Meet the women who want to clean up your makeup bag

Beauty Matters
by Danielle Fox
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Green makeup (as in “clean” not the colour) is set to corner a $20.8 billion share of the cosmetics market by 2025. And with products that are as effective as they are kind to your skin, it’s no wonder. Danielle Fox meets five clean beauty pioneers to discover the stories behind their brands

You’ve become partial to an oat-milk flat white, your kitchen cupboards are filled with palm oil-free almond butter and you’ve invested in some sustainable pieces for your new season’s wardrobe – but what about your makeup bag? If you baulk at the idea of ditching your trusted luxury brands you’re not alone. But, before you dismiss “green makeup” as being all about lacklustre colour palettes, pungent balms and mascaras with no staying power, think again. Today’s naturally derived and intelligently considered makeup brands are at the forefront of the beauty industry – and they are being taken very seriously, with the global vegan cosmetics market projected to reach $20.8 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research.

There are many reasons to love this buoyant, green makeup movement. Apart from the good-for-you ingredients, ethical values and philanthropic philosophy, many of the new and established green beauty companies are owned, founded and operated by women.

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Ilia Liquid Light

“With the revolution of clean beauty well underway, I believe that this theory of ‘natural doesn’t deliver’ has changed,” says Sasha Plavsic, founder of Ilia Beauty, a natural cosmetics brand that infuses its makeup with organic skincare ingredients. “You can buy clean makeup that truly works as well, if not better, than using the man-made and synthetic chemicals in so many cosmetics today.” Rose-Marie Swift, a sought-after makeup artist who has worked with Gisele, Miranda Kerr, Tilda Swinton and Zoe Saldana and founded her cosmetics brand, RMS Beauty, in 2009, agrees. “I truly believe that consumers are slowly changing their mindset from using fewer synthetic chemicals, focusing on ingredient transparency, and opting for more health and wellbeing ingredients.” Makeup artist Kirsten Weis, founder of Kjaer Weis, a gluten-free, organic cosmetics line, believes the next generation will expect makeup to be toxic-free, an expectation that is already being reflected in sales – fashion and beauty e-tailer Net-A-Porter’s “clean” collection has become one of its fastest-growing categories in beauty since its launch earlier this year.

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RMS Beauty

Often it’s personal experience that has led these women to make makeup green. “I began training as a makeup artist and soon suffered from severe eczema on the backs of my hands because I would dab foundation on there before applying it on the models,” explains Tanja Gregersen, a former makeup artist who, with fellow makeup artist Tine Emilie Svendsen, created Miild, an allergy-friendly, organic and sustainable makeup range. Svendsen has a similar story: “I started experiencing watery eyes, a blocked throat and constant sneezing because of the pigments, perfumes and preservatives in the makeup I was working with daily.”

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Miild Make Up

So what are the biggest aggravators in makeup? “Makeup contains a lot of man-made synthetic chemicals and they don’t always create a good synergistic relationship with one’s own skin,” explains Swift. Plavsic believes that not every synthetic is bad, nor every natural good for skin. “I believe what’s bad for us in makeup doesn’t just mean something that is unsafe or toxic,” she says. “It can also be naturally derived as well. I look at both and exclude those that cause skin and hormone disruptions. It’s truly about balancing the pH and looking more closely at what percentage and ingredient is used.”

For these clean beauty pioneers, launching a green makeup concept has taken guts, hard work, limitless imagination and a healthy dose of naivety. “Being one of the first to delve into this arena was hard,” says Swift. “In the beginning, walls were up with both finding a lab and opening up the consumer to a new experience. Thankfully, that is changing and with the growth of other clean beauty brands, the labs are expanding their expertise and the consumer is increasingly questioning what is in beauty products.” For Gregersen and Svendsen, the road to launch was a slow one. “One of the reasons why it took us five years to develop Miild,” explains Gregersen “is we felt it was important to be the first makeup brand globally to be certified by AllergyCertified, The Nordic Swan Ecolabel and Ecocert Cosmos – which was very hard work at the time but worth it in the end.” For Plavsic, being naive in the beginning gave her the tools to succeed. “I didn’t come from the industry, so in some ways my boundaries and imagination were limitless, which worked in my favour.”

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Kjaer Weis

So, what makeup advice and rules do these green beauty trailblazers swear by?

  • Less powder and more glow – don’t over powder with setting powder, blush or highlighter – it’s the fastest way to look older than you do. Sasha Plavsic
  • Always moisturise skin before makeup and always underdo your foundation – you want to see the skin rather than looking cakey and dry. Rose Marie-Swift
  • If in doubt apply a brownish blush high on the cheekbone – no matter what age and skin tone, it gives the most beautiful, fresh-faced look on everyone. Tine Emilie Svendsen and Tanja Gregersen
  • For the best and most invisible results when applying concealer, always use a concealer brush – it’s far easier to be specific and pinpoint exactly where to apply. Kirsten Weis