In the world of clean beauty, there is quality and then there is…just another product. It can be difficult to navigate the world of clean, non-toxic skincare and makeup. Sure, ingredients like aloe, shea butter, and avocado oil sound great. But when it seems like they’re in absolutely every product, how do you know which one is better than the other? Differentiating between conventional beauty products is a challenge. But I find it even more challenging with natural skincare.
Conventional makeup products use flashy packaging and eye-catching glitter and shimmer to differentiate themselves from one another. Clean products are packaged and marketed in a more subdue way. Adding even more confusion, there seems to be an inherent morality tied up with clean skincare; if a product is labeled ‘clean,’ that it must be altruistic and inherently ‘good’ in a way that makes you believe they would not trick you into buying schlock. But we know that not all skincare products are created equally, and the same must apply to natural skincare.
How can you pick the product that is both clean and high quality?
Quality clean makeup is hard to come by largely because of the differing regulations around banned cosmetic ingredients from country to country. The European Union famously has over 1,300 banned ingredients. The United States famously has less than 30 banned ingredients. Canada reaches a comfortable middle with around 600 banned ingredients. The differing regulations can make it difficult for those trying to avoid certain ingredients find consistency along product quality and efficacy.
It is wonderful how countries are taking regulatory steps to prohibit the use of toxic chemicals in cosmetic products. However, there is no regulatory standard when it comes to clean beauty. Many have taken to dub the movement as ‘greenwashing’. This term refers to any product that is labeled ‘clean’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’, or ‘chemical-free’. Many of these have developed into marketing terms and are not grounded in regulations backed by scientific research.
More consumers are becoming aware of how large companies have been hiding many harmful ingredients in the ‘fragrance’ section in the ingredient list of their products. Fragrance is considered to be proprietary to individual companies and therefore allowed to be kept a trade secret. Many companies have taken to using the fragrance section to hide harmful irritants that develop into rashes and other common ailments amongst consumers. In a stunning move, SC Johnson has recently agreed to be the first company to disclose all their proprietary fragrance ingredients.
As the conventional beauty industry inches ever so slowly towards transparency, what moves is the natural skincare and makeup industry making to do the same? I wonder why the first two ingredients of most natural skincare products are often aloe and water…
Toronto has few beauty destinations for natural makeup. The Detox Markets is one, for example. You can also find a limited range of products at Whole Foods. However, as an beauty consumer, it is a deeply underwhelming and less than glam experience to shop for blush with literal eggs in your shopping basket.
So where is a girl to go? The city has recently found a one-stop shop for supremely high quality clean makeup at Bloom Beauty. Praise be! Founded by two makeup artists, this is a beautiful boutique where clean products are the priority, but the store – complete with a sparkly floor – is still well lit and pretty!
As I walk towards Bloom Beauty near the busy intersection of Bayview and Eglinton, I notice the word ‘beauty’ is upside down, which serves as foreshadowing for the fabulously unorthodox beauty experience I am about to have here. This isn’t your grandmother’s spa! No, this one has a distinctly modern and millennial feel.
When I enter the store, I immediately feel the space is inviting and homey, but lux. It’s a winning combination. This special ambience is all thanks to the work of Pam and Sam, the dynamic storeowners behind Bloom Beauty. Pam has vivacious blond curls as bouncy as her own personality. While Sam sports a chic blunt bob. Today, Sam’s hair is dark, but she jokes, “Who knows what it will be in a week?”
While they tour me around, Pam explains the reason behind the upside down font in the “Bloom Beauty” logo. The word ‘beauty’ is upside down in all our visuals because we want to turn beauty on its head,” she says.
And they are.
The Bloom Beauty Boutique is curated, and well stocked with natural, non-toxic ingredients. The ladies tell me they also offer a bevy of services, like makeup application, microblading, extensions, tinting, and even organic spray tans! Apparently, you no longer need to risk getting skin cancer in order to have a tan in February! Yay!
So, how did Pam and Sam get into the beauty biz? For them, cosmetics are a calling. Pam says she has always loved makeup and the fine arts: “When I was 12, I spent every cent of money I had on makeup and magazines. I was 12, so it was really just money I made babysitting. As soon as I could get an actual job, I marched straight to the mall and got the first position I could selling makeup. I have always loved it”.
While she always loved beauty, Pam assumed she would one day become a Visual Arts teacher. In service of that goal, she studied fine arts and psychology in university. Even though she found another way to pursue her love of aesthetics, Pam tells me her schooling in psychology helps in her current line of work: “People sit in my chair and the first thing they tell me is their deepest insecurities. It’s very grounding to be able to help people feel their best.”
Pam has enjoyed a long career as a makeup artist, working both on editorial features and at weddings. In addition, Pam has also dabbled in paramedical and camouflage work for many years. This is an area of beauty that helps customers camouflage scars, burns, or skin conditions. Pam finds this work particularly rewarding, which is why she continues to offer such services at Bloom Beauty.
Sam also didn’t find her career in the beauty business right away. She tells me, “I liked reading, but what was my career path? I wasn’t so sure.” One day Sam was watching a movie. When the credits started rolling, she saw the credit for the makeup artist. Sam’s heart jumped. She hadn’t realized makeup artistry was a potential career before then! “I always loved art and wanted to stay creative. But I didn’t want to go down the conventional path of becoming a painter or a visual artist. Being a makeup artist sounded so exciting. Every day could be different and expressive!”
Sam researched makeup schools and eventually chose George Brown because of their well respected faculty. She hasn’t looked back. Sam’s career has taken many different turns. She’s worked as an associate at Holt Renfrew, as a freelance makeup artist, as a teacher at a makeup school, and as a certified lash artist. For Sam, the beauty industry certainly has lived up to her expectations; every day is certainly different!
As business partners, Pam and Sam thrive by pushing each other creatively. Says Pam, “We always help each other and better each other. I’ve been in the industry for thirty years and it never stops changing, you always have to keep growing as an artist. We are always try to teach each other new techniques.”
I saw it firsthand while testing products. Sam pulled Pam over to show her a technique she learned to turn waterproof mascara into liquid liner. Pam was giddy with excitement. It is clear the pair keep each other motivated.
Sam remarked how important it is to share creative processes with someone. “It was fun, and still is, to have a buddy who is so into makeup and products, someone who is not tired, and not stale, someone who always wants to learn. We found that in each other and really leaned on each other to help the other person grow.”
Pam added, “that mutual support has always been rare in the industry and we wanted to break that vibe. We were both in positions where we were looking for a change and we just started talking about what being business partners would look like”.
Bloom Beauty did not start out to be a clean beauty destination. But as the pair started doing product research, the clearer it became a new kind of beauty store, unlike anything else in Toronto.
According to Sam, “Once I understood that your skin ‘eats’ your makeup, turning towards powerful and nourishing products that also look and work great was such an obvious choice for us.” Sam has a wealth of knowledge on individual ingredients, such as beeswax, propolis, and lanolin-the sheep wool byproduct that is an ethical emollient. Sam Explains, “In the cruelty free and vegan world, a few animal products still fly. Lanolin is one of them because it’s sourced ethically.”
Pam and Sam’s background as makeup artists are really what sets them apart from other purveyors of beauty products. Pam tells me, “As makeup artists, we have very high standards about what we use on clients and put in our store. If I touch a product and I don’t like the way it feels-even if the ingredients are good for you, its not coming into our store.”
Sam adds, “There are a lot of places where you can go find clean makeup. But the people who work there aren’t makeup artists. We want our customers and clients to know they are getting not just the best of what the clean beauty world has to offer, but the beauty industry as a whole.”
It’s clear Pam and Sam have disrupted the beauty industry in a really interesting way. They’re pioneers in a new era of clean cosmetics and ethical beauty.
What I’ve learned on this journey studying natural beauty is that not all clean skincare is created equal. As always, I seek to empower my readers with knowledge that will make them conscious consumers. Before you buy a clean beauty product, it helps to do your due diligence!