People ditch their high-end tubes for it. 

By Erin Lukas
Updated May 20, 2020 @ 5:45 pm
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For many of us, an Instagram AMA (ask me anything) is a way to pass time when you're really bored. For Laney Crowell, polling her followers inspired her to create Saie, now one of the internet's most popular beauty brands.

The former fashion editor and Estée Lauder executive found herself disappointed over the lack of clean makeup products out there. So, she turned to her Instagram followers to find out if they felt the same way, along with products they wish existed. Crowell's poll quickly turned into an all-night conversation and gave her the initial ideas for Saie's future products.

Even if switching to cleaner formulas isn't the focus of your beauty routine, you've probably still come across Saie. The brand's mascara and brow gel show up in a number of bloggers' and editors' Instagram posts. Sure, Saie's plum packaging is undeniably photogenic, but the products have quickly become beauty industry favorites because they actually perform.

And then there's the fact that Saie has done what other clean brands haven't been able to do: create a mascara that doesn't flake or run.The Mascara 101 was one the four products the brand initially launched with in November 2019 and quickly became a cult-favorite in the span of months.

Here, Crowell shares what sets Saie Beauty apart from all of the clean brands that have launched in recent years, how she created the perfect non-toxic mascara, why being a clean, sustainable brand is important, and more.

How did you wind up in the beauty industry?

I started off working in editorial at Elle and Lucky magazines. This was around the time when things were beginning to shift to digital and some of my co-workers at Lucky brought me on to start Stylecaster, a website that is still around today. I was working as the site’s fashion and beauty editor when Estée Lauder called me with a job offer. They presented me with a list of 20 or so jobs and said I would have whichever one I wanted. I had never worked in-house before and thought it would be exciting to learn what things were like on the brand side. So, I went to Estée Lauder to launch all of their social media channels, influencer marketing department, online content, and start their digital editorial platform. After being there for five years, I really began to understand what goes into running a beauty company. I started to get this overwhelming feeling that beauty should be better. The beauty industry is directed towards women, but the company was run by men. It’s also hard to be sustainable when you’re a company that size.

What inspired you to start Saie?

I didn’t necessarily know what being “better” meant at the time, but I started a website as an outlet after leaving Estée Lauder. This was right when people were becoming interested in clean beauty and wellness and I was interviewing a lot of brand founders and trying at lot of products. About six months after starting my blog, I found myself looking through my collection of products for makeup to wear out to dinner that night. I had a ton of clean skincare and bath products, but no makeup. I went on Instagram that night to ask my blog followers why there’s so few clean makeup product options out there, what brands I should know about, and products they wished existed. The conversation went from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and it’s what really led me to start Saie.

The clean beauty category has become a crowded place. What sets Saie apart from other brands?

We only want to create products that are different and better than anything else out there because otherwise, what’s the point? I thought a lot about the impact the company was going to have just by existing. One huge differentiation factor with Saie is that myself, our product developer, and CFO are all Estée Lauder alumni. We’re bringing that big beauty company expertise to the clean beauty space. I think this is really needed because as my followers told me, many of the clean products they have tried don’t perform. We won’t launch any products that aren’t completely new, innovative, and worth putting out.

How do you decide what products to make?

One thing you hear people say about beauty brands is that there’s “one product” you need to buy from them. If that’s the case, then why does the rest of those brands’ products exist? We really work on our products as if each and everyone one of them is going to be our hero product. We felt really passionate about every single product we launched with and the same goes for what we develop now. We do have a private Facebook group called The Clean Beauty Crew with about 600 to 700 people in it. We work with our group on everything, from what models they want to see in our campaigns to what products they want us to make next. We also seed them with products before they launch to get feedback on the formulas. They have a huge impact on what we launch next and their answers to our questions constantly surprise me.

Clean beauty isn't a regulated. How do you define it?

Since clean beauty isn’t regulated, we decided we wouldn’t use any ingredients that are bad for our bodies or the planet because I don’t see the difference. We don’t use anything that isn’t biodegradable like silicones, for example. Your body can’t absorb silicone so technically it isn’t bad for you, but a foundation full of silicones goes down the drain when you wash your face at night. A water treatment plant can’t filter them out so then they go into our waterways and we’re drinking and bathing in them. We also don’t use anything petroleum-based. The fact that we eliminated silicone and petroleum is like not baking with flour or sugar. It’s really difficult but if we’re going to do this, we want to do it right and hopefully set new standards for everyone else. We also try not to throw the word sustainability around. It’s tough to be perfect unless you’re living off the grid, so we’re doing our best.

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A clean mascara is one of the toughest products to get right. What makes Saie's so popular?

Mascara was the number one thing my Instagram followers said they wanted during that initial conversation. There wasn’t anything on the market that performs well and that’s why it’s become the best of the best. In our research we realized we needed to make a formula that doesn’t completely dry down. You won’t notice it when you wear it, but our mascara is made up of these really beautiful waxes and butters that keep it from getting dry and flaky so you can reapply it during the day. There’s also no water in it so it doesn’t run off. Whether the mascara is clean or not, raccoon eyes or flakes are caused by the product literally falling off your lashes onto your under eyes. This is why we get people telling us all the time that they’ve replaced their designer mascara with ours. A good mascara is half formula half brush, so we also spent a long time getting our brush just right. It’s a molded brush that lays the product down while simultaneously combing lashes.

The 5 Best Products from Saie

Really Great Gloss

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Crowell says lip gloss is another product fans kept bringing up. They wanted a formula that wasn't petroleum-based, so Saie delivered. Available in five shades, the gloss hydrates and plumps lips while gently exfoliating them thanks to apple extract. "You don’t really feel the exfoliation because it's so gentle, but it gives your lips the smoothest texture," Crowell shares.

To buy: $20; saiehello.com.

Glowy Super Gel

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For anyone who wants their skin to look glowy not sparkly, this illuminator is for you. Use as a highlighter or wear it on its own for a fresh-faced glow. A few drops can also transform any foundation into a radiant-finish one.

To buy: $25; saiehello.com.

Mascara 101

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Finally, a clean mascara that performs. On top of making lashes look fuller, this layering formula contains strengthening and conditioning nutrients.

To buy: $24; saiehello.com.

Liquid Lip Balm

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This balm has a universal tint that enhances every lip color. A combo of coconut oil, beeswax,and squalane keep moisture in so that you don't have to keep reapplying it for smooth lips.

To buy: $16; saiehello.com.

Brow Butter

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It might look like a typical brow gel, but this oil-based pomade gives brows that full, feathery look without the crunchiness. The mini spoolie brush allows for precise application

To buy: $18; saiehello.com.

This is 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.