"I'm not going to wear any more parabens."
Canadian actress Mia Kurshner made that declaration five years ago while sitting in Hollywood makeup artist JoAnn Fowler's chair. For JoAnn, the quest to find professional-quality, paraben-free, makeup would be life changing (the giveaway at the end of this entry could be too).
"I didn't even know what a paraben was," JoAnn said when we met a few weeks ago. Her concern grew the more she read, as did her determination to find a safe product with good results.
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First she eliminated conventional cosmetics, which are full of synthetic chemicals. But she was surprised to find many pressed mineral products contain quatramine 14 or synthetic preservatives like parabens, phthalates and non-biodegradeble silicones such as dimethicone.
"I felt overwhelmed, upset and helpless," she said. So she took matters into her hands and started Sappho Cosmetics.
JoAnn's toxic-free makeup is in line with her personal values — mostly organic, cruelty-free with packaging increasingly made from post-consumer recycled paper — and works even for professional make up artists.
"I'm learning as we go," she told me. "We're getting cleaner and greener."
Sappho received Champion status from the Environmental Working Group and has also received high praise from both the film and fashion world. But JoAnn continues working to improve her products. And she believes in complete transparency, to empower consumers to choose what we put on our bodies.
Safe cosmetics are admittedly more expensive than their synthetic counterparts. JoAnn said she'd love to get to a price point where everyone can wear makeup fearlessly (she recently made a lip gloss for teenage girls as a fundraiser for Because I'm a Girl), but explained it takes time: "Our profit margin is already smaller than the industry giants'." And Sappho's only just acquired their first real office space!
In the meantime, JoAnn offered this advice for switching to safe cosmetics:
• Put your money where it counts most. First choice: chemical-free foundation and lip products.
• You don't need to buy everything! Be creative — a chemical-free eye shadow can be combined with a little beeswax lip gloss for a tint.
• DIY. Skip the expensive makeup removers (try coconut oil instead) and shampoos (try my homemade version) to free up funds for quality cosmetics.
• Love yourself. Makeup should be fun, not restricting! (When I met JoAnn, she was barefaced.)
• Start slow. Every small step towards safe cosmetics is a step in the right direction.
Tovah Paglaro, fellow Queen of Green