Ethical, Organic, and Excellent: Our Discussion with Rayner, Owner of TICO* Shaving Oil

We'll start here: it's DIFFICULT to make an ethical product from high-quality materials. You wouldn’t think that’s the case, but it’s true: it’s extremely challenging, and that’s why most wet shaving companies don’t do it.

If you poke around wet shaving products long enough, you can see that a lot of companies are just doing what everyone else is doing: using mediocre ingredients from questionable sources, creating creams or soaps or oils that are basically the same concoctions that everyone else is making, and then slapping some really unique artwork on it, and calling themselves artisans. It’s a shame, and it happens a lot.

And don't get us wrong—there are a lot of great products that have great artwork on their labels, and we're actually suckers for the artwork on a lot of wet shaving products. But... well, there's a lot of so-so products that feature fantastic artwork and design, and a so-so product.

So it's really challenging to create a product that uses high-quality ingredients, that's both good for the earth, and works really well.

And THAT’S why we're so excited about today's interview. We got to speak with Rayner, owner and head honcho at TICO* Shaving Oil, whose shaving oil is:

1) Not only one of the best shaving oils we've ever used, but

2) Made from totally organic ingredients, in an ethical process.

There are plenty of companies that talk about "core values," and then you see the decisions they make, and it's clear that all their talk about "core values" is just that—talk. Rayner, however, has remained true to his original vision of TICO*: a high-quality product, that only uses 100% organic ingredients, that benefits the planet.

Below, we talk about his move to Costa Rico, how TICO* came to be, how he selects ingredients, and his decision-making process regarding design and packaging. If you're interested in ethical business, this is a great read, and we’re really glad to we could dive into how Rayner runs his company.

A big THANK YOU to Rayner for talking with us, and if you get the chance, visit the TICO* website to see what we’re talking about!

Q: Rayner, thanks so much for talking with us. Let's start at the beginning. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and describe what TICO* is?

A: You bet! So, about 9 years ago I became a dad. I quickly realized that I needed to work for myself in order to be in control of my own schedule, so I could spend time with my growing family. My wife and I quit our jobs and moved to Costa Rica for a slower pace of life, and to be surrounded by nature. I had previously discovered shave oil and had written off shaving cream completely... but at that time, there were no certified organic shave oils available. That's when we decided to be the first, and TICO* was born.

Q: So it sounds like your move to Costa Rica was hugely influenced your decision to start TICO*?

A: It was. Costa Rica is an amazing place and has taught us a lot. I think everyone should take the time to not only visit, but live in a foreign land, because the perspective gained can be life-changing. When we decided to start our own business, we wanted to start one that had a positive impact on our planet. At that time, organic foods were just becoming mainstream, but health and beauty products hadn't really started to embrace that trend and there were very few organic options. I guess people started realizing that what they put on their bodies was just as important as what they put in them, and TICO* is a totally organic product.

Q: Most of our readers get funneled into using shaving creams when they first start shaving, just because they're cheap and you can find them almost anywhere and "that's what my dad used, so that's what I use." They don't really realize that shave oil can be a far better—and more cost-efficient—option. Can you tell us a little bit about the benefits of shaving oil, and maybe talk a little bit about all the weird chemicals that are in regular shaving creams?

A: I have to be careful here, as I can really get on a soap box when the opportunity comes up to share my distaste for shaving creams :). I remember when I first discovered shave oil through a friend's recommendation, and I was blown away. Initially I fell in love with the simplicity of it... a little goes a long way, no more need for travel sizes, you can actually see your face when you are shaving, no additional products needed, and so on. Then I started reading all the weird shaving cream ingredients and there was no turning back... call me crazy but I simply don't like the idea of putting a chemical on my face that is listed on Schedule 3, part B of the Chemical Weapons Convention. I would love to meet the person that decided mustard gas ingredients and cancer-causing agents would be a good thing to put on people's faces. It just blows me away.

Q: I can attest to that—the first I read the ingredient list on a can of shaving cream, I couldn’t really believe it. There’s propane in it! Like a grill. Ridiculous. TICO* is 100% USDA Organic, and I think you’re leading the revolution, here—when it comes to cosmetics for women, ladies have a lot of organic options, but for men, however, there seem to be a lot fewer organic options, and that makes TICO* stand out. Can you tell us about the decision to make TICO* 100% organic, and why it matters that a product is organic?

A: It wasn't really an option for us. We knew we wouldn't be able to be proud of a product that wasn't 100% certified organic. Yes, it is more expensive for the consumer as well as less margin for our business, but that didn't matter. We were the first 100% Certified Organic shave oil and now there are a handful of competitors in our space, but we like that. I like to think we helped start a trend.

Q: You guys use a unique blend of hemp and peppermint in your shaving oil. Most of us are familiar with peppermint—it's calming and cooling and feels nice and tingly on the skin—but hemp products are slowly becoming a much more common ingredient in cosmetic goods. Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to include hemp in TICO*, and the benefits of hemp oil for the skin?

A: Yes, we spent an inordinate amount of time researching base and essential oils. We hired some very intelligent people to educate us in this space initially and one of the overwhelming constants in everything we learned was that when it comes to selecting an oil that is best-suited to nourish human skin, there is none better than hemp oil. It's almost weird how well suited it is to benefit our cells... basically you should be putting hemp oil on your skin whether you use TICO* or not. That made it a no-brainer for us.

Q: We buy a LOT of shaving products, and we're always surprised at how poorly most of them travel. Some of our favorite balms and aftershave lotions become a MESS when we put them in our luggage and head off someplace. You actually designed this product with travel in mind—can you tell us a little bit about that decision, and how TICO* is a travel-friendly product?

A: Once we had our formula finalized, which took about six months, we started turning our attention to the packaging. We came up with several requirements. First, we wanted it to be recyclable (we wanted it to be compostable, but that wasn't possible at the time, and we’re still continuing to research and learn about new bio-plastics so that one day we’ll attain that goal). Glass was considered, but so many people shave in the shower and glass in the shower is not a good idea. Second, it had to work with one hand so no screw-tops or anything that took away from a frictionless grab of the bottle and the single pump for the perfect amount of shave oil in your other hand. Lastly, the size had to be travel-friendly. The whole concept of having to buy separate travel-sized shaving products seems to me like a waste of money, time, and resources. The fact that it takes so little shave oil to shave made this easy.

Q: That’s one of our favorite things about the product, actually, is that it’s so well-designed, and it’s simple—you don’t need anything else to get a great shave. A lot of companies market a long line of products—you need a pre-shave oil, a shaving cream or soap, an aftershave, a moisturizer, and so on. You need all these different items just to get a shave. TICO* is just a shaving oil—do you plan on creating separate aftershaves, moisturizers, and so on?

A: From a business perspective, yes, we probably should develop a whole line of products. But that’s not in line with our core values. We aren't trying to build a huge company here. We have been successful enough in our eyes and nearly a decade later, we are still going strong as a single-product company with raving fans across the globe and we attribute much of that success to the fact that TICO* is a pre-shave solution, shaving solution, and after-shave solution all in one. We often talk about what future products we would consider, and none of them include other shaving solutions as that would be counter to the beautiful simplicity of TICO*. We kinda poke fun at other shave oil companies that start to grow and add shaving cream or after shave to their line up... to me that's like a solar energy company deciding to expand into oil and gas!

Q: Ha! So you’re sticking to your principles—that’s no small feat in this day and age. Where did the name TICO* come from, anyway? And what's with the asterisk?

A: A Tico by definition is a citizen of Costa Rica (“Tico” is masculine, and “Tica is feminine) and few places embrace simplicity and nature better than the amazing people of Costa Rica. Costa Rica is the only country in the world that doesn't take the name of the country to describe their citizens (America = American, Germany = German, and so on). Costa Ricans call themselves Ticos, as well as use it as a complimentary term of affection. How great would it be if you did something nice for someone and they said "Thanks, that's so American of you!"? As for the asterisk, it is simply an elegant way to say that something so simple can embody so much more.

Q: I didn’t know that, and that is pretty wonderful. Speaking of embracing simplicity and nature, it seems like a lot of products lose their focus as they gain momentum, but it looks like you guys have stayed true to your original goal of being earth-friendly, and even donate to One Percent for the Planet. Can you tell us about that organization, and your decision to contribute to it?

A: Well, first, we believe that all businesses have a responsibility of stewardship. We researched a lot of different causes and organizations, but we didn't want to upset any of our customers by not supporting one cause over another. We love how 1% supports lots of organizations focused on climate, food, land, pollution, water, and wildlife. Personally, I am a HUGE fan of Yvon Chouinard and when I learned about his involvement with 1%, it was an easy decision [Editor’s Note: Yvon Chouinard might actually be the World’s Most Interesting Man—he’s the billionaire environmentalist rock climber who founded Patagonia, the world-famous clothing company. Basically, an amazing human being].

Q: We notice, too, that you offer free shipping, AND have a 100% money-back guarantee—if someone isn't pleased with your product, they can ship it back to you, and you refund their money. We're friends with about a half-a-dozen guys who own companies that sell shaving products, and none of them have an offer like that. It's pretty bold. How's the decision working out?

A: Free shipping really hurts economically and obviously it doesn't make much business sense, but people simply don't like to pay for shipping. We believe that more people decide to try TICO* knowing they don't have to pay for shipping, so that is the way we have always done it. As for the 100% money back, that was something we knew we wanted to do from the beginning. Not only because we believe in our product, but we realize that many of our customers are trying something new when they consider moving away from shaving cream. Knowing that they can try it with no risk just makes sense. It is so very rare, but we do get people who request a refund every once in a while, and that's to be expected as no one product is a perfect fit for everyone.

Q: We're devoted to men's fashion and grooming, so when we discuss and review shaving goods, we're doing so from the "Will this help men?" point-of-view. But TICO* isn't just for men, is it? It seems like organic goods like this good for men and women. Is that the case?

A: Yes indeed! Being the first organic shave oil in the world, we attracted a lot of female customers who were looking for such a product. There is nothing musky or masculine in our formula, so while it is branded / positioned for men, it works well for everyone. Many of our customers buy one bottle initially, and upon returning, they buy multiple bottles at once so their spouses can have their own bottle and will "quit stealing" theirs! It's funny how often we hear that. 

Q: That’s awesome. Well, that means you’re doing something right! Rayner, thank you so much for speaking with us, and keep up the amazing work! We appreciate what you’re doing!

[Readers, that wraps it up for our interview with Rayner from TICO*—if you get the chance, check out their shave oil. Not only is an ethically-made product, it’s a FANTASTIC shave oil, and one of our all-time favorites. You can order TICO* shave oil here.]

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