Why Romain Gaillard Left Tech and Founded The Detox Market
The green beauty space can be a confusing one to navigate. What’s actually considered clean? Are there certain ingredients to avoid and others to look for? The questions are seemingly endless, and after searching for answers, Romain Gaillard knew there was a need for streamlining the clean beauty shopping process. He founded The Detox Market, a one-stop-shop for non-toxic beauty and wellness products. Here, we’re chatting with Gaillard about how he decides which brands to carry, his motto for running a successful business and the company’s pledge for inclusivity and sustainability. Plus, he breaks down what “greenwashing” is in the skin-care industry.
Can you give us a little background on your career before entering the beauty space?
I was raised in Paris but moved to the West Coast over 15 years ago to work in tech. It was an interesting, educational and rapidly growing sector that required constant pivoting. My time in the industry taught me a lot about ever-changing environments and innovation. While it was a great learning experience, I think I always knew something important was missing — a sense of true meaning, purpose and contribution.
How did you settle on making the jump to beauty?
I was already conscious of what I put into my body. My parents were early proponents of the green-living movement after having lived in the Bay Area during the ’70s. That said, what I put onto my body wasn’t on my radar. Like many people, the possibility of products being unsafe didn’t even occur to me. The turning point came when a close friend of mine received a breast cancer diagnosis. Together, we started educating ourselves about toxicity in personal-care products. It was clear the industry was flawed and that consumers deserved much, much better. I took a leap of faith and ditched my career in tech. I launched the first iteration of The Detox Market in 2010 as a pop-up store in Venice, California. The rest, as they say, is history.
Is there a motto that you've strived to maintain in your business as The Detox Market has grown?
Don’t cut corners, period. Settling is a dangerous game and can quickly devolve into a slippery slope of quality deterioration. It is easy to justify one or two questionable decisions, whether it be motivated by a desire to do a favor or save some money, but eventually, the lines become blurred. Stay steady. From the beginning, we’ve stuck by the brands we believed in and have never lowered our standards for the sake of instant gratification. If you’re in it for the long game, maintaining those expectations for yourself and others always pays off.
“Clean beauty” is an ambiguous term. How do you decide which brands to carry in your store?
As the clean beauty industry continues its exponential growth, more and more brands are jumping in to capitalize on consumers’ desires for natural products. While the increasing interest is great for people’s well-being, it is not so great for the rise of “clean washing” or “greenwashing.” Because clean beauty is a relatively new movement, there is no universally agreed-upon standard when it comes to which ingredients are considered “bad.” It’s up to each retailer to create its own list. We have a list of banned ingredients we keep up-to-date with the latest research. Safety is our priority, which is why we use the principle of precaution. When there is any doubt, we blacklist.
That said, what makes a product exceptional is not just what’s left out, but also what’s left in. Removing certain ingredients is not enough; we want to ensure brands are including and maximizing the potent ones. Claiming your product excludes 15 ingredients, or that your store bans 3,000, doesn’t mean anything in and of itself. We only carry products we would feel good about using and sharing with our families, which is the highest litmus test of all.
What's next for The Detox Market?
We’re focusing on two important initiatives right now, and we want to be part of the solution for both. The first is sustainability. Earlier this year, we launched our Sustainability Starts Now campaign. Proactively combating the climate crisis has become more urgent than ever. We’ve always been conscious of our footprint, but we’re taking our efforts to the next level to achieve our goals of being carbon-negative, planting 1 million trees and empowering others to join us. In addition to partnering with TerraCycle to make it easy for people to recycle their empties, we’re focusing on actions that yield tangible results, like planting a tree for every online order, rethinking our shipping practices and designing modular retail displays to phase out non-recyclable ones.
Our second initiative is inclusivity. When it comes to diversity, like many industries, the beauty industry has an unacceptable status quo when it comes to inclusivity and appropriate representation. We’re committed to being part of the change. We’re implementing several initiatives, one of the most exciting being The Launchpad, a program we’re establishing to help BIPOC founders launch new, green beauty brands and accelerate their growth. The Detox Market is investing $1 million over four years into media space, marketing funds, creative resources and senior-level mentorship across all operations. True change necessitates concerted, consistent effort, and we’re devoted to putting in the work.
What's been the biggest pinch-me moment in your career?
Five years into The Detox Market, we weren’t getting much traction, and I was starting to get really discouraged. Five years is a long time to keep something going, and I was questioning whether sticking with it was the right decision. One moment changed everything: I was in Toronto for business, having a drink at the bar while waiting for some friends. Two women sat down next to me and began chatting with each other about beauty. One asked her friend where her favorite place to shop for beauty was. The friend responded, “The Detox Market.” It was the ultimate pinch-me moment — a sign if there ever was one. These strangers weren’t friends or family. They didn’t know who I was and they certainly didn’t know the impact their conversation had on me.
And finally, what are your three desert island products?
Photo: Romain Gaillard, Designer: Hannah Packer