How to Get Started in Clean Beauty

February 24, 2020

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

When I first started to truly, seriously explore clean beauty I was totally and utterly overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to start and so many of the things I had tried in the past hadn’t performed well so I felt a little disheartened about the new reality I was facing.

How to Get Started in Clean Beauty

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

It took me months of starting to educate myself and a lot of research to get to the point that I was able to write this initial post about my entry into clean beauty. I now have a primarily clean beauty routine which I’m really proud of. 

If you’re not familiar with Follain, they’re a curated one-stop shop for the best in clean beauty. In addition to selling online, they have a handful of boutiques within the U.S. as well.

I was so invigorated by my visit to the store last Fall that I immediately knew I wanted to share with you guys more of what I learned. I’m honored to have the marketing manager of Follain’s West Village store, Tara Merck, be a part of todays’ post to help guide anyone who is interested in making clean beauty more of their every day routine.

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

Before we get to the Q&A with Tara though, a bit more about Follain.

Follain founder Tara Foley started the brand after beginning a blog about clean beauty. Seeing the responses from so many other women who were similarly concerned about the toxic chemicals in their beauty products led her to leave her corporate job and start Follain in 2013 as the first of its kind: the first retailer in the beauty industry to sell clean beauty exclusively. But Follain is so much more than selling and that’s what had me fall in love with the brand after my first visit to their West Village store. The brand is centered around educating consumers on the safest, most effective and yet still luxurious and special beauty brands and beauty products in skin care, body care and makeup.

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

And, unlike other clean beauty retailers or retailers now spotlighting clean beauty, Follain has its own set of rigorous standards it upholds for those products that they sell. Only 10% off products they test will make it onto their store shelves. (I love this as it means I can read labels less religiously and trust that they’ve taken out the guess work and done the heavy lifting for me!)

Also unlike other stores, they don’t carry entire lines of brands. So instead of finding every Tata Harper product, you’ll only find the handful of SKUs that Follain believes in and those that passed their 5-step test. Expect a well edited selection of cruelty free, natural and organic and green beauty items. 

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy

Another great thing about Follain?

They have their own private label brand that meets their expectations for performance but also is offered at affordable prices. Clean beauty is often expensive and Follain is ensuring with their own products that you can enter the category without breaking the bank. They also do smart and kind things for our environment like letting you recycle your beauty products in store and feature a refillable soap station so you’re using less bottles moving forward. (And PSA: Their in-house soap is SO GOOD!)

How to get started in clean beauty I wit & whimsy
Q&A with Follain West Village Marketing Manager Tara Merck

My favorite part of the Follain shopping experience though? Their commitment to finding you great swaps for the products you currently own and love. I had heard they do clean swaps so when I first visited in the Fall I brought a bag full of products I absolutely love but haven’t been able to find good dupes for. Their team diligently went to work to try and find swaps that would live up to my expectations. And if they didn’t have something that would work just as well, they told me so. When Tara did my clean consult she found me so many good swaps. She also introduced me to a few new-to-me brands I may not have otherwise considered and I absolutely loved the product she recommended to me.

Q&A with Follain West Village Marketing Manager Tara Merck
Q&A with Follain West Village Marketing Manager Tara Merck
Q&A with Follain West Village Marketing Manager Tara Merck
Q&A with Follain West Village Marketing Manager Tara Merck


Q&A with Follain West Village Marketing Manager Tara Merck:

Why does clean beauty matter?

At Follain, we believe that no one should have to compromise their health for beauty. By saying no to toxins, you are not only choosing to feed your body with nourishing and nutrient ingredients, but you are oftentimes making an impactful difference in the health of our planet.  For the new year, we at Follain presented a simple message, “Every good decision counts”. Small or big, one decision at a time, matters. Choosing clean is a decision that will not only impact you in the present, but far into the future as well.

How did Follain start? How has the brand evolved?

Our founder, Tara Foley, started Follain in 2013, after coming to the realization that the beauty products she was using were filled with toxins that were both harmful to us, but to our planet as well. She set out to learn more, researching and writing about everything from legislation to ingredients. It was then she decided to open Follain, the first beauty retailer to sell clean exclusively. She was a true pioneer.

How did Follain develop its list of restricted ingredients?

We work with an Advisory Board to compile our Restricted Ingredient list. We work with a dermatologist, an environmental and reproductive physiology expert, a green chemistry expert and an ingredient sourcing and supply chain expert. And we make sure that all of our bases are covered when we are considering ingredients, brands and products.

What makes shopping at Follain different?

When you walk into Follain, you are greeted by one of our Store Educators. We call ourselves educators because we pride ourselves on having a deep and rooted understanding of not only the products themselves but the ingredients and the brand behind them. We bring the customer on a journey, experiencing the product and sharing our knowledge and love for clean with them. And we feature a sink in store so you can even wash your face with products to experience them if you’d like to!

Why is it important for each person to be an advocate for their own clean beauty journey?

Know your ingredients! It can be tricky to know what products and brands are actually clean, or whether you are falling victim to green washing or other false information. The more educated you are with your ingredients, the better an advocate you can be for yourself. You can absolutely trust that when you walk into Follain, the work has already been done for you. But having that knowledge in your back pocket is always a really good idea.

What’s the number one product someone should start with when they want to begin a cleaner routine? The second?

We usually like to say starting with a product that covers the majority of your body, like a body lotion or body wash (they cover the largest surface area!) but honestly, just start! We find people get hung up on not knowing where to start and that is completely understandable but it is a journey. So even finding one product whether its a body lotion, cleanser, mascara- just starting somewhere, that is the best way!

What misconceptions do you think exist about clean beauty?

We find the biggest misconception with clean beauty is that it is not going to work. The products and brands that we carry have been vetted not only for their ingredients but for their performance as well. I think some of the time, someone will try out a clean product. It might not have been the right match for them and they are immediately turned off to the idea of clean. We are here to make sure you find the perfect match for you and your lifestyle!

The list of ingredients to avoid can be overwhelming! What are the top 5 ingredients that someone should absolutely avoid when looking at a product’s ingredients?

Fragrance (not essential oil derived), SLS, PEG, Parabens and anything that involves a silicone! If you see three letters followed by a number- take a deeper look. We love using EWG’s Skin Deep resource, too to suss out toxic ingredients that may be lurking in products.

What are a few bestsellers for Follain?

The Everything Soap is a favorite and definitely at the top of the list! One of the best selling cleansers is the Ocean Cleanser from Osea, a perfect product for someone who is new to clean! The Follain Moisturizer is quickly becoming a cult favorite, the consistency is amazing. For a toner, the COQ10 from Indie Lee and Pai’s Rosehip Oil are also favorites. As for makeup products, two that we can’t seem to keep in stock are the Ere Perez Oat Milk Foundation and the Ilia Limitless Lash.

I’ve heard natural deodorants just don’t work for some people – is this true? Any tips for choosing a natural deodorant to get started?

Okay, here is the stink with natural deodorants- you need to give your body the time it needs to adjust. When you have been using a conventional deodorant for years, your body has become acclimated to the way it performs, which usually involves aluminum blocking your sweat production and odor. With natural deodorant, sweat and odor is absorbed by using baking soda, arrowroot or activated charcoal, not aluminum. So it is definitely a different feel and might take some getting used to.

We always recommend giving your armpits a bit of time to detox. Sweat it out a bit. Maybe use a little coffee scrub (used coffee grounds, coconut oil and sugar) to work through any buildup in the armpit, and then start yourself on a natural deodorant! There are tons of options. The first one might not be right, the first three might not even be right. But we at Follain will work with you to find the best option that works for you! The ones we carry have met our standards for performance.

Of the products Follain carries, what are your personal holy grail items you can’t live without?

Oh, goodness, where do I start? I know you probably expect me to say Vintner’s Daughter (which I absolutely love and definitely probably can’t live without). But I truly think it would be The Everything Soap. I very honestly use it for everything. I have one at every sink for hand soap,  use it to wash my cute pup Fenway, wash my delicates with it, use it in the shower as body wash, have created my own at home cleanser using it, wash my dishes with the Lemongrass, you name it. Other than that, okay, maybe Vintner’s!

. . .

I am personally still on this journey of continuing to educate myself. Continuing to test out products to build a cleaner routine and am still eager to share what I learn along the way with you all. But I absolutely agree with Tara that if you’re interested in building a cleaner beauty routine, just start . Pick a few products you’re willing to find cleaner swaps for and begin seeing how you like the cleaner alternatives. The less harmful chemicals you’re using regularly in your products, the better. Head to retailers like Follain that focus on more natural ingredients and make the process fun and informative and help you find the right fit.

A huge thank you to Tara for lending her expertise on this post. 

Also proud to report I did my makeup for this shoot entirely with clean beauty products! (Ok with the exception of eye shadow as I don’t yet own any eye shadow from a clean brand!) The products I used:

Vapour Foundation // RMS Blush in Lost Angel (obsessed – this is a NARS Orgasm dupe!) + Powder Highlighter // Ere Perez Bronzer // Ilia Mascara + Setting Powder + Liquid Eyeliner + Concelear + Brow Gel + Lipstick in Rosewater//


p.s. my updated morning routine and my goals for 2020.

[Carter Fish Photography]

comments +

  1. Shannon says:

    Lots of good info in here

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