As the clean beauty category grows, consumers are seeking brands that 1) are transparent about their ingredients, 2) make products with a mix of safe synthetics and high-performing natural and organic botanicals and 3) manufacture products that deliver results. ILIA Beauty founder Sasha Plavsic made sure her company hit all three marks. But she didn’t stop there: Her product packaging is made from recycled aluminum and post-consumer recycled paper printed with vegetable-based dyes.
Plavsic hopes to empower consumers to learn that while not every natural ingredient is good, not every synthetic one is bad. Let’s take a look at where it all started and her plans to grow ILIA Beauty in the future.
Beauty Store Business: What inspired you to create your own clean beauty brand?
Sasha Plavsic: At the time, several years ago, I found there was a lot of greenwashing in the industry and I couldn’t find a brand that performed to the standards I was looking for, or one that had packaging and aesthetics in line stylistically.
How did your design background in branding prepare you to run your own company?
Branding meant I could do everything myself in the beginning–which was a really big plus on the visual, creative, packaging and, in general, problem-solving fronts. It helped me target the correct accounts that were relevant to the time, such as Colette in Paris, ABC Home in New York City and net-a-porter.com.
How do you define clean beauty and why is it important to you?
Along the way, our product pipeline started to shift from just natural and organic to clean–because what many people don’t know is that clean differs from natural and organic. For us, it means not every natural ingredient is good for the skin, nor is every synthetic bad; it usually requires a combination of both to achieve an effective product that truly works. I believe the customers care more about the safety of the product (lower in toxins) and that it works, over whether it works OK and is more natural. We are revising a handful of our products over the next 18 months that, in my eyes, need an upgrade from green to clean.
What are your future plans for ILIA Beauty now that you’ve secured an investment from Silas Capital?
To keep growing. We’ve been fairly lean for several years and are considered one of the pioneer brands in green/clean. With clean beauty brands popping up every day, and the trend of clean beauty in place, it was time to advance to the next level.
What is your hero product and what makes it so unique?
In the last year we launched a few new products, and two have climbed to the top: Our True Skin Serum Foundation, which is unique for it’s texture in clean; it’s a very liquid-like consistency, with medium coverage that makes your skin look like skin. The other product that is truly our No. 1 best-seller is our Limit- less Lash Mascara. It is being called out as the best clean mascara for the fact that it builds, doesn’t flake, holds a nice curl and is easy to remove at night.
With a newborn baby, how do you find balance between your work life and personal life?
I wish I could say that I do that really well, but it’s something that requires constant work. It’s definitely the most challenging part of day-to-day life. So many women say you can have it all, but if you choose to work or run a business and have children, there is a lot of support that is needed to do so successfully–and there are sacrifices. It’s something many women don’t want to admit or perhaps feel guilty talking about, but it’s an important topic. We are human and if we don’t take time for ourselves, everything around us can suffer. My advice is make sure you take care of yourself in some way and it will be easier to take care of the rest.
What have been some of the biggest milestones for the brand?
Since we started several years ago, some of the retailers [that carry us] were big milestones, as they were our first. Sephora is another big milestone, as they are such a powerful retailer and we have been able to test and build momentum at a safe pace. I think also recognizing timing, and clearly clean beauty is now. If I treated this business like a business instead of a project five years ago, I probably would have missed the mark on timing.
Tell us about your sustainable packaging and the importance of being a company with a conscience.
If I were completely honest, there is very little packaging in the beauty industry that is 100 percent sustainable. For us, it’s about making little tweaks where we can; using recycled aluminum, glass or plastic that can be recycled. Paper made from post-consumer waste is another. The biggest aspect of sustainability has to do with raw materials for the products and how they are sourced. It is very challenging to see all the way down the line with each supplier, but we do gather the data as we are registered and sold in Europe–which means we have to be transparent about every trace ingredient in our products.
What do you want our readers to know about clean beauty and your brand?
Like I mentioned before, clean beauty is not the same as natural. For us, it’s a hybrid of natural and synthetic to achieve a higher level of performance whereby a customer can cross over and not worry about whether it will work or not. We take it one step further to ensure certain allergens, such as fragrance or natural comedogenic oils and butters, are limited in use to ensure there is harmony brought to the skin. Makeup with skincare benefits is something ILIA has always set a bar for in this space, and it’s one we will continue to push to ensure the product is safe from a toxicity standpoint.
What advice can you offer entrepreneurs in the beauty industry?
The biggest step is taking the steps to bring your idea to life. From there, the learning begins and successes and failures will follow. I believe the only thing that can stop someone from not moving forward is choosing not to stand back up after being knocked down. In other words, never give up. ■