When I first started exploring the world of clean beauty in the mid-2000s, the category was relegated to a single aisle in health food stores. Even there, many of the products were rudimentary at best, and paled in comparison to traditional brands. I struggled with cakey foundation, smudgy mascara and lip color that wouldn’t last beyond the day’s first cup of coffee.
A decade later, the movement has made major strides to become more mainstream, with a multitude of clean beauty brands offering quality products that eschew toxic ingredients without sacrificing performance.
I’ve also progressed on my own clean beauty journey, but I’m still far from an expert. When I heard that a boutique dedicated to clean beauty opened in the Manhattan Laundry Building, I knew I had to check it out.
Ivy Wild was founded by Rachel Mulcahy, a marketing professional in the tech space who also happened to be a self-professed über consumer of makeup and skincare. In the midst of her exploration of brands and products, Mulcahy had a realization that many of the items she loved contained toxic ingredients—even those considered to be prestige brands. So began her own transition to clean beauty.
As she discovered dozens of performance-based brands that she loved, her dream of working for herself and her passion for beauty aligned to bring to life a clean beauty boutique. At Ivy Wild, Mulcahy works with people at all stages of their clean beauty transition, whether they’ve never heard of the dirty dozen or they spend hours reading cosmetics labels. Her goal is not to preach or scold people for using the wrong products, but rather to help them find something that works for them and isn’t harmful to their health.
For me, the idea of just finding products I love without having to pore over the fine print of an ingredient list was both exciting and freeing. Mulcahy helped me do a few ‘clean swaps’ with products that I already had, but was looking for something even cleaner or more performance-based. Here’s how that went down:
Mulcahy started by asking me about my skin and my makeup needs—which I described as a fairly agreeable complexion with a preference for minimal everyday looks.
Foundation: I was using a mineral powder foundation that worked well enough, but I typically prefer liquid over powder. I hadn’t been able to find a clean liquid foundation that didn’t feel overly thick and was versatile enough for various levels of coverage. Mulcahy suggested Kosås tinted face oil, which is very lightweight and provides just a little bit of color, but can be applied more heavily as well. The product is also more skincare-forward, as it is a serum with hydrating meadowfoam and avocado oil. Even though it’s an oil, it dries quickly and doesn’t leave skin feeling greasy. I found it to be the perfect product that lets my skin shine through while also providing an even, finished look and skin-boosting benefits.
Concealer: I have very dark under eye circles, so a good concealer is a must for me. Again, I use powder, but would prefer liquid or cream. My main struggle with these products has been that they settle into creases and cause my mascara to drop. We went with a Vapour concealer stick, which had great color coverage, but unfortunately caused the same issues I’ve had in the past with more emollient products. I ended up switching back to my powder for under my eyes, but will definitely use the Vapour stick for blemishes or other problem areas.
Mascara: When I showed Mulcahy the mascara I had been using, I was shocked to learn that I hadn’t done my research and was in fact using a product that had an ingredient on the Dirty Dozen list. So, I was eager to switch and she recommended Saint, which builds volume while nourishing the lashes. In my wear tests at home, I loved the way the mascara looked, but did experience a little bit of smudging under my eyes, even with the powder concealer. Mulcahy suggested curling my lashes, which helped a little but didn’t completely solve the problem. Because I would rather use a non-toxic product than one that will stay put perfectly, Mulcahy said the best option would be to do a touchup during the day.
Mulcahy says “In some instances, I've found making this transition to clean products requires a bit of an adjustment in how you use and apply the product, which is a change I've been willing to make for the trade-off.”
Stay tuned for part two where Mulcahy will answer all your questions about clean beauty and share some of the best brands on the market today!