Earth Day Wisdom: Jessa Blades Talks Eco Makeup

Julia DiNardo

A makeup artist for the past nine years, Jessa Blades segued into exclusively natural beauty in 2008, and works with dozens of brands and products to create impeccable looks without the risk of toxins and chemicals. We were able to talk to Jessa about what parabens really are, the longevity of natural versus non natural products, and what she sees for the future of natural health and beauty items.

What was the major factor that made you decide to only work with natural beauty products?
After working for years in the beauty industry I learned that there are many toxic ingredients in our personal care products. Up until that point I had spent a lot of time trying to live a healthy and sustainable life by what I was eating and doing what I could to decrease my carbon footprint.

When I found out that there was no regulation in the beauty industry, I was shocked and horrified that I’d been unknowingly using unhealthy ingredients on myself and recommending them to my clients. It occurred to me that even with years of experience and education in the beauty industry, I didn’t know this very important information, which meant that the average woman must not know it either.

It has become my mission to educate women (and men) about what is in our products while providing easy and tangible solutions for safer options. There are too many people out there who are sick and too many babies being born with toxins already in their system. Educating about how to make healthier choices with personal care is one way that we can take control over what we are being exposed to and hopefully empower people to demand better from the beauty industry.

What have you found is the hardest beauty product to get that is effective and natural?
The hardest product to find in naturals are the super pigmented products. Im still looking for a neon, hot pink lipstick. You also don’t have the same long-wear properties that you find in mainstream products… but honestly, do you really want a lipstick to stay on your lips for 10 hours? It seems that unless someone has an allergy to something, a lot of people don’t have a solid grasp on what the major harmful ingredients to avoid in makeup are.

Can you give us a few, and why?
In general I advise choosing products with the least amount of chemical ingredients and avoid synthetic fragrance. In most cases the easier the ingredients are to pronounce, the better they are for you.
Here is a list of ingredients to avoid:
Parfum (Fragrance)
Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics even in some products marketed as “unscented.” Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity.

Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers. A petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.

Sodium Laureth/Lauryl Sulfate
Used in most products that foam, such as shampoos, cleansers and bubble bath. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer.

Used in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with male reproductive functions.

These plasticizer chemicals interfere with male sex organs, causing sperm damage, feminization of baby boys, or infertility. These toxins can also hide under “fragrance” on your product’s label, which is another case for choosing fragrance-free items.

Used in antibacterial cosmetics, such as toothpastes, cleansers and antiperspirants. Suspected endocrine disrupter and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

Does natural beauty have a shorter shelf life than other products? Should one sanitize brushes or replace products more often?
In general yes, the products dont have the same synthetic preservatives that allow them to last on the shelf for many years. But that is a good thing, because those preservatives are the same ones that you want to avoid when choosing your products (because these preservatives can also be endocrine disrupters, and may also interfere with male reproductive functions).

As for brushes, you should always wash them, regardless of what products you use, I recommend washing them once to twice a week. Washing your brushes helps limit the bacteria on your face as well as allows your brushes (your tools) to do their job and help make your makeup look more flawless.

What is your favorite part, or is most gratifying, about working with this kind of product?
The most gratifying part of working with natural and organic products is when I see how well they work. When people come to me and say that they need help, that their skin is a mess and that they have tried everything. I then watch their skin heal and watch them begin to trust ingredients and their own intuition about what is truly healing and healthy for their skin. I also love when I get the feedback that someone has heard what I have said and that it stuck with them. Maybe they had never heard of natural products before and because of me they have made actual changes; when that happens it makes me feel like I am making real change, one person at a time.

And finally, I love learning and sharing the stories behind the products and companies that I work with. Whether it is about a women owned Shea Butter Co-op in Togo or the history and benefits of Moroccan Argan oil, the stories are all so interesting and make the products so much more valuable to me.

In the future, what do you see for the natural beauty industry? Any big trends or growth you think are a definite?
My dream is for natural organic, non-toxic beauty to be the standard, not a trend. Until this happens there is going to be a lot of green washing and confusion for consumers as brands jump on the healthy beauty train without really doing the work to reformulate their products. Once people see how their skin is healed by using healthy products, they won’t want to go back. I look forward to when people make the connection and look at their beauty and health as one.
Excited for it to be the norm to look at the whole picture of what is affecting our skin and beauty issues. I’m tired of seeing celebrities on TV, selling Proactiv to desperate teenagers and making millions of dollars. I’m excited for the day when acne will be treated internally, through diet and emotions, and the final treatment will be to cover it up with non-toxic concealer/foundation.

What advice can you give to other makeup artists, and consumers, who want to incorporate more natural beauty into their routine, but don’t know much about the category (yet)?
My best advice is to start being curious about what you are putting on your skin. I dont like to scare or overwhelm anyone, but we need to start thinking about what we are putting on our skin once or twice a day. Currently, no one is looking out for our safety, until we get some better legislation in place, we have to be our own advocates and turn the package around and see what is in the products we are buying. The first step is voting with our dollar, supporting smaller companies (many are women run and local), and then actually voting for legislative change.

All that being said, I’m realistic and believe that lasting change comes when people start to change slowly. Next time your shampoo runs out, try a natural one. In the mood to buy yourself a treat? Go with a non-toxic lip gloss! Before you know it, you will be surrounded by wonderful new products that are healing to your skin and look just as beautiful as you are used to.