Want Glowing Skin *And* The Latest Intel On Clean Beauty? Read This
You have a very specific aesthetic: It's very light-of-hand and glowy. How can someone do it themselves?
People come to me because they don't want to look like a cosmetic counter: You want to feel beautiful but not overdone. First, skin care is important. I once had a woman come to me to learn how to do makeup for her wedding, and she had severe eczema and psoriasis. She told me how she was on all of these prescriptions and creams to treat it. I told her she needed to soothe the skin—I gave her my face oil—and to come back when it was less raw, inflamed, and burning. I didn't want to put anything on it because I didn't want to irritate it! It doesn't matter how good your makeup is: if your skin is hurting, you need to treat that first. From there, I always tell people to spot-treat their skin. I like to work in sections and take a small concealer brush and spot-treat the areas that need it. You want to think of it like a fine retouch all over, not redoing your face. From there, you can add whatever you want. But the even base is most important.
What has surprised you most about the beauty industry?
God, it's been 10 years in this crazy, crazy job. One of the biggest surprises is that it's finally going mainstream! And that some of the least likely advocates are embracing green makeup. That's pretty impressive. And, honestly, I really never thought that'd be the case. I really didn't. I was hoping! My whole thing was I hope, I wish, I pray. But I always have an element of reality check that I go through.
Do you have any concerns about it going mainstream? Sometimes when you're one of the first to try something, and then you see a lot of people jump on, there can be mixed emotions.
Sometimes I get scared that we are being torn into so many directions that we don't even know what's happening. So instead people are tuning out. It's not just makeup that should be cleaner because it's toxic—which I hate that word, it's a stupid word to use because it doesn't even mean anything—but it's everything! It's the food we're eating, air we are breathing, the chemicals that we are having forced upon us unknowingly. I'm afraid that more and more people just can't deal. Then they just accept whatever is being offered to them instead of looking into it. Pretty negative, I know.
Is there a way to fix that? I mean, what do you do to not overwhelm people?
We need to have a conversation again. Right now, there's no conversation, no logic, and no debate. We pick an ingredient or product, and it is a "yes" or a "no." There's no "gray" allowed anymore! You're on this side or the other.
That's interesting. I always think about this same thing—the idea of nuance—when the beauty industry finds their new favorite ingredient or trend to focus on.
There's no one-size-fits-all. The two examples I always use are coconut oil and hyaluronic acid. There's such a huge degree of quality on those, or maybe they're not for everyone. There's coconut oil and, yes, it can clog your pores, so not everyone is going to like it. And there is coconut oil that is much superior quality, but then you pay for it—it's expensive! It's like a shoe: A size seven in one shoe is not the same size seven everywhere else.
What is one thing you wish people knew?
People need to learn how to read an ingredient label. They see a new product promoted by an Influencer or a celebrity has a new line, and they just use it without looking into it. You need to know what you are putting on your face. And everyone has different standards, but you should know what you are putting on your face and be fine with it. Our standards are non-GMO, non-nano, hypoallergenic, noncomedogenic, cruelty-free—and free from soy, gluten, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, silicone, talc, petrolatum, and polyethylene. I think that's a good place to start, and I also think Credo has good standards, which is another place you can look for guidance.
OK, so the future: What can we expect going forward?
Everyone is going to start changing their formulas big time. People who won't clean up their act and are just living on their reputation, they're going to have to start to worry. It's been slow, but young people to even older people have started to move over to this space. You hear people being like, "We just didn't know! We didn't know that there were all these things in their products!" People are listening, and they are changing their minds. You see how small we started, and how much the industry is growing—these are numbers we can't turn our back on. This isn't going away. To me, the biggest thing that needs to do be addressed are these cheap, cheap brands out there. They don't use the best ingredients, but they will always be bought because of the price point. They know they don't need to change because of that.
That's been a heavy conversation in the space lately. Is it too expensive?
The ingredients are more expensive, and so is the packaging. Not only that, but you have to remember that some of these big companies, they have their own labs, so they are making their products for nothing because they own the labs. Us little brands have to go to smaller labs to make our products, and these are so much more expensive. We're getting choked! And at the ingredient step, too. It's labeled as natural, organic, or green, and then that ingredient is more expensive to formulate with. Then packaging! Ours is in glass, and we had to do our own mold because no one was doing it at the time. (Now everyone is, and I can't even tell my products apart from these others.) It's like when you go get something to eat. You pay nothing for french fries and a hamburger, yet you pay a fortune for an organic salad. There's no reason that organic salad should be more than anything else. It's just how this is all set up.
How do we bring the price down?
The bigger it gets, the more the prices are going to go down. That's just a reaction that happens in business: The more people enter the space, the more competitive it's going to get. But then, you have to remember that it's not one-size-fits-all: Some products are still going to be more expensive because they are using a different quality of ingredients.
What does "clean" mean to you? Can any product be truly "clean"?
There's no definition of what is clean and what's not clean. There's no standard: There are some products out there that wouldn't cut it as "clean" in my world. But, you know, they are clean for some of these other stores. The only way you can be really clean is to open a coconut and shove your face into it! But, you know, even then it's like, it has to be grown organically and not in soil that has lead or arsenic in it. These questions never stop: There are so many things that can go wrong, you know? So, no, nothing is ever going to be truly guaranteed clean. If nothing else, just aim for less bad.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.