Jane Iredale: The Original Queen Of Clean Beauty

In almost seven years of being a lifestyle contributor for Forbes, I have interviewed a lot of inspiring entrepreneurs. I have been lucky enough to have gotten the inside scoop on their brands and in some instances have been one of the first to cover the brand’s launch. But it isn’t every day that I get to interview someone who founded a company that I love and that has been a part of my life for over two decades.

When it comes to makeup, it is a very personal choice—one that I have spent a lot of time and research on for myself since I have sensitive skin. Above and beyond that, I am also incredibly conscientious of what I put on my skin in general, particularly around my eyes and mouth. But my approach is pragmatic when it comes to ingredients.

Not too long after the world wide web was launched, I was searching online for the perfect cover up for my skin that wasn’t a foundation, but that offered coverage like one but wasn’t cakey looking. I came across the clean beauty brand, Jane Iredale. Once I tried the products out, I was hooked and never looked back. While I don’t use the whole line, there are always Jane Iredale products that I simply can’t live without in my makeup bag.

When the opportunity arose to interview Iredale, I jumped. I believe in equally supporting brands that have helped pave the way (like Jane Iredale) just as much as supporting emerging brands continuing to push the needle in the evolving clean and transparent beauty space. With that said, this was my interview with her where she shares how she got into the business, her philosophy on beauty, and her approach to making clean beauty products.

If you are a beauty business owner, and you want to learn more about how you can become a wholesale partner with Jane Iredale, you can click here.

Note: This article was previously published in Forbes.

Clean beauty has become all the rage. In fact, it seems like a new clean, transparent brand of beauty pops up daily, which makes it kind of hard to stay in the loop. But, twenty-five years ago the landscape was dramatically different than it is today.

I stumbled upon the Jane Iredale brand over twenty years ago while searching endlessly online for a mineral-based make-up that could cover up my vascular rosacea without looking ‘cakey’.

The first thing that struck me when I first came across the website was a prominently displayed photo of Jane Iredale, the founder and CEO of her eponymous brand, who had just had a laser resurfacing treatment. The photo was split down the middle with half of her face in her PurePressed Base Mineral makeup and the other half post-treatment au naturel. The side with the PurePressed looked absolutely flawless, while the other side looked incredibly raw and red. To say the photo was compelling would be an understatement.

I ordered a few products immediately and anxiously waited for them to arrive. When they did, I was impressed by the thoughtful details like the lovingly wrapped products tied with sea grass and a few sprigs of dried lavender along with samples of a few of her other products. Then I tried the PurePressed Base, which completely covered my dilated facial vessels while still looking completely natural. From that moment, I was hooked and haven’t turned back since.

When the opportunity to interview Jane herself recently presented itself, I was beyond thrilled.

Iredale, who was a former casting director and producer in the entertainment industry tells me, “So many actors and actresses were struggling to keep their skin healthy because of the assortment of makeup they were wearing for stage and screen. Skin issues literally threatened their careers. I thought that there had to be a better way. I had always been interested in holistic health and I knew that the products we used on our skin could affect our health in general. I used to haunt health food stores looking for products that were clean, attractive, and worked. I never found anything. So I started with one product, our loose mineral powder called Amazing Base.”

At the time, Iredale didn’t see herself as a pioneer. But that first product unleashed a paradigm shift in how consumers looked at clean cosmetics in general, and what they were capable of.

“There was a lot of skepticism that a powder could be a foundation, concealer, and sunscreen all in one,” says Iredale, “But the plastic surgeons and dermatologists understood immediately and started using it on patients that either had skin issues or had undergone procedures like laser resurfacing. The credibility of the doctors helped a lot to open doors that would have been closed to me. I literally dragged a case around the streets of Manhattan stopping every time I saw an aesthetician sign. Gradually word of mouth spread, but it began with one customer at a time.”

It was eventually working with makeup artists on television and movie sets that gave Iredale her first big break—along with invaluable market research since their frustrations with typical makeups were legendary.

“The makeup artists were always touching it up and dealing with unhappy performers,” Iredale recalls. “The models and actors would rush into the makeup room after their scenes to get the makeup off as soon as possible. We were fortunate enough to have one of the soap operas try our foundations. I arrived on the set one day to find the lead makeup artist sitting with his legs up on the counter. He said ‘I don’t have to do anything anymore. No rushing onto the set to touch things up. Your bases stay where I put them, and the actors are happy.’ That’s when I knew we had something.”

More than two decades later, Iredale remains measured about the ‘green-washing’ in clean beauty today.

“Pragmatic,” Iredale responds when I ask her about her approach to clean beauty and what’s kept her brand consistently successful. “One can be so clean that the products don’t work and obviously that is not what the consumer wants. We tried so hard to make a foundation without silicones. But they have so many advantages that in the end we sourced the best and cleanest silicones we could find and used them in our new foundation Beyond Matte. (Our test panel was much happier). Where we have severe doubts about ingredients, be they toxicity, allergens, or environmental, we don’t use them. We test all of our products for heavy metals, sensitivity, comedogencity, and phototoxicity, among others.”

Unlike many new clean cosmetic products, however, Iredale’s relentlessly high standards for purity in her ingredients aren’t about brand image and talking points.

“Most of our tests are voluntary,” explains Iredale. “We do it because we want to have confidence that what we say about our products is real. We’re members of PETA and earned the Leaping Bunny certification years ago. We work diligently towards sustainability. For example, we’ve changed all of our animal hair brushes to synthetic and we offer refills for some of our most popular products. I watch every new product carefully to be sure we’re using sustainable ingredients and that where possible they are certified organic. But I always have to keep in mind that we tread a fine line between clean and efficacy and that is a challenge.”

Twenty-five years in business is no small feat. During that time, Iredale has learned many invaluable lessons that current and future entrepreneurs should absorb themselves—especially when it comes to being at the forefront of “clean” in an industry that’s inherently based on how people look.

“When I started my casting agency, a fellow entrepreneur said to me, ‘The secret to a successful business is doing what you say you’re going to do”, says Iredale. “I added transparency into that mix. Our timing was also good because it was the beginning of brand websites, so we were the first to list all of our ingredients for every product and explain what those ingredients do. I felt that the consumer was going to get more and more interested in what she put in and on her body, and I wanted to give her that information in an easily accessible way. So, I would say to future entrepreneurs, “Do what you say you’re going to do and act with transparency,”

When I ask Iredale, who recently partnered with Bergdorf Goodman to offer an exclusive collection to their clientele, where the brand is headed in the next five years she responds, “I see us filling more of the “inside out” beauty space. We’ve adopted the phrase ‘Feed, Fortify, Finish.’ Feed the skin what it needs from the inside. We’ve been able to change people’s lives with the supplements we offer. Then we fortify the skin with good skin care. We have a small skincare line which is registered ECOCERT but there are so many good skincare lines available. And then, of course, finish it with makeup that doesn’t undo all the good work you’ve done, and may even help it—like ours! This is a mission we can get behind and be inspired by.”

So, what product does the clean beauty queen never leave home without?

“I don’t think a day has gone by since we launched it 25 years ago that I haven’t worn PurePressed Base in Warm Sienna,” says Iredale. “I wear it for coverage and for sun and environmental protection. It has never let me down.”

It’s never let me down either—which is why I’m still a loyal customer over two decades later.

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