It isn't common for a beauty brand founder to mention the human toll of the beauty industry. I know this because I've interviewed a ton of them, and although most will acknowledge the beauty industry's impact on the environment or on people's health, rarely does anyone mention it's ties to child slavery and people trafficking. LOLI Beauty founder Tina Hedges thinks the reason why is simple; it's a bummer, and there's no room for bummers in beauty.
"You know, beauty is supposed to be all pink and bubbles and unicorns," says Hedges. "People think 'that's such a downer, people trafficking,' and also the world is running out of water, and soon there's gonna be more plastic in the ocean than fish. But to me it's so important. Don't you want to know that the lipstick or eyeshadow you're buying, it's little children in India that are mining that mica for you?"
Aside from the fact that LOLI Beauty products are highly rated across the app, Hedges is a truly unique founder (with a history in early reality television) who goes above and beyond to make sure her products are sustainably and responsibly sourced from start to finish. Read more about her career, how she sources her ingredients, and her brand's zero waste packaging below, and be sure to redeem your own LOLI Beauty product tonight at 7PM EST.
On her career background:
I always love to start with my personal journey because that definitely has an influence over how I ended up having the idea for Loli. I come from Cuban parents and I was born and raised in Jamaica West Indies on the Blue Mountains of Jamaica and some of my early childhood memories are watching natural ingredients being plucked from the garden, the forest, the reservoirs, the sea and being made into topical and ingestible health and beauty remedies. Flash forward, I ended up during college living in China and learning a lot about Chinese traditional medicine. From there I landed in the beauty industry and worked for companies like Estée Lauder and L'Oreal. I was one of the people on the marketing team who would dream of what the next launch was going to be whether skincare, haircare, fragrance, body, bath, color, all the categories. Then I searched the world for the ingredients and decided the packaging and worked with all the scientists to bring it to life. Lots of fun things that your grandmother, your mother, your aunties probably have in their beauty cabinets, I was involved in.
On being on reality TV
Then I left the corporate world in 2004 or 2005. For my first startup, I hijacked two seasons on a reality show called 'Blow Out.' It was the early days of reality TV. It was on Bravo and it was about this hairstylist, Jonathan Antin in LA. I basically, brought the money and the idea and launched a haircare brand around him and it was vegan and sulfate free. I was on the show for two seasons. That was crazy, and there is no reality in reality TV. It's all so contrived and the producers definitely try to manipulate situations to create tension. It's an insane world, but it was a runaway success, and then I got involved in a lot of early stage opportunities, everything from a medical device in the beauty space to a beverage.
Basically, the beauty industry is selling you harsh detergent, blended with water and chemicals to strip your skin, hair or body of all their healthy, natural microbiomes, and disturb their delicate pH balance, to then sell you five products to try and restore it.
On why she started making her own skincare
The important part of the story is right around this time I started having a health crisis. I had all these very odd hormonal imbalances that were manifesting in everything from early menopause to really severe allergic reactions that were just spontaneous and no allergist could pinpoint what was going on. I started thinking about all the chemicals I've been slathering on my body for all these years being in product development, because basically you're the front line of product testing. So I made my own clean beauty. I had a Marie Kondo moment of getting rid of everything in my cabinet and blending up my products on my own.
I have a whole philosophy about the negative impact of detergent and soap free cleansing. Basically, the beauty industry is selling you harsh detergent, blended with water and chemicals to strip your skin, hair or body of all their healthy, natural microbiomes, and disturb their delicate pH balance, to then sell you five products to try and restore it. So I started blending up my own micellar cleansing toner, and that's the inspiration for the Camomile Lavender micellar.
On starting her brand
About four or five years ago, I was sipping a juice that I had just gotten custom blended at one of the juice bars and thinking about what is it about that experience that I treasure and why would I spend $12 for custom made juice. What is it? Part of it is you can see what ingredients are going into it, you have full transparency, it's fresh, and you have a different level of belief in the purity, and therefore the power. Then I walked into a specialty beauty store and I'm looking at the row of face oils and I’m like, what's the difference between that $68 one and that $125 one? They're the same ingredient sample, there is a number one ingredient or silicones and then whatever natural oil they're telling you is cold press in there is at the very bottom of the ingredient list. You’re also buying all this plastic packaging.
On reducing waste
Most beauty products are made of 80 to 95 percent water and diluted with chemicals, synthetics, and toxins, and then over packaging and plastics. None of that made sense to me. I decided I wanted to unbottle beauty and create a zero-waste, organic skincare brand that allows you to reduce the amount of products you're using because everything is multitasking. You don't need 15 products in your cabinet, you need three that allow you to be creative. If you want to customize or blend, you can mix and match and sort of customize, but you don't need to. It’s like your white t-shirt, you can slip it on and you’re ready to go. And we formulate with no water and then package fully zero waste, we upcycle from organic food supply. So we find ingredients that are being thrown away, and then we package in food grade glass that’s recyclable and refillable, and then all our labels and bags are home compostable.
LOLIi stands for living, organic, loving ingredients. I started out of my studio apartment blending, sourcing, picking, packing everything myself. It has really been the typical founder story of lots of rollercoaster moments and are we going to make it? Can we make it? But we've won every award possible from cosmetic executive beauty award for sustainability excellence to like a Byrdie conscious award. We're definitely doing amazing things.
There's sort of a complicit agreement in beauty that is like, don't talk about unhappy things.
On the beauty industry's dark secret
My philosophy is you cannot build your happiness or your beauty on someone else's unhappiness. We support the stopping of people trafficking and we assess our supply chain for the risk of people trafficking.
There's sort of a complicit agreement in beauty that is like, don't talk about unhappy things. You know, beauty is supposed to be all pink and bubbles and unicorns. People think "that's such a downer, people trafficking," and also the world is running out of water, and soon there's gonna be more plastic in the ocean than fish. But to me it's so important. Don't you want to know that the lipstick or eyeshadow you're buying, it's little children in India that are mining that mica for you? That's just wrong. It was very important to look at our entire impact and make sure whether it's planet, animals, people, that we thought through the whole process to make it better.
On the unique ways they source their ingredients
How we’re zero waste starts from how we source. We go directly to biodynamic organic farms around the world and we find ingredients in organic food supply that are usually being discarded. So as an example, our hero product is our plum elixir, which is a multitasking beauty oil for your skin, your hair, your lips, etc. We work with a farm in France that grows a very rare French plum. It doesn't look like an American plum, it's tiny. This plum, when they make pitted prunes or prune juice, they were discarding the kernel. And inside the kernel is a nut, and the nut of the plumb is actually very related to the almond. Anyway, when we found this kernel, this farmer who's owned this farm for four generations felt terrible he was throwing away all these kernels with a nut inside and he was like, "what can I do?" So he press this nut into an edible gourmet food oil and it started winning all these prizes around the world and chefs were using it. Then we started to work with them. We blend the plum elixir with three other food grade organic oils. One of them is sea buckthorn, which comes from 10,000 feet above the Himalayas. It has 120 bioactives and minerals and it’s also upcycled.
All our ingredients are Made Safe certified, so independently and scientifically both our ingredients and our products, which is a really high standard. It's more stringent than the EWG (Environmental Working Group). EWG will just sort of aggregate what research is out there on ingredients, but with this scientists and researchers look at everything and make a decision. We're also Leaping Bunny certified, vegan. We formulate without water and we try to use every ingredient in its rawest form possible. We try not to overprocess anything so it doesn't lose its vitality.
You can redeem their Grape Hand Tonic (seen above), a hand purifier with 70%+ alcohol, tonight for those who are in need of a sanitizer refill. Watch LOLI Beauty reviews from the community, and add yours below!