I never planned on becoming a makeup artist.
But when my rebellious streak and ego put an end to my dreams of becoming a fashion designer, I figured doing makeup would still keep me in the industry. I had no experience other than doing my own makeup, but I had a good eye and figured I could fake it until I learned. I was right.
Being a makeup artist took me from Vancouver to Toronto, and then to Europe where I lived in Hamburg, Paris, Berlin, and London. During the late ’70s and throughout the ’80s I was traveling around the world for work, getting paid to be creative and collaborate with photographers and stylists. I did what came naturally to me on each photo shoot, never having assisted another makeup artist.
I definitely worked hard and it was an amazing experience, but I still felt like I should be doing something else. I just didn’t know what.
By the time I landed in New York in the early ’90s, I was experiencing some serious health issues. After extensive tests, I found out that my blood contained toxic levels of heavy metals including aluminum, barium, cadmium, lead and mercury, as well as high levels of pesticides and other chemicals. Yikes!
I was surprised when one of the technicians at the lab asked if I worked in the cosmetics industry. It turns out that a lot of the chemicals in my blood were also used in makeup and these were a contributor to my very run down immune system. That’s how I discovered an ugly side of the beauty industry.
Getting sick was the best that ever happened to me!
I was now on a mission to learn everything I could about the impact of daily exposure to chemicals on our bodies and where these chemicals were coming from. I discovered that not only is our air, food, and water full of chemicals, but so are many cleaning, skincare and makeup products. I spent years researching what these chemicals do to your body and how to detox yourself of them. Honestly, I’m still doing research because it’s a never-ending project.
I also learned that it’s a very slow process to rid yourself from a lifetime of exposure to toxins, and that our bodies are overburdened with chemicals. But even though I was sick, I was also energized because I was learning and I felt empowered with this new knowledge.
I liked seeking out alternative medicine experts and trying what they suggested to see for myself what worked and what didn’t. I tried various things to detox my body including chelation, fasting, far infrared saunas, clay and bentonite detoxes, and colonics. I threw out my household cleaning products and switched to cleaner, healthier alternatives. I started eating organic food and the Union Square Green Market became my grocery store. I also became a raw foodist for a period of time and saw the amazing results eating this way had on my skin.
As I was rebuilding my immune system, I was still working as a makeup artist. And I was sharing everything I learned with whoever would listen to me - the models, photographers, stylists, and assistants. But now that I was aware of the harmful effects some chemicals in cosmetics could have on us, I did not want to contribute to this problem.
That’s when I decided to start my own brand. It was daunting and scary, but I couldn’t stop following this new path I was on. I wanted to put the research I had done to use and create makeup that was healthy and not harmful. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much more work was ahead of me - but that was probably a good thing.
When I thought about what would go into my products, I knew that all of the ingredients had to be healthy because they were going on your skin. Skin absorbs what is put on it, and in some circumstances these ingredients can also enter your bloodstream. Think about how medical patches, anti-smoking patches and hormone replacement patches work.
I was also doing a lot of work with Victoria’s Secret at the time, and having beautiful, glowing skin was crucial to producing fabulous photos. I was lucky to be working with like-minded models including Gisele and Miranda Kerr who agreed with my philosophy and also wanted healthy makeup options.
I started thinking about what I was eating during my raw food days, and how clear and glowing my skin looked then. All of this led me to experiment with the highest quality, food grade, organic ingredients I could find. I made a lot of concoctions in my kitchen using things like pure organic coconut oil, buriti oil and beeswax.
Raw ingredients have a life force with natural healing attributes that are good for the skin because they work synergistically and don’t irritate. Chemicals on the other hand have no life – they’re dead. Your skin is a mirror to your overall health and it absorbs what you put on it, so it made no sense to me to add anything dead to my products.
In 2009, at the age of 54, I launched RMS Beauty with just four products that are still best sellers: Living Luminizer, UnCover Up, Lip2Cheek and Eye Polish. We had a website, and I also sold products to the models, editors, stylists and photographers I worked with on shoots. My goal was to elevate the “green” standards of the time and to offer healthy, clean, fashion forward, high quality makeup that is good for your body.
I’ve seen firsthand how chemicals are redefining the beauty industry, and that’s unacceptable to me. And the FDA doesn’t regulate the beauty industry (the law does not require cosmetic products and ingredients, other than colour additives, to have FDA approval before they go on the market), so almost anything goes.
The majority of RMS Beauty products are made from a combination of the highest quality raw, food grade, organic ingredients in their natural state, from cultivation straight through to manufacturing. We take extreme care to use minimal heat in the manufacturing process, which helps preserve the vital nutrients that nature provides. Unlike today’s synthetic counterparts, this technique allows the life force of the ingredients - including enzymes, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants - to remain fully intact so they can naturally penetrate and rejuvenate skin.
When I started RMS Beauty, I wasn’t sure if people would be interested in clean, “green” makeup. But our sales have increased every year since we launched and our products are sold around the world.
Along the way, I also figured out that being an advocate for clean, healthy beauty is what I was meant to do. It didn’t happen overnight, but I did prove that beauty products don’t have to be laden with chemicals to work or look good on your skin.
Rose-Marie Swift is a makeup artist and founder of rms beauty
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