In The PathTM, we spotlight different women making a difference in the fashion, beauty, wellness, medical aesthetics, and more industries. Here, clean beauty guru, Annie Lawless, shares her road to success.
Annie Lawless refuses to sit on the sidelines of life. At just 32 years old, she’s already launched a successful company, Suja® Juice. The small, home-delivery operation out of San Diego evolved into a booming juice business backed by Coca-Cola® and Goldman Sachs®. Now, the entrepreneur, who made Forbes’® 30 Under 30 list in 2016 and earned the title of New York Times® best-selling author, has set her sights on the beauty industry. She’s parlayed her passion for health and wellness into a clean makeup line: Lawless® Beauty. The founder, a self-proclaimed product junkie who ascribes to a full-throttle makeup aesthetic at all times, is on a mission to change people’s perception of clean beauty. It sounds like a lofty goal, but if there is anyone who has the drive to get it done, it’s Lawless.
“There's not a world where I go makeup-free, and I don't really have a ‘light’ makeup look,” she says proudly of her personal stance on glam. Her unapologetic attitude has resulted in the development of full-coverage foundations and pigment-packed eyeshadows that are branded as being “clean AF.” (Essentially, the brand’s millennial-friendly motto translates to “always free of carcinogenic, toxic, hormone- and endocrine-disrupting ingredients.”) When it comes to clean cosmetics, Lawless doesn’t believe in sacrificing performance or payoff. Instead, she’s decided to “get in the game” — which is also her daily mantra — and win with selfie-friendly formulas that put safety first.
Here, Lawless provides a sneak peek at what’s next in the pipeline and explains why she reserves her “secret single behavior” for her Beverly Hills bachelorette pad.
Spotlyte: When did you first become interested in beauty and makeup?
Annie Lawless: I was about 14, but I was a total tomboy growing up. My sister is two years older, and she was always the girly one. My way of differentiating myself was being really tomboyish and into sports. My mom took us to the MAC® store to get my sister’s makeup done [for] prom. She also strongly urged me to get my makeup done, and after they did [it], I remember going back to our house and taking pictures with my sister’s friends — the “older girls.” They all complimented me and said that I looked pretty. It was not a compliment that I was used to getting, and it felt really good.
Spotlyte: Who is your beauty icon?
AL: My grandma. She was from Georgia, and recently passed away. She was somebody who made me gravitate toward glamour — she was just raised that way. Southern women have [something special] about them. They're always wearing perfume. They always have their hair done and their lipstick on. [Beauty] was always something that defined her and that I always associated with her.
Spotlyte: You took a big risk when you left law school to start Suja. Did transitioning from the juice space into the beauty world also feel like a big risk?
AL: It definitely felt like a huge risk. [With] juice, you don't hold inventory. There's a shelf life. With beauty, you have to source manufacturers and order packaging, which entails a multi-month lead time. It's a completely different ballgame.
Right now, beauty is so saturated, and it can be daunting to enter such an established space. You need to have confidence to [break into the beauty business]. But I took a risk once before [with Suja] and it worked out, so I felt up for the challenge.
Spotlyte: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about succeeding in business?
AL: When I started Suja, I was really young — 24. I was always a little bit nervous that I didn't have experience. I was getting big meetings at Costco® and Target®, which can feel very intimidating because you think everybody else knows what they're doing. Now that I've been through it, I realize that nobody really knows what they're doing! The world is wide open — your level of experience doesn’t matter. You don't need to have built a successful company to start one. You just have to do it, take chances, be brave, and not get caught up in what you think everybody else knows.
Spotlyte: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
AL: The best advice I ever got was actually from my husband — before he was my husband. We had just started dating and I had a really bad day at Suja. I came home feeling cheated and bummed. I was asking myself if I even wanted to [work in the juice business] anymore. He said, “Well, you can't sit on the sidelines of life. You have to play in the game. Sometimes you're going to lose, but you don't have a chance to win if you're not in the game.” That really inspired me to dust myself off and always put myself out there, take risks, and try. Being in the game really is where all the opportunity lies.
Spotlyte: What are the biggest challenges you've faced when developing your own makeup line? And how did you overcome them?
AL: Clean [products] are incredibly difficult to formulate, especially for a makeup girl like me, who isn't going for the no-makeup makeup look. I'm interested in creating the type of makeup I was used to using before: high-performance, full-coverage, fully pigmented, and long-wearing.
That's definitely been the biggest challenge. I'm working to overcome it by working with different labs and doing a lot of research.
Spotlyte: How did you first become interested in clean beauty?
AL: Nutrition has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was 12, and I didn't even know what that meant at the time. I had really bad eczema all over my body and my face. My pediatrician did an autoimmune panel, and it turned out celiac was causing my eczema. I had to overhaul my diet as a kid. It was shocking to me — I was used to eating like everyone else: Pop-Tarts®, pizza, sandwiches, and cookies. But my eczema completely disappeared after I cut gluten out of my diet.
That experience planted the seed for me to become obsessed with what goes into and on my body. It’s also what spurred me to get into clean beauty. I had switched over to clean skincare, but then I would put the same ingredients [I was avoiding] back on my skin five minutes later in my makeup. It seemed like a big disconnect, so I went out and purchased all of the clean makeup I could find. I tested every brand and literally spent thousands of dollars. I realized that [those products] just weren’t going to cut it for me. That was what inspired me to start Lawless. I knew there had to be so many other girls out there like me.
Spotlyte: The word “clean” means different things to different companies, so what does clean beauty mean to you and to Lawless?
AL: For me, clean is [not having] anything that can potentially cause endocrine disruption, and/or potentially disrupt your cell production tissues. Talc, for example, is really scary because baby powder is a mainstream product that has been in households [for over a century]. Now, Johnson & Johnson® has had to pay millions of dollars in lawsuits for talc-related deaths. There's still a lot of research to be done, but if an ingredient has been linked to a health issue or endocrine disruption, I will not use it in my products.
Spotlyte: What are some of those key ingredients that are commonly found in the beauty space that you purposely leave out of Lawless products?
AL: Isododecane, for one, is an ingredient in a lot of liquid complexion products like foundation. I discovered it when I was formulating foundation and learned that I could only use certain types of bottles because [isododecane can] corrode plastic. I was like, “Why would I want that on my face?” We don’t use any sort of aluminums or metals.
For example, when it comes to colorings, I will not use Red 40 Aluminum Lake, which is really vibrant. Instead, I’ll use Red 7 Calcium Lake, which is more of a burgundy. [So] I can't have a bright, bright red [in my line], but I'm okay with that. I don't use phenoxyethanol. If something corrodes plastic or is all over the news for causing inhalation cancers, then I do my research and add it to my blacklist. I actually have an entire list on my website of ingredients that I don't use.
Spotlyte: What product are your most proud of at the moment?
AL: That's like asking me who’s my favorite child! I would say my foundation, because it's one of the only silicone-free foundations on the market. Dimethicone is typically the base of most foundations, because it gives that beautiful blurring effect. It took so many rejections of this formula to get it right.
Spotlyte: Favorite product to personally use?
AL: Another one that's so special to me right now is my eyeshadow palette, The OneTM. I called it that because it's the one palette I need to create any eye look I want. I developed it while I was getting married. I got married in Italy, and I did my own makeup. So when I was traveling for the wedding, I was like, “OK, I don't want to take 500 eyeshadow palettes. I'm going to make a big, custom palette and put in every essential shade.” I used it way before it launched on my wedding day, and it continues to be the only palette that I travel with.
Spotlyte: What does your bedtime skincare routine look like?
AL: I'm a full skincare routine kind of girl. I do, like, a 13-step skincare regimen morning and night. I am never the person who gets home late, is a little bit buzzed, and just goes to bed. I always break down my makeup. I typically double cleanse at night. I'll use some sort of oil cleanser or balm, like Farmacy® Green Clean®, and go in with the normal cleanser to remove the residue. Then, I use a toner followed by an essence. My favorite is Tatcha® The EssenceTM, because it is super hydrating and really softens my skin.
I also recently discovered Whal Myung® Skin Elixir from Korea. It preps my complexion and helps my skin absorb any products I put on after. I alternate my serums: one night I'll use a super hydrating serum and the next I'll use a serum with glycolic or lactic acid in it, or even a retinol. I switch it up because I’m pretty sensitive; and I don’t want to compound my acid use, which causes my skin to get really irritated. After my serum, I moisturize with a cream and seal everything in with an oil. Then, I finish with eye cream and lip balm.
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
Spotlyte: How do you change it up for the mornings?
AL: My morning routine is simpler. I cleanse with my normal face wash. Instead of a toner, I use an oil-free face mist, like Herbivore® Rose Hibiscus. I love rosewater because it smells great and has so many antioxidant properties. I’ll use some sort of light serum. I don’t use acid-based serums during the day, because sun exposure [makes you more susceptible to] hyperpigmentation. Then, I go in with a face cream.
Spotlyte: What are some of your must-have skincare products?
AL: Vintner’s Daughter® Active Botanical Serum is multipurpose and I can use it anytime. It has 22 botanical ingredients in it and, while it is really pricey, you get what you pay for. It balances my skin, whether I’m breaking out or I have inflammation from traveling. When my skin is great, it amplifies the glow. I can't explain it because it doesn’t have one pinpointed benefit — it just does it all. The other one I love is the Drunk Elephant® T.L.C. Framboos® Glycolic Serum. It’s my go-to serum when my skin needs some cellular exfoliation.
My favorite cleanser is Korres® Greek Yoghurt cleanser because it’s creamy and doesn’t strip your skin, but still leaves you feeling really clean. My favorite eye cream is actually pure shea butter — right now, I’m using the one from L’Occitane®. A lot of eye creams are super heavy, and I’ve noticed they give me little bumps under my eyes or clog my pores. I’ll use straight-up shea butter as long as it’s fair-trade and organic. I rub it between my fingers to warm it up before patting it under my eyes. I also use it to condition my lips and lashes. I’ll rub any leftover into my cuticles. Shea butter is like my Windex® — I use it for everything!
Spotlyte: You’re a self-proclaimed makeup girl, so what goes into your everyday look?
AL: I'm a full-face kind of girl, so I do my makeup every day. Typically, I'll prime, then go in with my foundation, Woke Up Like This. I'll do concealer, which I'm also working on, and bake with my Seal the DealTM setting powder. I always bake because it keeps my oils at bay, but my skin never looks powdery. I also bake under my eyes to catch any eyeshadow fallout and brush it away at the end.
I usually use the middle row in The One palette for my normal daytime look, which is where the warm tones, neutral browns, and terracotta colors live. At night, I use the lowest row, which includes the berries and burgundies that I use to give myself more of a fun look. The top row, which has camel and ochre shadows, is what I use when I’m on vacation, or anytime I’m going for a neutral-but-not-warm eye look.
Spotlyte: What’s next?
AL: Then, I apply my Summer Skin BronzerTM. I actually contour with the lighter shade, called Golden HourTM. I warm up everywhere else and buff out the contour with BlazedTM, our deeper color. I'm a big fan of contouring before bronzing. I know traditionally people do it in reverse, but I feel like the contour can look a little harsh and I can be pretty heavy-handed. I take a big fluffy brush and buff everything out with a deeper shade of bronzer. Then I go in with our highlighter and dust it across my cheekbones, down the center of my nose, along my cupid's bow, and on my tear ducts and brow bone. Something I've been really into is dusting a bit of highlighter in the center of my forehead close to my hairline. When the light hits, you look really glowy.
I finish with a lip. The go-to combo that I’ll probably use for the rest of my life is our Liquid Lipstick in GeorgeTM. I apply it to my bottom lip only and then press my lips together for a sheer wash of color. Then, I’ll go over that with CameronTM to brighten and lighten. I top that with our gloss in either AnnieTM, which is my shade, or GlazedTM, which I like to wear in the center to make my lips look poutier.
Spotlyte: What about mascara?
AL: Oh, I’m currently testing about 800 samples as we’ve been developing a formula for Lawless.
Spotlyte: What is your stance on medical aesthetics?
AL: I am totally for injectable wrinkle reducers and fillers. I will 100 percent be using them when I need them. My husband is not a huge fan, so I have not done anything yet; but I will [book a consultation] when I think the time is right. I'm 32, so I'm hoping to wait until I turn 40. If somebody wants to do something to their face or their body, it's really their business.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.]
Spotlyte: You often do your own makeup, but who are your go-to beauty pros?
AL: Honestly, I did my own hair and makeup on my wedding day, so I never have it done — not even for events. I love following Justine Marjan on Instagram®. She does the best hair looks. I stalk her feed anytime I need inspo.
I also love Katie Jane Hughes because she’s so unique. Her makeup gets my wheels turning! Even if I don’t remotely recreate her looks, she inspires me to be playful and not get so wrapped up in work makeup or my go-to neutral makeup. I obviously love Patrick Ta. His skin kills me — it’s so glowy and glassy. It’s skin porn for me when I go through his looks! I would say those three pros are people I check out every day [on social media].
Spotlyte: We know you are quite active on social media yourself and have amassed a following via your blog, YouTube®, and Instagram. Do you have any tips for taking a great selfie?
AL: My best photos, and the ones that do the best [on Instagram], are the ones that are unplanned and a little bit more candid. People like real content versus overly curated [photos].
I also know which side [of my face] I like better. Even if nobody else thinks I have a better side, I know how I like it! So knowing your angles helps when you're taking photos. Making sure that you're always lit from the front and not backlit is important. Anytime the light is behind you, it really accentuates any sort of shadows. If the sun is out, stand where the light is shining toward you.
Also, have fun with it! As your following grows, it's really easy to feel like you're getting criticized or looked at under a microscope — but pretending that nobody is watching and letting your personality shine through will always produce the best content.
Spotlyte: When it comes to your cut, color, and nails, who do you trust?
AL: I’m pretty flexible. I bounce around and I’ll get my nails done wherever I am. I don’t do acrylics and I try to find places with green polish because I prefer it, but if I’m traveling, I don’t go crazy. I live in San Diego, so when I’m there, my favorite nail salon is Majestic Nails℠. I’ve probably been going there for about 15 years. When I’m in L.A., I love Olive & June®. For hair, I go to Jet Rhys®, which is right next door to Majestic Nails. Mai [Nguyen-Tabana] does my cut and Trisha [Britner] does my color.
Spotlyte: Do you spend more time in San Diego or Los Angeles?
AL: I usually work in L.A. because Lawless is based there. L.A. is sort of like my bachelorette pad. It’s definitely very girly! There are flowers everywhere, beauty art, beauty books, and my little bar cart for when the girls come over. I have a huge vanity desk with vanity lights and a velvet, blush-colored couch. All the stuff I couldn’t do at my house in San Diego [with my husband], I really let out here!
I live in San Diego on the weekends [with my husband]. He travels a lot because he’s a hotelier. I think it's actually healthy for our relationship, because it gives us a little bit of time to miss each other. We're so busy when we're apart that when we are together, we have so much to talk about. I also have “secret single behavior” just like in Sex and the City® when Carrie stands in her kitchen eating Saltines℠ with jelly on top. I use a face mask, wash it off, and put on another one an hour later. I use my LED light. I braid my hair five different ways before I go to bed and sleep on it. Nobody is there to judge me!
Spotlyte: Aside from yoga at Rancho Valencia, where do you go to work out?
AL: I actually have the Mirror. I don’t believe in killing myself with super hardcore cardio. I actually think that causes more inflammation and stress in your body. I used to teach yoga, so I’m all about that, but my time is so limited. I can go on the Mirror app and get a two-minute ab or butt workout, or download an hour-long yoga class.
Spotlyte: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about beauty and who taught it to you?
AL: I’ve learned that it's a really tough business. From the outside, it seems like such a frivolous industry. But, behind the scenes, having a beauty brand is probably one of the hardest businesses to get into. It’s really intricate when you take into account the manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and marketing. Nobody really taught me that. I learned by getting into the industry. There are a lot of moving pieces and parts that you don't see with a lot of other consumer products. That's been a big eye-opener for me.
The other thing that I've learned is that beauty is such a friendly space. I’ve had so many incredible brand founders give me amazing advice. I know young people watch the YouTube drama and see bad headlines about the beauty industry, but in my experience, everyone has been so lovely.
Spotlyte: Can you recall a specific, salient example?
EL: When Lawless launched at Sephora®, another clean beauty brand founder who I didn't even know [at the time] sent me a care package with all of her products and a note of congratulations, saying that she was honored to be on the shelf next to me. [It was] Cheryl [Yannotti Foland], the founder of Lilah B.® She is so incredible. The fact that she went out of her way to write me a beautiful note made me feel supported. I was the new kid on the block and I just thought that was so lovely. I will never forget that. That made me feel the power of being in a female-dominated industry. It doesn't have to be catty — and my experience is that it hasn't been.
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