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Conversation with The Green Makeup Artist-by GrowandMake.com Healthy Beauty Editor, Andrea Fox
Being natural, sometimes it’s hard to rationalize gushing about makeup. But as a long-time user of non-toxic health and beauty products, when I find something that works so well, and it’s not a chemical threat, I am ebullient.
Aimee Valentine, the cute, spunky, and mission-driven Green Makeup Artist of San Francisco, began researching and developing in 2000, and was immersed in Green Makeup by the fall of 2007.
She works directly with women who want to learn how to green their makeup, and takes assignments for local green weddings, eco-fashion shows, photo shoots, and public appearances. She’s advised several makeup artists from New York and Los Angeles that wanted to know how to get started going green.
“It's the least I can do,” said Valentine.
Valentine describes herself as “diatribe-y and punchy,” and even though she sometimes writes for The Green Makeup Artist blog and others in the middle of the night, she assures me that she is not a “crazed, bathrobe clad, soap making loon.”
In fact, she said, she has never made soap. She is a green makeup superhero—a “Batwoman” of sorts—holding big makeup corporations accountable, seeking out and testing their products, and reporting her findings through her blog and formerly as the Green Beauty Writer for Lime.com, Gaiam's healthy living Web site. She has been featured on Sephora.com’s "Shopping with the Green Makeup Artist," Common Ground magazine's 2008 Green Issue, Natural Health Magazine and others, and she is a Google "Favorite Place" in San Francisco.
Cartoon by Aimee Valentine
Craftily, she does her own cartoon work (Fox’s note: how very Bat!) and in her literary work creates fictional characters who suffer acute sensory perception. “I'm keenly interested in the ways in which we as humans perceive beauty.”
As GrowandMake.com Healthy Beauty Editor, one of my favorite assignments has been talking with the magnanimous Green Makeup Artist. Read the Q&A to find out how this green makeup superhero was born, what is insane about our society, and her top 5 green makeup tips.
Interview with a Green Makeup Artist
Healthy Beauty Editor: How did you get to be the Green Makeup Artist?
The Green Makeup Artist: “I had been a professional makeup artist for years and little by little I was getting concerned, frustrated, and finally just flat out annoyed while reading the ingredient lists of the products I was putting on people's faces. As I tell almost everyone, ‘your skin is your largest organ, and it absorbs everything you put on it. So don't put anything on your skin that you wouldn't eat’… Skin is also designed to be an organ of elimination, but it can't begin to eliminate the toxic stew in which we immerse ourselves, day in and day out—pollution, pesticides, petrochemicals, and heavy metal poisoning...and if that's not enough, let's add to that a daily smearing of these dastardly ingredients directly into our pores, let's slather ourselves in a toxic waste dump, shall we? …We have to start putting our foot down. One foot leads to more feet, and soon we'll have a deafening, collective stomp or a mad stampede. Either way, it is up to each of us to change things for ourselves… When I began investigating the real dangers of mainstream cosmetic ingredients, and realized that not only was I not willing to use this stuff on myself, but I wasn't willing to use it on anyone else, I became Batman...I mean, the Green Makeup Artist! By the time I had completely converted my makeup kit to clean makeup, I was hearing that I was the only green makeup artist in the San Francisco Bay Area, which surprised me. It was early 2008.”
Healthy Beauty Editor: Why do you say “beauty is more than skin deep?”
The Green Makeup Artist: “First, because it is. It's not surface. Real beauty goes deep. One thing that happens in the beauty and fashion industry is that you constantly encounter people who get in the way of their own beauty. They could be charming, or hilarious, or full of love. They could have eloquent bone structure, soul-searching eyes, or charitable lips...and you'd never know it to look at them. Sometimes women don't know where their beauty is. They hide themselves—they spend their lives masking, rather than revealing their beauty…As a makeup artist, I usually find myself scraping, scrubbing, and stripping off the mask that a woman is using to cover her beauty. It can be shocking to some…to have a stranger look at you naked and tell you to your face that they see you, and that you are beautiful…Sometimes they cry, sometimes they laugh, sometimes they're angry…’How dare you say that I'm already beautiful—I'm spending a fortune to look better than I do.’
Healthy Beauty Editor: In your business you offer some of your clients a shopping list. How did you come to find the products that you recommend and how much time and effort did you put into learning about those products?
The Green Makeup Artist: “This is what is so insane about our culture right now. Why on Earth should we have to work so [hard] to figure out what products are truly good for us and good for the environment and good for the people involved in the production (farmers, factory workers, etc.)? Why should that even be a task?
How can it be that there are products on the market that could be harmful to me, my family, my fellow citizens, and the environment? That just seems...obvious and insane, yet that's the way it is right now. I try to help people navigate some of these choices. I try to save them a little time and energy, because I know it can seem overwhelming.” Healthy beauty Editor: Do you find that most women are ready for “another round of clean makeup?” The Green Makeup Artist: “Yes. All I have to do is show them that they can look every bit as good as they do with the junk they used to use.” Healthy Beauty Editor: What do you find most confuses women about what green makeup is? The Green Makeup Artist: “What confuses women is the corporate double-speak. That's the first problem. As you can see in my reviews, I often run out to the store to check out a new ‘green’ product only to find that it has very un-green ingredients. Not only are there traditional products that are harmful, but now there are new products that claim to spare me. That's great, except that some of those products still contain really questionable ingredients. What's a girl to do? Many shrug their shoulders and pick up their old brand. Others buy the new thing and tell everyone how great it is. They want to believe it—of course they do! I want to believe it, too! The confusion, then, begins in deciphering these labels.
The second source of confusion also comes from the industry, but more indirectly. Consumers are encouraged to conclude that if Makeup Line X doesn't have a 'green' eye shadow, it must be the case that it is difficult to make a good 'green' eye shadow. The beauty industry loves to behave as though it's not possible to make green products that work…People needn't be confused on this point: Green makeup works, and you can look beautiful wearing it.”
Healthy Beauty Editor: What do you feel is the greatest challenge to you as a green makeup artist, as far as the green makeup that is available?
The Green Makeup Artist: “The field is still too small…Like anything, some products are better than others. We need more good products and more variety. In the immediate future, color palettes will widen, mascaras will get better, eye liners will improve, and in general we'll see more choices and higher quality. Green makeup is currently mineral, botanical, or food-based.
As a green makeup artist who reviews products and lines, I try to make shopping for green makeup a little easier. I try to take some of the guesswork out of it, or to at least make readers think a little harder about their decisions.”
Healthy Beauty Guide: One of your clients said that their skin did not breakout after your work. What do you attribute your ability to avoid typical postmakeup-artist-applied breakouts?
The Green Makeup Artist: “Some people are allergic to specific chemicals in mainstream makeup, and have allergic reactions, while others find that mainstream makeup is pore blocking, and actually causes them to breakout. FD&C dyes are notorious for allergic reactions, and mineral oil/petrochemicals are notorious for breakouts. On the other hand, some people are allergic to strawberries. Just because something is natural doesn't mean you can't be allergic to it. It's true that many people find green makeup less likely to cause a breakout, though it's not impossible. But while we're at it, let's not discount the bacteria that lurks in old bottles of product. Had it for a year? It's bad. Trust me. Lipstick smell like crayons? It's bad. Trust me. And when's the last time you washed your makeup brushes?
They're dirty. Admit it. Take them into the shower with you tonight. Wash them when you wash your hair.”
Healthy Beauty Editor: Most of your reviews yelp about your ability to make them up, how do you get them interested in greening their daily makeup?
The Green Makeup Artist: “Beautification begins with an education. I'm very up front about telling people what I'm using, how I'm using it, and why I'm using it. But I'm also ‘The Green Makeup Artist.’ If someone books me, they already know who I am, what I represent, how I roll. My readers and clients are, at the very least, curious about green makeup, if they're not already devotees.”
Healthy Beauty Editor: Many of the companies you review on your blog are on the path to being greener, but often you find them rather underwhelming (me too!). Where do you think the bigger makeup manufacturers can improve?
The Green Makeup Artist: “They first need to make greening a priority, not an afterthought, or a marketing strategy. Ultimately, a sustainable world is one in which you can't go to a cosmetics counter and buy things that could make you sick or things that may have created harm at multiple steps in their production. In fact, ‘healthy makeup’ might be a better term than ‘green makeup.’ What we need from the larger manufacturers is a major shift, not a minor one, and it may take some re-framing to get them to take action. We have to find ways of demanding it. At the very least, we can stop funding their war on our bodies.”
Healthy Beauty Editor: Would you be willing to share your top 5 green makeup tips?
The Green Makeup Artist: “Let Beauty with a capital "B" be your guide. Use products that inspire you. Don't pay to be polluted, demeaned, or implicated. Remember why you're here. And if you forget why you're here, just remember rule number one.” For more about The Green Makeup Artist see her Web site or blog.