After years of working in the cosmetics industry, makeup artist Jessa Blades grew sick of sacrificing women’s health for the sake of beauty. She ditched toxic brands and formed Blades Natural Beauty in 2008, offering makeup services that use only natural and organic products. Blades also began working as an organic beauty consultant and has since emerged as one of the go-to experts in an eco-beauty movement that’s long overdue.
Here Blades gives PAPER a heads-up on toxic cosmetics to steer clear of and some beauty tips for amping up your Spring/Summer look. And to prove that you can gussy up without using dangerous products, Blades demonstrates a few looks on the ladies of Brooklyn’s melodic indie-pop trio Au Revoir Simone.
Let’s talk spring cleaning. How often should makeup be replaced? What’s the best way to clean your brushes?
Mascara should be replaced every three to five months – and please – don’t share. Washing your brushes is really important – the goal should be every week. All you need is a bit of gentle shampoo or hand soap. For an extra luscious makeup experience, every fourth time you wash your brushes, add a little conditioner after you shampoo them – your brushes will feel amazing. Short on time? Bring your brushes into the shower and wash them in there. But please wash them! Your makeup will look better and it keeps nasty bacteria off of your face.
As we move into a new season, resolve to make small changes with your beauty routine. No need to throw everything away, just slowly incorporate more organic products into your life. Small changes will be better for your budget — and a less abrupt change for your skin.
Winter weather conditions can be brutal on the skin – especially the face. What are some ways to combat residual dry skin from January and February as we move into spring?
We hear it all the time, but drinking water and eating well are so important. In addition to nourishing your skin through food, I recommend eating omega supplements and adding more nuts and seeds to your diet.
Another tip (which I am trying to do myself) is to put a big glass of water by the bed and drink it first thing in the morning upon waking. This helps hydrate the skin and body right away – too many of us jumpstart our day with caffeine which only increases dehydration.
Using organic oils is also a great way to combat winter skin. Contrary to what most people think, oils do not clog pores – they’re an amazing way to hydrate and protect your skin. Organic argan oil, almond oil, and jojoba oil are great moisturizers – but avoid mineral oil because that will clog your pores.
What are some of the biggest makeup application mistakes people make?
Too much foundation. Just apply to the center of the face and blend outward. If the color is a match, then you don’t need to use it all the way to your hairline. Too many people use it as a mask. Once you start using natural, gentler products, you’ll notice your skin improve – and you can use even less [foundation] because you don’t need to cover up problem areas.
Many people find cosmetics – all the brands, products, etc – to be confusing and overwhelming. They become afraid to update their look and to have fun with it. You should have these core products: a mascara, a black or dark brown eyeliner, a bronzer, a shimmery (not glittery) light pink or gold eyeshadow, a concealer, and a lip/cheek tint product. Once those basics are covered, try fun colors or different looks for special events or seasons. Most of that old-fashioned beauty talk (“You’re a summer, I’m an autumn…”) is irrelevant.
Through your work as a makeup artist, you’ve become an advocate — and frequent corporate consultant — on eco-friendly cosmetic products. People often assume that natural and organic products don’t work as well and are overpriced. Are the haters dead wrong?
Natural makeup products work just as well as conventional ones. It is true that they might not last as long as an 18-hour lipstick (which probably has lead in it) and that some of the colors and pigments aren’t as bright as conventional ones (which have more synthetics). But I use organic products working on set with great results. And – more importantly – for my everyday use. Women will find that the products work just as well for relatively the same amount of money.
My main goal is to teach healthier, more sustainable beauty choices. A number of metals – including lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, chromium and iron – are found in cosmetics ranging from lipstick to eyeliner, nail color and more. Phthalates are plasticizing chemicals linked to human reproductive, developmental and endocrine disruption. And they’re often used in cosmetics, commonly hidden as “fragrance.” I no longer want these toxic ingredients on the faces of women or on the market, and I also don’t want to be exposed to them as a makeup artist. The back of my hand is my palate and I am constantly warming up products or testing out colors on my own skin. Remembering that the skin is our largest organ really makes you stop and think. What kind of toxins are you layering on your skin, absorbing and accumulating in your body?
Some beauty products and brands are more harmful than others. How can you determine if your cosmetics are toxic?
There are no regulations for ingredients or labeling in personal care – that includes makeup, deodorant, toothpaste, fragrances and shampoo. This means companies can say whatever they like about being natural or organic, and they don’t really have to substantiate the claims.
The best thing to do is to start making changes in the products you use once or twice a day. Think your face powder or mascara is harmless? Enter it into the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’s Skindeep Database to see your beauty hazard score – you’d be surprised. The Environmental Working Group offers some easy tips for reading beauty product labels and choosing carefully. A general rule of thumb: the easier the ingredients are to pronounce, the better they are for you.
What are some of your trusted brands and products?
rms beauty is one of the cleanest beauty brands on the market and I love them. I really like Alaffia (especially their Virgin Coconut Hydrating Lotion) and everything by Intelligent Nutrients and Jane Iredale. I also use Dr. Hauschka (love their Toned Day Cream and Translucent Bronze Concentrate), Couleur Caramel (their mascaras and bronzers are superb), and Nvey Eco Beauty (for their Organic Crème Deluxe Foundation). I’m a big fan of the Organic Argan Oil by Kahina and Weleda skincare products, too.
I recently made the grim discovery that my trusty Touche Éclat Radiant Touch concealer by YSL Beauty is chock-full of unpronounceable synthetic ingredients. Any suggested substitutes?
Try the “un” cover-up by rms beauty. It’s not a wand, but the concealer is gorgeous and it covers while healing and moisturizing your skin. I also really like the Couleur Caramel Foundation Stick. Use it sparingly as a concealer or more generously as a foundation.
After rifling through my toxic makeup bag and suggesting more organic alternatives, Blades and I met with Au Revoir Simone to put some natural products to the test. We focused on a different look for each girl.
Erika Forster (keyboard, vocals) has been playing around with colorful makeup lately, so Blades opted for a vibrant blue eye accent and dewy skin. First step was to moisturize with Organic Argan Oil by Kahina. Using rms beauty “un” coverup in #22 and Vapour Stratus Instant Skin Perfector to create beautiful baby skin, she finished with Dr. Hauschka Loose Translucent Face Powder. Blades lined Forster’s eyes with Dr. Hauschka Eyeliner in Slate Blue and completed the look with Jane Iredale Eye Gloss in Lilac Silk. Voilà!
Annie Hart (keyboard, vocals) felt like combating dreary January weather with lush red lips – old-school Hollywood style. Chapped lips are common this time of year, so Blades whipped up a quick exfoliant with raw sugar and Intelligent Nutrients Lip Nutrition. With a Jane Iredale Sable Lip Brush, she used the brand’s PureMoist LipColour in Carrie. To maintain rich lasting color, Blades had Annie cover her lips with a one-ply tissue and powered them through the tissue. Then it was one more coat of Carrie for a va-va-voom finish.
Last but not least, Heather D’Angelo (drum machines, keyboard and vocals) is a sucker for smoky eyes, so Blades went to town. Since the band had performed the night before, D’Angelo’s vision was still recovering from fake eyelashes. Blades used Jane Iredale Dot-the-i Remover Swabs to clean off residual glue. Then she applied Jane Iredale Eye Gloss in Mauve Silk on the lid and lined the lashes with Zosimos Natural Black Eye Pencil. Next, she contoured the eye crease and enhanced the liner with Josie Maran Eye Shadow in Smoke. To create a sultry effect, Blades layered more Josie Maran Eye Shadow (in Sweetheart) on the lid and inner corner of the eye. rms beauty Living Luminizer was then added on top of the shadows to give them more dimension. After curling the lashes, eyes were finished off with Couleur Caramel Mascara in Black. To offset the dramatic dark eye, Blades applied rosy-colored Revolution Organics Beauty Balm to Heather’s lips and cheeks and Jane Iredale PureGloss for Lips in Tourmaline. Gorgeous!
Some behind-the-scenes footage of the Blades Natural Beauty photo shoot with Au Revoir Simone…