Any industry worth $55 billion is bound to garner attention, and so the recent crackdown on artificial beauty products comes as no surprise. (Nail polish, whose ingredients are purportedly tied to respiratory disease, have come under particular fire.) To address growing concerns, cosmetic companies have struggled to discover organic ingredients that mimic the pleasing textures and high-performance qualities of long-used synthetic ingredients — something actress Gwyneth Paltrow and entrepreneur Karen Behnke hope to accomplish with today’s launch of their certified organic makeup line under the Juice Beauty Brand.
An actress frequently on camera and at red carpet events, Paltrow has long worried about the effects of frequent makeup use — everything from its impact on women’s hormones to the potential for premature aging.
“I wear makeup heavily in my work,” she explains. “And now that I’m post-40, I’ve started to wear it more often in my day-to-day life. But once my lifestyle website, Goop, started investigating toxicity in these products… I was stunned. I genuinely thought makeup was safe, but that’s not the case.”
Paltrow explains how she “naively” believed in the cosmetics industry to regulate the ingredients in their products, because how, in 2016, is it still legal for American women to unknowingly slather tire lubricants, artificial dye and carcinogens on their face?
“Many commonly used synthetic ingredients are known to act as carcinogens or as endocrine disruptors,” explains Cindy DiPrima, co-founder of New York’s first 100% nontoxic beauty store, CAP Beauty. ”It’s hard to say why beauty is so unregulated, but it seems that there simply wasn’t a thorough enough understanding of how is absorbed through the skin.”
Paltrow, once she realized the severity of the situation, started looking, “for organic — or at least natural — alternatives. But I couldn’t find anything high-performance enough to achieve the results I was used to.”
A decision was made: Paltrow was dead set on filling the “white space” around high-performance, nontoxic beauty products. The only issue? She didn’t know where to start.
It was around this time that an investor friend, Amanda Eilian (Videolicious), introduced Paltrow to Karen Behnke, a founding partner of the self-proclaimed “eco-chic” skincare line, Juice Beauty.
“Juice Beauty had been in a place to hire what we call a ‘Triple A List’ celebrity partner for a long time,” Behnke says. “But I couldn’t help feeling, ‘That’s not us.’ We wanted someone who could actually walk the walk of our brand… and Gwyneth embodied not only the entrepreneurial spirit and business savvy we were looking for, but also the true passion for clean, but fun, living.”
After three months of conversations, a partnership was born between the ‘Triple A List’ celebrity and Behnke, a beauty entrepreneur with more than 10 years of experience in the industry. Thus began a year of intensive meetings when, alternating between Paltrow’s home in Los Angeles and Juice Beauty’s headquarters in San Francisco, the two discussed everything from R&D to marketing to package design.
“Gwyneth was involved in product development from start to finish,” Behnke details. “She was there every step of the way, researching how we could use crushed rose petals instead of artificial dye in our lip colors… how plants and seaweeds are actually an effective, natural way to get pigment into your product.”
The question you may be asking at this point is: why partner with Juice Beauty at all? Given her celebrity and Goop’s authority in the organic lifestyle space, why not create her own line of branded beauty products?
“I honestly fell in love with Karen,” Paltrow explains. “She’s a mom; she’s authentic. She has such incredible expertise in the space… You have to remember Goop is a startup. Our biggest problem is that we have too much opportunity, but we can’t do everything at once. When you’ve taken on investment and are trying to scale at a certain place, you don’t want to get diluted down by too many options.”
Both women insist it was the perfect entrepreneurial marriage: Paltrow is an actress; she’s creative. (Plus, that face.) And then there’s Behnke, who brought a level of expertise and industry acumen it would have taken Paltrow years to build on her own. Basically, they sped up each other’s process.
“It would have taken us far longer to execute on our own,” Paltrow agrees. “Mario Batali, who is like my spiritual godfather, once told me, ‘You don’t have to make all the money.’ And it’s true: I think people often feel they’ll be more successful, at least financially, if they go it on their own… but for us to be able to use Karen’s expertise — and for Karen to be able to use my name and my platform — we’ll all go further.”
And while we can’t deny the unstoppable prowess of the team, one must also note the favorable shift in American culture toward clean living that’s set their line up for success.
“I think the consumer is incredibly aware now,” Paltrow explains. “Everyone wants to know what they’re putting into their bodies… what they’re putting on their skin. Consumers are demanding transparency. And also, the consumer has a lot of information now that we didn’t have 10 or 20 years ago about what all of these various toxins are doing — whether that be GMOs [in our food], or plastics in our personal care products. Ultimately, the consumer is what will change the marketplace.”
The increasing popularity of natural products and new products to market are finally starting to drive down the price of buying organic, long considered one of the biggest drawbacks for the industry.
“In the next few years, you’re going to see the prices of organic going down as the production quality goes up,” Paltrow continues. “Which is exactly what we want to see. We don’t want eating carcinogen free food, for example, to be a luxury. It’s insane, and it should be the same with beauty.”
And so the new Juice Beauty line, which can legally call itself organic — not an easy feat — aims to have the luxe feel of a Chanel or a Giorgio Armani at a more approachable price point: $20-$48.
“We wanted to do our part in getting safe products into the hands of American women,” Behnke concludes. “And if we’d put our products at higher price points — which we have both the reputation and the quality to do — it wouldn’t be true to our mission.”
So what’s next for the day-old line of products, which includes everything from foundation, to lip color, to mascara (considered the most difficult item to mimic organically).
“We’re definitely focused on educating and conquering North America,” Behnke continues. “And actually a lot on Canada — they have a highly intelligent consumer population who knows how to read ingredients. But we’ve already started to see a lot of interest in other markets. I think our next step will be Asia.”
Visit JuiceBeauty.com to purchase the products starting today, January 11, and stay tuned to hear more on the future of this exciting collaboration.