Let’s be honest, stereotypes exist for a reason, just like all good humor has an element of truth. When it comes to “green and organic” I will admit my mind conjures up images of Birkenstocks, granola and hippie collectives. Those aren’t bad things; they just aren’t my things.
I wondered, is there a more chic version?
Then I came across Au Naturale, a vegan cosmetics line made with 100% pure ingredients that’s also a modern day movement. No tie dye and patchouli oil here. As the edgy video on their website states: Green Meets Glam.
I was intrigued.
In 2011 the founder, Ashley Prange, was working as an analyst in Washington, D.C. After experiencing adverse reactions to her cosmetics she started researching makeup and was shocked by the toxic ingredients found in most commercial brands. She started experimenting at home mixing pigments and organic oils in her blender and eventually a business was born.
Ashley left Washington for Wisconsin where she set up shop in Green Bay. She’s a big believer in supporting local and the majority of her suppliers are in the Midwest. Her respect for the environment prompted her to incorporate a recycling rewards program into her business model that incentivizes customers to return their empties for store credit.
But it doesn’t end there. Her time in Washington opened her eyes to the politics of pretty. You would think that in a country as advanced as the United States there would be more ingredient integrity. The truth is legislation hasn’t been updated since the 1930’s and the FDA has only banned a dozen ingredients from legal use in cosmetics versus over 1,300 in the EU. That’s significant.
Ashley decided that Au Naturale would not only support legislation like the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which calls for stricter ingredient regulation, but also create a trade organization to elevate the conversation further in Congress.
Lastly, Ashley didn’t just want Au Naturale to be a brand, but also a cause for good. The company has a partnership with Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) and donates 10% of their sales to funding the education of marginalized students, particularly orphans and girls that are often cast aside in the sub-Saharan country.
“When the forgotten children of society become empowered through education, they are more likely to lift up their community and become stronger.” – Au Naturale
Ashley’s mission is clearly about more than just makeup. Her values and passion built a beautiful brand, but her heart created so much more in the process. As the company grows she intends to expand its philanthropic efforts. In the meantime, she wants her customers to enjoy the products, feel comforted by the fact the ingredients are clean and safe, and have pride knowing they are made in America.
If you’d like to meet Ashley or any of the Au Naturale team, they will be exhibiting at the Indie Beauty Expo (IBE) in Los Angeles this January, which is a gathering of like-minded entrepreneurs in the clean beauty category.
One of the IBE founders, Jillian Wright, visited Ashley on her home turf and wrote a behind-the-scenes description of the Au Naturale makeup making process. She also joined her at two local farms, one that harvests lavender and the other that raises honeybees. Jillian experienced first-hand the labor of love that small business owners pour into their work making products that are not only clean and safe for people, but also the environment.
We often don’t think about the bigger picture when rushing through our list of errands, grabbing products from the shelf at the drugstore or ordering online. Convenience often overrules consciousness, not intentionally, but life is busy. Au Naturale and the values they support hope to slow the consumer down and give them pause in their purchase decisions. The benefit is twofold and serves a larger purpose, something that — if we all do it together — can affect change and a better quality of life for everyone.