This Woman Made It Super Easy to Find Clean, Effective Skincare
Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.
Hands down, the hardest thing about switching to a clean beauty routine is simply finding the product replacements and then figuring out if their “natural” and “non-toxic” claims are legit.
Luckily, you don’t have to go down that rabbit hole of research on a daily basis, thanks to Tara Foley, the founder of the popular clean beauty shopping destination, Follain. She did it for you with the invention of a clean beauty blog back in the late 2000s (way before all those department store’s clean beauty pop-ups), which has since turned into six brick-and-mortar stores and a super popular e-comm website.
Every single item from all 80+ brands in Foley’s five Follain stores (and on the website) goes through an intense 5-Step Approval Process, which includes tasks like thoroughly cross-checking the ingredients against Follain’s restricted list and sending the product out to beauty professionals to see if they actually work.
We chatted with Foley about how the idea for Follain was born, the most-popular clean beauty products out there, her own skincare routine, and more.
How did you get your start in beauty? Have you always been a beauty enthusiast?
Yes, I’ve always been a beauty enthusiast! But, growing up, it never occurred to me that my beauty ingredients might not be safe. After college, when I was working really long hours in a job I really didn’t like, the only thing that made me feel good and in-control, was taking care of myself through fitness and nutrition. This was the first time in my life that I had ever pushed myself in these areas, without my family or coaches. It was in my research for these things that I started to learn that the ingredients in my beloved beauty products didn’t align with my new values of health and wellness, which sent me down a new rabbit hole. Thank goodness it did, because this started the path to Follain! Because of this, I would say that I am both a clean beauty enthusiast and clean beauty obsessed because it is what I am most passionate about.
Where did the idea for Follain come from?
I started a blog when I first began turning around labels and becoming passionate about the ingredients in my products. Part of my blogging was meeting with the small brands and makers of safe and effective products. In those conversations, they often told me how there was no retailer that existed to carry their products. The idea for Follain was born from that desire to create a place where these brands could shine and the complexity of ingredients could be simplified for consumers. As for the name, Follain is Gaelic for healthy and wholesome — and it conveniently sounds like my last name!
I read that you worked on a French lavender farm before launching Follain. What was that like?
It was hard work! I wanted to learn about how natural beauty ingredients were grown, and the differences in growing methods (organic vs. biodynamic vs. conventional). I found this opportunity on a small lavender farm through an international program called WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). I was provided with housing for my stay, and worked really hard the months I was there. I learned everything from how to care for the plants, to harvesting them, through to oil distillation.
When did the first store open and what was the first product that you sold?
The first Follain store opened in the South End of Boston in 2013. A few of the first brands we carried were Soapwalla, Tammy Fender, and Farmaesthetics — three brands that we still love and carry today!
Since there is little regulation on ingredients, how do you decide what will not be sold at Follain? How do you decide what ingredients make the restricted list?
Every single product has to make it through our 5-Step Approval Process. Each product has to meet our safety standards and needs to be high performing. It has to work and do what it claims to! Our work rests on the shoulders of many dedicated scientists who investigate environmental toxins, as well as organizations that advocate for and educate the public about safer consumer products. We rely on their work to be able to update our all-important and always-evolving restricted ingredient list. We truly wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them.
What clean beauty product category did you start using first?
Skincare! I’ve always loved treating myself to a good skincare routine at night, and occasionally with masks. When I found that there were cleansers, toners, treatments, and moisturizers that were based in non-toxic nourishing ingredients and also performed incredibly well, I became hooked on all clean beauty.
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What’s the best-selling beauty brands at Follain?
Follain carries over 80 brands, and each of those brands and the products we have available are chosen for a specific purpose. However, a few of our top-sellers include Osea, Ursa Major, Naturopathica, and RMS.
What’s one clean beauty product genre that you think really needs more technological advances or just some improvement?
There are two genres that I think could use some improvement and that is hair care and sun care. With haircare, there are not many styling products, so I see an opportunity for more development in that category. For sun care, I would love to just see more options make their way into the space.
What’s next for the company?
We definitely want to launch more Follain products and open more Follain stores. I truly want to meet as many women as possible, and help match them with the best clean beauty for their skin — no one should have to compromise health for beauty.
When did you decide to launch your own Follain product line?
I always knew we would create Follain products to fill holes in the assortments offered by the clean brands available. We started our Follain line with a refillable hand and body soap, and are now launching a number of additional clean products that fill holes in terms of format, ingredients, packaging, or even price point.