A Q+A With Natural Beauty Pioneer, Jane Iredale

Get to know the mineral cosmetic maven.

Jane Iredale
Image: Supplied

Even if you’re not a clean beauty nut, chances are you can rattle off dozens of natural makeup brands off the top of your head. These days, beauty products that are actually good for your skin and the environment are almost as common as traditional, chemical-laden cosmetics. But, of course, this hasn’t always been the case. There’s one name that started it all back in the early 90s — Jane Iredale.

Having started her career casting and producing for Hollywood and Broadway, Jane witnessed first-hand the havoc heavy, pore-clogging stage makeup wreaked on actresses’ skin. She was inspired to create a range of cosmetics that would provide the same coverage while actually nourishing the skin. She founded her eponymous natural beauty line in 1994, and with it, broke ground for a new beauty category – mineral makeup – becoming the first to start a public conversation about clean ingredients in cosmetics.

Jane Iredale
Image: Supplied

Fast forward to 2017 and Jane Iredale is now a household name, stocked in over 50 countries worldwide. Most recently, she’s released her first range of skin-boosting supplements. Here, we get to know the inspiring woman behind the brand.

SL: Can you tell us a little bit about your transition from working as a casting director and producer to starting your own beauty line? Having not come from a beauty/cosmetics background, how did you go about securing funding and developing your first very product?

“I had a career in the entertainment industry as a casting director, producer and writer, but eventually got showbiz burnout. What I’d always wanted to do was to be involved with something that would enhance the lives of women and have some healing aspect to it. I’d seen the bad effects of makeup when I worked with actresses and models, so it suddenly occurred to me that there was a place for makeup that was good for the skin.

I’d spent so many years working with women whose careers depended on having a flawless complexion, and the heavy makeup they were using to cover up skin problems was actually aggravating their skin concerns instead of improving them. I started thinking about a solution – a makeup with true skincare benefits. I have always been interested in fashion, in wellness, in beauty, and in personal expression, so the leap into makeup was a very natural one for me to make.

I incorporated in March, 1994 and started with five shades of loose minerals, Amazing Base, and me. I looked at traditional makeup and started to eliminate the ingredients that I thought weren’t helpful for the skin. What was left were the minerals, those ingredients usually listed under ‘may also contain.’ With the help of a chemist, we found the right balance of coverage, shade and sun protection. Frankly, I didn’t secure funding. I started so small. I maxed-out my credit cards and borrowed small amounts from friends to pay the bills. Eventually, my husband joined me and we got big enough to interest a bank but it was very much by the seat of our pants.”

SL: When you first started clean beauty really wasn’t a ‘thing.’ Did you come across a lot of naysayers when you first started your business and how did you deal with this?

“Yes, one of the major challenges was skepticism. After all, why would people believe that a mineral powder could do all I was telling them it could? It required a lot of hours standing at trade show booths covering red noses and knuckles. It was the plastic surgeons who first saw and understood the benefits of clean beauty and they are still some of my biggest supporters. Some of the surgeons used to keep our Amazing Base in their assistants’ desk drawers – now they have their own aesthetic centers!”

SL: One interesting (and admirable) thing about your products is that they’re not sold in countries that require testing on animals. From a commercial perspective, was that a difficult decision?

“For me, it was a very easy decision. I’ve always felt that animals contribute so much to our lives and that we owe them respect and care, especially the ones we domesticated who are now completely dependent on us. Nobody asks them for permission to perform unspeakable experiments on them.  Like children, they are completely vulnerable. This pledge to produce cruelty-free makeup and skincare has always been at the core of our brand. We believe it is an essential element in our holistic approach to creating responsible, healthy beauty. After all, what’s the point of increasing sales if you can’t sleep at night?”

SL: Are your products regularly used by makeup artists in Hollywood and Broadway today?

“Yes, most recently actresses Emma Watson and Carice van Houten from Game of Thrones were introduced to our brand by their makeup artists and have become clean makeup fans themselves.  To the shock of many, mineral makeup captures beautifully on stage, screen and of course everyday life so it’s transitional for all environments.”

SL: What’s the biggest way the beauty industry has changed, from when you first started in 1994 compared to today?

“I think it would be very hard to start a company today the way I started mine. You really need to have substantial capital and come to market with a well-designed product line and marketing plan. I’ve never even had a business plan! Building one product at a time, one customer at a time today would be almost impossible. When I started, there was no such thing as the Internet, now if you don’t have a sophisticated website, e-commerce and a flourishing social media world, you can’t compete.

When I began, all the power lay with the beauty editors, now bloggers and influencers are so important. It’s that direct-to-the-consumer factor that has changed all our lives. My company has always sold business to business and had very little contact with consumers. Now, we’re having a discussion with them all day and every day. Sometimes it’s a challenge but in the end, it makes our brand more relevant and complete.”

SL: What are 3 things you do each day to keep your skin in top condition?

“It’s now understood that you can effect just as much change in the skin, if not more, by feeding it from the inside as well as the outside. This means eating clean and supplementing your diet with food that the skin loves and eliminating the things that it doesn’t. Our new Skincare Supplements are formulated with skin-loving vitamins and botanicals. The first thing I do is to take Skin Omegas which contain omega-3, omega-6 and vitamin A, Skin Vitamin A and Skin Antioxidant. They all make a difference to the skin by promoting better moisture levels and leaving skin clearer, brighter and smoother.

Secondly, I always, always wear our PurePressed base because it has sun protection. I
can’t emphasize enough how important it is to protect the skin from the sun. And thirdly, I never go to bed without taking off my makeup because every day our skin is bombarded with millions of environmental pollutants and I want them off my face. I love our Magic Mitt for this – it’s a soft microfiber cloth that dissolves makeup and dirt without any cleanser. This year we’re giving all profits in the month of October to Living Beyond Breast Cancer.”

SL” You have to go to a meeting but can only pick 3 products from the jane iredale line to do your makeup. Which ones do you go for?

“Three is tough! The one product that never lets me down is our PurePressed Base Mineral Foundation. It works in all climates, day and night. I use it every single day no matter the occasion or destination. It saves me so much time because it’s four products in one – a powder, foundation, concealer and sunscreen. Then I would grab Forever Peach Lip and Cheek Stain because I can dab it quickly on my cheeks and lips for some subtle color, and I know it’s going to stay all day. Lastly, our Lengthening Mascara. I wouldn’t leave home without it.”

SL: What are your top tips for keeping your skin clear and congestion-free in the warmer months?

Happy #LaborDay! We hope your weekend was filled with family, friends, and a few extra hours of reading time.

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“Making healthy food choices is essential to achieving a natural glow in any season, especially summer. So I consider organic products an absolute must – preferably vegetables just picked from my garden. I also don’t sunbathe so any sun-kissed look I have comes strictly from my PurePressed Base and some Peaches and Cream Bronzer.”

SL: What does an average working day look like for you?

“I don’t have an average working day, fortunately! But of course, every day requires dealing with endless emails. As soon as you get rid of one, two more appear in its place. Lots of meetings, of course, and usually a business dinner. But there is a large variety in my life.”

SL: What advice would you give a savvy woman who has spotted a gap in a market and wants to do something about it, but isn’t sure where to start?

“Do a lot of homework and make sure that the gap doesn’t exist for a good reason. If it seems viable, make a list of what you need to start and work out a rough budget. Then use your friends to make contact with the people who can give you input. Start small. Banks won’t be interested in you until you have a track record, so financing is key but don’t be tempted to take financing from people who want part of your business. You will live to regret that.”

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