Tara Foley, with a degree in public policy under her belt, was getting ready to earn her master’s in law when she decided to open a retail store instead.
“When I realized I didn’t know what I was putting on my skin every day, I started questioning the ingredients,” said Foley. “I did some lightweight research and realized products have a lot of bad ingredients. They’re not regulated in the U.S., and policy moves so slowly, I decided to open a store instead of lobbying.”
In 2013, Foley founded Follain, a beauty retailer that sells products featuring only natural, safe and organic ingredients. She’s since been on a mission to shed light on “clean” skin care, educate consumers and bolster the brands that are making safer products, free of harmful ingredients like sulfates and parabens.
Foley joined the Glossy Podcast to discuss how she’s raising awareness for clean beauty and vetting brands, while avoiding scare tactics. Edited highlights, below.
The importance of education
Foley said that it’s taken longer for the organic, green beauty industry to take off, following the rise of Whole Foods and organic food, because of a lack of access and education. That’s where Follain steps in. Foley said the first thing that’s asked when customers walk into a Follain store is whether or not they’re familiar with clean beauty.
“We consider ourselves educators as much as retailers,” said Foley. “There’s a lot to relay, and we kind of have to hold people’s hands in the process. Awareness has grown monumentally, however.”
“A huge bummer”
With more awareness and attention being paid to the space of clean, all-natural beauty and skin-care products, more and more brands are getting involved. Foley said that when Follain was first getting started, she and her team had to seek out new brands. Now, they’re fielding new deliveries daily and, thanks to Follain’s intense vetting process, discovering there are a lot of posers in the mix.
“There’s a lot of greenwashing going on in the space right now,” she said. “A lot of companies are trying to take advantage of the momentum, and it’s a huge bummer. They’re inhibiting the growth of healthy skin care.”
Growing an industry without government regulations
The reason all those non-clean clean beauty brands can pop up is that the industry is entirely unregulated. In the U.S., there are only 11 banned ingredients for skin, hair and cosmetics products. Europe has banned 1,300. Foley said that ramping up regulation is such a slow process that a recent reform bill vowed to test eight ingredients a year, when there are 80,000 ingredients that need to be tested.
Therefore, as the space takes off, Foley said it’s important for a company like Follain to steer customers in the right direction.
“The industry is on fire, thanks to a focus on technology and other developments,” she said. “But we have to build it without regulations. It takes way too long for that to happen.”