If you read about beauty, follow beauty brands on Instagram, or use beauty products (read: everyone), then you’ve likely come across the industry’s tidal wave shift to “clean.” Everyone, it seems, is looking for products and ingredients that meet stricter standards — and for good reason. Unlike in Europe, where over 1300 ingredients are banned from product formulations, the U.S. bans just 11. How’s that for a striking difference? But in the past couple of years, it’s become easier to find clean beauty, with everyone from Target to Sephora adding designations to indicate the cleanest of the formulas they carry. Makeup, however, has lagged behind.
Whether it’s less pigmented, generally lackluster or lacking in staying power, the world of clean makeup hasn’t quite been up to a beauty aficionado’s standards. This is exactly what inspired the creation of Saie (pronounced ‘SAY’), a new range of clean makeup launched just last week by Laney Crowell. A former Estee Lauder executive and founder of the blog, The Moment, it’s safe to say that Crowell had access to trialing a lot of beauty products, and yet she could never find exactly what she was looking for. So she teamed up with product developer, Sarah Tallman, another Lauder alum, Hannah Wiegers, formerly of CAP beauty, and influencer Geri Hirsch to create clean products with an emphasis on sustainability.
The brand stirred up enough pre-launch intrigue (where there’s a need, the beauty industry will come running) that personal care giant Unilever invested. Now, you can get your hands on the brand’s first products: a universal nude-pink lip balm made with ethically-sourced beeswax, a “brow butter” in a clear and universal brown shade, a playful light purple eyelash curler (the brand’s signature hue), and the hero — a mascara. The mascara has already earned positive reviews, thanks to a formula that doesn’t dry all the way down to prevents flakes.
The collection for launch was curated for the woman who wants a more natural makeup look, but needless to say, fans are already itching for more. Luckily, the brand’s next planned new launches are just weeks away, and they will continue to roll out more every couple of months. In the meantime, we spoke to Crowell about disproportionate ratios of clean skin care to makeup, how Paris inspired her new brand, and her post-work rituals. She also showed us how the contents of the box are protected not with bubble wrap or other wasteful plastics, but with useful, eco-friendly cotton balls. Pretty smart!
How did you come to launch a beauty brand?
Where to begin? I could say it all started when I was 10 and living in Paris. My mom was a U.S. diplomat, so we were stationed there for three years. I feel in love with French style and beauty and the elusive je ne saie quoi look that all Parisian women have. I would spend hours in the French pharmacies looking at all the products, carefully spending my allowance on a little something. I would take it home, tucked in my pocket like it was a magic bean! I’ve been a beauty lover ever since: hair, skin care, makeup, bath, body, treatments, the works. So when I found out what goes into the beauty products we use here in the States, I knew I had to do something about it, with a little of that same je ne saie quoi.
What were you doing before launching Saie?
I was working at a big beauty brand, arguably the largest. I started all of their social media channels, created their influencer marketing department, and created their online content, including their online magazine. It was incredible. It was like getting my MBA without having to go to business school.
Was there a specific moment that inspired the brand?
I had recently started my blog and was getting sent a ton of products. So many, in fact, that I had to create a “beauty closet” in my apartment. One night, I went looking for some makeup and there wasn’t any. There were a million skin care samples and tons of ingestibles — but no makeup. I set out to try new clean makeup brands, and I couldn’t find anything that I liked in terms of performance or branding. That was my ah-ha moment.
What’s the one Saie product every woman needs?
Definitely Mascara 101. It’s amazing! Your lashes look long and full, the formula stay put all day, and when you wear it daily, your lashes improve from all of the nourishing oils. Someone asked me the other day if I have extensions!
Obviously, there is a ton of makeup out there — why does the world need Saie?
There wasn’t a single clean, nontoxic brand that I trusted, that I was excited to pull out of my makeup bag, and that didn’t break the bank. It was really important to me that our products were affordable, and it’s why we decided to launch direct-to-consumer.
What makes Saie’s product launches unique?
The formulation process on all of our products is long and complicated because we are so incredibly clean in our formulations. Sarah, our product developer, describes it as the “Olympics of Product Development” because it’s so time-consuming and nuanced. She spent tons of time working side-by-side with our labs’ chemists to perfect our formulas. What makes them unique is the ingredients, sure, but also their originality. We look to create products that are fresh to the clean market and also the beauty industry overall.
‘Clean’ is a tricky term. How do you define it?
We are very strict in our definition. In fact, we call it the Saie Standards. It’s our list of over 2,000 ingredients we won’t ever touch. In addition to the commonly-recognized ingredients, like parabens or phthalates, we also are proud to formulate without phenoxyethanol, or anything derived from or distilled from petroleum. We don’t use any ingredients that are bad for our bodies or our planet.
What do you do to unwind after a busy day of startup life?
I spend time with my daughter Isabella. She is the light of my life and nothing makes me happier than being with her. We have dinner, take a bath (usually together), and then we read books or watch a little TV and cuddle. It’s the best.
What’s your work mantra?
Find a way. Sometimes it takes a lot of perseverance and creative thinking. Other times, it’s comes from meditating and not pushing yourself but feeling the flow of what is meant to be.
What does self-care mean to you?
To me, self-care means honoring your body and making choices out of love. Our bodies are so incredible. It’s mind-blowing how hard they work to keep us going. I frame everything in this way: What products am I using to support my body? What food am I eating to make it happy? What moment of self-care can I have to make myself feel good?
What are your five staples of a clean lifestyle?
I wear mascara every day, and this is the one that stays put until I’m ready to remove it. I layer on a couple more coats for bigger lashes before I go out to dinner.
My friend Jamie is a co-founder of Nature of Things, and I’m obsessed with their CBD and magnesium bath salts. I use them right before bed because I get so relaxed that I have to go to sleep immediately afterwards.
My secret to bright skin. You notice a difference within days of using this tonic.
I drank the Kool-Aid. I take these probiotics every night and have noticed such a difference in how my stomach feels after eating (read: way less bloat and indigestion).
I think about my toxin load holistically, so I’m very conscious about all of the products we bring into our home. Branch Basics makes the most non-toxic and effective cleaning products out there. We order them over and over again.
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