As consumer desire for safe and clean beauty products grows, beauty companies are jumping in to fill that demand. Retailers like CAP Beauty in New York City, e-tailers like Credo Beauty and direct-to-consumer brands like Beautycounter have popped up to provide variety to consumers who want their beauty products as clean as the kale they're presumably eating on a regular basis. Celebrities, who are often at the forefront of the eco movement as users, have been entering the space, too. Jessica Alba launched her Honest Beauty cosmetics line last fall and Miranda Kerr has a small line of skin care and masks called Kora. Now Gwyneth Paltrow, queen of Goop and all things natural, has finally entered the fray with a color cosmetics line by Juice Beauty.
As you'll recall, Paltrow took a stake in the 10-year-old organic skin care brand in early 2015. It's well-established and produces high-quality and efficacious organic skin care, but color cosmetics were not something the brand had fully committed to. Karen Behnke, the founder and CEO, says the company had dabbled in color for the past five years, but when Paltrow came on board as an investor, taking on the role of creative director of makeup, that's when everyone really committed to the concept.
The 78-piece collection launches Monday at Juice Beauty and Ulta, but it wasn't an easy line to bring to market, thanks to Paltrow's exacting standards and the challenges of working with organic ingredients. "She really sets the bar high and had a conventional chemical benchmark for every product we developed," Behnke says. Behnke notes that the goal of Juice Beauty is not only to exceed the quality and efficacy of other "natural" brands ("we know we can do that easily"), but also to meet "chemical" cosmetics in term of slip, feel and color payoff. Juice Beauty's products contain over 70 percent organic ingredients.
The first challenge was the expense. You need a lot of rose petals, aubergine and pomegranate in order to extract pigments. The other issue is color consistency. "In conventional brands you use artificial dye and you never have to worry it’s going to be the same color every time," Behnke explains. "But think about it: Every flower is different. Our chemists have to work so hard with color charts to get the same color every time." Getting products to "hold" without ingredients like petroleum (not eco-friendly) was another challenge. The mascara provided the biggest challenge, though, since the chemists were tasked with using pine resin and argan husks instead of coal tar, "animal glue," and keratin. Plus, "we had to work hard to find a brush that [Paltrow] and her makeup artist loved," Behnke says. (Behnke notes that it's like regular mascara, but the brand recommends applying one coat, letting it dry, then applying a second.)
The end result is a line of serum fluid foundations that provide some skin care benefits in 10 shades, liquid lipsticks, regular bullet lipsticks, lip gloss, blush, pressed powder, lip crayons, eye shadow sticks, eye pencils, concealers and even a range of makeup brushes. Prices range from $22 for an eye pencil to $42 for foundation. I tried an assortment of them. (Sadly, the mascara was not included but I will update if I get my hands on one.)
Behnke thinks that the serum foundations and liquid lipsticks are destined to be the brand's best sellers, so let's start there. The creamy liquid foundation goes on smoothly and buffs in well, but be aware that it provides pretty full coverage. I didn't use much, so I definitely wouldn't call it sheer and buildable. But if you like good coverage with minimum product, this is the foundation for you. The Illuminating Primer was also a pleasant surprise. I don't love the silicone-iness of many primers, but this one was soft and provided a bit of glow without making my face feel slippery like the floor of a bowling lane. (It contains coconut alkanes instead of dimethicone.) I've been wearing it alone with a bit of blush and concealer.
The lip products (I tried all except the gloss) were all home runs. The crayons are semi-sheer but buildable, and the Satin Lip Cream was no different in feel or color payoff than any number of conventional brands I've tried. The most impressive, though, was the Liquid Lip product. The formula was smooth and not tacky, the doe foot applicator applied product well, and most importantly, the color was rich and full coverage. After it dried, it mostly stayed on. True, it didn't have the insanely long wear that some liquid lipsticks have these days, but it also didn't dry my lips out at all. At the end of a long morning drinking coffee and water and making several phone calls, the color was still mostly there.
I had more of a problem with the powder products. I was sent a blush and two pressed powders, and all of them were cracked, one to smithereens. Now, full disclaimer, they were delivered to me in a paper bag by a messenger service, so for all I know, the messenger, my doorman or anyone in the chain of transportation could very well have smashed the bag on a wall or dropped it from a height or something. But they definitely seem more fragile and not as hearty as some conventional powder products. That said, I just stuck my brushes in there and proceeded as usual. The blush was subtle and buildable without being chalky. The powder spread well on my face and didn't settle into any lines. I would just recommend treating the compacts gently.
On a final note, if you like/are used to having all your makeup smell like flowers, vanilla, or fruit, you are in for a bit of a surprise here. Obviously Juice Beauty doesn't use any artificial fragrances or flavors, which is great, because those are often the source of allergic reactions. The products have an almost earthy smell to them. Not bad or offensive at all, but not pretty either. But if you're a longtime user of natural products, this likely won't bother you. (I think it's weird when makeup is too scented anyway, honestly.)
Behnke is optimistic about the future. "Juice Beauty is radically transforming the chemistry of beauty. We don't formulate like any other company does." I'm looking forward to trying more products and seeing future innovations in this quick-growing space.