Christy Coleman is a very prominent makeup artist. In fact, she's booked for some of the most coveted jobs in the industry: campaigns for Ralph Lauren and Victoria's Secret, and celebrity clients like Heidi Klum and Miranda Kerr. So, back in 2008, it didn't go unnoticed that the New York-based Coleman decided to pack her Vitamix and her dog into a car, drive to California, and settle in a small place in Venice that she found off Craigslist.
"My dad got Lou Gehrig's Disease, and I just started to think a lot about my contribution to the world," she says. After reading a book about the potential dangers of cosmetics called Not Just a Pretty Face, Coleman had her "Aha!" moment. "I took a year to study. I started a blog and began creating my 'clean kit.' I bought tons of products and spent tons of money. It took me a full year."
Soon after, Coleman joined forces with a start-up called Beautycounter, which describes its mission as "to get safe products into the hands of everyone." It's quick to eschew the labels "organic," "green," or "all-natural," simply because those words don't have concrete meanings. Instead, its website acts as a commerce-meets-activism campaign, with statistics and facts about the industry.
So, when it came to launching a makeup line, Coleman was more than game to lend her effortless-chic take on the art to a tightly-edited collection of products that was both beautiful to behold and easy to use. "I like to say I was pregnant for four years with this collection," she says with a laugh.
But, makeup manufacturing often has a less-than-desirable byproduct: heavy metals. "They're not ingredients you formulate with. They're tag-alongs in synthetic colorants and micas," Coleman says. "There are potential health concerns with a high metal content in product."
That means Beautycounter needed to test its products for metal levels countless times. In fact, the ones you'll see here were intended to launch a year ago — except they failed their final metal test, which ended up forcing the lab to switch to a different manufacturer. "Basically, I work on a shade. We test it. Then, it gets reworked, but when they go to create the batch, it gets retested," Coleman explains. "Then, when we go to reorder, it gets tested again."
There is no such thing as completely metal-free, but Beautycounter's standards are very high. In fact, all of the brand's products score no higher than a 2 on a 1-to-10 scale for toxicity, according to Skin Deep, a cosmetics database run by the Environmental Working Group. Click through the slideshow to see the fruits of her labor, and hear more about the story behind the new collection.