I have to apologize. I’ve been using a new beauty brand behind your back. It’s not that I intended to keep it a secret – but life has been moving way too quickly and I just haven’t had time to share until now.
The brand I’m talking about is Beautycounter. Have you heard of it yet? There’s been quite the buzz on social media. Here’s what stands out to me about Beautycounter – and why I think they are much more than just another beauty brand:
- Dedicated to getting safe products into the hands of everyone (that’s their mission)
- Ingredient selection and testing process goes above and beyond (details in interview below)
- Part of the movement to ask for stricter regulations on their own industry (unheard of!)
An interview with Mia Davis – VP of Health and Safety at Beautycounter
I met Mia Davis, Beautycounter’s head of health and safety, at a Beautycounter event in Minneapolis a while back. The former director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Mia is incredibly knowledgeable about ingredients and super passionate about product safety. At Beautycounter, Mia is the go-to person who vets all the ingredients for Beautycounter products. After our meeting, I had the chance to ask her more about that process and what makes Beautycounter unique. Enjoy!
Tell us how Beautycounter’s ingredient selection process is different from most beauty product companies.
Beautycounter makes beautiful, performance-driven, safe skin care and color cosmetics. Every ingredient we select must help us achieve this. We have a large and growing list of ingredients that we do not allow into our products – over 1500. Our “Never List,” which we have online and which our Consultants carry with them and use as an educational tool, is in itself robust; there are over 30 chemicals/families of chemicals that we will never use. Add to that the ingredients banned in the European Union (nearly 1400), and the ingredients that have not passed our industry-leading Ingredient Screen, and the number is greater than 1500, right off the bat. (By the way, there are only 11 ingredients banned or restricted in the US. Stark contrast.)
We’re proud of the huge list of ingredients we don’t use, but the Ingredient Screen I mentioned is really the key piece of our ingredient selection process, and is what makes us different. Screening every single ingredient helps us to choose the safest ingredients we can, and to avoid something called “regrettable substitution.” When companies remove one potentially harmful chemical, like a paraben from lotion or BPA from a polycarbonate baby bottle, and then replace it with a chemical that has the same or similar health effects, they have not actually protected the consumer, or moved the market away from toxic chemicals. This happens too often. Someone might be spending more time and money buying a paraben-free or BPA-free product, but does that mean it is safer…? Not necessarily. Screening every ingredient is incredibly time-consuming and difficult, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lastly, I want to note that many of the 10,500 ingredients used in cosmetics have little-to-no safety information available. These chemicals simply have never been assessed for their potential links to cancer, hormone disruption, and other endpoints. At Beautycounter, we do not assume that the absence of safety data means a chemical is safe. We try to find out everything that we can about ingredients, we favor ingredients with information over those without, and we’re working with other companies, academics, and researchers to build the knowledge base around these understudied ingredients.
Which product categories pose the biggest challenges when it comes to finding safe ingredients that really work well? Are there any products you have not been able to master yet?
There are definitely some challenging products to make both high-performing and safe. Powders (eye shadows, blushers, bronzers) and some of the lip colors were tricky- it took us years to meet the standards we’ve put into place, including heavy metal contamination issues. And deodorant! That one is never easy.
Fragrances can be a particularly tricky. How do you get Beautycounter products to smell good but still be safe?
We decided early on that we would avoid synthetic fragrances, which are often loaded with secret, undisclosed ingredients including phthalates and musks, and that we would not break apart natural fragrances and rebuild a scent using the natural components, which is common (often called simply “natural fragrance”). We use only whole essential oils. Creating the right blend takes a lot of work. My colleague Christy Coleman, our Head of Creative Design, leads that part of product development. She has a wonderful sensibility for fragrance – the feelings scents evoke, how they will work with other products in our line, how long they will last on the skin. We work to avoid common allergens, but of course even some natural essential oils irritate some people. Some of our products are unscented to keep them very simple, for products around the eye, for example. At the end of the day, we feel the scents we’ve created speak to our brand– they are safe, fully disclosed, fresh and clean. A lot of citrus, some mimosa… Lovely.
Why aren’t many other companies adopting stricter ingredient standards? How do you see the beauty industry changing over time?
Because it is hard, and complicated! Most people think that the cosmetics must be regulated, that products for sale on shelves or online must be safe. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case: companies are allowed to use virtually any ingredient they want in the products people put on their bodies every single day, including chemicals linked to cancer. Until a few years ago, companies were under no pressure to even consider the long term safety of their ingredients. Most companies start and stop with a “free of” or “restricted substances” lists (e.g. “paraben free”)- if they are talking about safety at all.
On the bright side, there is a strong and growing consumer awareness, thanks in large part to organizations like Breast Cancer Fund, EWG, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Healthy Child Healthy World, WVE and others. I do think that many companies are starting to see the writing on the wall. It is time to work together to create safer, greener cosmetics ingredients from the get-go. Beautycounter wants to work with these companies to move the industry in the right direction. We can do this!
What are your personal favorite Beautycounter products?
I love the Routine Clean Cream Cleanser (it cleanses, removes makeup and tones the skin all in one) and the Lustro Body Oil – Rosemary & Citrus. And the Vibrant Eye Perfector from our graceful aging line called Countertime. Everyone I give that product to just loves it.
Thank you to Mia for such an awesome interview! Having tried both the cleanser and eye cream mentioned above – I can tell you they are excellent products! Stay tuned for a post about my favorite Beautycounter product – something I can’t believe I ever lived without!
(Disclosure: I received free samples of Beautycounter products in exchange for my honest opinion. Mindful Momma is a Beautycounter affiliate. If you purchase a product through a link on this post I may receive a small commission – at no extra charge to you of course. Thank you for your support of this blog!)