Interview with Alpine Shrine Skincare Founder, Colin Constantine
Tell us about yourself, Colin!
Why did you start Alpine Shrine? What was the motivation and inspiration behind starting the company?
I’ve been an avid climber, skier, angler, mountain biker, and mountaineer for most of my life, which means I know how important it is to have high-quality gear when venturing into the wild. After suffering a traumatic back injury in late 2018, my surgeon said I wouldn’t be able to participate in any of the sports I love for at least 12-18 months. Rather than sulk about it, I decided to look for new ways to stay connected to the outdoor adventure community that I love so much. Since I care deeply about the environment, and am aware of all the plastic-waste that is clogging up our ecosystems, I decided to tackle the skincare industry – notorious for the waste it produces - by making a product that actually works well on tough skin, and doesn’t leave any trace on the environment.
Tell us about Alpine Shrine? Where did the name come from?
I lived in Boulder and Aspen in my early 20’s, and during that time my friends and I would always stumble upon these magnificent shrines that were tucked away in the most obscure and hard-to-reach areas on various mountains. Some were humorous, like the homage to Marilyn Monroe, while others were heartbreaking memorials to lives lost in avalanches. Ultimately, shrines take on different meanings for everyone, but they create a sense of connectivity with something much greater than us.
What makes Alpine Shrine different than other products?
Well, for starters, our first product, the All-Season Balm, is made with just six entirely pure, all-natural, and clinically-tested active ingredients. If you were to isolate any single one of these ingredients, it would be great for your skin. Combine all six and you have something that really works well on dry skin, without leaving any greasy residue or off-putting scent.
And while there are some products out there that use ‘eco-friendly’ packaging, you won’t find anything else like what we use. Not only is our jar made from a highly durable, microplastic-free material called “Sulapac”, but our labels (and even the adhesives that bind them to the jar) are also plastic-free and biodegradable. Because of our strict no-plastic-policy, we were able to obtain the PlasticFree Trustmark Certification. You can learn more about it at www.aplasticplanet.com
When starting Alpine Shrine why was the connection to the outdoors so important?
I wanted to create something that lets people like me venture further and longer in the wild, while at the same time unburdening them of this feeling that every product we buy somehow creates more waste. I know I am not alone in saying that waste is everywhere, and it’s becoming overwhelming. Since nature is where I go to find sanctuary and peace of mind, I couldn’t bear the thought of making a product that would somehow harm the wild places that I love. Besides, Alpine Shrine actually works on tough skin. Our balm won’t lead you down this vicious cycle of hydrating then drying out your skin, which is important if you want to enjoy time when being exposed to the elements.
What are the ingredients on the dirty list that we have to be on the lookout for that you avoided adding to your products?
Anything that contains parabens, phthalates, or is created in a lab should be avoided. Mother Nature has given us all of the ingredients we need to rescue our skin. There is no need to mess around with that. Just stick to pure and natural, and if you can, look for clinically-tested products like ours. This basically means that the product is tested on 50+ people with various skin types over the course of 2 or 3 months. As you might guess, our testing passed with flying colors!
Tell us about the ingredients in Alpine Shrine, why did you choose them? Where do they come from?
Since I work with the former head of R&D for Hawaiian Tropic and his team, I was able to source some pretty amazing and rare ingredients. Sure, you might find beeswax, sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, and coconut oil in a number of products out there, but Tamanu and Nangai oil? Fat chance. Both come from a tiny island in the South Pacific and are known for being ‘miracle’ oils since they are so effective at hydrating and restoring dry skin. Of course, every material we use is ethically and sustainably-sourced, as well as cruelty-free.
Does sustainability have a role in your life and your company? If so how?
Absolutely! We see sustainable products and processes as the future, not a fad. All of our materials are sourced from vetted suppliers, and we will only sell our products to mission-aligned retailers, like Kindhumans!
Personally, I follow a strict plant-based diet, and do the best I can to buy products that are good for the environment - or are at least trying. It certainly isn’t easy living an eco-friendly life, but anything challenging is always worth doing!
Can you share one of the biggest challenges you have come up against?
I suppose educating people about the plastic waste crisis has been far more difficult than I could have imagined. You would be surprised by the amount of people who simply have never heard of the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, or what the effects microplastics are having in every single ecosystem and organism on earth – including humans. It’s always gratifying to enlighten people about this, but there is usually a sense of helplessness that follows, like, “Jeeze, a garbage patch the size of Texas floating in the Pacific ocean, and yet we’re still pumping out 300 million tons of plastic per year? How on earth can we stop this?” It’s a tough lesson to teach, but we can’t change the world if we don’t know what the problem is.
Since starting the business what is the most surprising and/or interesting thing that has happened?
To be honest, I started this as a side-project while completing my MBA, so it was incredibly surprising to see how many people immediately understood the concept and got on board. The support I’ve had from my friends and family has meant the world to me, and the fact that so many people light up when they hear about our mission just goes to show that we are on to something good. I never thought I would take this on full-time, but here I am!
How do you educate and inspire others?
Social media has been a good way to get the message out. While our following is still quite small and growing, I have discovered so many other mission-aligned individuals and businesses that are doing what they can to produce high-quality products while minimizing their impact on the environment.
Just recently, I was visiting my folks in Palm Beach, Florida (near where the All-Season Balm is manufactured),and went for a stroll along the beach. Winds had kicked up an unbelievable amount of waste onto the beaches, and I was surprised by the amount of people who were out there with their grabbers and buckets, picking up garbage. I did what I could with what I had, and handed out my products to everyone I saw cleaning up. It was awesome. Seeing their eyes light up at the idea that we might not have ocean plastic to clean up one day was very rewarding.
What’s in the books for 2020 for Alpine Shrine?
Well, given COVID-19, we are just doing our best to survive like the rest of the small business community. In the meantime, we are researching and developing new products that cater to ‘eco-conscious adventurer’ community. Since our lab can make pretty much anything, I would expect some innovative and interesting new products!
What role does kindness play in your life? And what does it mean to you?
Kindness plays a very important role in my life. Having lived around the world and interacted with so many different cultures, I’ve learned that even if you don’t speak the language, everyone understands what a genuine smile means. Love is truly universal, and like food, shelter, fire, and water, it’s one of those things that we all need to survive.
How do you show kindness? How can we all add kindness in our daily lives?
Doing small things for others is always a good way to show kindness. Whether it’s tidying up the house or donating money to a cause you care about, the key to kindness is selflessness. Of course, there are times when we must be kind to ourselves, too. For that, I suggest eating healthy, getting fresh air, and a bit of exercise.
If you could spend time with any kind human in history, who would that be and what would you do together?
Probably Teddy Roosevelt. The man recognized the importance of the natural world during a time when many others were ready and willing to exploit it, and ultimately gave us one of our greatest assets: the U.S. National Parks. I can see us venturing off into the wild with John Muir, riding horses through rivers and mapping out big plans for the preservation of these spectacular places.
What is a message you want to spread and leave with the Kindhumans community?
No matter who you are or where you come from you make a difference. Be kind to others and keep doing your absolute best, no matter how difficult that might be. Even a single small act of kindness can make a huge impact!
Where do you live/where are you from? At the moment, I am bouncing between Florida, where our products are manufactured, North Carolina where my family lives, and Colorado, where I feel most at home. I’m originally from Westchester, New York.
What are your passions/what lead you to be here? I am passionate about the great outdoors and protecting Mother Nature. I am here because I was unwilling to give up on my dream of building something useful and beneficial to both people and the planet!
Can you share a fun fact about yourself that isn’t widely known? When I was 22, my friends and I started two waffle shacks at the base of Aspen Highlands and Snowmass mountains. We had a great time, made a bit of money, learned some tough lessons, and got to ski 100+ days a season!
When you are not working, where can we find you? All over the place. For the last 7 years I’ve lived in Sydney, London, Madrid, and am now traveling constantly around the U.S. building this brand. On a given day, I might be hiking, climbing, backcountry skiing, fly-fishing, mountain biking, or just hanging with my wonderful fiancé cooking something delicious.
Do you have a ‘life lesson’ or kindness quote that you can share?
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain