Female Disruptors: Cristina Beltran and Alejandra Thompson of ESTAS Beauty On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Some of the best advice we received when we were first thinking about our products and formulas was from a plastic surgeon who told us, “If you treat your scar like an alien, it will look like an alien. If you treat it like part of your body, it will look like a part of your body.” We come back to this quote time and time again, as a reminder that our scars need to be treated and cared for the same way we care for the rest of our skin.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cristina Beltran and Alejandra Thompson.
ESTAS (Every Scar Tells A Story) Beauty is the first line of luxury skincare products formulated specifically for scars, rooted in the belief that scars should be cared for and celebrated. Each product is made with the highest quality scarcare ingredients, yet they have the feel and texture of luxury skincare. ESTAS Beauty’s unique 3-step system encourages a daily scarcare routine that is effective on both old and new scars.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Cristina Beltran: Thank you! Absolutely, our story is a huge part of the company’s ethos — ESTAS stands for Every Scar Tells A Story, after all — so we’re more than happy to share it. When I was 24 years old I went into sudden cardiac arrest, which resulted in open heart triple bypass surgery. When the doctors told me I’d need the surgery, the first thing I asked was “Am I going to have a scar?” At the time, and being so young, I was very concerned about having a mark that showed the world that something was “wrong” with me, that I was sick. Alejandra has two c-section scars, but when we started ESTAS Beauty she only had one. It was the first time she had ever had a major surgery, and she was really struggling with her scar — she didn’t like the way it looked or felt. She had tried all the available products but couldn’t find one that she enjoyed using. When she told me her struggles, I knew exactly what she was going through, so I set out to buy her a lovely, luxury scar cream. Alejandra is a longtime beauty veteran, so I knew it would have to be a beautiful product for her to like it. When I couldn’t find the skincare-style scar product that I was looking for, Alejandra and I teamed up to create our own — and ESTAS Beauty was born.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
CB: The truth is that when I went looking for a luxury scar product for Alejandra, I honestly thought it would be an easy find. There are skincare products available for every skin concern these days, so I was shocked when I couldn’t find a luxury scar product suitable to give my friend. As we dove into research not only did we realize that we had found a huge gap in the market, but we were also shocked to see that at a time when beauty is finally being redefined to include all skin tones, ages and body sizes — scars are still being left out of the conversation. ESTAS Beauty is not only the first ever line of luxury skincare products for scars, but it is also our chance to bring scars into today’s definition of beauty. Scars show our strength, they make us unique and beautiful, they are part of our story — we should be able to care for them properly and be proud of what they stand for.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
CB: I was so naive when we first started. I had heard of people who started skincare lines in their kitchen, so I thought Alejandra and I could do the same! We researched natural ingredients to help with scar healing and went to a specialty food market and bought some essential oils, raw honey and a few other random ingredients, including an onion. We took our “ingredients” back to my apartment and tried concocting our own potions. Let’s just say that Vitamin E oil, honey and onion juice do not mix well. It was a complete waste of our time and money, but what it did do was push us to find a chemist that could help us formulate our dream products. We learned that day that in order to succeed, we’d need to build a team.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
AT: We’ve been very lucky to have so many mentors along the way. A number of my friends and colleagues from L’Oreal have helped and guided us as we’ve built the business, we wouldn’t be where we are without them. Our families have also been integral to our growth and success. Both Cristina and I come from families who own their own businesses, so we’ve been able to learn so much from our parents. We’ve also been lucky to have a number of doctors who have served as mentors on everything from education to formulation. In fact, it was Cristina’s cardiologist who introduced us to Kintsugi — the art of golden scars — which inspired all of our packaging.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
CB: As founders, what’s most important to us is trying to solve a problem that people struggle with every day, so this is how we view the question: for us, disrupting an industry is a positive when there are user pain points and needs to be filled that the old model isn’t equipped to address. There will always be optimizations and small improvements for any industry — even one that has withstood the test of time — but we think to be disruptive in a positive way one must contribute a solution to an existing problem, rather than create a new problem to solve for the sake of being disruptive.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
AT: Some of the best advice we received when we were first thinking about our products and formulas was from a plastic surgeon who told us, “If you treat your scar like an alien, it will look like an alien. If you treat it like part of your body, it will look like a part of your body.” We come back to this quote time and time again, as a reminder that our scars need to be treated and cared for the same way we care for the rest of our skin. Another mentor reminded us to, “Take care of your existing customers and community.” These words of advice have always been very important to us. We are forever grateful to our initial customers and followers for believing in us and helping us build a community dedicated to celebrating scars. We will always be here for them. We’re also often told to “Lead with our story.” Which seems incredibly obvious, especially since ESTAS is all about storytelling. But when Cristina and I are in the day to day of growing the business, we often forget how impactful our story is. We worry that we sound redundant re-telling it, so it’s something we have to remind ourselves to do all the time.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
CB: Oh not even close! We have so many products we plan to release in the future. Pre-operative products so you can prep your skin for optimal scar healing before surgery, products for stretch marks, acne scars, bruises… we’re only just getting started.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
AT: When women have big or new ideas they can be quickly dismissed as outlandish or unrealistic. Men tend to be taken more seriously than women, despite having the same experiences, backgrounds and skill sets. Also, there is plenty of research that shows that women have to perform twice as well as men to get to the same place. I see the same ratio is true when you’re a business woman trying to create trust with colleagues. As a woman trying to be a disruptor in business, we need people to trust that this big, different, disruptive idea is the real thing. And with that extra barrier to trust it can be very difficult.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
AT: We love a few: New York Times The Daily; NPR’s How I Built This and Second Life. A favorite book of ours is called “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, which is about the pursuit of less and focusing on what matters. Another book we love is “Believe It,” which is about Jamie Kern Lima’s journey of entrepreneurialism.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
CB: That’s exactly one of our goals with ESTAS Beauty! To inspire a movement to change the societal stigma against scars. Our mission is one of the most important pillars of the company. Society tells us to conceal our scars, and we want to change that. Scars should be seen as signs of strength, individuality and beauty. Let’s celebrate our scars and the stories they tell!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
AT: We’ve always liked “I didn’t come this far to only come this far.” Cristina and I have been through a lot, we’ve survived a lot. Even though we have both spent a good portion of our lives in and out of hospitals, we’ve never let that hold us back. In fact, we’ve only used it as a catalyst to fight harder, work harder and accomplish our goals quicker — so we can start thinking about the next big dream.
How can our readers follow you online?
CB: We’re on Instagram and TikTok at @estasbeauty. And of course you can alway visit our website, www.estasbeauty.com
Thank you so much for joining us!