This Wildly Popular Beauty Brand Banned Over 1,500 Ingredients from Its Products
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.
There's a lot of power in saying no. Just ask Gregg Renfrew, the founder of the non-toxic and Facebook-famous beauty brand, Beautycounter. Creating what's called "The Never List," she nixed over 1,500 ingredients from being added to her brand's skincare and makeup products — a shocking comparison to the mere 30 the U.S. has officially outlawed. Renfrew's no-go list includes the over 1,400 chemicals already banned or restricted in personal care products by the European Union, in addition to others that Beautycounter screened and found potentially concerning. This was all done to prove her point — cosmetics can be safer —and yes, they'll still actually work.
Five years after its debut, Beautycounter has garnered a cult-like Internet following and received a stamp of approval from clean beauty queen Gwyneth Paltrow herself. On top of all that, Renfrew decided to revamp the way her customers shopped for products by launching a wildly popular consultant program, offering anyone who signs up and sells Beautycounter products up to 35 percent in commission.
Gives a whole new meaning to saying nada, doesn't it? We chatted with Renfrew to find out more about how Beautycounter came to be and the story behind some of its most famous products.
How did you come up with the idea for Beautycounter?
In 2006 I watched the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and it was a wakeup call. I started connecting the dots between things that were detrimental to the earth and also detrimental to my health. I started making sweeping changes in my home: I traded plastic for glass, started using vinegar and water to clean my house, and I switched to an organic mattress. When it came to beauty products, I could find products that were made with safer ingredients, but they didn’t last all day or just didn’t work. It inspired me to create a beauty brand that’s actually good for you, with products that perform as well, if not better, than any traditional brand on the market.
What was the very first product you launched?
An essential skincare line built around coconut oil as an ingredient. At that time, people who were beginning to understand the need for clean ingredients were most comfortable with coconut oil. We wanted to start with the essentials that everyone needs, so the very first products were our Face Oils (they’ve become a cult favorite), Cream Cleanser, Day & Night Cream, Exfoliator, and our Rose Water spray.
What’s the best-selling product in the line?
Our new Overnight Resurfacing Peel is flying off the shelves — it’s a total game changer. We suggest using it 3-4 times a week. I’m so addicted I use it every single night! I love the fact that my face tingles immediately, and that I can see the differences almost instantaneously. It smells good, it feels good, and it makes me feel fresher. Our new SPF collection and the Countermatch Adaptive Moisture lotion are also very popular.
People can also become Beautycounter Consultants. Why did you decide to add a direct sales component?
We knew our story of safer ingredients and cleaner cosmetics was a movement, and best told person-to-person. On a macro level, the market was shifting into a direct-to-consumer model. The idea of women sharing stories while empowering them with an economic opportunity that has significant social impact — that’s powerful. With traditional department store distribution waning, I also knew that people wanted to physically touch and feel product when making purchasing decisions. Today, you can no longer dictate to the consumer how they shop, whether it’s online, in store, on social media, or through a Consultant. Our goal is to meet them exactly where they want to shop, while continuously educating them about the better beauty movement.
Tell us about your involvement with endorsing the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which advocates for cleaner ingredients and more FDA regulation over cosmetics. What is your hope for the future of the cosmetics industry?
As most people may or may not know, we have not updated a major federal law governing the cosmetics industry since 1938 — over 80 years ago! The law that exists is insufficient and antiquated, and we have spent the last five years advocating on both a federal and state level to for cosmetic reform. We’ve done everything from text, email, and phone campaigns to hosting Congressional briefings, to tirelessly lobbying through hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill. We believe it’s our job to help get safer products into the hands of everyone. My hope is that we someday pass meaningful legislative reform so families will not have to read the labels on the products they’re using every single day. Hopefully, in the future, the FDA will have the power to regulate the cosmetics industry and will be granted the ability to recall products that are known to have harmful chemicals. Currently, they do not have this power. The goal would be that ingredients are screened for safety before they even hit the shelves, and that all Americans will have safer products in their hands because of cosmetic reform.
What was the moment you knew your brand had made it?
When people started walking up to me on the street and thanking me for the work we were doing in Washington and beyond.
Finally, what’s your personal skincare routine like?
Quick! Depending on the day, I’ll use our Countermatch Cleansing Milk in the morning, and then at night I’ll use the Cleansing Balm Tip: leave on overnight on the days when your skin is extra dry. During the day I use our Countermatch Adaptive Moisture Lotion and sometimes our No. 1 Brightening Face Oil. After I moisturize, I put on our Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 followed by our new satin powder blush. If I don’t have the blush handy, I’ll take my favorite Lip Sheer and dab it on my cheeks and lips. Before I head out the door, I apply our new SPF collection everywhere.