Over the years a number of critics and supporters have come to believe that true transparency does not exist within the beauty industry. While cosmetics legislative action moves at a slow yet steady pace, entrepreneurs have stepped in to fill the gap in providing consumers with products that meet both their needs and demands for transparency. In this edition of In Conversation, Aillea CEO, Kathryn Murray, discusses the current state of the industry, the growing movement for transparency, and the next steps needed to meet this consumer call to action.
SDF: What inspired you to enter the beauty industry?
KM: I have been part of (and loved) the beauty industry for over 15 years – as an executive at an international cosmetics company, running the regional office of a large PR firm focused on the beauty and fashion industries, and working for myself as a consultant. Starting my own beauty company, focused on clean products without harmful ingredients, came from my personal mission to regain my health. I had been very sick and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. After months of endless tests, poking and prodding, it ended up being food allergies that had been making me chronically ill. When I started reading food labels, I was alarmed at what I had been eating. I started reading the labels of everything, including my beauty products. When I realized how bad all of the products I had been using were, I set out to replace every shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, soap and piece of makeup with one that works as well or better than the ones I was using. That proved to be so much harder than cleaning up my diet! I quickly discovered I couldn’t trust labels (the industry isn’t regulated so natural and organic labels really don’t mean anything. There was so much green washing and outright misleading labeling). There was no one place I could go and know that EVERYTHING was safe but still met my beauty standards. After a lot of trial and error, I found some amazing products – but they were scattered all over the internet and the world. The amount of work I was doing reading labels, researching ingredients, then trying products (many of which fell very short of my beauty standards), I decided I wanted to create a place where women would know that ALL products were safe – free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, petrochemicals or other toxins/endocrine disruptors, but still worked as well as or better than the products they had been using. It seemed like such a simple concept, I couldn’t believe that it did not exist.
SDF: How did your experience in cosmetics, public relations, marketing, and global technology prepare you for launching Aillea?
KM: To me, starting Aillea was the perfect culmination of all of my past business experiences. I have been able to tap in to every skill set to build the best possible business and hopefully address the needs of all women wanting clean beauty.
SDF: Why did you launch Aillea? Why now?
KM: I think that it was the right time for me in my life; I also think that it was the right time for all women. There are so many women out there, just like me, who want safe beauty products, but they don’t know where to turn. There is a movement going on in this country where people are becoming much more informed and educated about what is in their products, but that next step servicing those people was missing, particularly in the beauty industry. I want Aillea to help women by providing all of the best brands, in a single place, for them to choose from.
SDF: How do you select the products on the site?
KM: How important is formulation in your decision? Formulation is the single most important factor. The formula needs to be free of all toxic ingredients that are banned from my site and the formula needs to deliver superior performance and work as well or better than products people have been using. After that, I look at all of the factors that people use in choosing their products – packaging, branding etc. to select products for the site/store.
SDF: You have stated that you believe that true transparency does not exist in the beauty industry. How would you like the industry to change/evolve?
True transparency does not exist because there is no regulation of the marketing or ingredients in the beauty industry. Products can be labeled organic and natural, but still contain a ton of harmful ingredients that have been linked to a host of ailments and disease such as cancer, infertility and allergies/asthma. There are over 1300 ingredients banned in the EU due to their harmful effects (endocrine disruptors, carcinogens etc.), the US has banned 11. These harmful ingredients are in our shampoo, moisturizers, foundations and lipsticks are being absorbed in to our body. I would like to see changes in both the ingredients that are allowed to be used in this country as well as the way companies are allowed to market their products. Consumers should not need a PhD in chemistry to understand if a product is safe or not.
SDF: Consumers are now, more than ever, aware of green-washing and chemicals in products, what advice do you have for them in selecting the best products for them?
KM: First and foremost is finding a source you trust, like Aillea, where people stand behind their mission to provide safe products is paramount. Second – I think people should have fun! Before I cleaned up my beauty products – my makeup bag was a mix of 10 different brands. I loved playing with makeup, trying different brands and finding the ones that worked best for me… and that is still the case! I want people to have just as much fun trying new products and colors as they did before!