Four Founders Breaking New Ground in Clean Beauty

The Golden State just became the first in the country to enforce new and improved safety standards in the industry



This summer, the California Assembly passed groundbreaking legislation regulating the use of harmful chemicals in personal care products. The Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, A.B. 2762, bans 12 toxic ingredients commonly used in beauty products, making California the first state in the nation to move toward enforcing clean beauty regulations. It’s no surprise, as The Golden State was instrumental in the birth of the clean beauty movement.


BROOKE HARVEY-TAYLOR co-founded Pacifica, headquartered in Carpinteria.


“There wasn’t a clean beauty industry 25 years ago!” exclaims Brooke Harvey-Taylor, co-founder of Pacifica. “Only a few brands existed in the natural products industry. That’s where we came in.” Vegan and 100-percent cruelty-free from day one, Pacifica launched with natural fragrance and the goal of “finding a place where naturals and beauty could collide into something that met customers’ expectations around performance,” Harvey-Taylor says.

Also a leader in recycling, Pacifica, which is headquartered in Carpinteria, uses bottles that are 100-percent glass and tubes that are 65 percent recyclable PCR. The company partners with top recycler Preserve to upcycle all #5 plastics. “Clean beauty shouldn’t be an exclusive offering,” Harvey-Taylor explains. “I grew up without much, but I knew what was good. We started Pacifica to create products at an affordable price point without consumers having to compromise on quality. This doesn’t even address safety or the planet. I think that clean, safe and sustainable beauty should be for all.”


GREGG RENFREW is the founder of Santa Monica-based BEAUTYCOUNTER.


“When I started Beautycounter in 2013, clean beauty wasn’t something people talked about,” says Gregg Renfrew of her unprecedented beauty brand. “The buzzwords at the time were ‘green,’ ‘eco’ or ‘all-natural’ — words that didn’t speak entirely to what we were about.”

Santa Monica-based Beautycounter wasn’t the first brand offering safer products, but it was the first to enter the marketplace offering a “never list” of 1,500 harmful ingredients that its formulations would never contain. The brand promised product safety, transparency and ingredient innovation — wrapped up in minimalist, modern packaging unique to conscious beauty brands. Now, it’s universally expected that clean beauty brands provide ingredient clarity and answer to a highly informed customer base. Beautycounter continually pushes for safer personal care standards with texting campaigns and visits to Capitol Hill, asking Congress to pass more laws protecting consumers from toxic ingredients contained in beauty products.


ANNIE JACKSON founded CREDO in San Francisco.


In 2015, San Francisco-based Credo burst onto the retail scene. Nicknamed “the Sephora of clean beauty,” the company changed the way people shop for personal care products. “The pioneers of natural beauty back in the ’70s provided healthy ingredients, but without the beautiful packaging, texture, scent or even efficacy,” says co-Credo co-founder Annie Jackson.

“These were visionary brands, but they forced people to make an intellectual choice of substance over style and were essentially saying health before beauty.” Credo wanted their brands to have it all — chic packaging and clean formulations. But there was and remains no universally accepted standard that defines clean beauty, so Credo created The Credo Clean Standard to propose its own definition for customers, and to serve as a roadmap for brand partners.


“Codex is showing it’s possible for a small startup to check all the boxes required by clean beauty, not just make unsubstantiated claims”



The standard addresses ingredient and product quality, as well as ethical and sustainable sourcing, with clear explanations of terminology. Manufacturers now use the standard to formulate products, stamping them as “Credo Clean.” Earth Day 2020 marked the debut of Credo’s sustainable packaging guidelines, created to similarly impact the industry with their three-fold focus on smart design, sustainably sourced materials, and end-of-life optimization — meaning keeping stuff out of the landfill.


BARBARA PALDUS, founder of CODEX, launched her brand from Northern California.


For savvy consumers seeking even more transparency, Northern California-based Codex, which launched worldwide last spring, is on the cutting edge of ingredient innovation (its food-grade preservation system is microbiome-friendly), clinical trials (to prove product performance) and sustainability. Founder Barbara Paldus, who relishes leading the way, says: “Codex is showing it’s possible for a small startup to check all the boxes required by clean beauty, not just make unsubstantiated claims.”

This is just the beginning. As clean beauty reverberates across the country, changing the personal products landscape, leave it to California to lead the way.


Feature image: BEAUTYCOUNTER lip gloss.


A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of C Magazine.

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