Stila Founder Jeanine Lobell Believes Makeup Connects People

The makeup artist talks to InStyle about creating her new brand, Neen, harnessing social media in the makeup industry, and navigating sustainability efforts.

Beauty Boss: Jeanine Lobell

Courtesy of Jeanine Current

Makeup is more than just a way to even out your complexion or lend a wash of color to your eyes and lips. It's also a form of expression that can have the ability to impact how you feel — instantly. This belief is especially true for celebrity makeup artist Jeanine Lobell.

"I always say makeup is a mood-altering chemical. You can paint emotion onto your face and then feel it," Lobell tells InStyle. "From feeling confident to feeling more mature, glamorous, friendly, fun — you name it."

Lobell, who may be best known for founding the cosmetics brand Stila in 1994, has seen a lot of change in the beauty industry. Since she parted ways with Stila 24 years ago, social media has created a way for people to connect and share ideas through makeup. Whether you have a million followers or 10, she says the possibilities to build and be part of a makeup family are endless.

That's led her to her latest venture, Neen, a makeup line that features refillable eye, lip, and cheeks products as well as a subscription service. "I wanted to bring together the amazing people I meet every day [and] to share their stories and connect through makeup, which I’ve always seen as a way to express yourself," she says.

Beauty fans have flocked to Neen for makeup that not only performs and wears well, but also provides a sense of community. The brand's site is filled with many fun tutorials for consumers to learn new techniques or try different types of looks. There's even a monthly subscription card, where you can a card with five peel-back tabs of limited-use makeup that can cover your entire look or be worn on their own. Everything offered is moderately priced for accessibility and made with sustainability in mind.

In a conversation with InStyle, Lobell discusses how she's built a strong makeup community, Neen's sustainability efforts, and advice for others wanting to break into the space. Below, read our interview.

InStyle:  Makeup can be a crowded market. What makes Neen stand out from the rest?

Jeanine Lobell: Our products really are outstanding. I’ve been doing this for a long time and have really high standards. But even I sometimes will swatch one of our eyeshadows and think, "Wow." More importantly, the community around us is really different. As a brand, we're not out there doing a lot of talking about us; we also have our community sharing their stories. They’re real, they’re authentic, and people really connect with them.

It’s a young girl going to a rave, it’s an older professional, it’s a woman at home in jeans and a t-shirt, it’s someone going full glam — when you hear these people talk, you think, "Wow, that person is amazing." It also makes you realize that you, as a unique human, are amazing too. I think that resonates with people a lot more than brands telling them to use this [or] to look like that.

What has been the most challenging aspect of creating this line?

A big challenge for us has been our commitment to sustainability. We start all our development with that front of mind — it’s not an afterthought. But the [beauty] industry really isn’t oriented that way. When we want to avoid plastic [and] use more sustainable materials, there are oftentimes no easy options. Every product instead has an easy plastic solution. For example, I have an amazing mascara formula that I’ve wanted to make for over a year — more to come on that soon — but you really can’t do it without plastic.

How have you been able to find a solution then?

We work with Oceanworks, a company that goes out into the ocean and collects plastic from those plastic islands destroying the oceans, and then melts it into pellets, which you can then reuse. So when you use our [future] mascara, you won’t be creating more plastic waste; you’re helping take plastic out of the ocean and waterways [and] getting it back into the recycling stream — or even worst case scenario, in a more appropriate landfill. But it really takes a lot of pushing to implement solutions like that.

What's your proudest moment so far since creating Neen?

I am super proud of making such an amazing [brand] that really delivers. It was a new challenge for me to work with cleaner formulas in mind. I think the perception is that clean isn’t as high performance as traditional formulas, and I believe I have changed that with Neen. 

What advice do you have for up-and-coming brand founders?

I would say that you really need to be passionate about what you’re doing, and solving what you see to be a real problem or providing something that really is missing. We’re starting to see a lot of fallout from the many brands that are created around influencers and celebrities.

There wasn’t a real reason for the brand to exist beyond just the reach of that person. Consumers want to connect with brands; they want to understand the story. Just being able to sell them something is no longer enough.

Beauty Boss profiles the brains behind the brands making waves in the beauty industry. From the ideas that first inspire brands to how best-selling hair, makeup, and skincare products are made, find out how these leaders get it done.

Additional reporting done by Kayla Greaves

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