When Christopher Cieri grew a beard a few years ago, he had no idea that it would be the catalyst for his very own vegan, cruelty-free, and Earth-friendly skincare line. But that’s exactly what happened. Today he helms Franklin & Whitman, named after the Ben Franklin and Walt Whitman bridges in his hometown of Philadelphia.
The company’s extensive line of personal care products offer an array of indulgent, uncomplicated formulations—from skin-nourishing serums to acne-preventing toners. This month, Cieri will curate a special Kinder Beauty Box—Kinder Beauty X Franklin & Whitman: The Spa Collection—featuring exclusively Franklin & Whitman products. Those who order it will receive his personally formulated Oak Lane Face Mask, Spruce Hill Face Mask, Sea Salt Hair Mist, Cobbs Creek Botanical Steam, Midtown Village Face & Lip Scrub, and Bella Vista Lip Balm. Though Cieri’s forward-thinking company is now arguably its own beauty movement, for this ethical pioneer, the success of his brand lies in his worldview.
For him, it’s deeply personal.
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When in doubt, DIY
When Cieri started sporting a beard, it quickly grew itchy and scratchy. He tried to treat it with beard oils and beard balms but discovered that they all had, as he describes, “that stereotypical masculine scent: spicy or woodsy.” Cieri, who prefers cleaner citrus and floral scent profiles, decided that if no one could make the right product for him, he’d craft it himself.
Beyond the traditional scent profiles of the products he’d tried, Cieri was surprised when he saw how many synthetic ingredients they used. “I felt like companies were going the easy route of doing things,” he says. When he used the products he’d created himself out of simple ingredients, everything seemed to click. “My skin felt better,” says Cieri. “My hair was softer and I didn’t have as much beard itch. I was smelling great!”
With a new pep in his step, he knew he was onto something.
Shooting for the stars
As he dug deeper, Cieri was shocked to see so many synthetics on the labels of the products his teenage daughters used, even in brands marketed as “all-natural.” He was now inspired to create an entire line of products that were truly natural, plant-based, and cruelty-free. It was also very important to him that his company have a social mission. “I’m going to do this,” he told himself. “And it may not turn into anything, but I’ll do it as a side hustle, and it’ll be fun.”
So he extensively researched essential oils and how they benefit skin and hair. He started with body scrubs crafted from food ingredients including matcha and coffee, paired with organic sugar or sea salt.
From there, Cieri ventured even deeper into the world of skincare, developing more products that were truly all-natural where other companies were cutting corners. “I love creating the original formula,” shares Cieri, who develops every product himself.
Making a dream into reality
When Franklin & Whitman took off, Cieri left his day job, and the rest is history. The products are now available nationally at stores including Whole Foods.
In creating his line, Cieri makes sure there is a purpose for every ingredient. “That’s one of our brand promises,” he says. He avoids including a laundry list of ingredients when he can create a formula with seven.
“If I can stop at five ingredients, I’m going to stop at five,” he explains. “Keeping things minimal, clean, non-toxic, and plant-based is so important to me.”
Putting the important things first
The social mission Cieri chose is one close to his heart, as he is the parent of two rescue pups. He donates five-percent of all Franklin & Whitman sales to dog rescue organizations. The company also hosts regular events that benefit homeless dogs.
For Cieri, this mission is a driving force. “I go to some of the rescues that we work with, and I can’t spend more than twenty minutes there without literally crying like a baby.” He adds, “That’s why I do what I do. I have rescue dogs. I want more. I want more people to be able to understand that a rescue dog is not a broken dog.”
“The way I look at it is that we get one ticket,” says Cieri. “And if I could spend the majority of my time helping people feel more confident in their skin, saving some dogs, and then taking care of my family and the people I love, then I feel like I’ve earned that ticket.”
For Cieri, his business is about much more than selling products; it’s a worldview of compassion along with ethical entrepreneurship. “It’s about our social mission,” he continues. “It’s about helping people with their skin. And proving that you can run a company the right way, and make the right decisions.”
A kinder world
Cieri has also focused his energies on minimizing the environmental impact of Franklin & Whitman’s products and packaging. When customers ship six empty Franklin & Whitman containers back to the company, they will receive a free face mask. Plastic containers are recycled, while glass containers are upcycled by an artisan into beautiful art glass objects. And in an effort to protect the Earth, the company uses biodegradable packing peanuts, made from vegetable starch, that dissolve under hot water or will even biodegrade in your garden.
Cieri is excited to be partnering with Kinder Beauty for an exclusive box. “I love working with the Kinder Beauty group.” He adds, “We don’t work with a lot of subscription boxes, but they’re doing things the right way.”
Franklin & Whitman’s collection for Kinder Beauty includes an abundance of skin-nurturing products to keep faces glowing even on cloudy winter days.