Are We Dying to be Beautiful?

When brands aren’t true to their name, consumers suffer.

Everyday, women ask more from our cosmetics. But, are we asking the right questions for our health?

To better understand the emerging opportunities in cosmetic brands — women’s expectations and the industry’s response — I sat down with Kristin Adams, the founder and CEO of Afterglow Cosmetics, a manufacturer of organic, mineral makeup.

Beverly: With so many makeup choices on the market, what drove you to create Afterglow?

Kristin: I have always had sensitive skin and focused on being careful with what I ate and washed my face with. For many years I didn’t consider the makeup I used might be contributing to my skin sensitivities, due to the heavy synthetic and irritant load. By 2003, after years of compromising on the ingredients in my makeup, I decided to start formulating it myself to ensure my makeup was free of objectionable synthetics and irritants. The real drive to distribute the line began when I learned how many women, just like me, were looking for exactly what I had created. At that point I brought on an amazing cosmetic chemist with a true love for organic extracts and natural formulations to expand the scope of the line.

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B: What is the business climate in the U.S. for natural cosmetic companies?

K: The natural cosmetic niche continues to expand — pros and cons. Larger cosmetic companies are marketing “natural” products and pushing botanical ingredients because they know that the American consumer is placing a premium on this focus. Unfortunately, there is no regulation behind the word “natural” and no organic standard specifically for cosmetics. Cosmetic companies can market and sell products containing the word “botanical,” “natural” or even use the word “organic” in their company name with very little, if any, actual botanical, natural or organic ingredients in the product’s formula.

In the coming years I see consumers becoming increasingly more aware of what they are putting on their body in terms of chemicals. And, I hope this consumer-led movement will encourage the FDA to finally set standards for the cosmetics industry for terms such as “natural” and “organic”.

B: What business strategy is critical to delivering your brand’s promise?

K: Our company and our customers are extremely ingredient-centric. Our ongoing focus on formula and transparency has really made a lasting impression on our customer base. We focus on explicitly listing every ingredient, keeping formulas extremely natural with very few ingredients and never hiding ingredients behind U.S. loopholes used by other U.S. cosmetic manufacturers. In the U.S., for example, cosmetic companies don’t have to list any ingredient in a product that is less than 1% of that formula. It is also legal in the U.S. to use the word “fragrance” in an ingredient list to hide 30+ ingredients a company simply doesn’t feel like sharing with the public.

With so many unregulated cosmetic products and ingredients being sold in the U.S., I believe it is every woman’s right to know exactly what the ingredients are in the products they are buying.

B: How has Afterglow moved beyond selling products to mobilizing brand enthusiasts?

K: I really do feel that Afterglow is a lifestyle brand. Many of our customers come to us because they are changing their lifestyle and purchasing decisions in a more holistic, organic and synthetic-free direction. Other women seek us out because they have some type of severe sensitivity to “traditional” cosmetics and the natural route is their last hope. I have so many stories of women who suffered from skin irritations, switched to Afterglow and realized that the cause of their irritations were certain ingredients in those “traditional” cosmetics. Often this realization of the importance of “truthful and transparent” ingredients serves as a catalyst to examine other aspects of their life. Afterglow recognizes that living its brand is more than a process we follow, it’s a commitment to our customers and that’s what a relationship is all about.

We truly appreciate Kristin’s expert participation in our discussion. You can learn more about how brands are “abusing” consumer perception of the word “natural” at www.safecosmetics.org. You can learn more about Afterglow Cosmetics by visiting them at www.afterglowcosmetics.com. This is a brand that isn’t afraid to tell it like it is … perhaps it is just what the doctor ordered! We’ll soon find out up close and personal as I go for my makeover in June. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog.

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About Beverly Murray

Give a kid an allowance, a thirst for speed and the Midas Touch, what do you get? Beverly Murray. She is our fearless leader and the founder of R+M. With 24 years in marketing and creative direction, 20 of those as a business owner, Beverly often finds her passion for living atop a kayak, leaving the rest of the world in her wake. How many presidents do you know who drive a Ducati and wear a Hotwheel’s helmet, lead a client’s brand strategy session and create a new fundraising program for a nonprofit … all in the same day? She’s one of a kind. Also has M&M’s as a line item in the budget.

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