Women to Watch: Tricia Trimble and Suntegrity

Tricia Tremble

Trimble adored her mother. And naturally, she was devastated when, just after graduating college, she lost her to skin cancer. In the intervening years, as she worked through her grief, she became a CPA and then a recruiter. Feeling unfulfilled, she went back to school to get her esthetician license along with a master’s degree in spiritual psychology with an emphasis on consciousness, health and healing.

It was there that Suntegrity was born — a holistic, mineral sun care line that she launched in late 2010. She considers the company a labor of love for her mother, enough so that every product includes the quote, “Suntegrity was made in honor of my mom and all of those who lost their lives to skin cancer. May you use this product and smile in their memory.”

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and more than 9,000 people die from skin melanomas every year. Many of us know to protect ourselves with sunscreen, yet as Tricia pointed out, most sunscreens on the market contain toxic ingredients and chemical UV blockers. In other words, we’re trying to prevent skin cancer with products that could actually cause other types of cancer.

We spoke to Tricia about her company and her mission of, as she puts it, “turning lemons into lemonade” and doing her part to prevent anyone else from losing someone they love to skin cancer.

Can you give us us a sense of how Suntegrity has been growing, and continues to grow?

Based on numbers for the first three quarters, we are on par to have sales of approximately $350,000 for the year. That’s a huge increase over 2012, which was about $200,000 — also a substantial increase over 2011, which was about $85,000. We project next year’s sales to be a 25 percent growth over this year’s, as we expand into more retail outlets and receive more industry recognition. Just this month, we were named an Allure Best of Beauty winner, in the Natural Wonders category, for our Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen and Primer. We’re also launching more products, like sunless tanner.

How much of building this company has been completely new for you, and what in your background has helped?

Luckily, I was trained as a CPA and worked for KPMG Peat Marwick for two years, so I'm fairly well-versed with the accounting part of the business. Prior to launching Suntegrity, I had experience starting a recruiting firm for accounting/finance professionals with some former co-workers who were also CPAs. There have been quite a few bumps in the road along the way (especially when it comes to packaging), which is to be expected with any startup. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to always have a back-up plan and to expect things to take twice as long as expected and to cost at least one and a half times more than what you think.

Part of your marketing involves educating consumers about the dangers of skin cancer. Tell us how you weave that into the business.

Educating the consumer about the dangers of skin cancer and skin aging caused by UV damage is definitely part of our strategy, especially given that skin cancer is the No. 1 cancer in America. An even more important part of our strategy is educating consumers and retailers about the differences between, and benefits of using, zinc oxide-based sunscreens like ours, as opposed to ones loaded with UV chemical blockers. Those have been linked to endocrine disruption, which may lead to cancer.

We educate consumers and retailers on our website, on videos, at trade shows, and when we speak on the phone. Luckily, a lot of our retailers are estheticians and dermatologists who are well aware of the dangers of skin cancer and benefits of wearing a healthy sunscreen, and they do a great job of educating the consumer for us.

We also have a UV skin scanner we take to trade shows and events to show people the kind of invisible UV damage that's been done over the years of not protecting their skin properly (that becomes visible in about five to 10 years). We know that people normally don't like wearing sunscreen, so we've done our best to create a sunscreen that smells good, feels good, has pretty packaging and is fun to wear.

What did you learn from working with a chemist to develop your products?

My main goal was to create a product that used ingredients considered safe by the EWG (Environmental Working Group) Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. I would have loved for our product to be preservative-free, but I learned through the process that you need a preservative if there is any water or water-based ingredient (like aloe vera gel) in your product. We definitely didn't want to use parabens, and some of the other mainstream preservatives used to replace parabens, like phenoxyethanol, didn't get the best ratings by the EWG, so we chose the safest preservative options we could find that worked with the pH of our products.

What's ahead?

We are currently working on launching a sunless tanner made with eco-certified Vegetan from sugar beets. We expect to launch this product around Christmas/New Years Eve. We are also working on an SPF line of lip tints/lipsticks which we expect to launch in the next nine months.

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