp fibres. And while CBD was widely talked about, it was not the only important compound in cannabis, she said.

“CBD is not a miracle molecule. You can do a lot of stuff with it – it’s anti-inflammatory, it’s antioxidant, it’s good to prevent skin ageing, it’s good for redness, for instance – but it’s not a miracle and sometimes the way brands are putting it, well they just put a few drops of CBD in the product and say it will do everything.”

Regulation and consumer confusion key hurdles

Bouguen said Ho Karan wanted to start working with the aromatic terpenes in the hemp flowers, but for the time being, use of flowers was prohibited in France.

“Right now, in France, you’re not allowed to use the flowers which means that the hemp farmers need to throw away hemp flowers at the end of the harvest; it is considered as a waste, which is really incredible when you think about everything you can do with the hemp flower.”

Bouguen said she was trying to inspire regulatory change through her work as co-founder of the Hemp French Union – a trade syndicate of around 50 industry members and self-described “activists”​ for hemp.

Europe’s regulatory landscape for using hemp and CBD in beauty products was not simple, she said, and navigating it was one of Ho Karan’s top, ongoing challenges. “We don’t have a harmonised regulation all over Europe, so it’s always a surprise when you come to one country or another.”

Another hurdle, Bouguen said, was widespread consumer confusion around CBD, cannabis and hemp.

“There is confusion because a lot of brands are saying they’re a CBD brand – they just talk about the molecule – but CBD is one cannabinoid among 80 cannabinoids in the plant. You have a lot of other cannabinoids that are super interesting,” ​she said.

Ho Karan wanted to overturn consumer confusion through education – posting videos, blog articles, hosting events and talking extensively about it to explain what is good about cannabis, beyond CBD.

Ho Karan needs to overcome regulatory and consumer confusion hurdles around cannabis
Ho Karan needs to overcome regulatory and consumer confusion hurdles around cannabis

‘This is about offering more than just consumerism’

In the next five years, Bouguen said Ho Karan wanted to become a “service experience company”,​ rather than a straight-up beauty brand.

“We want to de-stress people and this is not just about product, this is about making the best de-stressing experience for customers. This is about bringing great content; this is about offering more than just consumerism, I would say.”

Ho Karan also wanted to do this in a sustainable way – with as little environmental impact as possible, from a carbon footprint, pollution and waste point of view, she said.

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