This Thursday is Women’s Equality Day in the United States. Throughout history, there have been a great number of female pioneers and innovators in all industries, but they haven’t always been acknowledged for their contributions and discoveries.
What we are seeing particularly in the beauty industry now are progressive ideas and changes largely being driven by women.
So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about some of the women who are leading the charge in sustainable beauty—an area that is in dire need of innovators. We’ll highlight the amazing female founders of our partnering brands, because, as you’ll learn, they have some incredible stories to tell.
A Past Paved by Women
Growing up as a 90s kid, I can’t recall there being very many history lessons solely on women who changed the world. The information was available, but it wasn’t a popular curriculum to teach back then. History in my classes were mostly about the wars that men started.
It was only until very recently—just in the last half-century—that the fight for equality has started to pay off. Women have been more openly acknowledged for their greatness in history. 1971 was the year Women’s Equality Day was established; 1975 was when the United Nations declared International Women’s Day on March 8th; and 1987 was the year the month of March was declared Women’s History Month.
Women can now vote in every country that has elections. You can also now find a plethora of children’s books, like Vashti Harrison’s books Think Big, Little One; Little Leaders; and Leaders and Dreamers, that empower little girls to be educated and ambitious.
Often in many cultures women have been portrayed as the less intelligent, less powerful sex. But when I think about the grandmothers, mothers, and all the women I know personally, they are the most powerful, assertive, and respected people in their families. They just haven’t always known it.
This reminds me of a quote from the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when Toula’s mother tells Toula about her father being the head of the family. She says: “Let me tell you something Toula; the man is the head, but the woman is the neck and she can turn the head any way she wants.” Being of Greek descent, I learnt a lot from that film.
The History of Skincare
Skincare has been around for centuries. Archaeologists found evidence of Ancient Egyptian people using castor, sesame, and moringa pod oils to nourish and protect skin from the element; Ancient Greeks used olives and olive oil as exfoliants; and most historical eras used milk and honey in their skincare rituals.
It has only been in the last century or so that our advancements in science and technology gave us the knowledge and ability to create synthetic ingredients. Ingredients like retinoids in the 1940s to help heal acne. The early 1900s to the mid 1900s was when brands like Elizabeth Arden, Clinique, Avon, and Estee Lauder were founded—by women, might I add. Then there was Botox®, when the FDA approved it as a cosmetic procedure in 2002.
Entering into the second quarter of this century, however, humans are coming full circle, as we realize our ancestors were onto something. While we’ve come a long way in the way of anti-aging technology, the benefits of using more naturally-derived ingredients outweigh synthetic ingredients by far.
Think about it; you are more likely to get cancer from a synthetic ingredient over a natural one. Our environment is more likely to suffer from pollution caused by synthetic chemicals over natural compounds. It’s not a coincidence that our environment’s health took a sharp decline right as the world became more scientifically and technologically advanced.
So it’s interesting—and exciting—to see beauty industry trends are now shifting. We’re seeing natural retinol alternatives, like rambutan and bakuchiol that are less damaging to our skin’s microbiome. Synthetic sulfates are out, and coconut-derived surfactants are in. While fruit enzymes are replacing synthetic AHAs.
Revolutionary Beauty Founders
This is a list of the wonderful female founders of our brand partners. We are so delighted and grateful to have had the pleasure of meeting and working with these innovative women. So here they are in no particular order:
Natural ingredients are all the hype, but as Āthr Beauty’s founder Tiila says: “Natural ingredients are incredibly effective and powerful, but if we can’t find a natural ingredient that meets our effectiveness requirements (color payoff, longevity, blend-ability, vibrancy), we look to safe and non-toxic synthetics.”
Tiila is just one of our amazing partner-founders who is revolutionizing the beauty industry—in particular, the makeup industry. Her makeup palettes are one of the very first zero-waste palettes in the industry. Made from FSC certified paper and aluminum trays, these palettes can be 100% recycled at the end of their life.
Earthwise Beauty founder Ava is a herbalist nerd at heart, devouring books on nutritional healing, herbal healing, homeopathy, and aromatherapy. Her skincare products take influence from all over the world, particularly South America, where she sources many of her unique ingredients.
It's Ava’s compassion and worldly nature that makes her products especially unique. Ambrosia de Cerrado Liquid Moisturizer is named after the Brazilian area of Cerrado. The key ingredients are fair trade, locally sourced, and pay tribute to the indigenous people of Cerrado.
The Yasuni Face Balm is another unique product from Ava’s botanical arsenal. Named after the Amazon’s Yasuni National Park, an area that is now surrounded by oil drilling, it is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. By naming her products after locations around the world, she hopes to bring awareness and recognition to the challenges they face.
Honua Skincare’s founder Kapua Browning is a trained esthetician, Chinese and Western herbalist, and Hawaiian native. Her roots are grounded in Hawaiian tradition as she has a deep love and respect for Mama Honua (Mother Earth).
The Honua Ritual is a perfect sample of the Honua Skincare range. It contains an immersive four-step ritual that honors the skin and the soil. The ritual consists of:
- Pa'akai Cleansing Cream - with Hawaiian sea salt to deeply cleanse, seaweed extract for strengthening the skin’s acid mantle, and antioxidant-rich hibiscus for protection.
- Hawaiian Beauty Water - papaya enzymes, hibiscus, and kō (Hawaiian sugar) gently and effectively cleanse and exfoliate the skin, revealing a fresh and radiant complexion;
- Aloha Youth Serum - formulated with a variety of Hawaiian botanicals, like lau comfrey for cellular regeneration, hibiscus for protection against free radicals, 'Ōlena for inflammation, and Kukui & Kamani Hawaiian “Super Oils” to hydrate and nourish skin.
- ʻŌlena Beauty Oil - ‘Ōlena (Hawaiian turmeric) acts as an anti-inflammatory and brightening agent, Noni for antioxidant protection, Kukui nut for nourishing, Kamani oil for protection against external elements.
It was important to Kapua to maintain the integrity of the earth when creating her skincare products. The ingredients used in Honua Skincare are sourced from local farms that are either sustainably farmed or wildcrafted. Wildcrafting is a trend that we’re seeing more commonly today, as we become more aware of the impact conventional farming has on our environment.
Anna, founder of UpCircle Beauty (alongside her brother William) is a vivacious creator and innovator at heart. UpCircle Beauty was born after the pair learned that more than 500,000 tonnes of coffee were being consumed just in the UK alone, and that the majority of the grounds ended up in landfill. To combat this waste issue, the duo have been salvaging coffee grounds and upcycling them into their skincare products.
And it’s not only coffee that they rescue. They now have ten different byproducts from the food and beverage industry, including argan, which you’ll find in their best-selling face moisturizer; tea spices, found in their gorgeous Cinnamon and Ginger Chai Soap Bar; citrus, formulated with coffee in their coffee citrus face scrub; and a few other byproducts of date, olive, and wood. And they plan to keep adding more as they grow and expand.
Much like our ancestors' use of the earth’s ingredients are making a comeback, so is Ayurvedic skincare tradition. M.S.Skincare’s founder Anit Hora’s Indian descent meant that she was exposed to Ayurveda from her family, particularly her grandmother. It was this that influenced the innovation behind M.S.Skincare.
Her products are the love-children of Ayurveda and Science. Products like the Dual-Action Enzyme Cleansing Powder are formulated with very finely-milled nutritive herbs and active natural ingredients to soothe inflammation and give the skin a bright complexion. The Retexturizing Glycolic Treatment with traditional ingredients like Rose, Hibiscus, Sandalwood, and Neem, combined with Glycolic Acid create an effective resurfacing treatment for most skin types.
All of the ingredients can be traced right back to their conception, to ensure sustainable and ethical practices are always met. And apart from the reusable plastic pumps and sprayers, their packaging is made from glass and recyclable cardboard.
Another incredible founder of our brand-partners is Earth Harbor’s Ali. Ali has a true tragedy to triumph story. She was living in an off-the-grid, fully-sustainable treehouse (yes, you heard me), and had a rockstar career as a humanitarian project manager alongside organizations such as WHO, The Gates Foundation, Freedom from Hunger, and Water For People. But a tragic car accident left her severely injured, and changed her narrative in an enormous way, to the point where she could no longer take on the simplest tasks.
Instead of losing hope, Ali pivoted her career. She had already been creating her own skincare as a hobby after studying herbalism years earlier, and decided that the best way forward was to dive in to her hobby full time and create a skincare line that facilitated with her healing, health, and wellness, while honoring the planet and the ocean.
The name Earth Harbor is just that: a harbor for the earth. Ingredients are minimalist formulations, they don’t contain any nasty fillers or chemicals that are possible health hazards, and they are all sourced sustainably and ethically.
Notable mentions are their range of serums. They have nine in total, all of them with active naturals, most of them organic or non-GMO.
The Helios Anti-Pollution Youth Ampoule contains red algae astaxanthin, an incredible antioxidant. The Aurora Superfood Luminance Ampoule with sea greens for strengthening and protection, and cannabis sativa for healing and anti-inflammatory properties. And the Marina Biome Brightening Ampoule with spirulina and blue tansy to brighten and improve skin’s complexion.
If you’re looking for complete innovation in a skincare product, look no further than the DEW MTY Bloom Jelly Serum Bar. The intelligent and energetic founder, Tiffany has a background in biology and science and a deep love for our planet: a beautiful recipe for change.
Tiffany wanted to create a solution for the plastic packaging epidemic and the water shortage crisis that we are currently, or will soon be facing. And the best, and possibly the only way she could think of was to minimize our skincare needs. This also meant combining products to make them multi-use.
After much trial and error, and testing, and re-testing, Tiffany was able to solve both problems by creating a waterless serum bar that replaces face serums, oils, moisturizers, lotions, and even hair oils.
Formulated with sustainably sourced ingredients such as Jojoba and Coconut oil for nourishing and hydrating, Vitamin C for brightening skin’s complexion, Hibiscus for a boost of antioxidants, and Silica for collagen stimulation, this small bar packs a powerful punch.
It comes as a firm jelly-like bar housed in compostable paper, and can be kept in its handy, reusable metal canisters. Use it on-the-go for a quick hydration boost.
The founders we have partnered with are just a handful of incredible women who are doing some absolute rockstar work for not just their future, but for all of our futures. With the trajectory the world is currently headed in, we are in dire need of entrepreneurs and founders who are not afraid to test the waters, are willing to try something new, and have a planet-first mindset.
As the saying goes, there is no PLANet B. So we need change to happen now, and these women are just the heroes we need.
Emma Masotti is an Australian now living in Austin, TX, and has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn’t cost the earth.
Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't make any profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition