Clean beauty has always been important to Jess. In fact, it was one of the guiding principles behind launching Shen. So you better believe that brands that not only follow safer cosmetic guidelines, but champion them and tirelessly work towards them at a policy level are going to be high on her list.
Such is the case with Beautycounter, a California-based brand that was founded by entrepreneur Gregg Renfrew back in 2013. Renfrew saw the need for healthier beauty products, ones that used safe ingredients with proven formulas and luxurious textures. Beautycounter quickly became a hit and Renfrew great the line from a small collection of skin-care essentials to a full range of skin, bath, body, and makeup.
It was the cosmetics that first caught Jess’ eye. After re-thinking Shen’s current offerings of makeup brands, Jess knew she needed to add a new range to the collection. One of the big issues that many clean brands have is a lack of shade options, especially for those with darker skin tones. In this day and age, there’s truly no excuse for brands not to provide a wealth of options in complexion products. With 18 shades of foundation, six tinted moisturizers, and 13 concealers, Beautycounter truly has something for everyone.
We sat down with Renfrew for this week’s Behind The Brand to talk about how Beautycounter got its start, plus how she’s on a mission to make cleaner cosmetics a legislative priority.
What was the inspiration for the line?
I watched the documentary An Inconvenient Truth and it was a wakeup call. I started connecting the dots between things that were detrimental to the earth and also detrimental to one’s health. It started with making sweeping changes at home like trading plastic for glass, using vinegar and water to clean surfaces, and switching to organic mattresses. When it came to beauty products, there were safer options, but they didn’t last all day or just didn’t work. It inspired me to create a beauty brand that’s actually good for you, with products that perform as well, if not better, than any traditional brand on the market.
What is the Beautycounter philosophy?
Our mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone, through unparalleled safety and working with lawmakers to advocate for stronger regulations. We are a B Corp, so we focus on people, the planet, and profit equally.
What was the first product developed?
An essential skin-care line built around coconut oil as an ingredient. At that time, people who were beginning to understand the need for clean ingredients were most comfortable with coconut oil. We started with the essentials that everyone needs: Cream Cleanser, Day & Night Cream, Face Oils (they’ve become a cult favorite!), an Exfoliator, and a Rose Water mist.
What is your bestselling product?
In 2020, shortly after the pandemic hit the US and Canada, we launched All Bright C Serum, a cutting-edge clean formula that’s rich in antioxidants and a potent 10% vitamin C blend. People were craving a little sunshine in a bottle — it really wakes up the skin — and it instantly became our top selling product ever, which remains true today.
What's your favorite product in the line?
It’s so hard to choose, but I am pretty obsessed with our Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer — I wear it every single day because it evens out my complexion and the SPF 20 has me covered. And if I could bathe in the Overnight Resurfacing Peel, I would. I use that at night and then All Bright C Serum in the am — the combo leaves my skin feeling glowy, dewy, and beautiful.
What makes Beautycounter unique?
We are leaders in the industry, and ban more questionable ingredients than our peers in the clean beauty space — here and abroad. Our Blueprint for Clean is 12 safety standards that our formula and manufacturing partners must adhere to before we agree to work with them. This ensures we uphold what we started: to set the highest bar for safety in the beauty industry.
What's one surprising thing people might not know about Beautycounter?
Since 2013, we have worked with lawmakers of all political parties across the US and Canada to ensure the safety of product ingredients, stand up for consumer access to transparent labeling, and advocate for a future in which the beauty industry does not harm the planet. We have helped to pass nine clean beauty laws — and we’re just getting started!
What do you want people to think of when they think of Beautycounter?
That you can always trust Beautycounter to create clean products that not only work, but through high safety standards and our advocacy efforts we are a brand that’s helping to change the beauty industry forever.
What was one of the biggest challenges you faced when you launched?
Trying to balance family and work and time to take care of myself is a constant balancing act. Knowing that I'm working toward something that will help others has always helped me to keep going and keep things in perspective.
How did you know you'd made it as a brand?
When people started walking up to me on the street and thanking me for the products and the work we were doing in Washington and beyond.
What is your proudest moment as a founder?
Being the first clean beauty CEO to appear before a congressional committee. I was honored to testify in favor of cosmetic reform, and they heard us loud and clear that the FDA must better protect consumers. I’m proud to say that the hearing led to the first vote in Congress on cosmetic reform since 1938.
What can we expect from Beautycounter in the future? Any exciting news you can share?
More clean beauty innovation in skin care and makeup, more advocacy, and an even stronger commitment to a safer future for all.