The cosmetics industry is rapidly changing with the development of new products and a push from consumers seeking safer cosmetics and transparency. Combine that with the current state of influx in the industry surrounding a push to update/ re-write the outdated U.S. cosmetic law and you get innovative leaders who are rethinking the way they do business. And one such company on the forefront of change is Beautycounter.
In this eye-opening interview Beautycounter’s Head of Health and Safety, Mia Davis gives us an in-depth look out how the company operates and what pushes them to provide safe and effective cosmetics and skincare.
Sheena: Please describe your role with Beautycounter? What attracted you to the role?
Mia: As the Head of Health & Safety, I’ve developed what we at Beautycounter are confident is the cosmetics industry’s most health-protective ingredient selection process. I also oversee our social impact work—educational content, plus our relationships with nonprofit organizations, academics, and other businesses working to move our economy away from toxic chemicals and toward safer solutions. I was attracted to this role because this is my life’s work, and because our Founder & CEO Gregg Renfrew is genuinely and unapologetically committed to making our brand the safest and most high-performing beauty brand out there. That authenticity and fearlessness brought me right to the table before Beautycounter had a name or a product.
Sheena: You have spoken about your desire to have Beautycounter be a catalyst and proof that the cosmetics and chemical industries can be revolutionized. How do you see Beautycounter leading this change?
Mia: We are working with cosmetics formulators, ingredient suppliers, green chemists, environmental health organizations, and other forward-thinking businesses to find solutions to the challenges that our industry faces. Some of these challenges are very real, like the search for a safe, effective, and ideally plant-based preservative system for cosmetics. That is not an easy one! Other challenges, like the resistance to meaningful chemical policy reform, are more about our industry’s reluctance to change the status quo. Beautycounter is already leading by example, but I really believe in the saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” We’re looking to link arms with stakeholders who to make safer chemicals and products their top priority for our industry and for the American economy.
Sheena: The mission of Beautycounter includes two important public policy issues currently being debated by the industry – ingredients labeling and the outdated U.S. Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938. When developing the company was there ever a concern about mixing public policy concerns with the brands core purpose of providing quality skincare and makeup products?
Mia: No. Believe me, making high-performing, beautiful, safe skin care and color cosmetics while disclosing all ingredients and advocating for public policy shifts is challenging! But it is who we are. We are not only providing real-time solutions though our skincare and color cosmetics (we’ve gotten over 360,000 products into consumers’ hands in the first two years we’ve been in business); we’re in this for the long haul. We’re educating people about environmental health and helping to build a movement. Business should be a voice for change and for health, not a roadblock. Our mission is inseparable from our brand and our products.
Sheena: You have a pretty rigorous ingredient selection process. Why is this important? What kind of brand feedback are you receiving?
Mia: We believe that our ingredient selection process is the most health-protective in this industry. Right off the bat we prohibit approximately 1500 potentially harmful ingredients from our products, which is a far bigger number than what is found on most companies’ restricted substances lists. But what truly sets Beautycounter apart is that we go much further than simply prohibiting ingredients. We screen every single ingredient for safety, because removing one dangerous chemical and replacing it with another that is potentially harmful is not protecting the consumer’s health. We also ask formulators to only use ingredients that are absolutely necessary for functionality—no extra preservatives, no dyes. Plus, we continually seek more information about the safety (the toxicology, the environmental fate, etc.) of ingredients. It is alarming how many ingredients in our industry have no safety information. We are hoping to change that, and ask others up and down the supply chain to provide more safety information so that we can level the playing field, make safer products, and stimulate much needed innovation.
Sheena: What advice would you give to other independent cosmetics companies who are also looking to have a voice in such a complex and important area in the beauty industry when it comes to product/consumer safety?
Mia: It isn’t easy to be a voice for change, for safety, for transparency in a crowded marketplace where—let’s face it—most people have a short attention span, and there is a lot of competition for that attention.
My advice to others in our industry looking to truly do the right thing is to
a) Be authentic. The consumer is looking for real answers, not greenwashing.
b) Tell your story in the way that makes the most sense for your brand. We find that telling our story through our multi-channel platform (e-commerce and our national network of independent consultants) works best for us.
c) Don’t think that you have to do it alone! I firmly believe that business can and should be a tool for change. And if you agree, let’s work together. Joining forces can help all of our businesses and will, most importantly, help to make Americans and our American economy healthier.
As a recognized leader of national environmental health campaigns focused on reducing or eliminating the use of toxic chemicals, Mia’s calling is to move the consumer market toward safer, cleaner alternatives. She has authored papers and reports highlighting the consequences of toxic chemicals in everyday products. Before Beautycounter, Mia was the Organizing Director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.