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Everything You Need to Know About Indie Beauty Expo

Alexis Krauss

A few months back I had the pleasure of meeting Jillian Wright co-Founder of Indie Beauty Expo (iBE), the largest professionally-curated exhibition of independent beauty brands. Jillian and her team have grown iBE into a bi-coastal event that showcases the best of independent beauty with a special focus on companies committed to formulating with safe and sustainable ingredients. Jillian has worked closely with Jeannie Jarnot of Beauty Heroes to ensure that all clean and green beauty brands are easily identifiable and that none of the nasty ingredients listed here are included in their formulations. iBE is taking place in May in LA and in NYC in August. Learn more about attending here. Xoxo Alexis

For our followers who don't know, tell us a bit about how iBE is different from other conventional beauty shows?   

iBE is differentiated in three ways--all of which are designed to make iBE the most well-targeted and efficient platform to discover and experience the best indie brands:

First, instead of trying to do all of “beauty” or all of “natural” products, we are laser-focused on a specific type of company--independent ones--that offer products in a three specific and contiguous categories: beauty, wellness and lifestyle. This makes it a lot easier for brands, buyers, press and consumers to know what they can expect at our event. In that regard, we are super-targeted. You can access the best, all under one roof, in one day. The key advantage of iBE from a buyer standpoint is around choice and efficiency. iBE’s selection is large enough to provide plenty of choice and room for discovery, but manageable enough so that they can cover it in one day.  

Second, we are also one of a very few true multichannel events in that we bring brands, buyers, press and consumers into the same event. While trade and consumer events are held on separate days and have a different agenda and tempo, there is a clear sense of continuity. We think this is key. As an indie brand, it is essential to leverage all channels to build your brand. Consumer advocacy, in particular, is crucial, as indie consumers tend to be highly involved and vocal, and their support can definitely put a brand on the buyer and press radar. By bringing all the key audiences to our exhibitors, we enable them to maximize the opportunities they can generate by exhibiting at iBE.

Third, since we are not solely an “expo company,” we challenge all conventional rules around a show and take a more personalized approach in everything we do. For example, iBE brings our event to major markets where there is a ready and massive concentration of buyers, press and consumers. We want to make it easy for people to discover indie brands. We also spend a lot of time picking the right venues--this is key for us. As any retailer will tell you, how you present your collection makes a huge difference as to how your audience perceives and values your offering. That is why we avoid big “white-box” convention centers and instead pick venues that are historical, naturally beautiful and with an aesthetic that is simple, elegant and authentic.

Do you find that most of the independent beauty brands you work with are prioritizing sustainability and formulating with safer ingredients?

Absolutely.  Take this amazing new cosmetic line launching at iBE LA, A Pinch of Colour.  Linda Treska, an 18 year veteran in the beauty industry and CEO of Vincent Longo, and teacher at FIT, has developed waterless color cosmetics and packaging.  This is the first of it’s kind.  She is taking sustainability one step further. Loli Beauty, also exhibiting in LA, is a monthly subscription DIY box that sources all of her ingredients from sustainable vendors and her ingredients are organic and natural. Jasmina Aganovic, founder of Mother Dirt  who received her degree in chemical and biological engineering from MIT features “good” bacteria and teaches consumers not to be afraid of being “dirty” by educating them on beneficial bacteria which will positively affects our ecosystem. Ashley Prange of Au Naturale Cosmetics is taking her message to Congress through a petition for safer ingredients.  You can sign it here.  INUF Skincare exhibiting in LA and NY, from Hong Kong uses recycled, repurposed and compostable materials in their packaging and all their formulas are green and sustainable.  And finally, Anju Rupal,  founder Abhati is launching a product line that will help educate girls globally. She might be speaking at iBE.  You can see her TEDx here.

Independent brands have a voice and are exercising their freedom to help better the world in their own way whether is is through sustainability, clean ingredients, helping others and changing laws through congress.  

Tell us about some of your favorite trends in clean and/or green beauty right now.

We see a lot of brands using unique ingredients such as cedar nut oil (Lyeska), and in Lalun Naturals, coconut crystals and coconut vinegar in her toners. There are brands that offer products that are skin issue specific for example, Native Atlas has a muscle rub which was inspired by her husband’s native Ghana where she sources her Shea Butter and Emmaus who has a three step solution to hyperkeratosis and rough body skin.  We are also seeing collaborations between brands like Java Skincare and Fit Glow Beauty.

Why should real women who aren't buyers attend iBE? Talk us through what a consumer can expect at iBE LA.

Consumers are very important to indie brands.  We want the public to learn about independent beauty, lifestyle and wellness brands and their commitment to bringing better beauty to every household.  They will be able to meet the founders, learn about their products and their missions which will hopefully bring enlightenment to their personal care routines.  Not only will they be able to shop the brands on sight, we are also offering speakers, demos, panels and workshops including in the entry price, which we lowered from last year.  This year general entry is $30 and VIP (you get a stellar gift bag is $99)  We want consumers to feel a connection to indie beauty brands, learn and take away something real.   We want everyone to have a fantastic time but leave feeling enlightened and that they have learned something to enrich their lives.

In your opinion what are the biggest challenges independent beauty companies face and what is iBE doing to help them overcome those challenges?

It is one thing to have a nice idea and launch a brand.  It is another thing to promote it successfully and execute distribution.  The business landscape has changed dramatically with social media and the competition is fierce.  This is a process that has to be thought through with conviction and seriousness.  If you build it, they will come doesn’t work anymore.  You have to think through why you are doing it and how you are going to distribute your brand.  Where do you fit in?  What is your mission?  Who is your audience?     We are here to help the brands with that entire process from execution, to marketing and distribution through our resources.  So for the brands, we are offering them support from a business standpoint to get their ideas and passion to market.  Distribution is very important to an indie brand and we want to connect buyers with brands so they can successfully bring their products to more people.


For The Love Of Lemongrass

Alexis Krauss

It's DIY Friday and guest blogger Kristin Collins Jackson is back, this time to tell us all about the many benefits of lemongrass essential oil. Kristin shares her favorite DIY recipes incorporating lemongrass essential oil just in time for you to try them this weekend. Enjoy! Xoxo Alexis

Lemongrass essential oil is one of the many essentials in my beauty routine. While many folks may be used to seeing this ingredient in a delicious stir-fry, the healthy benefits of this tropical grass can be applied on your bod to solve your beauty woes. I'm a huge fan of using fresh lemons on my face after cleansing to get rid of pesky scars that blemishes leave behind, but squeezing a fresh lemon by hand everyday gets old real fast. Fortunately, lemongrass essential oil is just as versatile and when mixed with the right ingredients it handles dark spots like a boss!

Lemongrass is native to tropical climates like Africa, Sri Lanka and India. The essential oil is an astringent with natural brightening qualities, so you can say goodbye to lightening dark spots with harmful chemicals or hand-squeezing lemons. According to sources at Livestrong, the anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties make it excellent at warding off infections. Lemongrass is cleansing because of its antiseptic qualities — which is exactly what you want when incorporating a new ingredient into your cleansing routine.

A little bit of lemongrass goes a long way, because of those potent antiseptic and astringent properties, it can be an irritant on your skin, so be sure to mix your lemongrass with your favorite carrier oil and use in small doses.

Here are a handful of ways you can use lemongrass to brighten your day...and your skin.

1. Deodorant

It took me a while to nail down my essential oils to make a deodorant that would control sweat and odor, adding lemongrass to my natural deodorant has become, well, as essential as the oil itself.

2. Toner

Lemongrass acts as a natural preservative and lightener in my go-to homemade toner. This toner can be used after cleansing, before you moisturize, by using rose water, aloe vera, and a few drops of lemongrass essential oil. As with any new recipe, do a test patch on the inside of your arm to make sure your skin reacts well to lemongrass.

3. Brightening Body Lotion

I'm all about brightening my skin throughout my skin regimen, as long as it doesn't require any harmful chemicals. I use a combination of mango, shea, and kokum butter with my favorite carrier oils, then I add frankincense and lemongrass essential oil to keep my lotion healing my body throughout the day.


Virtuosa Beauty: A Smart Solution For Healthier Hair

Jessica Assaf

The best part of business school is the opportunity to meet smart women creating smart products. I am honored to know Alexandra, Caitlin, and Tamara, the founders of Virtuosa Beauty. These brilliant women have reinvented the shower cap to make it easier to use and better at keeping hair looking good. Below is a guest post by co-founder Alexandra Holtzman. If you are interested in trying a shower cap, use promo code "BEAUTYLIESTRUTH" for a special discount. 

Tamara, Caitlin and Alexandra, the women behind Virtuosa. 

Tamara, Caitlin and Alexandra, the women behind Virtuosa. 

The key to great hair is surprisingly simple and requires less effort than all other hairstyling tips out there: wash your hair less often.
Shampooing your hair (especially with products that have harsh detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate) strips your scalp of its natural oils. Frequent shampooing causes your scalp to overproduce these oils to compensate for the loss – so paradoxically your hair actually feels more oily when it’s washed more often. And if you style your hair with heat (blow dryer, flat iron, curling iron), you probably already know that you’re damaging your tresses every time you use one of these tools. Skipping washes means styling your hair less often, which means less heat damage.
Okay, so it’s clear that less frequent washing results in healthier, less damaged hair, and reduces the waste your beauty routine generates (from the use of hair products and electricity for styling). The problem is, you still need to shower.
Enter Virtuosa Beauty, a company founded by three of my Harvard Business School classmates. They realized that many women can’t or don’t want to wash their hair every time they take a shower, but there was no good option to keep your hair perfectly dry and your style intact. Because existing shower caps weren’t effective, many women attempted to keep their hair dry in the shower by clipping/tying it up or wrapping it in a towel. These makeshift solutions didn’t work well either.
After lots of brainstorming and product testing, they released the Virtuosa shower cap just a few months ago. The (patent pending!) cap goes on like a headband, so it sweeps all your hair back, and it lets you keep your hair down. This is the real key – if you’re trying to not only keep your hair dry, but also keep your style looking perfect, you can’t clip or tie your hair up in the shower. It’s made of a soft, waterproof and breathable fabric that means your hair won’t frizz in steamy showers.
Check it out at – it’s the solution that will help you skip washes and do the right thing for your hair and the environment!

Was The Honest Company Set Up By The Wall Street Journal?

Jessica Assaf

Two weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal announced that “independent lab tests” found Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) in the Honest Company’s liquid detergent. SLS is one of many ingredients the company pledges to avoid. Though SLS is found in almost every mainstream product that foams, Honest received major backlash in the media, with top news sites claiming the company “may not be so honest.” But no one questioned the true motives behind The Wall Street Journal article, and there is evidence to suggest the story itself may not be so honest after all. 

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a synthetic surfactant found in many household products such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and cleaning supplies. It is a foaming agent, so any product that foams most likely contains SLS. The compound is commonly used because it is inexpensive, effective, and legal in the United States. As a detergent surfactant, sodium lauryl sulfate removes oils from the skin and can cause skin and eye irritation. Though I am not advocating for the use of SLS, irritation and skin dryness are the only real concerns. The ingredient has an exceptionally low score of 1-2 on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. The reality is, there are hundreds of synthetic compounds that are far more harmful than SLS. 

The Honest Company decided to take a stand against the use of compounds harmful to human health and they created their own safety standards for consumers. Their Honestly Free Guarantee lists the synthetic compounds they will never use in their products, including irritants like SLS, but also including parabens, phthalates, and petroleum-derivatives, which are in many mainstream products, banned in Europe, and have been linked to cancer and reproductive harm. As a company, it is their mission to provide healthy, effective, and affordable products for families. 

The Wall Street Journal article states that Honest is “challenging giants such as Procter & Gamble and Clorox with a guarantee that its offerings don’t contain what it says are harsh chemicals found in many mainstream products.” The journalist, Serena Ng, lists on her bio that she covers “Procter & Gamble and other consumer product and beauty companies.” Every other article she has written reports on a company’s economic performance, with no reference to product safety or ingredients. She writes articles titled, “P&G Earnings: What to Watch,” “Procter & Gamble Sales Dip” and “Estee Lauder Posts Strong Profit, Raises Dividend”. This is the first article Serena has ever written that mentions a product ingredient. 

What is more troubling is that the “independent lab tests” that found Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in Honest’s laundry detergent were funded by The Wall Street Journal. These tests typically cost thousands of dollars and take months to conduct. In my opinion, the only way The Wall Street Journal could have justified the cost is if they knew they would find something

Honest uses a base ingredient in their laundry detergent called Sodium Coco Sulfate, which they chose because it is a gentler and less irritating alternative to Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. While SCS and SLS are fairly similar in their chemical composition, independent studies have shown that SCS is safer to use in products. SCS can only be made from raw coconut oil, while SLS can be refined from many raw materials, like palm oil or petroleum. SLS and SCS are two distinct chemicals, and Honest intentionally chose SCS to create the safest products possible that are also affordable for mainstream consumers. 

According to Honest, The Wall Street Journal never gave the company an opportunity to respond to the claims, even after Honest provided evidence to the contrary multiple times. In Co-founder Christopher Gavigan’s recent Facebook post, he states that The Wall Street Journal refuses to share their data with the company or the media. They never even tested for SCS in Honest products. 

All of this evidence leads me to believe that The Honest Company was set up by The Wall Street Journal. 

The multi-billion dollar beauty industry is threatened by The Honest Co, and they should be. The company is worth $1.7 billion and Honest is a household name. Honest has changed the game by making safe and affordable products more accessible for the masses. But it is extremely disheartening to realize that even mainstream, well-respected media is inhibiting widespread change by misrepresenting mission-driven companies and misleading consumers. Not only does this false representation by The Wall Street Journal jeopardize Honest’s reputation, but it also jeopardizes the future of women, men, and children across the country who need safe and affordable products like Honest to stop using Procter & Gamble and Clorox.

We, as consumers, must respond with our buying choices. Don’t believe everything you read. Do your own research. And support companies like Honest, dedicated to health, transparency, and good, honest products. 

Empowered by True Moringa

Alexis Krauss

Earlier in the year I had the privilege of traveling to Ghana to learn about how shea nuts are grown, harvested and processed into butter. Since my return I have been working closely with Global Mamas on a project that seeks to transform the lives of women producing shea butter by connecting them to consumers like YOU, who are interested in paying a fair price for ethically sourced and all natural skincare. In the process of researching the best plant-based oils available in Ghana I was introduced to Emily Cunningham and Kwami Williams, the founders of True Moringa. Named Best of Indie Beauty Expo and featured in Birchbox, True Moringa is one of those products you must know about. I'm thrilled to introduce you to Emily and Kwami, and to share their story of innovation and empowerment. Spread the word! Xoxo Alexis.

1. Tell us a bit about your backgrounds and how True Moringa came to be.

We both fell in love with moringa by very different paths- Kwami, a native of Ghana, immigrated to the US at the age of 8 and went on to study aerospace engineering at MIT - even working for NASA. Emily studied development economics at Harvard and worked in a number of different sub-fields of development - advocacy, microfinance, small enterprise development, and a brief stint building rickshaws. Fate brought us together through MIT’s D-Lab program, and we traveled to rural Ghana to work with farming communities there in 2012.

We were astounded by what we saw in the villages - vast acreages of fertile, uncultivated land, and smallholder farming families living on that land earning less than $2/day cultivating subsistence crops. Meanwhile, in Ghana’s beautiful tropical climate, the resources they needed to transform their lives were growing in their own backyards. We were particularly captivated by one of the crops we saw growing in the village - known locally as the ‘miracle tree,’ the ‘never-die tree,’ - or just moringa.

Aid organizations had spread these moringa trees throughout rural communities in Ghana, explaining that the leaves and seeds were valuable and nutritious. Without connections to a market though, the fast growing moringa tree became a nuisance in farmers’ backyards and the seeds from the tree were left to rot or fed to the animals.

When we returned home to the states, we started doing a bit more research on this so-called miracle tree. It turns out the seeds of the tree were rich in antioxidants and unique moisturizing agents that made an incredible cosmetic oil for hair and skin care. The leaves are incredibly nutritious - gram for gram, more protein than eggs, more calcium than milk, and more iron than spinach, making them a perfect prevention for malnutrition. Even the waste product from processing the oil made a natural fertilizer, animal feed, and flocculant to purify water.

We were sold. Kwami packed his bags and moved back to Ghana, and together, we set about building the supply chains to connect small farmers to the global market! 

2. What are the benefits of using True Moringa oil on your skin?

Let us count the ways! First off, natural oils are the best way to restore moisture, texture, and tone to the face, and to prevent breakouts, dryness and redness. True Moringa has been called “argan oil on steroids” for its unique moisturizing and anti-aging agents. Unlike comparable oils, moringa is naturally rich in the cytokinin zeatin, known for stimulating cell division, growth, and delaying aging of cells. Moringa is also rich in crucial fatty acids and antioxidants that fight the free radicals that cause premature aging.

We cold-press our oil in a heat-controlled environment using proprietary technology that we designed and built ourselves. Moringa oil is rich in oleic, behenic, linoleic acid, which increase the permeability of skin and prevent dryness, signs of aging, and cracking. Lightweight and easily absorbed, the presence of long-chained hydrocarbons make True Moringa an extremely smooth and dry oil that will not clog pores, leave a greasy after-feel, or stain clothes. Dry or mature skin will benefit from it’s anti-aging and hydrating properties and oily or problem skin will benefit from its ability to soothe redness, minimize scars, even skin tone, and protect against breakouts.

3. Are there any connections between the shea tree and the moringa tree? I know they both grow in arid climates. Also, shea butter is produced dominantly by women in West Africa. Is this the case with moringa oil?

Both shea and moringa are predominantly grown in the three northern regions of Ghana - Ghana’s poorest regions. The rise of shea as a global commodity has helped many rural farming families to earn a sustainable wage and break the cycle of poverty - a trend that moringa is building upon. Unlike shea, which is wild harvested, moringa is grown at the household level and the leaves of the nutritious tree are incorporated into local cuisine in the north by women cooking for their households.

4. How is moringa oil production changing lives and empowering the farmers who harvest the seeds?

Our holistic model provides farmers more than just a living wage - we aim to fix the gaps in the supply chain that prevent small farmers from reaching the global market in the first place. To start, many farmers don’t have the capital to plow, plant and maintain land, so we provide high quality inputs like seeds and fertilizer on credit. We give farmers the training they need to grow up to the standards of the international market and a dedicated agricultural extension officer to follow up with them. We teach communities how to integrate the nutritious moringa leaves into their local cuisine and we’ve piloted moringa based malnutrition prevention programs in rural clinics.

Moringa trees are perfect for risk-averse small farmers - they thrive in arid climates and require very little water. They produce leaves in about 2 months and seeds within 8 months. They can actually be intercropped within existing crops to help them grow better. To date, we’ve planted over 250,000 trees to replenish depleted soil and deforested land.   

5. Tell us about your True Moringa processing facility in Ghana and how it is employing youth in Accra.

Often, commodities like cocoa and coffee beans are purchased at low prices from West Africa and shipped off to Europe or the US to be processed into value-added goods like coffee and chocolate. True Moringa processes in-country to add value and create jobs locally in Accra, where unemployment is a huge problem. We designed and built our own processing center from scratch so we can ensure both the highest quality oil and the maximum social impact.   

6. What's next for True Moringa?

We’re launching the largest moringa farm in Africa this spring - our nucleus farm - and inviting our customers to be part of it by planting a tree! We envision our nucleus farm as a place where farming families will be able to come and learn the latest techniques in permaculture and organic farming and cultivate nutritious food for their families. We plan to build the first large scale off-grid moringa processing center on the land, providing employment and adding value in the very same rural community where we first learned about the moringa tree.     

In other news, our first line extensions come out this spring - we’re cooking up some exciting all natural skincare goodies made almost entirely of ingredients cultivated and processed by small farming families in Ghana. We’re also launching True Moringa’s sister brand in the superfood space - Minga Foods in the US this summer. Stay tuned and follow us for updates!

DIY FRIDAY: Flower Power

Alexis Krauss

What better way to celebrate the arrival of Spring than with flowers! Did you know that you can easily incorporate dried flowers into your beauty routine? Guest contributor Kristin Collins Jackson of Bustle teaches us how with these powerful and oh so pretty DIY recipes. Enjoy and Happy Spring! Xoxo Alexis

Up until recently, I had a love/hate relationship with flowers. Flowers served to me as a reminder of pollen, which only leads to itchy skin, puffy eyes, and thousands of sneezes. Now that I've become completely obsessed with using dried flowers in beauty products, those tears from allergies have turned into tears of joy. Of course, before you join me in the throes of DIY flowering, you must makes sure you never use a flower in your beauty products that generally causes an allergic reaction. Once you've narrowed down your flowers of choice, you can get in on all those potent skin benefits.

You may be familiar with the benefits of rose essential oil, calendula oil, or even dried herbs such as basil and skullcap leaves. Those same soothing properties of the oils of flowers can be found in dried flowers as well — or example, the anti-aging properties of roses are also found in the petals. There have been numerous studies on the positive impact that flowers have on our minds and healing our bodies and when you apply those benefits topically, the results will have you feeling AND looking naturally beautiful. Be sure to shop for organic flowers because that label will mean your product meets USDA organic standards ensuring the flowers are grown in healthy soils and are free from toxic pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones, artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

You don't have to be a chemist to come up with an amazing flower-based product that you can use on the regular: Here are just a few ways you can incorporate dried flowers in your natural skin routine.

1. Rose Hair Zinger

If you're looking to spoil your scalp and tresses, this flowery hair zinger will do just that. For this recipe, I boiled filtered water and added 1/4 cup of hibiscus, 1/4 cup of skullcap leaves, and 1/3 cup of roses. Strain your tea to remove only the liquid and let cool in a sealable container. Next, add 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar and your essential oils of choice. I like to use clary sage, rosemary, sage, eucalyptus, or lavender essential oils to give my hair extra nutrients and get rid of that vinegary smell. Use on wet hair, massaging into the scalp, and leave on for about 10 minutes before rinsing.

2. Skullcap Rose Coffee Exfoliate

Don't waste your leftover flowers from the hair zinger, because adding these petals to a coffee scrub will give you a perfect AM mask to get rid of puffy eyes and fine lines that creep up on you while you sleep. Use a handful of flowers, 1/3 cup of freshly ground coffee, and 1 tablespoon of raw honey and mix vigorously. Apply on damp, makeup free skin and gently massage into the face and neck.

3. Calendula Body Scrub

This calendula body scrub is the ultimate healing scrub to make you forget about those harsh winter months. Since dried flowers are exfoliating on their own, I used dried calendula flowers, calendula oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, a dash of citric acid and salt. Mix vigorously by hand and add your favorite essential oils. For this healing scrub, I used geranium, frankincense, and ylang ylang essential oils.

4. Rosy Blush

I've written about making your own blush before and truthfully, there isn't one recipe that's going to be perfect for everyone, but there is one ingredient that we all can enjoy regardless of our skin type. Enter dried roses. For my own blush cocktail, I used cocoa powder, acai berry and dried roses to give my cheeks a slightly rosy look sans chemicals.

5. Flower-Herbal Facial Steam

The first time I tried a facial steam, I wanted to spend my entire life steaming because that's how hydrated my skin looked and felt. To make a facial steam, you can use any flower of your choice —I used skullcap leaves, bay leaves, and chamomile flowers. Boil water, add your favorite flowers, and let your steam cool slightly. Next, find a comfy spot in your house and place a towel over your head, creating a tent for your face to capture the steam. Enjoy your steam for about 10 minutes and follow up with your favorite natural cleanser. This is a great way to open up your pores and allow the nutrients of the flowers to penetrate deeply into the skin.


The Brilliance Behind Beauty Heroes

Alexis Krauss

I was introduced to Jeannie Jarnot by Jillian Wright, founder of the Indie Beauty Expo. The IBE brings together some of the smartest and most dedicated women in clean beauty and Jeannie Jarnot is one of those women. Her company Beauty Heroes offers women a simple solution to safer skincare by delivering subscribers one non-toxic beauty product each month. Jeannie thoughtfully curates the Beauty Heroes collection and believes that making the transition to safer skincare should be easy and affordable. I'm thrilled to share this exclusive interview with Jeannie and I hope after reading you'll sign up to receive the March Beauty Hero product. Xoxo Alexis

How is Beauty Heroes making the "beauty discovery process" less overwhelming for women looking to clean up their beauty routine?

The idea for our service was came to me over 10 years ago, when I was the Spa Director at The Carneros Inn in Napa.  I knew there were harmful ingredients in beauty and spa products and I wanted to make sure the products we were using on our clients in the treatment room were good for them, not harmful to them.  There was a lot less information than there is today about ingredients, and it was hard to get clear information about what was actually harmful.  As a spa director, I was being a pitched product every day by different brands and every one of them had a different story of what was harmful and what wasn’t.  It was overwhelming and confusing.  

I thought, if this is confusing to me, I couldn’t even imagine how confusing it is for the everyday consumer.  My goal with Beauty Heroes, as a whole, is to be a trusted source or beauty that is more than safe, but healthy for you to use.  So whether you are a member of our monthly beauty discovery service or shop in our online clean beauty store, you know that we have a clearly defined ingredient standard that you can trust.  

In the spa setting, women would tell us about their beauty routine and the vast number of products they had, but that they really no idea how to use them or what was in them. During a service we would talk to them about their primary skincare concern and based on that consider a Hero Product that had the right ingredients to treat their concern and educate them on just one beauty product.  We would earn their trust so they could come back to learn more.  We’d slow it all down a bit.  That is what we do with our subscription service by delivering one, full size healthy face, body, sun or hair care product each month to our members.  For $39/month you can try a top-selling, carefully selected product delivered with ingredient information, details about how the product works, where and how it’s made so you understand what you are putting on your body. You can add this product into your routine, and maybe replace a product that is not clean or hasn’t been as effective.  And if you love the product and the results, you may look into discovering more from that brand, now that you know more about them from all the information we share about them. We only deliver 12 Hero Products a year to our members, so we put a lot of time into selecting them with our members in mind.

How do you choose each month's Beauty Heroes product selections?

Because we feature only one maker and their Hero Product each month, we co-create an intentional and focused experience for our members, together.  Every selection has a different story as to how the product came to us.  For our March, as I wrote in my introduction for the Q+A with March’s brand Founder, I met Annie Tevelin of SkinOwl at last year’s  Indie Beauty Expo  and found her to be magnetic, with an awesome approach ingredients and beauty. In this case we discussed which of her products were her top-seller, and most universally appropriate for our members.  Mangosteen Beauty Drops PM was the Hero Product we settled on, and it was an easy choice.  When I touch, smell and feel a few drops, it just feels pure, fresh and alive.  It is a great example of a Hero Product I want in my routine always and that’s made of the highest quality botanical ingredients that are effective in supporting skin health and vitality.  

Tell us about some of your favorite "Superpower" ingredients.

There’s not enough room on our Ingredient Intelligence Pocket Guide for all the healthy Superpower ingredients, nature is just so abundant with good stuff.  Besides the ultra precious Mangosteen Oil in March’s Hero that is extracted from the skin of this Southeast Asian super-fruit, I also love Tamanu Oil, Honey, Jasmine and the lesser-known, but super-effective Prawn Sage.  

I only discovered Tamanu Oil a few years ago and I love it for its amazing acne-fighting powers. This super-oil has made a huge impact on my skin as it’s in Laurel Whole Plant Organic’s Antioxidant Face Serum and Mahalo Skincare’s Vitality Elixir.  

Honey is one of my very favorite superpowers for skin.  I love products that contain honey and my favorite way to us it is to mix it into my face masks. It adds some texture to the mask, is a great exfoliator, moisturizer and antibacterial. It’s super skin food, no doubt.

Jasmine essential oil is a new ingredient love for me.  It was one of the key Superpowers in our October 2015 Sidekick, In Fiore’s Lustra Illuminating Essence and our December Hero Product Award Winner, Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Face Serum. Besides being a great skin healer, it works to calm the senses and relieve stress, which ultimately shows up in your skin.

I also love a little known herb called Prawn Sage Extract, which was the superpower ingredient in our March 2015 Hero Product from Bottega Organica.  Studied and celebrated for it’s ability to reverse the damage of cancer cells, the doctor advising Bottega Organica decided to study its’ effects on reversing skin damage, and the results were profound. Prawn sage extract is pretty special and we are working with another product from Bottega Organica later this year that will feature it and I’m really excited about that.

Beauty Heroes champions clean beauty brands and helps women discover brands and products they would otherwise never know about. In your opinion what are the biggest challenges facing clean beauty brands? 

The way I see it they have three challenges.  The first is overcoming the belief that truly clean beauty, completely free of toxic ingredients, isn’t as effective as products made in a lab with patented ingredients that have complicated names and have been scientifically studied and on and on.  It’s simply not true.  Not only are natural products more effective, over time, the toxic load from our environment and personal care products is taking a toll on our health which correlates directly to our appearance.  There is so much slick marketing around mainstream beauty, tons of celebrity endorsements and article upon article about how beauty products containing a certain patented ingredient can get us to look a certain way, it’s hard to overcome that.  Getting women to take the long view when considering what they put on their bodies isn’t easy, we want instant gratification.  

The second challenge is changing the expectation that we should have from our products to and re-framing it so that we are taking a realistic view of what products can and should actually do.  Beauty products should support our skin in it’s optimal health, not make it go back in time.  For me I was really focused on products that would support my skin in clearing and healing.  Having suffered from severe acne stemming from an endocrinological disorder, I feel like at 42 my skin is the best it’s ever been and the best it can be.  A lot of times people tell me they can’t tell I had severe acne, and it’s because now my skin is healthy and supported by products that support it in healing itself.  

And the last challenge will be to be able to source quality ingredients at an affordable price.  There is not an infinite supply of botanicals, particularly organic and sustainably harvested botanicals.  Just last year there was a world wide shortage of rosehip oil that left a whole lot of beauty brands scrambling.  I think with the increasing demand for natural actives, this challenge will become more frequent.  If I were to guess, I think that brands will begin growing and harvesting their own botanicals, some already are, and the price will probably increase.  

Tell us a bit more about your mantra "Use less. Love more."

This ‘tag line’ was plucked out of a conversation I was having with one of my colleagues in the very early stages of Beauty Heroes.  I was passionately describing how I hoped Beauty Heroes would impact others and it came out naturally; I want to simplify beauty discovery so we can all use less, and love more.  We wrote it down and it has become the cornerstone of my vision.  It’s a little counter-intuitive because we are selling products and we are operating a business, so people are always asking me how I plan to grow a business by telling people to use and buy less. But, his message is important to me because we are over-consuming. And I know that women, who make the bulk of purchasing decisions in our homes, are the ones who will start to shift our planet and culture from over-consumption to mindful consumption.  And what I mean by this is not that we stop buying or consuming, but that we don’t spend our energy and resources on things that we don’t really want, need or will truly enjoy.  There is a shift in consciousness, I think many of us can feel it, and I just want it to keep on growing.     

What are your thoughts on anti-aging products? Are their natural, safe and effective alternatives to conventional anti-aging formulations?

The short answer is yes, there are a so many Superpower ingredients that repair, protect and enhance skin function, giving it a smoother, softer and healthier appearance from carrot seed oil, prawn sage extract (as described above) and even peptides.  And we can’t discount the importance of eating healthfully and sun protection which both contribute to the appearance of our skin. But in reality, skin care products can only help your skin look its best, they can’t reverse or stop aging.  I don’t mind the term anti-aging, because we all know what it means and we all want to look our best.  But I think as women we will all do ourselves a service to embrace our skin at every age, protect it, take care of it and celebrate it.  Many conventional anti-aging formulations have ingredients that may have adverse affects that can lead to health problems, hormone imbalances and even cancer.  And if you’re not healthy, who cares what your skin looks like.  I believe that at any age, the women who care for their health and embrace their beauty are the most youthful and genuinely gorgeous and attractive.  

Lastly, tell us about March's Beauty Hero Product!

I am so excited about our March Hero Product Award Winner from SkinOwl, Mangosteen Beauty Drops PM, because it is one that I want to have in my life forever. It consists of only two very high quality cold-pressed organic superpower ingredients, Mangosteen Fruit Oil and Baobab Seed Oil.  This face oil is unlike anything I’ve ever put on my skin.  First, the natural sweet scent that comes from the peel of the mangosteen fruit is so enticing.  It smells like you just peeled the fruit and have it fresh in front of you.  And the consistency of the oil is clean and spreads beautifully. I massage it from my chest up to my forehead at night after cleansing.  I usually layer it over a face serum, I’m big on layering product at night before bed.  It’s paired with a Sidekick (every Hero needs a sidekick) of a one or two time use of SkinOwl beauty steam.  Annie Tevelin, the founder and wise woman behind SkinOwl created an exclusive-to Beauty Heroes blend of seasonal herbs called Heroic Helichrysum.  So with our March beauty discovery box our members can enjoy the self-care beauty ritual of creating a face steam followed by using Mangosteen Beauty Drops PM.  Through our collaboration, Annie and I set out to convey the SkinOwl philosophy, that skin care is heroic act of self-care.  

Johnson and Johnson: A History of Evil

Jessica Assaf

Johnson and Johnson was recently ordered to pay $72 million in damages to the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer was linked to her use of the company’s baby powder. This means that there is a direct link between one of the most popular baby products on the market and cancer. Johnson and Johnson is considered the “most trustworthy brand” by Forbes, and the company is praised for its “consumer healthcare products.” Just last week, I had a case at Harvard Business School about Johnson and Johnson’s investment in an employee mental health program. After the class discussion, while the company executive was speaking, I wanted to ask him if they established the mental health program to ease employee guilt over the fact that Johnson and Johnson was knowingly putting harmful products on the market.

I have a longstanding history with the company, beginning when I found out that Johnson and Johnson formulated their “No More Tears” baby shampoo with 1,4 dioxane and quaternium-15, two formaldehyde-releasing preservatives classified as known human carcinogens by the EPA. I was shocked that America’s most trusted brand was using carcinogens in their baby shampoo, and no one was talking about it. So I created stickers that said “No More Toxic Tears” and applied them to products in stores. I was able to generate some press, and I joined the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to educate consumers and boycott Johnson and Johnson until they agreed to reformulate. With widespread consumer pressure, the company finally took responsibility and promised to phase the chemicals out of the product. They launched an “improved formula” version of the baby shampoo, and all concern diminished.

Now it is confirmed that Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder is linked to cancer. This product is a household staple, used by millions of families around the world. By buying this product, we are complying. We are accepting the fact that this billion-dollar industry is exposing consumers to cancer-causing chemicals. The worst part of all is that these products are used primarily on infants and young children, who are exceptionally vulnerable to chemical exposures. This is not the first story about Johnson and Johnson’s concerning products, and it will not be the last, unless we act now.

If you believe that family products should not contain ingredients known to cause cancer, stop buying from the Johnson and Johnson brand until they reformulate and make safer products. Consumers like us are best positioned to impact real change. It is up to us to set new health and safety standards for ourselves and for our children.


Jessica Assaf

A few days ago, in my last semester of business school, I launched a skincare company with two female friends and classmates called RAW IS EVERYTHING. Honestly, I never imagined I would start a beauty brand. I always assumed my role in the industry was to find companies making the best safe and effective products and market them to other women like me who care about the ingredients we put on our skin every single day. Since I started Beauty Lies Truth, it has been an honor to discover conscious brands and create a platform to help them grow. I have used almost every clean product on the market, and I love changing and expanding my beauty routine to include dozens of different products. But there was and is still space in the market for something different. And after ten years of passionately talking about the problem, I am ready to present my own version of the solution. So I started RAW IS EVERYTHING to provide the highest quality and most powerful single-ingredients that have been ancient beauty secrets for centuries and reintroduce them to the modern consumer.

RAW IS EVERYTHING  Age-Defying Concentrate

RAW IS EVERYTHING Age-Defying Concentrate

I found brilliant, inspiring global women at Harvard Business School who shared my aspirations, and we developed a line of organic, unformulated skincare. Each product contains only one cold pressed, unrefined ingredient. To start, we searched the globe for four of the best facial oils extracted only from organic, wildcrafted or biodynamic plants, and we sourced these oils sustainably from communities around the world. Together, we set our own high standards, promising quality and full transparency. We also invested heavily in branding, so that our oils stand out even against the multitude of natural and conventional packaging.

Jessica, Katie and Enke

Jessica, Katie and Enke

My mission, and our mission, is to give women complete control over their skincare routine. Instead of mixing undisclosed quantities of ingredients, we found ingredients that can stand alone. Our products are created without any additives, preservatives, or synthetic compounds at all. Why? Because it is possible to achieve real results with only one ingredient. We decided to take a strong, unnoticed, natural oil like tamanu, an oil so precious it is usually at the end of a long list of ingredients, and make it the only ingredient in our Clear-Skin Treatment. Our products are never diluted by anything, preserving the power and potency of single, untouched ingredients. When you smell our oils, you realize that they are perfect on their own, and they don’t need anything else. Though sourcing is difficult and it is significantly more expensive to fill an entire bottle with cold-pressed, organic, unrefined rosehip oil in our Age-Defying Concentrate as opposed to adding a few drops to the end of a formulation, the results are transformational. After over a year of learning and growing, I am so proud to introduce these oils to the world.

RAW IS EVERYTHING is my personal response to the dirty beauty industry. RAW is a female-powered WAR against the unnecessary and harmful ingredients in too many mainstream products. Our oils have existed forever, but American society has largely forgotten about them. RAW IS EVERYTHING is here to remind consumers of nature's magic. 

Though my role will always be to discover and share all of the brands I love, now I have created my own version of a skincare solution that works for men and women of all ages, with all skin types. It turns out, you don’t need dozens of unfamiliar ingredients to keep your skin clear, moisturized, and healthy. Trust me when I say that in many cases, you only need one. 

Use VIP code RAWISFAMILY for 15% off your order at RAWISEVERYTHING.COM.