Tiila Abbitt, the founder of Aether Beauty, is no stranger to the clean beauty industry. After years at Sephora, she struck out on her own to found a new clean, vegan beauty line, and we had the pleasure of hosting her for a weekly Changemaker Coffee Chat and for a new episode of the Good Together Podcast. In this episode, Tiila shared valuable tidbits about how the U.S. regulates cosmetics and clean beauty versus ethical, sustainable beauty. If you are looking to start your own clean beauty routine, she also gave us tips on how to do it and what to look for, as well as brand recommendations for staple products.
Tiila's Journey to Clean Beauty Founder
Tiila spent more than 7 years as head of product development at Sephora, where she was also on their sustainability council and head of research and development on sustainability. She noticed that many clean beauty brands only focused on the formula of their products. Their packaging was the same mixed-plastic as any other brand, which meant it would end up in a landfill after use.
In April 2018, Tiila left to start Aether Beauty. She focuses on clean, vegan formulas with recyclable packaging. If a product can’t be made in a fully recyclable package to her standards, she won’t make it. She also makes sure that she can trace each ingredient back to its source for a fully sustainable brand.
How the U.S. Regulates Beauty Ingredients
In the United States, laws regulating the ingredients in cosmetics were last updated in 1938. Only a handful of ingredients are banned in the US, compared to hundreds of ingredients in Canada and over a thousand in the European Union.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees the cosmetic industry, does not approve cosmetics before they go to market. It regulates cosmetics after the fact when consumers complain about the effects of a product.
Clean Beauty vs. Ethical, Sustainable Beauty
When you see a brand marketing themselves as “clean,” this usually applies only to the ingredients. This just means they aren’t using ingredients that are known to be harmful.
Clean beauty doesn’t cover if the product was tested on animals (cruelty-free) or if the product avoids any animal-derived ingredients (vegan). A clean product that also happens to be cruelty-free isn’t necessarily vegan, and a vegan product isn’t necessarily cruelty-free, either.
Ethical or sustainable beauty, however, goes a bit deeper. Sustainable beauty brands consider the source of the ingredients, who is sourcing the raw materials, the ingredients’ impact on the environment, the packaging used, the brand’s animal-testing policy, and if the ingredients are animal-derived.
How to Get Started With A Clean Beauty Routine
Some people feel really guilty once they realize the ingredients, the non-recyclable packaging, and the potential animal cruelty attached to the products they use every day.
It might be tempting to throw everything out at once and dive deep into researching new purchases, but that creates a lot more waste than necessary.
Instead, go ahead and use up the products you have. The next time you need to replace a product or two, do some research on clean and ethical alternatives. As you continue to finish up what you have, you will eventually come full circle and have ethical alternatives for all of your normal products.
There are several ways you can find cleaner alternatives. The Detox Market and Credo Beauty both ban nearly 2500 ingredients that are known or suspected to be harmful. Beauty Heroes only features brands that are environmentally friendly. Sephora’s Clean Beauty section bans 50 harmful ingredients. Even your local Target has a clean beauty section!
Tiila recommends looking for makeup products that have organic, natural, vegan ingredients. These ingredients allow your skin to breathe during the day rather than blocking your pores, as most conventional makeup does. Aether Beauty’s products, in particular, last all day without using any harmful ingredients.
The best thing you can do for your skin is get enough moisture, whether that’s through proper hydration or using a moisturizing product. If you are looking for anti-aging products, there are not a ton of clean ingredients that work as well as traditional options, but Tiila does use items from Skin Owl as the anti-aging component in her own beauty routine.
Clean Brands & Products That Tiila Loves:
5. Skin Owl for anti-aging products
7. Innersense Organic Beauty for hair care
For makeup, we have to recommend Tiila’s own brand Aether Beauty. Aether Beauty’s products are infused with crystals, last for 3-4 years, packaged in all recyclable paper with soy ink, and have gorgeous color payoff. They’re rated 5 stars across the board at Sephora, Credo Beauty, and The Detox Market. If you are in the market for a sustainable, ethical, and clean makeup brand, this is the one to try.
At the end of the day, remember to find a product that works and matches the values that are most important for you. Adding a bit more eco to your life, especially with the products that touch your skin, is a kind act towards yourself and the planet.
Resources We Mentioned
Other Great Resources
- Refinery 29’s in-depth report on the child labor in the mica-mining industry