Man, if only there were a Sephora that only carried safe beauty products, where they actually understand what you’re saying when you want something non-toxic.
Guess what? There is.
Credo Beauty is a brand new site by two former Sephora insiders Sashi Batra and Annie Jackson. It’s a beautiful, knowing site with almost all my favorite beauty brands, including Antonym, Fig and Yarrow, Forager Botanicals, Meow Meow Tweet, RGB, Skinny Skinny, Suntegrity, S.W. Basics, Vapour, and more than 50 others. I want to do all my shopping on Credo from now on. There are video interviews with many of the makers, with more coming. There’s a Healthy Swaps section, where you can ask which product can replace your current conventional obsession. I tried it out on Friday at 5 pm, asking about a Mac lipstick in matte Lady Danger. Within two hours, an email came back with several suggestions. None of them were exactly the same color, but they were quite close.
Today I received a package from Credo, so I could check out their holistic commitment to sustainability. Check out my picture on Instagram.
Annie Jackson, Credo’s VP of Merchandising and Planning, is a merchant and marketer with more than 20 years of experience, who began her career at Estée Lauder before being scooped up to join the founding merchant team that started Sephora in the U.S. and Japan. After a stint at Benefit Cosmetics, she is joining forces with Shashi to upend the natural beauty product space.
I got Jackson on the phone to find out if she’s the real deal, her favorite beauty products, and why appearances are important. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation:
I was really excited to see your site. It’s beautiful, and has so many brands I know and love. Could you tell me what catalyzed you to start this venture?
We’re seeing this second generation of these cool entrepreneurs, who we’re calling makers, who are passionate about the natural products category. But they’re coming at it from a genuine place of being conscious and informed about ingredients. When we started putting together our assortment for Credo, we were shocked because we found over a hundred beautiful brands we absolutely fell in love with. They were really different than that first generation of natural brands you saw at Whole Foods or your natural food market, that were totally natural, but that weren’t so amazing in terms of efficacy or packaging. Our goal is to give them a platform that is authentic and transparent as they are.
It’s so interesting that you come from Sephora. Sometimes I walk into Sephora, and they have no idea what I’m talking about when I say non-toxic. They’re like, “So, like, vegan?” But you have an educational component as well on Credo.
Our goal is twofold. One is to provide access to these beautiful brands that are natural. They don’t have to be totally without synthetic ingredients, we just want those synthetic ingredients if they’re in there to be non-harmful. Basically, total transparency so the customer can see what’s in the product.
The other side of it is the education. You’re right, I totally dedicated my entire career to conventional beauty in a state of blissful unawareness of what’s in all these products. We have no want or desire to disparage those brands, all we’re trying to bring to light is the fact that there are beautiful brands out there that are effective and are as beautiful, if not more beautiful than the conventional products out there today.
You put so much emphasis on the packaging. Why is that important?
At the end of the day, buying beauty products fills that emotional need in someone to feel good and look good. It should be a pleasurable experience! These brands are packaged beautifully, whether it’s the outer carton or the bottle or jar that they are in. There’s a care that’s gone into that that is almost artisanal. I think it really indicates the formula inside.
I feel the same way on EcoCult. I get a lot of pitches where I’m like, “I totally get what you’re doing, but I can’t put this up on my website because it’s not beautiful.” So what exactly are your standards for choosing products for your site?
We have two fundamentals that we look at: authenticity, and the transparency of the ingredients. We also look for the makers behind the brands, and that their holistic vision for their brand is in synergy with what we’re creating at Credo. We want the formulas to be natural or non-toxic, but they also have to be efficacious. We want to make sure the packaging is beautiful. Price is also a factor. We don’t want customers have a barrier to purchasing products. We have $6 lip balms all the way up to $200 anti-aging treatments. We try every single one of the products ourselves, that’s the fun part. We open up the jar, make sure it doesn’t smell horrible.
I’m curious about this as a blogger, because I do a lot of testing myself, and sometimes my skin does not like me, because I’m not being consistent. Is that a challenge for you?
Definitely. We have only two people on our team, so we use other people to try things, because we’ve had people say, “Now my skin is peeling off my chin,” or, “I have a huge zit because of this.” I’ll fall in love with one skincare product – like right now I’m using Kypris, both her syrup and elixir – I almost gear up for the monster zit that’s going to follow. Some people have no reaction, other people go through the initiation process.
You mean when you switch to a new product, the breakout that happens at first?
Well, thank you for taking one for the team! So what is one brand that no one knows about, but everyone should?
It’s so hard. Of course I feel like all 60 of them on the site fall in that category. If I could choose just one, I would say it would be Dr. Jackson’s, no relation. He’s actually practicing in pharmacognosy; it’s the study of medicine derived from plants. He’s been a physician for over a couple decades at least, and the research he’s done in laboratories, indigenous plant testing, traditional medicine testing – from all over the world, whether it’s Europe, the Amazon, Indonesia – he’s taken all that learning and collaboration to produce a skincare line. A lot of his formulas harken back to traditional healers, but the products have super cool modern packaging. It’s a very interesting juxtaposition.
You’re right, I haven’t heard of this brand. I’m excited to try it!
He lives over in the UK, and I know his brand is getting pretty popular over there.
I love your founder videos. Did you get to meet all these founders yourself?
Those videos, 98 percent of them are all filmed in our office. We condensed that into a couple week period, if you can believe it. We found ourselves crying at times over their stories, or laughing with them. Everyone started their brand with a different approach and reason to do it. It comes from a place that’s really personal for them. “I was concerned for my health;” or, “I was concerned about what my kids were using;” or, “I had a friend who was sick;” or, “I just wanted something better for myself and the world, so I created it.” To hear those stories, it’s almost moving. Versus my past life, I got jaded, because everyone was like, I’m going to create this brand because it’s going to sell really well.
Do you take into account how sustainable the packaging is?
Yeah! All of the brands either have recyclable products or create things from post-consumer waste, or use plant-based ink. We have no desire to add to landfill in any way, so it’s an important part of the criteria. If brands send us something, we’ll reuse their packaging materials in the packaging we send to customers. Or we’ll use something called the green wrap, which looks pretty cool, too.
What do you do as a company to reduce your carbon footprint?
We’re not a manufacturer, so our carbon footprint is really what we generate by having an office. We’re camped out in our majority investor’s office right now, it’s called Next World Group. They’re a “ONe percent for the planet” company, so we actually have someone who has measured our carbon footprint. What we tend to really clamp down on is travel. When we initially onboarded all of our brands, we went to New York once, and literally sat in a room and saw everyone one after the other, so it wasn’t a million trips back and forth. Moving forward, it’s a lot of online meetings and video training.
Have you talked with any of the brands involved about things they could do better?
Yeah, definitely. The millenial generation is coming up with a lot of cool brands, and they tend to be open to collaboration. This brand community are all friends, which is so cool, and we’re not used to it with our corporate background. They are totally open to feedback, and as are we. We’ll call them and say, “Have you thought about this?” Or they’ll call us and say, “You should think about doing this.” We talk to a lot of brands who are in that middle creation process, and want to bounce ideas off of us, and we’re totally open to that. We had a meeting like that a couple days ago with a brand that was still sampling things out, and they hadn’t even done their first packaging.
You’re opening a shop, right?
Our first store opens around April 30th or early May, on Filmore Street, which is a great little shopping area in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. I would compare it to the West Village. We’ll have a treatment room. We really want to provide that accessibility for these great brands in neighborhoods where people are living their lives. People like to touch and smell and try.