Clean circle founder Lena Chao

Founder Stories

Lena Chao: Founder, Clean Circle

by @vanzillascott
Dec 18, 2020


For the last few days, our staff has been discussing the things we started doing over 2020 that we want to bring with us into 2021, and one theme that kept coming up was our desire to live more sustainably. Beauty can be an extremely wasteful industry and sadly most brands don't take into account their environmental impact—but tonight's live drop and sale item, reusable makeup removers by eco-friendly brand Clean Circle, are a great way to start reducing your beauty waste.

Tonight at 7pm EST, we're going to be dropping Clean Circle's pack of 5 reusable pads (they're 100% color and dye free, just add water!) alongside the brand's founder, Lena Chao. Quantities will also be available for sale, so read up on the brand below, prep your follow-up questions, and see you tonight.

On her career background:

"I spent 10+ years in college counseling & admission focused on helping first-generation, underrepresented students go to college. My focus on college access and equity in education was so rewarding. That was my career, but behind closed doors, I've loved beauty my whole life, soaking in the newest cosmetic trends to the latest innovative skincare formulas. However, through my years of working with teens, I started seeing the damage that the beauty industry was causing to young girls, especially young girls of color. It was really disheartening to witness first-hand the pressure and conformity to unrealistic beauty standards. I just kept thinking there had to be a better way—only if we could reimagine an industry that was more inclusive, more ethical, more sustainable, and truly empowered us in our skin."

On her ah-ha moment:

"A few years ago, I was looking for easy ways to be more sustainable in my everyday life. So as a lover of all things beauty, the easiest place for me to start was in the bathroom. Here's the thing no one tells you about sustainability...sustainability isn't as simple as reducing waste. It's directly linked to climate change, how we treat the most vulnerable communities, and human inequities around the world. And with my 10+ year career rooted in education access and equity, this interdisciplinary knowledge was fascinating to me.

When I started looking for eco-friendly replacements for my single-use products, I took my new understanding of sustainability and searched for brands that were producing eco-friendly products ethically and responsibly. And I couldn't really find one. So I started Clean Circle to provide reusable products that take the idea of sustainability one step further. Yes, we help you reduce everyday waste in your beauty routine, but we also ensure that our fabrics are certified clean with no harmful chemicals and that we work with factories that abide by laws around pay and humane work conditions."

"It's estimated that 20 million wipes are thrown out each day and in the U.S. alone, and we create 7.9 billion tons of plastic per year."

On the waste created by makeup wipes:

"It's estimated that 20 million wipes are thrown out each day and in the U.S. alone, and we create 7.9 billion tons of plastic per year. There is clearly a trash problem. So I still stand that the easiest and simplest action that we can do is reduce our waste. And if we can reduce our waste with reusable products that are ethically made and sustainably sourced, then it's a good feeling to know that we did our part as best as we could."

On the brand's ethical practices:

"Textile is one of the dirtiest industries in the world, figuratively and literally. As a first-generation American whose parents worked in factories, I picked up some knowledge around fair wages and ethical factories. So when I was in the product development stage, I wanted to make sure that my products were not 'greenwashing' in the beauty industry. I made sure that I had understood my supply chain and that it ensured ethical practices from raw material development, production, and ethical treatment of workers. I work exclusively with manufacturers who are certified bluesign System Partner® and have the BSCI Certification.

I sourced some of the best fabrics for my reusable rounds and reusable makeup wipes which I'm really proud of. Our bamboo charcoal makeup remover pads are and will always be gray! They are dye-free, and I designed them specifically with a pointed tip to get into the lash line. I just hate it when eyeliner is left over! Our reusable bamboo velour pads are insanely soft. It's a nice way to add a sustainable luxury-feel to your everyday routine."

On tonight's product drop and sale:

"Our reusable bamboo velour pads are insanely soft and the best replacement for single-use cotton rounds. It's a nice way to add a sustainable luxury-feel to your everyday routine. It doesn't leave lint and you can throw it into your laundry tied in our organic cotton washbag. It's great with toners and serums. I use my set daily to put on toner. (Because ya girl got dry skin!)

Our Bamboo Charcoal is perfect to help remove makeup with just water. We still recommend washing your face with a cleanser but it is so much gentler than a makeup wipe (which is known to formulate poorly). Besides replacing makeup wipes, the pointed tip replaced QTIPS! It is so much easier to carry one pad than a bunch of q-tips for touch-ups."

Watch Lena's review below and tune in tonight, 12/18, to get your very own pack of Clean Circle reusable wipes.