Meet the Woman Who Built a Fortune on Natural Mineral Makeup

It all started with one powder.

Jane Iredale
Photo: Courtesy

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.

Today, natural makeup products aren't that hard to find. Even if you don't live in a city where there's a Sephora or specialty boutique like Credo, you can add that natural foundation or lipstick to your cart online and have your favorite products in no time. The expansion of the market into cleaner, safer products is thanks in part to Jane Iredale, the founder of one of the trailblazing natural makeup and skincare brands. While working in the film industry and seeing how harsh certain products were on skin, Iredale set out to create a line of cleaner beauty essentials with skincare benefits, starting with Amazing Base, a mineral powder that acts like a foundation, concealer, and sunscreen in one.

Thanks to word of mouth from makeup artists and plastic surgeons who suggested Iredale's products to patients post-procedure, her brand grew, and is now celebrating its 25th anniversary with a major expansion. In addition to launching on this winter and expanding into the Asian market this spring, Jane Iredale products are now also available at Bergdorf Goodman.

InStyle spoke with Iredale about starting her brand, why it was initially difficult to convince people to try natural products, what's next in the green beauty space, and more.

What first inspired your brand?

I knew very little about beauty. I worked with makeup artists on television and film sets as a casting director and producer. I'd always worn makeup – mostly eyes. I was young – and I'd always had good skin, inherited from my mother – so what amazed me was how much the models and actors really disliked the makeup they had to wear professionally. They couldn't wait to get it off after the shoot and many of them were struggling to keep their skin healthy.

When I got showbiz burnout and wanted a change, their dilemma popped into my head and I thought, "Why not create makeup that's good for the skin?" So I worked with a female chemist (I still work with her today) and we developed the first product Amazing Base, a loose mineral powder. I wasn't thinking of developing a brand; I was thinking about enhancing lives. And that's how it all started.

Tell me how you developed your brand from there.

With Amazing Base in hand, I sent samples out to any establishment that had "spa" or "aesthetician" in the name because I knew that the powder was different and was going to require education on how to apply it. I thought that professionals would take the time to do that. There was nothing on the market then that was a powder, foundation, concealer, and sunscreen all in one, so there was a lot of skepticism. I was lucky enough to find a makeup artist at the Oaks in Ojai who immediately loved the powders. She spread the word and soon plastic surgeons were using it on patients to cover problem skin or skin after procedures. Patients started asking the doctors for more products and the line built from there. I remember one plastic surgeon saying that he never thought he'd have lipsticks alongside his scalpels.

Clean beauty has come such a long way. What were some of the biggest challenges with formulating mineral products when you were first starting out?

From a formulation point of view, it was putting together ingredients into a user-friendly powder that allowed the skin to breathe and function normally, stayed where you put it, and wasn't too shiny or too matte. From a marketing point of view, it was convincing the public that a powder could give coverage, didn't look dry and aging and also provided sun protection. People weren't used to thinking of their makeup as protection. Even chemists told me it couldn't be done.

Today, there's so much more awareness of the ingredients in products, but this wasn't always the case. Was it hard to get people behind the concept of your brand?

I used to hold seminars and ask that question about ingredients and maybe one hand would go up. It's better now but not where it should be. Our timing was right, t hough, with the coming of brand websites. We were the first to list all of our ingredients alongside the product and explain their function. It got the consumer used to the idea of educating herself. And then sites like Skin Deep came along and the whole thing exploded.

VIDEO: How to Use a Beautyblender

What are some of the products you're most proud of creating?

Amazing Base led to a desire to press the mineral powders to make application and transportation easier. So we took the opportunity to increase the skincare benefits of the powders by adding antioxidants, thus creating PurePressed Base. This has been our most popular product since the day we launched it. I wear it every day. Then Liquid Minerals – a foundation that includes hyaluronic acid and active ingredients locked into liposomes – so that it truly blurs the line between skincare and makeup. And I can't forget our Forever Pink Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain that is the best single seller we have.

How does the green beauty category still have to improve?

We need a definition of what clean/green beauty is. It means different things to different people so it becomes impossible to satisfy everyone. We can draw a line, for example, on animal testing but it's hard to deny the consumer that fuschia lipstick she craves without using carmine (not good if you're vegan), or FD&C dyes. And it can be difficult to give the consumer products that work if you outlaw everything that isn't certified organic.

We can't even agree on a definition of "natural." Everything we use is manipulated in a laboratory at some point, so what is natural? These are only some of the questions we have to answer if the green beauty category is going to be taken seriously by the majority of consumers.

What do you think is next in green beauty?

More brands are going to get interested in inside/out beauty. You'll see more supplements coming into the market that target healthy skin. We introduced our first, Skin Accumax, four years ago. It's been so successful that we've expanded the line. The results we've seen from consumers has been outstanding.

Your brand is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. What's next for the brand?

Keep doing what we're doing with an eye to expanding our brand awareness. There is immense competition now so being in front of the consumer on a 24-hour basis is crucial to success.

Related Articles