“It Feels Like a More Grown-Up Product For Us”: Zoë Foster Blake on Go-To’s Newest Addition

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Zoë Foster Blake’s brand Go-To is all grown up. Not only did Foster Blake recently sell a stake in the popular skincare company, but the brand has also released its first serum: Much Brighter Skin — a brightening vitamin C. “It sort of heralds a new era at Go-To,” Foster Blake told POPSUGAR Australia of the new launch. “It feels like a more grown-up product for us.”

Vitamin C serum is undoubtedly a staple in one’s skincare routine. It brightens your complexion, while also helping to target hyperpigmentation, evens out skin tone and provides a burst of hydration. And, when used with SPF, can help boost your protection from the sun. Foster Blake was inspired to create a vitamin C serum that was pleasant to use — no weird meat-like smells here.

“The new product development process is often led by me going ‘I love this product but the one I’m using is lacking and I think we could go a Go-To riff on it’,” Foster Blake said. “Most of my vitamin C’s are brown, stinky, really tacky. I just couldn’t, hand on heart, go to market with a stinker.”

The result is a delicious-smelling, stable serum that is also formulated with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid for truly bouncy and hydrated skin. The texture of Much Brighter Skin ($59) is also pretty dreamy. It’s light, doesn’t feel sticky and sinks into the skin quickly.

POPSUGAR Australia was lucky enough to chat with Foster Blake about all things Go-To, how long it took to perfect this new addition and how she navigates the process of creating new offerings, whether that’s a skincare product or a book.

And, if you’re a fan of Foster Blake’s book, TV, music and podcast recommendations she often shares on Instagram, keep reading to get a peek into what her media diet is like and the content she consumes for inspiration or to simply get lost in another world for a little while.

POPSUGAR Australia: Hi Zoe! Congratulations on the new product. Vitamin C really is a heavy hitter in one’s skincare routine, so we understand why you’d want to add this to the Go-To lineup. How long did it take to perfect this product?

Zoë Foster Blake: I always laugh and say that the easy products like body lotion or a shower gel always end up being much harder than something very sophisticated like a vitamin C serum. But this guy, it took probably, I’d say around 18 months, which is fairly standard, from briefing and various samples right through to a finished product. But I was so excited.

I mean, for us it sort of heralds a new era at Go-To. It feels like a more grown-up product for us. And you know, as beauty editors, we get taught about vitamin C really early on in the piece and how integral it is to a good skincare routine and so I’m so excited that we can finally offer our own.

We’ve seen so much confusion through our customer base about vitamin C. What is it? Which one should I be using? Every time I do a video they’re like ‘But which one did you use?’ And I’m like, ‘Don’t worry about that one, just find a vitamin C that works for you’. So I’m really thrilled to be able to offer the foolproof, layman’s trustworthy vitamin C for everybody.

PS: This is Go-To’s first serum product. Why start with vitamin C?

ZFB: To me, it’s the obvious one and the new product development process is often led by me going ‘I love this product but the one I’m using is lacking and I think we could go a Go-To riff on it.’ Most of my vitamin C’s are brown, stinky, really tacky and I get that now, I understand why that process is the way it is depending on what sort of molecules they’re using, and supportive antioxidants, but it just wouldn’t cut it for us.

 You’re trying to get someone to use a product every day, they need to love it, it needs to smell amazing and feel amazing — that sensory experience is huge for us — and so those were the pillars. It had to feel good, it had to smell great and it had to be really effective. And honestly, we’ve had many questions about our Transformazing Sheet Mask ($9) like, ‘Can you please do a serum of this mask?’ for so long, and that was always in the back of my mind.

I remember once we actually squeezed out the serum of the mask into a dropper. And you would need three masks worth to get a dropper full and if you think about how much sinks into your skin, it’s just a very different formula. So I was like ‘Alright, back to the drawing board’. That product does have vitamin C in it because of the Kakadu plum but I wanted a very stable, consistent, proven vitamin C as well.

PS: We were going to ask about the smell because many popular vitamin C products smell like meat!

ZFB: We did a really deep dive on this because we agree, I mean, what is that smell? But it’s not a smell, vitamin C has no smell, depending on which one you use and we use sodium ascorbyl phosphate but there is no smell. I started researching going, ‘What is the smell’ and I can only assume, because there was no definitive answer, it might be an oxidisation thing. I’m not sure, but the form of vitamin C we use is super stable and super gentle and that was really deliberate.

I just couldn’t, hand on heart, go to market with a stinker, as it were. We’re known for our sensory and our olfactory and some people are like, ‘Why don’t you ever do fragrance-free?’ and it’s just not who we are. To me, that moment is really important, having a sensory moment when you apply your skincare so I don’t know why some of them smell bad as we didn’t find it that hard for it to not smell like that. I don’t know why, it must be the form of vitamin C we’re using.

I think one of the other reasons that I wanted to create our own was that so often vitamin C products have AHAs in them as well and I don’t want AHAs in the morning. We’ve got our Exfoliating Swipeys ($46) and I love AHAs but I would use them at night. I wouldn’t take a layer of skin off before I go out into the world for the day. I actually found it really hard to find a clean vitamin C that didn’t have BHAs or AHAs because I didn’t want the exfoliating, I just wanted the antioxidants and some defence, as they work really well in tandem with SPF and the brightening.

PS: We’re sure creating products, or even writing books, isn’t linear. What is your approach to failure or something not working out and how do you bounce back from that?

ZFB: I always think when you’re getting too many roadblocks, and it’s just seeming too hard, it’s not about giving up at that point, it’s just sometimes going, ‘I might be forcing a square into a round hole.’ There’s been times when, sorry to be woo woo, but it’s almost like a psychic thing. For example, there’s a couple of products that they’re asking me for names on and the design brief and I just can’t do them. And it’s usually because I don’t think that they’re perfectly right and accurate yet.

It’ll come sometimes just during a meeting, and when I start to get bored and doodling like the creative squirrel I am and then it will come to me and the reason we can’t do that is because it’s wrong. I remember we got a long way down the path with Transformazing as a cream mask and it just occurred to me what I was trying to do is have a glow and a hydration hit not a cream nourishing mask, that will come later, so we switched to a sheet mask.

So often I just have to marinate for a while and if things aren’t coming, whether that’s a product name, or what the make up of that product is, in terms of books and business ideas, I guess it’s something that I get a lot of good ideas, but they won’t stick. Or they stick but they evolve a lot, but I have no problem with stopping and starting again, if something sucks, it’s so much better to cut the ties and start fresh.

I don’t really believe in sunk cost fallacy where you go, ‘We’ll I’ve put a year into this, it has to go ahead.’ There’s a graveyard of products that have come a long way and you’d think, ‘Oh, we spent a lot of money on that’. And yes we have, don’t get me started [laughs]. But I still think it’s better to do it right and do it properly and go ‘Well, that was a sad waste of time but look what we’ve learned’.

I wouldn’t actually even call it failure, I’d just say it’s part of the process and it’s making sure that you’re on the exact right path rather than just racing down a path because you think that was the one from the start.

PS: The way women consume beauty information has changed so much over the years, with social media now playing a massive role. Do you find consumers are more aware of what they’re purchasing when it comes to product formulations and sustainability merits?

ZFB: Yeah, I do and I love that actually. As beauty editors, it was our job to be the guardians of that information and layman’s it and now, I love that the consumer is two steps ahead, and she already knows what she wants and she’s looking for ingredients. The democratisation of beauty is fantastic because you can’t hide anything, and you have to be completely accountable and I love that and that’s always been our pillar.

Certainly, there are brands out there who were not perhaps being as transparent and I love that broad overarching transparency that comes with that. And, you know, it keeps you accountable and evolving as a brand as well. And for us, it’s more it’s less of a thing with formulation, but rather with packaging.

The demand on sustainability pillars is intense, and something we love and relish And oftentimes, it’s been a consumer who’s pushed us to move faster and it is a beast, it’s like trying to turn the Titanic. It’s an enormous project to be wholeheartedly and genuinely sustainable when you’re dealing with front end, back end, end of life, start of life as well as the great risk of developing and spending two years on technology that is immediately obsolete, that the recycling factory won’t recognise.

It is a really tricky one but we keep the progress transparent and we come along with the consumer, so I love it. And beauty is political, now people have expectations of founders and brands to be role models and to be seen to be part of a bigger industry not just making things. I think about like back when I was a beauty editor, and the brands had it so easy. It was just like, ‘Here’s a product. Bye!’ [laughs]. And now, you’re a full-service company and as someone who loves connecting with women and as a writer, I find that dialogue really thrilling and exciting and it keeps us going and motivated. It’s great.

PS: What is your media diet like? What do you read, watch and listen to that inspires you?

ZFB: Man, I mean, you almost have to put parentheses around lockdown versus real life, don’t you? [Laughs]. I’m not really commuting anywhere. Normally, my interstate and international commuting would be where I would consume a lot of podcasts and so on. I just don’t have time and I’m just on Zoom all day.

I’m a music obsessive so I will always choose music over a podcast, but the podcasts I do turn to are usually marketing and business. Seth Godin is my God and I adore him and I love that he only has 20 minutes and I love the brevity and someone who dared to edit their podcast down and make it concise [laughs]. So that is fantastic. I mean, I have a husband with probably Australia’s best podcast and I don’t even get time to listen, to his chagrin [laughs]. The times when I’m walking, I would generally choose music.

I consume news media like The Atlantic and I’m on Medium. I find Medium is a really gentle way to take in my media because I’ve chosen who I’m going to follow and it’s the ones that I love like the Vanity Fairs of the world. We have a subscription to Time and New Scientist because I feel like I’m part of what’s going on in the world outside of what’s on the screen. I like an actual magazine.

And for TV, I’m really so deep in that. I can’t tolerate shit TV at the moment, like it has to be prestige TV and we’ll go back and watch Mad Men for the third time if I have to because, at the end of the day, I just need to escape to an incredible world. I’m actually, hand behind my back, finally into Game of Thrones because I was out of other series to watch.

My husband is happy to watch it again but I just want to get lost in a world once the kids go to bed so prestige TV is beautiful. I’m also watching the Nicole Kidman one, Nine Perfect Strangers, and I loved White Lotus like everybody else.

You can shop Much Brighter Skin via Go-To and MECCA.

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