I’m standing up to my knees in tulips on a private farm just outside of Amsterdam when the sun bursts through the clouds overhead. Sunshine drenches the fields of lush bulbous blooms, lighting them up from the highway to the horizon in electric stripes of white, yellow, and red. It’s even better than the pictures.
As I tip-toe through the delicate rows, I ask the owner of the private farm what will happen to all these beautiful flowers at the end of the season. “They're getting chopped off and composted tomorrow,” he says flatly. “It’s only the bulbs that we sell all over the world.”
That’s right, all 1.7 billion of the multicolored tulips that flood your Instagram feed from March through April end up crushed and forgotten in the iron jaws of a harvesting machine. For tulip farmers, the real draw is the bulb, and to get it while it’s hot (or, rather, before it gets too hot), they have to cut off the stems at a stage in which they’re too short to sell in bouquets. That’s where Kim Jensen, co-founder of Bloomeffects, saw an opportunity.
“Tulips are globally one of the top favorite flowers, but it’s one of the only flowers that hasn’t been diversified into a different category or even industry,” she says, referring to the popularity of rose, CBD, jasmine, and other natural ingredients in the skin-care world. “We were on a mission to find out what’s in a tulip, and whether we can make something beautiful and good for the skin.”
So how did Jensen, a beauty executive based out of New York, find herself wading through the tulip fields of Holland in pursuit of the next big product line? Love, sweat — and a little booze. “I loved my job, but I couldn’t meet the right guy,” says Jensen, who was working at St. Tropez, the global self-tanning company, at the time. “So I took five weeks off to travel around Europe and ended up on the dance floor in Ibiza and I saw this handsome guy across the room.” That handsome guy was Hein van Haaster, a fourth-generation tulip farmer from the same family that has long supplied the British Royal Family’s gardens. Love quickly blossomed, and so did the idea for a product line.
“I really never expected it,” says van Haaster. ”We were in New York having dinner and Kim was asking me, ‘What’s in a tulip?’ I didn’t know the answer and I started making phone calls.” Soon, van Haaster was lugging loads of tulips to Leiden University in the Netherlands to study the chemical compounds that make up the plant. What they discovered was better than they could have hoped: Not only do tulips hold their entire weight in water and serve as a natural humectant, but they are also one of the only flowers that continues to grow up to an inch or more after it’s been cut. That’s thanks to Auxin, a plant hormone derived from amino acids that elongates the cells and promotes collagen. “We’ve enhanced that in our proprietary tulip complex and that’s the backbone of the line,” Jensen says.
We were on a mission to find out what’s in a tulip, and whether we can make something beautiful and good for the skin.
After that breakthrough, Jensen got to work creating a product line that utilized all the natural resources Holland had to offer. There’s Dutch Dirt, $49, the brand's hero mask made from the Netherlands' famous nutrient-rich soil, that comes in light-blue aluminum packaging that will likely draw comparisons to Summer Fridays moisturizing Jet Lag mask. But that's where the similarities end, because Dutch Dirt is a clarifying clay mask that's an earthy brown color. “The soil in the Netherlands is so rich and yields 20 times more than any other soil,” says Kim. “The mask is clarifying and gives you a nice exfoliation and glow.”
There’s also Royal Tulip Cleansing Jelly, $39, Bloomeffects' take on a Korean cleansing balm, and the Tulip & Cheek Tint, $29, a nourishing lip-and-cheek balm that reflects the laid-back makeup style of Amsterdam’s cool girls. I was personally most drawn to the Royal Tulip Nectar, $65, a honey-like salve that helps soothe my sunburns and eczema on the spot. Even though I find it too thick to smooth on as a daily moisturizer for my oily skin, I’ve used it as a calming, after-sun treatment all summer. Unlike most floral-based products, Bloomeffects' line is completely fragrance-free (and tulips themselves don’t carry a strong natural scent), which makes it ideal for sensitive skin types.
Dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Joshua Zeichner, MD, sees potential in the line. "Tulips contain high levels of growth factors that allow the flower to continue to grow even after it has been picked," he says. "These growth factors serve as messengers to stimulate activity of skin cells to strengthen the skin foundation and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles."
Jensen’s work has also garnered the attention of the Dutch government, which provided two grants to support the research and development of the line. “The Dutch government supports circular farming and this is the perfect circular farming opportunity,” says van Haaster. “There are billions of bulbs and eventually the flowers get cut off and we want to use those flowers in our skin care. It will drive innovation because growers will have another value stream.”
It’s a discovery that will likely bring more Dutch beauty brands to the forefront, which is especially exciting given the Netherlands’ approach to sustainability, something that's historically been lacking in the global beauty industry. “Dutch farmers have actually defined sustainability,” van Haaster says. “We are 10 years ahead of the states in terms of sustainability and water usage. We are doing everything efficiently and trying to export that to the rest of the world. They call the Netherlands the Silicon Valley of agriculture.”
For Bloomeffects, that means using 100% recycled cardboard, FSA-certified paper, soy ink, and recyclable glass containers — and continuously finding ways to reduce the carbon footprint of what’s inside the packaging. “There are some waste products in the bulb industry and these beautiful petals end up in compost,” Jensen says. “We want to work out every part of the tulip, bulbs, leaves, and petals. There are billions of tulips grown here and huge potential.”
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