clean beauty

Here we are, two full weeks into the 2015. Thinking back on 2014, I’d say it was the biggest year yet for clean beauty, and the industry just keeps growing. Even a few years ago, choices for clean personal care products and cosmetics still felt somewhat limited compared to the conventional side of aisle. That is simply not the case anymore, and with so much choice available it’s easy to miss some great products along the way. Here at No More Dirty Looks, we reviewed lots of our favorite items in 2014 and shared many DIY skincare hacks, but we didn’t come close to scratching the surface. We love checking out the reader-submitted Morning Routines to learn about what you rely on, whether it’s DIY or a luxe bottle of specialness from any number of clean beauty brands. So let’s do a little reminiscing, shall we?

What were your favorite clean beauty discoveries of 2014 and why? Tell us in the comments!



This week, S.W. Basics announced that Target will be carrying their products online and in stores.

Let me repeat that. One of America’s biggest and most beloved retailers has picked up an all-natural, indie darling, and they’re giving the general public real options in green beauty — not that greenwashed variety. This. Is. Huge. News. Between this announcement (which you can read on S.W. Basics blog) and GOOP’s declaration last week that they are all about clean beauty (yo, they have a lot of sway), it feels like there is real momentum behind our clean beauty movement. While we need to keep putting pressure on companies to use non-toxic formulas and be transparent about their ingredients and business practices, it’s important to celebrate these victories for health, too.

We are thrilled that Target is taking consumer demands for safe and healthy personal care products seriously, and we wanted to get the scoop on how this partnership came about. Would it mean big changes for S.W. Basics? Do you have to sell-out your company values or change what makes you special in the first place in order to work with a big corporation like Target?

I had a Google chat with Adina Grigore, the founder of S.W. Basics, to find out more.

me: Hello Adina!

Adina: Hi!! So fun. Who wouldn’t want to talk about things over chat? It’s how all things should be done.

me: Right?! Have people been blowing you up today after you sent out your Bullseye newsletter?

Adina: Yes! Feeling super famous, and very supported. More so than I was expecting actually.

me: Oh wonderful! Were you expecting some kind of revolt from your fans? Like “noooo, indie forever!” or something?

Adina: Absolutely. At least from a few. The worst we’ve gotten has been, “Congrats! Keep your SW integrity.” Which is nice, that we have special integrity. I think people are surprised/relieved that Target didn’t make us change anything. We are, too.

me: Yes, I admit I was holding my breath on that! I mean, for some reason I just assumed that there would be some pressure to change something about your line — mostly related to ingredients. Is that weird? There’s the whole issue of producing so much more to meet the demands of Target, right? So how does scaling up production like that affect your business?

Adina:  It’s definitely weird. I really meant what I said in the letter. Virtually every retailer we’ve ever met with has wanted to change us. Even the ones that “support” natural brands. Scaling is a huge issue. We’ve borrowed and raised money. I’m not really sure how people do it otherwise. It’s clunky and painful.

me:  Can you describe what’s involved?

Adina: So even today, some of the products are handmade in house. We have outsourced a few, and were continuing to do so, but slowly. Very slowly. It’s so hard to meet the minimums that manufacturers require. The nice part is that now the minimums are no problem. And you’d be floored by how differently a conversation goes when you start with “We’re working with Target.” It’s been a whole new world for us in that regard. But, it’s sales that are coming. It’s minimums that are still huge for us right now; they just won’t be in a few months. So you’re spending before you can afford it, and suddenly you’ve become a distributor, not a producer, which is a whole new set of operating rules. Essentially we’re having to learn, scale, and manage things all at the same time. I guess all businesses do though!

me:  Wow, that sounds like quite a challenge. Are you growing your staff, too? And can you say more about what it’s like to move toward being more of a distributor? Do you think that will give you more freedom to create and expand?

Adina:  Not growing staff yet because it’s too expensive. So we’re all just working way more than we should. (We have a joke about this with other friends in start ups where we’ll email from the office late and sign it hashtag startup life.) I mean I’m hoping it’ll give me more time, but it seems to only get busier… it’s very early though. We’re not quite at the point where we have the cash to go, “Let’s hire eight people to do all the things we need help with so I can go work on new products on a beach somewhere.” Just kidding about the beach. Sort of. I think being a distributor is harder in a lot of ways because you can’t bury yourself in making products, which is a very safe space for crafters. But spending each day managing people and inventory and sales… woah. The pressure is huge.

me: Yes, and totally different! How was the process of outsourcing production? Are there good options for companies with all natural formulas?

Adina:  Hm. Yes and no. There are definitely amazing options out there when you’re ready to place huge orders. The places that make or made brands like Burt’s Bees are legit. They’re innovative and clean and efficient and have been around for way longer than people probably realize. But when you call and say “I don’t want to use any preservatives, not even the natural ones,” no one acts happy. You can hear them roll their eyes.

me:  Did Target need any convincing about your formulas and the lack of preservatives?

Adina:  Not beyond us explaining the shelf life and reasons. There was no scoffing or disbelief — only, “Makes total sense.” Truly magical. We were emotionally jaw-dropped when we left, like “What just happened?”

me:  Did Target speak to why they are moving in this direction when they reached out to you? And how did this all come about anyhow? When did Target first call you up to discuss?

Adina:  The first call was from a broker team (they’re also amazing) who has been working with Target for like three decades. They said, “Target is looking for new brands and they’re hosting a beauty fair, can you make it out?” And we were all “That’s funny but sure! Thanks for thinking of us even though there is no chance in hell!” We went out and it was instant. I’m talking the event started at 9:00 am and by 9:05 we were all best friends. We don’t really push them for information because they’re still scary to us, but we know they are really excited about the growth in their natural category, in their premium category, and that their customers are asking for more organic, healthy products. The whole team really gets what Target is and what Target is capable of, and their responsibility to their customer and the future. The whole store is becoming more and more sustainable. In a sense, it’s funny that we’re so surprised. You know? This whole time I keep changing my mind between being blown away and being like duh this is exactly how they should be!

me:  Yes, I agree about being surprised, but it is surprising. This is a really big deal for green beauty. You’re really charting new territory here by partnering with a huge corporation like Target. This puts truly natural products in the hands of the masses.

Adina:  I hope so! If it goes well…!

me: Can you tell us what store locations you’ll be in beginning in March? What does “select premium aisles” mean?

Adina:  337 locations total that have a special new aisle where the price point is slightly higher, and the products are more… premium. Fancier! I don’t know how to describe it. Laneige. Vichy.

me:  But you’ve lowered the prices for the Cleanser, Toner, and Exfoliant, right? Will the price go down everywhere?

Adina:  Yes. We actually did want their advice on our prices, and I’ve always always always wanted to come down in price. I want natural skincare to be affordable, not a reach. I’m not trying to be a luxury brand. It kills me how expensive it is to make our products. They advised us that those three products were a little above what they thought would do well, and we agreed. And thanks to the scaling, we were able to actually improve our costs, which made the lower prices possible.

me: I like it! Pricing is often a hurdle for people trying to clean up their beauty routines, so it’s interesting that one outcome for you here is being able to lower your prices somewhat.

Adina:  Yes. I wish we could do it more. A lot of people push back because they think it’s expensive for having so few ingredients. (In fact, I regularly check posts about us on NMDL and get sad about those types of comments.) They don’t understand it’s so, so expensive to use high quality ingredients and not add any fillers. You think that raw argan oil deserves that price but what about fresh rosewater distilled from the petals and imported from Bulgaria? When you buy a “rosewater cleanser” with 50 ingredients… that’s not a lot of rosewater. But a cleanser where it’s 1 of 3? I’ll stop I’m rambling! I just really want people to know we’re trying.

me:  Yes! I want all the rosewater from Bulgaria! Or I want it to be 1 of 3 ingredients.

Adina:  Haha!

me:  I think it’s important to continue talking about why we pay more for these high quality, organic when possible ingredients. It’s part of the education process about why the conventional stuff is so bad for us. The problem is that we’ve all been led to think of cosmetics and personal care products as inherently cheap, like $4 bottles of shampoo and lotion, but that’s only possible because of the cheap filler that’s inside the bottle. It’s the same story with processed, packaged food versus fresh, whole foods. Yes, it’s going to cost more.

Adina:  Of course! And no, the prices will not go down until everyone is buying them.

me:  Good point. This has been such an enlightening conversation! What else would you like NMDL readers to know about your collaboration with Target?

Adina:  Well, that it’s in large part because of them, because of sites like NMDL, and because of the number of people who care. That they need to keep at it. Not about our brand necessarily, but about natural products in general. Because it’s working! And that I love them and that I read all of their comments.

me:  I love them and their comments, too. Before I let you go, could you ask Target to add product ingredients to their site?

Adina:  Ha! When I’m less scared of them, definitely.

me: Thank you so much for talking with me and sharing this story!

Adina:  Thank YOU. I love you and what you guys are doing. Fighting the good fight!

So what do YOU think about this news? Share with us in the comments!

One of our readers has gone to Paris and wants to explore the clean beauty scene à la française. So help us out with this one because we know you’re worldly and well-informed, or maybe you are reading from Paris yourself and you know just where to send dear Paige. Here’s her request:

“I love your website and really value it as a site for shared experiences as well as a guide to different products/approaches/concerns. Thank you!

My husband and I just landed in Paris for a 3-month artist residency, and I’m wondering if you and your readers might have guidance about clean French brands to check out. My current routine includes Chidoriya, Evan Healy, EarthtuFace, Kahina, and 100% Pure, but I’d love to see what the French have! Would love any help from you and the NMDL community!”

We want to know what the French have, too! Tell us in the comments s’il te plaît. Merci et bisous!

There’s kind of an unspoken theme among clean beauty enthusiasts: wash your hair as infrequently as possible. It’s almost like it’s a goal we aspire to, something that earns you bragging rights if you can actually manage to get your hair and scalp to a happy place while only washing every few days. Of course, I speak from the perspective of a woman with fine hair that gets oily if you look at it the wrong way. Some of you, like Alexandra, have the kind of hair that begs not to be washed. (You lucky things!)

When we wash and how we wash ultimately depends on two factors: your hair type and the products you use. One of those is completely out of your control; the other is all about trial and error. This can be a slow, frustrating, and expensive process. That’s why we cherish this community and your comments on the subject! Help a sister out, right? We got an email from Leticia, a “confused reader” who has been following the blog, reading through all the advice on cleaning up your hair routine, and has a very valid question for us all: but why? Take a look at what she has to say:

I have been following your blog for a little while now… really wanting to move all of my products to “clean” ones but do it slowly and not break the bank! So I thought I’d look through your site and see what others are using. After reading through several routines, I started noticing that people aren’t shampooing very often; or they only shampoo their scalp and condition their ends; or they only condition every couple days; and what’s with the oils I’m seeing people putting in their hair and leaving overnight?? I love reading through the routines, but I guess I am just wishing they would say WHY they do what they do, you know?

I generally shampoo and condition every other day with dirty products… does this mean it will change as I use clean ones? How will I know? Why would you only shampoo your scalp and not the rest of your hair? And why not condition all of your hair? Doesn’t the conditioner replace what you stripped out with the shampoo? Or does the “stripping” not occur with clean products? Do you have a good resource that may talk about some of the why’s behind our products, not just products themselves?

Girl, we totally understand! You’re not the first reader to seek similar advice, but the whole question about why we do the things we do could be incredibly valuable in helping someone understand which advice might be best suited to their hair type and personal needs. And who better to explain than YOU, dear readers. So let’s hash it out in the comments, shall we?

What’s your hair routine? Do you shampoo? Condition? Apply oils? Let us know WHY your routine works for you!

We love that many of our clean beauty products are packaged in beautiful glass bottles. It adds a glamorous touch to our routines, but glass has its challenges—like breakage!

A dear reader named Katy asked us about traveling with glass bottles, so we wanted to kick it to you all, naturally! Here’s what Katy has to say…

As my clean product arsenal has increased, so has my collection of items glass containers.  How do you travel without your products breaking?  If possible I like to avoid decanting into plastic because a) its plastic and b) you always lose a little of your precious product when you do so.  I’ve done well so far, the only breaks have been unfortunate meetings with bottles and my tile bathroom floor, but I’m ever wary of traveling with my potions.  So far, I travel with a hard sided train case and I divide things up into little cosmetic bags. It limits the glass on glass connections (and looks beautiful on the vanity of anywhere I’m staying).  How do you travel?

Are most of your products in glass containers? How do you travel without busting those gorgeous glass bottles? Let us know!