A few weeks ago I had the pleasure and the honor of traveling to Chicago as an event ambassador for A Night For Green Beauty. Most folks in the green community are well familiar with the event. This annual gathering of some of the best, brightest and coolest brands in green beauty, is not a trade show, but rather an effervescent celebration of the wondrous world of green beauty and a chance for its fans to meet the talented makers behind the brands. This year was the event’s last and ANFGB went out with a bang.
To say that this year’s event was a fun party would be an epic understatement. Although I knew the evening’s schedule and the participating brands, I was still blown away by the beautiful venue, the celebratory spirit and, most importantly, by the remarkable atmosphere throughout the event. Green beauty fans are passionate people; fans crowded around superstar brand creators like May Lindstrom as if they were rockstars, there was an abundance of cute outfits and even some flower crowns.
Still, the most remarkable thing was the spirit, kindness and supportiveness of the brand founders themselves. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves: these people are competitors, fighting for a relatively limited number of consumer dollars in a narrowly-defined space (more on that later). Yet, the event felt like a high school reunion in that mythical high school without cliques and where everyone were friends and loved one another. The night before the event I attended a party hosted by Victoria Fantauzzi and Karen King of La Bella Figura (the founders and organizers of ANFGB) for the participating brands. In the course of a long evening I did not see a single side-eye, cold shoulder or sneer – just hugs, mutual gushing and excitement. And this love-fest continued at the event itself.
Atmosphere aside, ANFGB made one thing abundantly clear: green beauty is no longer niche, crunchy or small potatoes. It is a force, a commercial success and a paradigm shift. Green beauty brands offer excellent, effective and beautifully packaged products for every skin concern and at virtually every price point. I left Chicago energized, inspired and elated. I also felt challenged. Green beauty stands on a precipice: it’s not yet an avalanche, but it is no longer a lone snowball. The movement and the industry has been picking up speed and growing in leaps and bounds, but in order to make that final leap into the mainstream things will have to change. The reason it took me so long to write this post is that I never planned for it to be a simple recap of a party. Consider this to be my Green Beauty Manifesto.
The world is ready for green beauty. The question remaining is whether green beauty is ready to take on the world. The time has passed for green beauty brands to remain cult-y secrets of the enlightened few. Green beauty must be unafraid of getting bigger. The industry was elated with the news that S.W. Basics will be carried by Target and just last week they were joined by one of my favorite makeup lines, W3ll People. Now it’s time for the high-end green beauty brands to be sold at Barneys, Neiman Marcus, Net-a-Porter and Saks. Green beauty consumers like me will still continue to shop at small green retailers like Cap Beauty or Integrity Botanicals – because we like their founders, because they carry brands that will never be sold at Saks, because they offer sales and specials or because we like to support small businesses – but for the average consumer, access is everything.
I am starting to feel that one of the biggest problems green beauty has at the moment is one of language. Many of us green beauty folk started on our journey with a visit to the No More Dirty Looks website and a purchase of Siobhan and Alexandra’s smart, well-writted and informative book about the toxins and nasties lurking in our daily skincare basics. When talking about green beauty products, the focus seems to be on what they don’t have (toxins, endocrine disruptors, horrible chemicals) and what they don’t do (kill us all slowly). But here is the thing: green beauty has more than just fear going for it.
Most green beauty consumers already know about the dangers of toxins and the average consumer just doesn’t care. And let’s face it: I live in New York City, work as a corporate lawyer, enjoy tequila and fly transcontinentally several times a year. A jar of La Mer or even L’Oreal is pretty low on the list of “things that are possibly killing me”. As for the non-green beauty customer, they find the talk of toxins to be unscientific scaremongering. Read comments on posts related to natural beauty anywhere from Into the Gloss to Gawker: green beauty enthusiasts are painted as science-fearing loony-tunes and there are on average about 20 to 50 comments informing us that “water is a chemical too, ya dummy”. Which is especially insulting, since most of my favorite brands, from True Nature Botanicals to Bottega Organica and from La Bella Figura to Yuli Skincare are obsessed with science and chemistry and marry the gifts of nature with sophisticated scientific know-how.
Here’s a the thing though: being free from toxins isn’t what makes green beauty amazing and it’s not what made me so passionate about it in the first place. What makes green beauty skincare truly exceptional is the only thing that matters in any product: results. Green beauty products don’t just work: they work exponentially better than their conventional counterparts.
Compare the active ingredients in a green beauty serum vs. a conventional one. The green product will contain close to 100% active ingredients. Between the emulsifiers, stabilizers, preservatives, perfumes and silicones, its conventional counterpart will have significantly less room left for actives and “miracle broths”.
This disparity is evident in the impact that natural products have on their users. My skin looks better now than it did when I was in my 20s and used La Mer and La Prairie. I suffer from almost none of my former sensitivity and my skin stays soft even in the recently brutal New York winters. La Bella Figura’s Modern Radiance Concentrate had better results for my gorgeous best friend who has fair, sensitive, rosacea prone skin and who happens to be a life-long smoker (I know, I know. I’ll talk to her) than any number of expensive, department store brands and Kari Gran’s legendary Lip Whip actually plumped up her lips. Fragrances from Strange Invisible Perfumes managed to charm me, my husband AND my mother (all three of us exceptionally picky perfumes aficionados with a penchant for unique and sophisticated scents) and never give me a headache.
The time has come to change the narrative. Green beauty must come out of its self-imposed green ghetto and enter the stage along with the big boys. Sure, things will change. Some smaller retailers might go out of business and, as the industry grows, it’s inevitable that some of the more successful brands might be approached by the Estee Lauders and the L’Oreals to join their stable of products. But you know what? I am not worried. Having met Josh Rosebrook and Laurel Shaffer, Hillary Peterson and Svetlana Sanchez, Victoria Fantauzzi and Karen King, May Lindstrom and Mary Ahern, I am convinced of these people’s passion, commitment and integrity. They have big plans, they are going places and I am so thrilled to be along for the ride.