Welcome to Talking Top 10, a recurring series in which we feature the founders, CEOs, creators, and leaders who are shaking up their industries. Ahead, read our Q&A with Jane Iredale, and keep scrolling to shop her Top 10 must-haves.
Jane Iredale was born in England and moved to the United States as a young woman. She first attended New York University, then obtained her master’s degree in English and Philosophy at the University of Albany-SUNY. During her undergraduate studies she started her career in the entertainment industry, working first as a casting director and then as a writer and producer in both New York and Los Angeles. She moved on from film, television, and theater to create her eponymous makeup line, jane iredale. With the launch of the mineral foundation Amazing Base, in 1994, she introduced a makeup line that would nurture skin, not irritate it; a makeup line that she could feel good about producing, and women could feel good about wearing. She currently runs the business from the charming town of Great Barrington, MA where the company’s campus comes complete with organic gardens and direct access to a riverside walking path. She lives in town with her husband and dog, Cookie.
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Tell us about your background in the beauty industry. What led you to start your own makeup line?
Before starting jane iredale, I had a career in the entertainment industry as a casting director, producer, and writer. I spent so many years working with women whose careers depended on having a flawless complexion, and the heavy makeup they were using to cover up skin problems was actually aggravating their skin concerns, instead of improving them. So I started thinking about a solution—a makeup with true skincare benefits. I have always been interested in fashion, wellness, beauty, and personal expression, so the leap into makeup was a very natural one for me to make.
How has the beauty industry changed since you launched your first product 25 years ago?
It’s changed in a number of important ways. First, women aren’t slaves to what the fashion houses and beauty editors dictate but are figuring out what suits them best. The consumer is leading the way these days. Plus she is much more conscious of what’s in her makeup. When we began, almost nobody read labels. Now our customers want to know the ingredients and where they’re sourced. Cruelty-free and vegan have become an integral part of product offerings. We’ve gone from putting anything on our faces that looked pretty to having a checklist before we’ll even consider buying a product.
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What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in growing your business and how did you overcome it?
One of the major challenges was skepticism. After all, why would people believe that a mineral powder could do all I was telling them it could? A foundation, concealer, sunscreen, and skincare. It required a lot of hours standing at trade show booths covering red noses and knuckles. It was the plastic surgeons who first saw and understood the benefits of clean beauty and they are still some of my biggest supporters. Some of the surgeons used to keep our Amazing Base in their assistants’ desk drawers—now they have their own aesthetic centers!
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Since I’ve gone from CEO to founder, now I spend my day doing a lot of reading to stay up with what’s current in ingredients and formulas, and helping with product development. I have the time now to get more involved with things that have always been important to me—supporting farmers and the environment primarily.
We’re dying to know: how would you spend $20 at the drugstore?
Right now sanitizing wipes, if I could find them. At a more normal time, saline solution for my contact lenses.
What’s your skincare routine?
I always take my makeup off at night. I use our Magic Mitt and then apply our BeautyPrep Face Moisturizer. Sometimes I just clean my face and then let it be, thinking that it deserves a break once in a while. In the morning, I rinse my face in the shower, no soap, then apply our HA serum. I let that absorb and then layer on BeautyPrep moisturizer. I never go out without sunscreen which means my PurePressed Base. Very simple and no fuss.
If you were to recommend buying one Jane Iredale product, what would it be?
I don’t think a day has gone by since we launched that I haven’t worn PurePressed Base in Warm Sienna. I wear it for coverage and for sun and environmental protection. It has never let me down.
What makeup trend are you most excited about this season?
Frankly, I haven’t seen any trends. I’ve been sheltering in place. If I’ve heard about a trend, it’s that women aren’t wearing makeup right now because they have other things to think about.
What advice would you give to a woman who wants to start her own beauty company?
Do a lot of homework and identify where your products can fill a specific need. Make a list of what’s essential for you to start and set goals for your growth. Then use your contacts in your business or related businesses to get as much input as you can. Every time you use a professional for hair, skin, or nails, ask questions. They will be happy to educate you about the business. When you start you will have to put in a lot of hours. The phrase “build it and they will come” isn’t true. They will only come if you can offer them something they don’t already have, and you put a lot of work into letting them know you have it. For me, it was a good three years before I felt that I was on a roll. I wouldn’t advise starting out with a whole line but starting with a few great products and build on those. Unless you have a lot of financing, producing a line is extremely expensive. When I started there was no social media. If there had been, I would have used that as much as possible because it’s a very good way of getting attention. But it has to be done cleverly and often.
What’s next for Jane Iredale? Any exciting new products in the works?
We always have something in the works. Two things I’m excited about. One is the relaunch of our Lip Fixation. Lovely colors and a new stay-fast formula. It won’t rub off on your mask! And also the relaunch of our Powder-Me SPF. It’s always been a popular product and has been in the line for years. Now, we’re repackaging it in a refillable brush with refills. I think it will make it easier to apply and increase the fun factor. You can feel good about wearing it too, because we use physical sunscreen actives so when we can vacation again, you’ll know it’s reef safe.