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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Beautiful Options

UPDATE December 2010 - the Nature of Beauty has moved and they are now located: 

The Nature of Beauty
750 Main St., Ste 109
Mendota Heights, MN 55118

Don't miss out on the New Year's Eve event at their new location (Dec 31st, 2010 11 am - 6 pm) for a free make up application as well as a swag bag. Maybe I'll see you there. 


We don't often connect what we put on our skin to our overall health and wellness.  In fact, conventional cosmetics often include a number of synthetic chemicals and the potential for adverse side effects is not completely understood. In keeping with my goal of guarding my body against toxins, I've made the switch to completely all natural beauty products.  Where do I get these products?  For cosmetics, at the top of my list is Nature of Beauty located on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I recently had the opportunity to ask Terri Bly, the owner of NOB, some questions about her business and the importance of natural and organic cosmetics, in general.

ML: How long have you been interested in cosmetic/hygiene products?

TB: While working as a psychologist, I used to comment that once I was ready to be done helping women feel better about what was happening on the inside, I would become a makeup artist and help them address the stuff on the outside. I’ve been doing friends’ hair and makeup for as long as I can remember. I was in theatre for over 20 years, so makeup was something I had to learn. It just took a while for me to figure out how to incorporate my love of makeup with everything else I loved doing!

ML: Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to stop using mainstream beauty products?

TB: Reading Exposed really began the process, and Not Just a Pretty Face tipped the balance. It’s not that I’m “scared” of synthetic products, or believe that everything natural is good and everything synthetic is bad. But what became completely clear to me after reading those books was that no one was regulating all of the chemicals that are getting into our bodies. I switched not just for my own health, but to make a statement with my buying choices that we need more research and less interference from businesses only looking to protect profits.

ML: Why did you decide to start The Nature of Beauty?

TB: I am a licensed clinical psychologist and was working in two very separate areas, and they both came together to create Nature of Beauty. One of my jobs was conducting selection assessments for large companies like Target, and so every day I was speaking with some of the best marketing, merchandising and finance people in the retail business, from all over the country. I felt like I was getting my own mini-MBA in merchandising and I loved every minute of it. I never realized I would love retail so much, but with every interview it was becoming clear that this was something I was heavily drawn to. And then, for something completely different, I was working with gastric bypass surgery patients. My dissertation, actually, was on obesity and gastric bypass surgery, because I really wanted to understand what it was like to suffer from obesity and make the choice to have the surgery. Anyway, it was through this work that I stumbled upon some research showing that some of the estrogen-mimicking chemicals that are in our cleaning products and, as it turns out, in our beauty products - may be related in some way to both our physical health (meaning our weight) and our emotional health, since we know that hormones affect emotions. But it wasn’t until I read Not Just a Pretty Face and learned the extent to which we know nothing about what our beauty products are actually doing to us that I decided to start my business. It was such a perfect way to blend my growing love of retail with my passion for health education and my love of all things beauty-product-oriented. I was a Sephora junkie who has every “Best of Beauty” edition from InStyle for the past 10 years. And I have to tell you, I never imagined you could marry those three interests.

ML: From my experience with the make-up I have purchased from The Nature of Beauty, I have been very pleased with how great it stays put. Tell us more about the quality of these products compared to mainstream products.

TB: There is a persistent myth that natural makeup will come off your face with the first slight gust of wind. Natural cosmetics have come such a long way even in just the past couple of years. You can get vibrant colors, and high-quality products that perform beautifully. Sure, you’re not going to get the waterproof properties you’ll find in plastic-filled makeup, considering what’s in most makeup, having to reapply your lipstick after you eat just doesn’t seem like a big price to pay.

ML: How many product lines do you carry?

TB: We carry over 20 brands, including 8 color lines. Many of our brands- like Revolution Organics, Couleur Caramel and rms beauty – earn rave reviews in top fashion magazines on a regular basis, but aren’t found anywhere else in the Twin Cities.

ML: How are the products made? Where do the ingredients come from?

TB: These are questions that could take hours to answer!! In general, we have strict criteria about which brands make it into our store. Safety is the first concern. I do my best to stay up to date on the latest research (what little there is), and err on the side of caution. Transparency is next. I look for companies that are open and honest about what is in their products, whether it’s natural or synthetic. I have lengthy conversations with the creators of the product lines, to get a sense of how much they know and how well they understand this industry. Then I rule out all companies that engage in any animal testing, including the companies from whom the brands source their ingredients. Other things you won’t find in our products: synthetic fragrance, parabens, petroleum-based ingredients, formaldehyde-releasing ingredients, or sulfates (like sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate).

ML: How do your products differ from conventional products found at the local big box?

TB: Quality is the first difference. Because the companies whose products I use are privately owned, they are not under the same kind of pressure to cheapen the ingredients. Also, when you use only natural and organic ingredients, the feel, the taste, and the performance actually improves. Synthetics are nearly always created to mimic natural ingredients cheaply. You will find that skin care, hair care and, yes, even some cosmetics work better because they use nearly all natural and/or organic ingredients.

ML: Tell me why you think your products are superior.

TB: When you use ingredients sourced from the earth, your body recognizes them, just like it does with fresh fruits and vegetables. And just like with nutrient-dense whole foods, your body benefits more from nutrients that come from nature than nutrients that are synthetic. I explain it like this: What’s better for your body: 1) Really tasty gourmet chips and a multi-vitamin or 2) An organic spinach salad with nuts, berries, and olive oil dressing? Your skin – being just another part of your body – is no different.

ML: Can you define what you mean by Natural & Organic Beauty Products? 

TB: Oh, another tricky question. Well, organic is the word I use when a product or ingredient is certified organic. Natural is harder to define. For marketing purposes, it’s even trickier. But the true meaning of natural, with regard to ingredients, is best defined with another analogy. With ingredients, you have 3 categories, not two. Most people think an ingredient is organic or it’s not, the end. But you have organic, natural and synthetic. So if ingredients were grapes, you’d have organic grapes, conventional grapes, and grape kool-aid.  Well, and then there is mineral makeup. Minerals, by their very nature, cannot be organic, but you would be amazed at how many times I have to clear that up because retailers throw out the name “organic” without having any real understanding of what that means. They just know customers like hearing it.
But it gets really complicated from there, and there’s no way I can capture that here.  And there is so much misinformation, it usually takes an hour just to clear that up!

ML: Have you noticed increased interest in your products recently?

TB: Absolutely. As women start to learn just how little protection they have from the government when it comes to ingredients, beauty products, and their health, they realize it just isn’t worth the risk. Then they see how beautiful my products are, how well they work, and how much better their skin and hair feel than they ever have before. Really, it’s just getting people to try the products that is the challenge. Once they have, and see the difference – plus the difference that comes with knowing your products are clean not just for you, but for the planet as well – they keep coming back.

ML: In an article from blogger Zem @EcoFabulous you were noted as the “Sephora for eco-conscious consumers.” How do you feel about that characterization?

TB: Well, that is the thing to say, right? Sephora embodies what we view as the Disney World of beauty products, so I guess in that regard it is clearly a compliment. But I view my company as entirely different, and not just due to the ridiculous difference of scale. Sephora promotes the glam part of makeup, nothing more, and they certainly aren’t about encouraging mindful consumerism. My company is about encouraging women to think before making any purchase, especially when buying beauty products. I want them to get excited about learning, about asking questions, and about demanding change.

ML: Everyone loves to try makeup on (I know I do!)  Can you share with us how customers can receive testers with your fantastic sample program?

TB: We offer free makeovers, and have testers of all of our products in the store. Online, we have a fairly comprehensive samples program, offering hundreds of samples of our facial care, body care, hair care and makeup.

ML: Let’s talk about your tag line – “Safe. Healthy. Beautiful.” Why is there a need to talk about safety with respect to the cosmetics products you sell?

TB: That goes back to the misinformation, and the lack of misinformation. Chemicals in beauty products have been linked to cancer, infertility, obesity, and a host of other illnesses and diseases that are on the rise. But rather than testing these chemicals to see if they are in fact hazardous, the beauty and chemical industries spend their billions of dollars making sure that doesn’t happen. They argue that it is too costly, too cumbersome. But if they took the money they devote to lobbying against regulations, they could probably do thorough tests on just about everything.

ML: Why is it important to get the word out about natural cosmetics & hygiene products?

TB: So that people realize these products are not regulated, have not been tested for long-term safety, and that you can find hundreds – thousands, even – of fabulous, affordable natural and organic personal care products that will work as well, if not better, than what you’re using now.

ML: NOB takes Green Living very seriously. Can you explain some other steps you take to reduce your carbon footprint or would suggest others to take?

TB: I think it’s just about deciding if you want to do it, rather than doing it because you feel guilty, or like you should do it. Because it’s actually quite easy. It just involves thinking more, challenging yourself to pay more attention to what you do every day. And then after a while, it becomes second nature, and fun.

At the store, we really think about every aspect of our operations. Can we reuse boxes, packaging, paper? Can we improve the cleaning products used in the store? We are always thinking about ways to reduce our consumption of energy and materials. 

ML: Thank you Terri Bly!

Nature of Beauty can be found online www.NatureofBeauty.com
Or visit them in person in St. Paul, MN
1045 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105

Let me know if you check them out online or go visit them! 


Amanda Tarrant said...

Hi Mary,
I enjoyed this post and am going to check out the online store ;).


MulberryMary said...

Amanda -

I am so glad you enjoyed it. I figured you would read it since we both share this interest. let me know what you think of the store!

I know how relieved I felt when I found this store. I had not been wearing any lipstick forever because when I found out my MAC lipstick had lead in it I was so disappointed. That had me warding off makeup for months.

@NOB I love the Sante brand - the lipstick, eyeshadow sticks are lifesavers.

Talk to you soon.

Michelle @ Find Your Balance said...

This is a great topic to know more about. I barely wear makeup anymore and am so, so picky about skin products.

Andirah said...

Wow! Thanks for this interview. It's great to know there's a local beauty store making conscious, informed choices about which products to carry. I usually have to hunt to find the few products that work and are natural/organic. I look forward to heading to NOB on my next excursion.

MulberryMary said...

Michelle - I felt the same way, but now I feel better about the cosmetics I am wearing. I still don't wear much because I don't have to hide behind it anymore now that I've upgraded my health my skin looks awesome. Au natural works well for me. But, I must admit I love bright lips!

Andrea - So glad you enjoyed the interview. Let me know what you pick up!

Jessica Hoelzel said...

Thanks for all the great info. I definitely want to check it out. Hopefully there will be some affordable options? I am very budget concious these days!

MulberryMary said...

Jessica - I'm not sure. I know I scored a few deals when I was there - they were having a sale.