How to Know What Beauty Supplements Are Safe, According to 8Greens Founder Dawn Russell

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.  

BEAUTY BOSS: 8greens/Dawn Russell
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As an adult, you realize your mom was right about a lot of things when you were growing up. Eating vegetables is important, but with no one forcing broccoli or spinach on your plate, it's easy to just avoid greens altogether. That's where 8Greens comes in. The daily supplement is an effervescent tablet formulated with eight essential real greens including kale, spinach, wheatgrass, blue green algae, spirulina, chlorella, barley grass, and aloe vera. It's like a green juice, except there's no chopping or blending required.

The supplement was created by cancer survivor and entrepreneur Dawn Russell, who spent five years making 264 prototypes until she landed on a nutrient-rich recipe that supports energy and immunity. Russell discovered the power of real greens during her cancer treatment. After contracting a bone infection, she was too weak to continue chemotherapy and radiation treatments. So, she began looking for alterantive solutions.

Russell traveled the world to try various integrative medicine treatments, but nothing really worked for her. So, she returned to New York where she discovered the benefits of greens while researching the basic principles of nutrition. After consuming these greens to help relieve the symptoms of her illness and later, her pregnancy with her first-born son, she set out to make getting your daily greens both convenient and delicious enough for picky eaters. And while nothing can replace real greens, a supplement can help boost your intake.

Here, Russell explains the benefits of green vegetables, her tips on picking beauty supplements that are safe, and more.

How did you get into the beauty and wellness space?

I ended up here by accident. It was definitely an organic unplanned path, and that's what's made it an interesting journey. I was very normal growing up and and took care of myself within the typical guidelines of health. At age 25, I was suddenly diagnosed with stage-three cancer. I got a bone infection on my fifth surgery, which made me too weak to do anymore chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Unbeknownst to me, I started creating 8Greens during this time. Since I could no longer do traditional medicine treatments, I traveled the world to explore intensive integrative medicine and nothing was working.

Once I was back in my West Village apartment in New York, I started looking into the basics of nutrition, which is how I discovered the energy- and immunity-boosting benefits of greens. When I was pregnant with my first son nine years ago, I consumed the same greens as I did when I was sick. This is when I set out to find a way to make getting the benefits of these greens more convenient. I wanted to make a product that would taste good enough that my husband and his friends would take it. It took five years to create the 8Greens tablet and I was completely naive to how challenging it would be to get it right.

No one was really talking about green juice or health foods when you were developing 8Greens? How did you find out the science behind it?

There were no commercialized retail stores or chains where you could go in a get a smoothie. I would go into three or four health stores in downtown New York and spend so much time talking to the people choosing their inventories to figure out the nuances of different supplement brands. I would also talk to people running the small smoothie stands that I went to in the city about ingredients. I started getting into the science behind it and I connected with the head of nutrition from the USDA in DC. She gave me some statistics, but everything was so primitive and less glossy compared to how things are today.

How does 8Greens work?

There's the 8Greens Tablet, which is an effervescent tablet made with eight greens. These are the vitamin- and antioxidant-rich greens I took in extreme amounts when I was sick. This tablet is essentially an every day energy- and immunity-boosting supplement. When I made the 8Green Gummies, I was thinking about kids and how to make it easier for them to take the supplement. As for the Skin Tablet, it's like a little indulgence. People kept asking me about my skin and taking these greens was the only thing I was doing. I can't get certain cosmetic treatments like Botox because I don't have lymph nodes. So, we took eight greens that are specifically focused on skin, including green tea and peppermint. Then, we added the best collagen I could humanly find along with biotin.

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From capsules to powders, there's so many beauty supplements out there. There are not many strict regulations on these products, so what are some tips for choosing a supplement that is both safe and effective?

There are two things I always tell my girlfriends who ask me this question. I would be skeptical of any company that has 60 or more products because it would be hard to create this many SKUs while still doing your true homework. The FDA gives you a massive amount of stability testing with guidelines and there's no way you could do all of it for that many products in even a two-year period. I recommend companies that have few products or at least focuses on one main ingredient. Secondly, there's a huge interest in finding little ingredients from really remote areas of the world. The FDA hasn't looked at some of these ingredients that are now being used as prime ingredients in supplement products in today's market. If there's an ingredient that's incredibly foreign to you, do your homework before taking a product that contains it.

What do you think is the next big trend in beauty supplements?

I hope things get simplified. For example, there's been such a huge trend of everything being ashwagandha or CBD. With makeup, everything is also heavy and extreme. I hope things get lighter and more down to earth again. I know it's intriguing to read about all of these special, unique ingredients, but lets make it simple or else people are going to stop doing it. It's health and not some fad.

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