How Big Can This Natural Beauty Thing Get?
When I was in Texas last month for SXSW Eco, I did all kinds of fun things: I ate tacos, visited our friends at W3LL People, met up with writer friends, stayed up way too late then woke early to attend some really interesting (and dismaying) discussions about our burning planet…
Being the natural beauty dork I am, though, another highlight was my impromptu visit to Whole Foods’ 80,000 square foot flagship near downtown Austin. This is not just a love letter to Whole Foods, though. Hear me out…
Anyone who’s read the book or the blog will know we love Whole Body, sure. We admire their tough organic standards, and how widely available they’ve made safe, high-quality beauty choices. We like their team, and their scale. But because Whole Bodys differ from region to region, and store to store, you sort of never know what you’re going to find when you visit one. Here in New York, the WB section at Columbus Circle, for instance, is gorgeously laid out, and there’s a nice selection of makeup to play with. At Union Square, my go-to because I tend to work out and play in the lower quadrants of the city, the makeup is crammed in hallway. I still love it, don’t get me wrong, but the shopping experience matters. And if we want to bring organic beauty out of the hippie fringes, nice-looking stores—like Evolue in Los Angeles, and the Apothecary at ABC Home here in New York—are a must.
Of course, small shops devoted to natural beauty are few and far between—and understandably. They’re expensive and the demand for organic beauty products in this kind of setting needs to catch up with the supply. We know that anyone who switches to natural beauty sees their life and their skin and their hair transform. It happened to us, and our friends, our moms and our boyfriends. And we get letters from people all the time telling us as much. Of course, spreading the message is hard—and changing people’s buying habits even harder.
There’s still so much the average American shampoo-buyer doesn’t know about her products—and it’s going to be hard for her to learn if her only options are the confusing, greenwashed aisles of pharmacies.
That’s why we think everyone should read our book, or books like it. And it’s also why we want to see natural beauty scaled way, way up.
When we were writing the book, we had fantasies about curating Sephora’s naturals section: How great would it be, we thought, if you could go in to any Sephora and know with confidence that the products with a green leaf on it (or whatever) had actually been vetted by people informed and passionate about ingredient safety—and effectiveness?
Of course we like the little guys best. We want to support small retailers, several of which are online, and are our favorites—there’s Spirit Beauty Lounge, Nubonau, Nature of Beauty and others. We will continue to support them first and foremost, but if this natural beauty thing is going to get really big, exposure is key. Call me pie-in-the-sky, but we want to see safe, effective and appealing options made available, at reasonable prices, to women and men all over the country, too.
Which bring me to Austin. What blew my mind, and I texted Alexandra as much when I was there, is that I finally saw in person the potential for this whole natural beauty thing—at scale. Here is a giant store (really, it’s almost obscenely big) with a zillion kinds of kale chips and organic quinoa and chickens who lived better lives than we do, and front and center—not as an afterthought, and not shoved in a corner—was a gigantic section, beautifully laid out, well lit with samples galore, teeming with natural and organic beauty products we can feel good about.
I’m not saying Whole Foods is the answer, though it’s certainly part of it. It showed me what was possible.
Now we’d like to hear from you. What do you think natural beauty movement needs in order to grow? More stores? More education? And if the latter, how do you propose we all go about it?