I was raised in Melbourne Australia, a place with lots of open skies and space. At around five years of age my family moved to the inner city, to a small brick house across the street from the sweetest little park. There was a stream running though it with lots of colorful seasonal flower beds blooming with Australian native flora. I spent many happy hours chasing faeries, creating magical stories and other worlds. Watching nature was, and still is, one of my favorite things to do. I used to get upset if people stepped on an ant, that‘s the kind of kid I was, and nothings changed really. So my connection to nature was one of reverence and joy.
I also credit my approach to a holistic lifestyle to my Italian upbringing. There was a common sense and practicality to wellness and diet that is inherent in most European cultures, so I carried that through my whole life and career. My maternal grandmother was the heart of our family; she taught me kindness and how mindfully step into a chicken coop. And my five aunts inspired me with their natural beauty and flawless complexions. They used the most basic of ingredients to achieve it: olive oil as a moisturizer in place of a serum, and fresh lemon juice as a light peel. Things were simpler then, and they worked. The Mediterranean diet had a lot to do with it too; with yet again lots of olive oil, fresh organic foods from our vegetable garden, and grass fed meats.
You founded A Green Beauty Magazine more than 10 years ago, well before the trend toward clean beauty. How were you introduced to natural beauty and why is it important to you?
Later in life I became a freelance hair and make up artist. I moved to Sydney and pursued a career in fashion and film. I was traveling the globe working with amazing creators and talent, but in the back of my mind I was frustrated with the lack of natural products on the market. With the concerns I had about the state of the environment, and on fighting disease I couldn’t see how I could keep moving forward without addressing it in some way.
In 2009 I started blogging about replacing all my hair and make up products with alternative non-toxic, plant based brands. It was a place to share my passion, eventually the blog started to take on a life of its own, expanding into articles, interviews, and fashion and beauty editorials, becoming AGB/A Green Beauty magazine. AGB published a sustainable print magazine for a few years that attracted some amazing sustainable, eco warriors who wanted to be part of a change, and I’m so happy to continually be meeting and collaborating with great talent on a shared mission.
You work on a lot of film productions, as well as editorial shoots, is it ever a challenge to stick to your clean ethics when it comes to certain gigs?
There are a few things that I grapple with on most sets. I bring all my own gear and products, which make the actors grateful to find pure botanicals waiting for them. But every studio and location is different and one thing that makes me uncomfortable and sad is the lack of recycling options. It can be challenging, especially in NY. Also the amount of plastic bottles that are distributed and left half empty can be infuriating. Sometimes, and its’ happening more and more, there will be a wonderful, eco- warrior producer that comes along and makes everyone follow her or his lead. That makes me so happy that I can enjoy the job so much more. Of course when I produce shoots for AGB it’s always an organic spread with lots of yummy vegan and raw treats. I like entertaining so any excuse to share a farm to table meal with co-workers and friends is fantastic.
My clients and teams on set are always intrigued, and love being around my stylist’s area just to inhale the therapeutic aromas of my spa like products. It took about a year to find and test the performance of a variety of options available. Working in any field comes with a certain amount of stress, and at times can be harmful to ones personal growth and success, why not alleviate that with some healing plant aromas and products?
Like slow or “eco” fashion, “natural” beauty has many layers to it. What are some of the criteria you look for in brands and why?
This is a great question because I think people can become so easily overwhelmed when it comes to shopping consciously and toxin free. I think it’s wonderful to have stores like Kaight that make shopping a relaxing and carefree experience: knowing that you’ve done the research and verified the ethos of the brand for them.
If I’m shopping for myself, or when brands send me products to review I start by looking at the packaging. Sometimes even if the product ingredients list appears to be eco at first glance if the packaging is not thoughtful and recyclable, I see it as a red flag. I don’t see how any conscious brand can have a green ethos and not have it flow through the whole concept of their brand.
If an ingredient list is tremendously long I tend not to trust it. If I’m out shopping, I’ll take a photo of the list to look it up later at home. EWG.org is a great source for cosmetic toxin research; they have an extensive database that will help guide consumers on toxicity levels of ingredients found in everyday products.
I also stay away from brightly colored products as the artificial dyes can’t assimilate into the body and can cause disease.
I look for artificial fragrances and aromas that are hormone disruptors.
Most of the time people are driven to change out of circumstance and more and more people are experiencing allergies from generic brands. Or they may have been ill, such as cancer patients, and want to maintain a holistic and toxin free lifestyle. I suggest to explore each brand carefully to see if the ingredients in their formulas are suitable for your needs.
Are there any products that haven’t gone “green” yet? Anything you’d love to see in the marketplace?
The eco hair and makeup product industry is thriving but there are still challenges as far as product performance. Especially in the professional realm, when it comes to close up beauty shoots. In everyday life the average consumer has many options, but for the professionals its’ tougher for micro close up photography. In some instances the performance standards in some areas of eco brand market are yet to equal that of their generic counterparts. And I guess the question is do they have too? For example, I haven’t found an all-natural, lengthening mascara as yet. I also haven’t come across eco eyebrow mascaras. But by and large, high performance eco ingredients have successfully replaced most areas of a make up industry.
For clean and natural makeup brands I would suggest exploring collections from some of my personal favorites: RMS Beauty, Kjaer Weis, Faerie Organics, Josie Maran, Ilia, Bite Beauty, Modern Minerals, Zuzu Luxe. AGB was started for this specific reason: To provide a trusted destination for people who want to know which eco and sustainable brands are the best and suited for individual needs.
What is one product you can’t live without?
I think it would be a sad world if I couldn’t have olive oil in my life. I find that I use it almost every day. In cooking as well as a moisturizer. It’s the only oil that I can rely on when I run out of more formulated brand products. I remember my mum would tell me that as an olive skinned young woman growing up in rural Italy Olive oil was her go to as a moisturizer, and she along with her five sisters had flawless complexions. I love that I can use it on my face and my body. It’s not for every type of skin, but with my Italian background and my attraction to the taste and texture it’s the perfect oil for me.