Eco-Entrepreneur Jeannie Jarnot on her Ethical Beauty Company, Beauty Heroes
Championing people- and planet-healthy beauty from a new Novato store and beyond.
THERE ARE MICROBEADS, BHA and BHT preservatives, silicones and phthalates … oh, and don’t forget formaldehyde, selenium sulfide, hydroquinone and something called ethylene-diaminetetraacetic acid. It is difficult enough to pronounce some of these hidden ingredients in cosmetics, let alone determine whether or not they will harm the environment or our health.
As a former wine country spa director and as founder and CEO of the subscription service and curated retail brand Beauty Heroes, Novato resident Jeannie Jarnot has spent much of her life working to discover the cleanest and most environmentally sound cosmetic lines and has built education into both her online subscription service and her recently opened flagship store in her hometown.
The clean beauty business is predicted to become a $22 billion dollar industry worldwide by 2024, and Jarnot, who has been called an “eco-preneur” and is quoted widely in her role as a clean, green and now “blue” beauty expert, asks consumers to consider the lasting impact of their purchases. We sat down with her to get an insider’s view of healthy beauty and how to make the most environmentally sound product choices.
When did you become passionate about clean beauty?
I was a spa director at Carneros Inn for many years and as soon as I heard there were ingredients like parabens or PEGs (polyethylene glycols, aka petroleum-based compounds) we were using in the spa that might be harmful to my staff and to our customers, I said, “Well, let’s not use those products or those ingredients. Why would we use something harmful at a spa? We are supposed to make people feel healthier and feel better and be more well.” So, my idea was to champion the products I had discovered and have loved for years and to create a service that would offer those products.
Is there anything that the average consumer should look out for on labels?
Yes. Back when I didn’t understand what we in the clean beauty industry call “the fragrance loop-hole,” I would trust brands that said their product didn’t have parabens or PEGs. But what I didn’t understand is that when a company lists “fragrance” in the ingredient list, that could mean anything. The FDA protects “fragrance” as a trade secret. I would find out later that a product might contain a whole host of ingredients I was trying to avoid.
So fragrance is bad because it really can (and usually does) contain some combination of harmful ingredients. Another to look out for is PEGs. PEG stands for polyethylene glycol — aka liquid plastic. These PEGs are an ethoxylated ingredient that has a byproduct of 1,4-Dioxane — a cancer-causing compound. PEGs are very common. The other one I really don’t like is dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxane. These are common silicones that don’t biodegrade. You can find them in everything from face creams and body creams to sham- poo, sunscreen and makeup. They are everywhere and they are invisible. But they get washed into our water systems and never really go away. There are many more — but those are some of the most common.
What is trending in skin care for consumers?
CBD is definitely trending — in everything. I can’t believe how the world exploded with CBD-infused everything. I think full-spectrum hemp is great for the skin and it has amazing medicinal properties. But [with CBD-infused products], you have to really make sure you are buying products that have CBD that has been extracted without other chemicals. It’s a tricky ingredient to work with, as anyone who is working with it will tell you.
I am also seeing saffron pop up as a trending ingredient. I personally have seen amazing results with saffron in skin care; it’s a remarkable skin-brightening ingredient. And then I am seeing retinol everywhere. Everyone is rushing to get their retinol product out. I like botanical retinol, [obtained] from moth bean extract and bakuchiol. It’s done wonders for my skin. There’s a big debate about synthetic retinol and if it’s safe. Botanical retinol is a great alternative if you don’t want to use a synthetic product but want to see visible results.
I know you are from Hawaii. Are there any particular natural ingredients from the Hawaiian Islands that are especially effective?
There are several ingredients that are sourced in Hawaii that are so good for the skin. The first is heirloom turmeric that grows wild in Hawaii and is being farmed in the traditional way of the old Hawaiians. I also love aloe, which is abundant in Hawaii and very multipurpose in skin care. Hibiscus flower is line-smoothing, and in Hawaii they call it the Botox plant. And there is an effort to reforest native Hawaiian sandalwood, which is antibacterial and naturally exfoliating while having a grounding, earthy scent. And of course there are kukui and macadamia nut oils, which are rich in essential fatty acids and low on the comedogenic [pore-clogging] scale.
What are some of your favorite zero-waste products?
I have been impressed with how much our zero-waste products have been selling. For example, the little tiny dental floss in the refillable container — it is an improved aesthetic and improved product and so much better for the environment. It is an all-around win-win. Or our deodorant that is compostable. The Saalt reusable menstrual cups are another example. They are zero-waste and so much better than traditional products; I think everyone should be using them.
Tell us more about the term “blue beauty.”
The next evolution for Beauty Heroes is our passion for “blue beauty,” a term that we coined, which means using a business to be regenerative toward the environment. “Green beauty” is being conscious of ingredients and packaging and working toward sustainability. Blue is one step beyond green. We saw that a number of other brands in our industry are making a serious effort to be regenerative toward the environment and educate customers about regenerative practices. For example, the Honua skin care team works with small farmers to replenish overharvested plants in Hawaii. Laurel [beauty products], here in Sausalito, is a pioneer of the “slow beauty” movement, working with farmers and sourcing within 100 miles.
Osmia Organics plants a tree for every order — they’ve planted over 30,000 trees and counting. So we wanted to champion that and educate consumers about our brands that are finding ways to use the business to go beyond and give back to the environment. People really get it when you lay products out for them to touch, test and try. People want to do well for the environment; they just need to be shown that it’s better and easier and good quality, that they’re not giving something up. There are certain things where there is no good zero-waste alternative yet. For example, razors. So we’re adding a TerraCycle box for razors in the store so people can bring them in and they’ll be 100 per- cent recycled. We are trying to close the loop. It’s all going to change. It has to.
Why did you choose Novato to open your flagship store?
I have lived in Novato since 2003 and love it. I had heard about Blue Barn opening in downtown Novato in the old DeBorba’s bar. I wasn’t actually planning to open a brick and mortar.
I was looking for a warehouse, and I now have one nearby, but when I looked around the space, which is right next door to where Blue Barn is opening, I thought, “If I were going to open a store this would be a good location.” Then, one day not long after, I was sick in bed and couldn’t do anything else but lie there and think, and I said to myself, “If I am going to Blue Barn for lunch three times a week and there is some very cool store next to it and I didn’t even make a phone call to explore the idea of opening a store there, I will always regret it.” That was a Friday. I made an appointment with the landlord for Monday, and we signed the lease on Wednesday. So far, all I have felt here in Novato is gratitude. People come in and say, “Thank you for opening this store here.” The community is ready. Past ready.
What is your favorite local spa?
My favorite spa in the Bay Area is Osmosis [Sonoma County]. I love spending a day in the meditation garden there followed by an enzyme bath. I always splurge and get the 90-minute massage in the pagoda up on the hill behind the meditation garden. It’s a bit extra, but worth it.
Where did the name Beauty Heroes come from?
The term “hero product” is a beauty industry term and that’s what inspired our name. For me it was about discovering healthy beauty, one “hero product” at a time. But the word hero means something different to different people. It can mean empowering themselves by choosing healthy products. Or, because we are a 1 percent for the planet company — meaning we are very interested in giving back to the environment and 1 percent of our top-line revenue goes toward environmental organizations — some people think that is where the hero part comes in.
Kirsten Jones Neff is a journalist who writes about all things North Bay, with special attention to the environment and the region’s farmers, winemakers and food artisans. She also works and teaches in school gardens. Kirsten’s poetry collection, When The House Is Quiet, was nominated for the Northern California Book Award, and three of her poems received a Pushcart nomination. She lives in Novato with her husband and three children and tries to spend as much time as possible on our local mountains, beaches and waterways. For more on her work visit KirstenJonesNeff.Com.