Makeup initially was an interest likely stemming from the internalization of subliminal messages of beauty that I encountered as a young girl. Christmas and birthday lists weren’t complete without a dozen links to the Sephora website! As I got older, this passion continued to manifest and I found myself extremely reliant on wearing makeup, even just to walk out the door. It was difficult for me to see myself as beautiful without it, which I recognize-- upon much introspection, eventually resulted in my own insecurities and social anxieties.

Growing up singing in jazz choirs and a cappella groups, I had always been everyone's go-to friend to do their hair and makeup for performances and events. Loving makeup as I did, and placing so much of an emphasis on beauty and glamour-- I, naturally, started working in the conventional cosmetic industry as a makeup artist. For me, putting makeup on others was less about the superficial aspect, and more about guiding them into recognizing their beauty. Erring on the side of a more natural look has always felt most organic to me, I choose to enhance (rather than change) complexions and features to enable them to feel beautiful in their own skin. I prefer a neutral eye to a smokey eye, freckles to full coverage, and a dewy complexion rather than matte.

Given my personal rocky relationship with makeup and beauty, and given the opportunity to have conversations with other women about their own insecurities-- I started to really think deeply about WHY people feel so inclined to wear makeup, what pressures they face that have lead them to perceive themselves they way they do, what standard of beauty are they comparing themselves to, etc. And especially, if women are cornered into using beauty products as a result of social pressures-- what chemicals were they being exposed to as a result?

At the same time, I was pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont, with a focus in Safe Cosmetics in my capstone. This allowed for a lot of exposure to extremely scary facts and data about the unregulated state of the beauty industry. I found it disturbing that policies have not changed since the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act! What was most surprising to me was that our government had only banned 11 ingredients, out of a total of 12,500 on the entire market, while the European Union has already banned 1400. Given these facts, I became even more inspired to look into this conundrum. I did my research-- taking courses in the effects of plastics on human health and the environment, and women’s and children’s health. I invested many hours deep in the throes of learning tools such as the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, the Think Dirty App, documentaries, and Green Beauty Blogs, to name a few. When I started to articulate my concerns and values, I learned very quickly it was still a very taboo topic in the conventional beauty space. I was even given a verbal warning by my employer at the time that if I continued to speak on these topics, there would be consequences.

How could I continue using products on women that I knew could compromise their health, especially when I wouldn’t use those same products on myself? I eventually became exhausted with feeling so morally conflicted and began seeking other professional opportunities. I always dreamed of pairing my passion for beauty with the desire to address the physical health and emotional consequences created by such unattainable cultural standards of beauty. What I serendipitously stumbled upon was Follain (Gaelic for Healthy, Wholesome & Sound), a public-health project of sorts, disguised as the most beautiful and clean (in every sense of the word) beauty store you've ever strolled into! We, at Follain, pride ourselves on having the most stringent safety and performance standards in the nontoxic beauty industry, using education as a tool to advocate for the policy changes we want to see.

It is here that I can freely (and with gusto!) discuss the impacts of an unregulated beauty industry with others who share the same values and ethos as I had once been told to keep quiet about. We passionately share facts and information with our customers to empower them to make more informed decisions in their personal care purchasing habits. I feel so inspired because although I’m a makeup artist and I have the ability to make others feel beautiful in their own skin, I am not immune! I, too, struggle with being unaffected by our culture’s unrealistically high standard of beauty. For this reason, i’ve made it my personal mission to disrupt the health and emotional impact of an unregulated industry that takes advantage of women by compromising their perceptions of themselves.