Meet Charlie Razook, the founder of made-just-for-men skincare brand, Jackfir. Read on for his inspiring story and find out why this might be just the line of skincare the man in your life needs
When we first launched Jackfir online back in January, we wrote a blog introducing the brand and you told us a bit about your health journey. How is your health these days? June is National Cancer Survivor Month so we are especially honored to highlight you this month and be able to share your story with our audience.
My health is good, thank you! I finished treatment in October 2021 and now am in the monitoring phase. I actually have a routine bone marrow biopsy this month, which is never fun, but important to make sure everything is all clear! I am honored to be a survivor this June and every June. It is a club that so many cannot be part of. That’s part of why we started Jackfir—We want men to take better care of themselves and avoid acute and chronic illnesses.
Aside from cleaning up how you ate and the personal care products you used, how else has your lifestyle changed since your leukemia diagnosis?
Oh wow, in so many ways! One huge thing is that I do not drink anymore. I do not think I would have been able to start Jackfir without having stopped drinking. Drinking affected my productivity immensely. Even when it is not to excess, it clouds your judgment, adds to the cycle of anxiety, and just makes you sleepier and unhealthier. Plus, it negatively affects your skin!
Not drinking not only makes my work life more efficient, but it also encourages a better sleep schedule and makes me more inclined to stick to my exercise routine.
Other changes I have made since my diagnosis are strengthening important friendships and cutting out negative relationships. Focusing on the people who bring you up has an important influence on your stress levels and self-worth.
I also keep a gratitude journal, which has been life-changing. I list three things every day that I am grateful for to start the day on a positive note. Not surprisingly, the first is always being in remission.
It sounds like your diagnosis played a major role in founding Jackfir; was it an idea you'd had before, or did it really only come to fruition because of leukemia?
My diagnosis really was the impetus for Jackfir. I always knew I wanted to start a company, but I thought it would be a menswear brand. I had been working in fashion and love clothes as a form of expression. That said, in hindsight, I never had a good enough/different enough idea that made me willing to take the giant risk of starting my own business.
When it came to Jackfir, I had no fear because I knew the market needed the brand. When I became aware of the chemicals in our everyday life that can be making us sick, I wanted to minimize all of my daily touch points. At the same time, during treatment, my skin was going in these insane cycles of horrible dryness from the chemo and acne outbreaks from the steroids. I really could not find a good men’s skincare solution to my skin concerns that was truly clean. Cue Jackfir!
You told us that the name "Jackfir" was inspired by the Adirondack State Park and its evergreen forests. We love the brand's aesthetic and feel like we've been to the very Adirondack spots featured in some of your campaign shoots! We take it that the Adirondacks hold a special place in your heart?
Yes, the Adirondacks represent all things wild and natural to me. It is such a wonderful example of how governments can help protect ecosystems and wildlife. I grew up going to summer camp in the Adirondacks and spending a week or two upstate with my family in Lake Placid. Between hiking and swimming, I would sit on my grandmother’s lap on the porch and watch the chipmunks and cardinals go by.
When founding a clean skincare brand, I thought to myself, the visual aesthetics need to match the amazing benefits of the natural ingredients. Jackfir is a portmanteau of a jack pine and a fir tree, two types of evergreens. The tubes mimic the looks of an evergreen tree with green bodies and brown caps, which also happen to be the color schemes of the homes in the Adirondack region in efforts to blend in with and not interrupt the gorgeous surroundings.
Do you think you'll add more products to the lineup anytime soon, or is the plan to keep it to the existing three-step pared down routine?
We sure will! Later this month we are launching the first-ever EWG Verified men’s eye cream with amazing actives like glycols and bark extracts. Very Jackfir, as we like to say.
We are trying to be thoughtful about new product releases, as we believe in a less-is-more approach to both skincare and consumerism. That said, we need to balance that with customer requests for new products. For example, an eye cream was a logical next product, as it addresses certain anti-aging concerns our customers have voiced and is very targeted and specific.
We have a few more in the pipeline too that we will release in the next 1-2 years, but we are not in a rush to flood the market with product.
In your experience, are men becoming increasingly concerned with the ingredients in their skincare? It's anecdotal of course, but several of us at Onda have found (with some degree of surprise!) that our male partners really like our products and will cop a dab at every opportunity. So we're very excited to have dedicated products that we can give to them and have them stop stealing ours!
Haha, that is one of the reasons why we exist! I, also anecdotally, heard from female friend that their partners were stealing their expensive clean skincare products. I wanted to offer them a premium version tailored to them. Men like quality products, which increasingly means cleaner and more organic (while effective), but often do not know where to start.
Men are very much so becoming more concerned about their skincare product quality and ingredients. Interestingly, our customer skews a bit older. We believe that this has to do with aging concerns and health concerns. Unfortunately, men are less in tune with their health and wellness. Thankfully, this is changing as outdated views regarding masculinity go out the window. But, generally speaking, as men age, they start to think about illness and longevity and consider taking better care of themselves. Having these health epiphanies makes you think, “huh, what’s in this product might be bad for me,” as I experienced first-hand.
Our goal at Jackfir is to make men look and feel their best without adding to their toxic burden. We see ourselves as a men’s health company whose touchpoint is skincare. So, while men are becoming more aware of carcinogenic and endocrine disrupting ingredients in their skincare and looking for better quality, we also are partly educating the customer as we go as to why they should care about ingredients.
Relating to above: it seems that men are sometimes sheepish about an interest in skincare. You've talked about toxic masculinity as it relates to men's overall wellness; can you connect the dots for those who may not see it so clearly?
Definitely! I briefly referenced above, but for a long time to be a man meant to be a provider, stoic, emotionless, and strong. This encouraged behavior like drinking to excess, smoking and drug use, burning-out in the workplace, and other stress-inducing behaviors. Simply put, it was not manly to ask for help or voice how you were feeling. As a result, men were getting sick. Women outlive men by 5 years on average. The destructive behaviors tied to toxic masculinity are antithetical to wellness, like taking care of one’s health (including skincare), exercise, and a work-life balance.
Now, though, as views on mental health and gender and sexuality change, younger generations are embracing something called tender masculinity. Asking for help and taking care of your skin health are now not as strange, thankfully.
So, we have seen our younger customers excited to try a clean skincare brand for men as skincare becomes just another form of normal healthiness. And, as mentioned, even older men are becoming comfortable indulging in a wellness routine. Good riddance—it’s about time!
Father’s Day of course happens to be in June as well, so we’re excited to have Jackfir in-store in time for shoppers to pick the products up as a little something for the dads in their lives. Does your dad use it?
Father’s Day is one of our most important holidays as we celebrate the men in our lives! Jackfir makes the perfect, high-quality wellness gift.
My father is a huge fan. His favorite product is the shave cream. It was a major milestone getting my dad to start shaving with The Classic Shave Cream instead of bar soap. Hurrah!
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