EP 42 – Keeping Your Powder Dry – Disrupting the Beauty Industry with Gaelle Thieme


EP 42 – Keeping Your Powder Dry – Disrupting the Beauty Industry with Gaelle Thieme


Welcome to Episode 42 of the Sustainable Ecommerce Podcast!

My guest this week is Gaelle Thieme, founder of Dust & Glow, an innovative beauty start up.  I say innovative, because she’s shaking things up in not just one but two dimensions of sustainability. Firstly, she’s helping consumers avoid single use plastics by providing infinitely recyclable aluminium keep bottles and home compostable refill sachets.  But she’s also formulated her hair and skincare range to powder-based, thus saving water, and removing a significant carbon footprint from the logistics part of the supply chain. 

Now, we’ve seen similar models used by brands like Resparkle & Baresop, but as you’ll see the way Gaelle’s products work is slightly different again, bring a whole new set of compelling functional benefits into the mix.  I haven’t seen anyone else in the Beauty space doing what’s Gaelle’s doing.

She generously takes us through her journey to date, from setting up a kind of chemistry lab in her kitchen during lockdown, through the trials of finding a manufacturer that would even try to work with her, and then forward to today with a full year of brand activations and expansion to the UK well under way.   For me this was a fascinating behind the scenes look at a young purpose-driven brand totally rethinking an industry, and I hope you enjoy it.

ep42 Dust & Glow

Introducing Gaelle Thieme and Dust & Glow

Gaelle Thieme started her career in kitchen appliances before moving on to work with  L’Oreal and later headed up the marketing team in New Zealand for Trilogy Skincare. After having her daughter she became worried about the potential to use toxic ingredients on her skin as well as the waste created by the beauty industry and the impact that would have on future generations.

She became obsessed with reducing packaging and plastic waste, leading to the realisation that most products are packed in plastic bottles due to the water content.  For example, shampoo is up to 80% water, conditioners can go up to 90% water, and toners can have at least 98% water.  She began to wonder if beauty products could be powder-based with natural ingredients, thus making them toxic-chemical free,  reduce the carbon footprint of shipping and do away with plastic altogether. 

How did Dust & Glow get started?

From her time at Trilogy and L’Oreal, Gaelle had some understanding of product formulation already, and she started by purchasing ingredients in and creating test formulas in here kitchen during the start of the Covid lockdows in New Zealand. She simply tested them on herself and tinkered with the formulas until she had a product that was a proof of concept.  It was too claggy and the powder wasn’t an acceptable consistency, but it was just workable enough to believe it could be taken forward. 

She started contacting all the third-party manufacturers and cosmetic labs in New Zealand. None accepted the challenge. At the time, most 3rd party manufacturers were already at full capacity, had staffing challenges like everyone else, and could not justify allocating resources to experiment with a new concept.  However at the t but they all said no. Plus, Gaelle had very strict requirements for being vegan & preservative-free, so creating new formulas would be doubly difficult.

ep42 Dust & Glow

After a failed start with one manufacturer, she finally convinced a manufacturing company she knew from a previous role to work on the project, and over the course of the next year worked with them to refine and produced her first powder-based shampoo.  It was an additional year again before they had created a satisfactory solution for the conditioner. 

Why choose aluminium bottles?

With a full commitment to removing plastic, Gaelle needed a solution that would keep the powder dry in the damp atmosphere of a bathroom, as well as safe in the event of accidental drops. 


Aluminium presented an ideal solution, being easy to manufacture, lightweight and durable for travel, won’t shatter if dropped and of course infinitely recyclable.

However, to provide a refill solution, Gaelle chose home compostable sachets to hold the powder.  That wasn’t a straight road, she had to find the right balance of degradability with shelf life, which was especially important for retail partners. 

Pro tip if you’re developing a compostable package: leave it on a window and see if it breaks down over the course of months, or if there are any other effects to the contents.

The impact of powder-based products on shipping

While there are now many powder based cleaning products on the market, most of them work by adding the powder to the bottle and fully hydrating in the bottle. Dust and Glow is different. The powder is activated at time of use by applying a little water to your hands and creating a lather. 


Creating beauty and personal care products in a powder form means you’re saving water from the production process, but more notably you’re saving a huge element of weight and volume from the shipped product, which reduces the cost to ship as well as the carbon footprint. 

A simple 300 ml bottle of shampoo can weigh 250 to 400 grams, while Dust and Glow’s aluminium bottle, equivalent to three bottles of shampoo, weighs just 60 grams.

In addition to less water and less packaging, Dust & Glow requires no preservative system. Because it’s the water content that attracts bacteria, if there’s no water, no bacteria can grow, allowing powder based products to be stored much longer.

Finally, the compact and lightweight nature of the product makes it an ideal solution for travel as you can pack it in your hand luggage and adds hardly any weight.  

Sample Packs as a KEY marketing Tool

Timing for launch could not have been worse, with a full year of events and brand activations cancelled due to COVID. However, she had developed an initial group of testers to help market test new products, and these became an incredible source of inspiration through their feedback. 

ep42-sample packs

Indeed, it was customer feedback that led to the development of small aluminium tins as sample sizes. Starting small, she repeatedly sold out of sample packs in just a few hours, and when she realised that 70% of sample pack orders were turning into full price purchases, she knew that sampling was going to be critical. 

Aside from taking the risk out of trying her brand and concept for the first time, Gaelle now included sample packs with first time purchases to give customers exposure to her full range as well as new products being released. 

The importance of understanding your audience.

Having been running now for a couple of years, Gaelle recognises two distinct groups of people, as well as several important use cases that help with developing marketing messages. 

The first group of people who have a keen eye on environmental impact {we call this group Eco Warriors}.  People in this group are always looking for sustainable alternative, and will sacrifice some functionality to get it.

The other group consists of people that have every-day problems as their primary reason for purchase, and sustainability is a nice additional benefit {we call this group the Aspirational Ecocentrics}.

This divergent focus means that you have to develop separate messaging.

What does 2023 look like for Dust & Glow?

This year, Dust & Glow is planning to attend lots of events in New Zealand and travel to different regions. She is expanding to Hong Kong and the UK, and working with distributors makes things a bit easier to manage. And is also looking for distributors in Australia.

With a mission to save water, Dust & Glow's ultimate goal for this year, together with Charity Water is to save and give back 1 million days of clean water to people who don’t have water access by donating 1% of the gross sales for every Dust and Glow product purchased.

Where can people buy Dust & Glow products?

If you want to purchase Dust & Glow products, just proceed to www.dustandglow.com. Also available in Australia via Flora and Fauna https://www.floraandfauna.com.au/ use the code Good15 and get 15% off your first purchase!

Top Takeouts

  1. Firstly, if your brand delivers consumable products and you don’t already offer trial or tester packs in some form, perhaps it’s time to consider how to do that.  All the way back in Episode 6 we heard from Sinead Roberts at Wotnot Naturals that tester packs were a key to her success, and today we heard the same thing from Gaelle.  With 70% conversion from a trial pack to full product purchasing, it could be a critical way to overcome a customers natural uncertainty to try something new, especially if you’re doing something out of the norm, like powder based formulation.

  2. Now Gaelle obviously is doing something a little unusual, and that inherently means more education and explanation in the sales process. She described it as having to tell the story again and again, and that’s exactly right.  You honestly can’t tell your story too often.  People need to see the same story over and over on every channel – and rather than being dilutive, in fact it makes your brand story more concrete, more authentic, more memorable, and ultimately more effective.

  3. And lastly, Gaelle talked about the importance of the founder being seen.  If you’re a start-up brand, you have precious few advantages over the giants.  But what you do have is you! People want to see and relate to the human behind the brand. They want to connect with you, not your social thread. I can’t overstate how valuable it is for the founder to be the active face of the brand, engaging your customers in the journey, sharing your excitement, sharing your challenges, and ultimately becoming their trusted guide as they become one of the heroes in your Mission.

    Just as an aside, Dust & Glow did extremely well in our Sustainable Marketing Index assessment, scoring in the top 10% of all the brands we’ve assessed, which is particularly impressive for a business that is less than 2 years old, so for inspiration as well as to try her amazing power-based skin care, head over to dust & glow.com

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