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Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Green Beauty (But Were Too Afraid to Ask)

Katey Denno is a green beauty evangelist. Singing the praises of non-toxic, natural beauty and skincare products for years before it became as popular as it is today, this celebrity makeup artists and YouTube beauty blogger is a source to be trusted. Read on to find out the one trick that wows all her clients, the number of steps your skincare routine really needs, and, well, basically everything else you’ve ever wondered about clean beauty.

Rip & Tan: Before becoming makeup artist, you worked for ten years as a social worker. Seemingly, these are different ends of the career spectrum, but are there any common threads or skills that translate to both?
Katey Denno: Great question! They are very similar. As a social worker I was an advocate, a sound board, a cheerleader. I’m still the same, but now I touch my clients’ faces. 75% of my makeup applications are accompanied by intense conversations about everything under the sun. It’s such an intense and intimate relationship, that of client and makeup artist, and in so many ways, similar to my old career. It’s so awesome. 
Rip & Tan: Clean and natural beauty is hugely popular now, but what was it like when you started? How has the industry changed?
Katey Denno: When I first became aware of clean beauty products about 10 years ago, the market was pretty slim. Aside from the few brands selling small glittery lip gloss collections and loose foundation powders in health food stores, there were a few options for lipstick, but the colors weren’t bold, the pigments didn’t last on skin for very long, and my model and actress clients weren’t so interested in me using them on their faces. Very slowly, brands hit the scene that had a wider range of options,  but none were really wonderful across the board for me as a makeup artist, and I definitely stifled my artistic expression as I spent many years working with only a clean kit. I was pretty devout, only speaking to the press about clean brands and only using colors and textures made without known toxins. It’s been amazing to watch the industry grow and change and now I feel as though my children are ready to leave me and go off to college, in that I’ve spent 10 years shouting from the rooftops that clean should be the baseline, and now, in a much more mainstream way, it is. Strides have been made across the board and brands are finding labs and chemists who will formulate using only clean ingredients, and although more technological advances must be made in order to make color cosmetics perform as well as mainstream, there are now so many great options across the color spectrum —and it’s only getting better.
Rip & Tan: What are some of the short or long-term effects of using conventional beauty products? How would you convince someone to make the switch?
Katey Denno: The truthful, no-scare tactic answer is: we don’t know. There aren’t enough studies to know for sure. The study that alerted us that parabens may cause cancer isn’t definitive, and yet it’s become the rallying call for the clean beauty industry, which is weird, and unfortunate. There are lots of other ingredients we shouldn’t be putting on our skin (our largest organ) day in and day out. Skin absorbs a good percentage of what we put on it, into our blood stream, and our bodies are burdened by a lot of it. I often start the conversation by asking if buying organic produce, exercising, and/or recycling is important to them. It’s about doing the best we can for our bodies and the planet. Most people identify with at least one of the above, and it’s a good way to begin understanding that if we can do better, we should, and at this point, there’s no reason not to explore the world of clean beauty. Performance, effectiveness and quality are there, and will only get better the more we show we’re interested.
Rip & Tan: What are the limits to what a good product can do?
Katey Denno: If it’s in your genes to get wrinkles around your eyes, and you’ve watched your grandmother and mom—who never used an eye cream—have lines that go from moderate to deep as they aged, using a good cream or serum might help lessen the intensity of the lines you would have acquired, but there’s no magic in it that will keep your smile lines from settling showing up.
Rip & Tan: What is the one product you’d recommend to every woman?
Katey Denno: An eyelash curler. I’ve never curled someone’s eye lashes without them being wowed. 
Rip & Tan: What products are you currently obsessed with?
Katey Denno: I’m loving the new serum foundations from Ilia, the creamy eye shadows in tubes from Crop, and the ‘Clear’ line facial hydrating mist from True Botanicals.
Rip & Tan: Are there any good natural beauty brands out there that won’t break the bank? 
Katey Denno: Great question. Burt’s Bees continues to be a go-to for inexpensive lip color and more recently, mascara—it’s surprisingly great! Oh, and brow pencils are pretty great, as well. There are lots of inexpensive fantastic lip balms made with organic ingredients for sale at green beauty stores, Whole Foods, most health food stores, and even Target, so if I ever see anyone using Carmex or Vaseline I think: what are you doing? There’s no reason in the world not to make the switch there! As far as skincare, I love the Weleda line. There are so many options to meet a variety of skincare needs, and they’re easy to find. 
Rip & Tan: What’s the best way to punch up a makeup look for nighttime or an event while sticking to your signature beautifully clean face and not overdoing it?
Katey Denno: Again, this is 100% dependent upon your personal style, your features, and what exactly you’re wearing, but one truly simple way would be to experiment with lip color. If you’re a lip balm and blush wearer by day, try curling your lashes, swiping on mascara, and patting in an orangey red or deep fuchsia that makes the whites of your eyes clearer and your eye color pop. For others it may be about taking a black (or purple or shimmery brown!) eyeliner to your lash line and smudging it up with your finger tip. Both are simple ways for those who favor a simple look, to spice things up.
Favorite products for:

Acne

Again… no one size treatment fits all!

Corrective products really depend on the type of acne you’re experiencing, so a trip to a facialist is a great place to start. Often, our skin breaks out because as we get older, cellular turnover—the shedding of dead skin cells—begins to slow down. Our sebum, combined with the products we put on our face and with pollution, bonds with those dead skin cells and creates a gluey sort of fabric that covers our skin and traps in bacteria, excess sebum, and dirt, and this can lead to breakouts. That’s why exfoliating as we get older helps us get back that glow, which is really all about hydrated skin cells and light bouncing off of smooth skin. 

I’m a very big fan of the deliciously scented and powerful Clear (read: perfect for those of us who are acne-prone) line from True Botanicals. There’s nothing like finding your perfect scent match in a face care line, and for me, this blend of scents is what gets me going, especially the hydrating facial mist and the oil. if you’re using their antioxidant powder, no matter what your skin tone, you MUST use sunscreen and wear a hat daily because it is so powerfully removing that top dead, albeit protective layer, and exposing your baby-fresh skin to the harsh rays of the sun. Exposing this delicate skin can lead to sun spots, so please, be careful.

I’m also a big fan of Jenette’s All Natural Skincare line. She’s a facialist in LA who uses mainly organic, well sourced ingredients in her anti-aging, anti-acne cacao soap, mask, mist, and oil. She recommends when you feel a breakout coming on, or if you wake up with a full blown doozy, taking her Be Clean mist on a piece of gauze, and working it into the spot a few times a day. 

The Intensive Repair Serum from Marie Veronique is another one of those must have in your arsenal products. If I feel the slightest bit of a spot coming on, I press this in twice a day to head it off at the pass.

If you just can’t get down with using a face oil, my go-to moisturizer is from Biossance, and it’s their probiotic gel. It’s so hydrating but you’ll never have to worry about it leading to a breakout.
Dehydration

I like to layer hydrating products to get at the deepest of layers of the skin. That means starting with a hydrating toning mist (the replenish line from True Botanicals is heaven), and 5-10 drops of their oil and serum, day and night. Staying regular with your regimen is a must for dry skin in order to really begin working on hydrating at a deeper level. This means ensuring that skin is exfoliated so that your products have easy access to penetrate, and as I said before, this means you’ll want to keep that fresh skin out of the sun. 

Starting your regimen with a cleansing oil or cleansing milk is a must when you’re dehydrated. I love Tammy Fender’s cleansing milk, and for a super-rich cleansing oil, the True Botanicals Pre-Cleanse Oil helps immensely, and for those who don’t think that’ll be enough to truly cleanse the skin, following it up with their hydrating cleanser is the best way to whisk away all dirt and makeup.

Regular masking to combat the dryness is helpful too. I love the Advanced Hydration mask from Josh Rosebrook for this.

Discoloration

To correct, use Vitamin C. I love the true botanicals Vitamin C powder, and the Marie Veronique vitamin C and E to add glow and antioxidants to help combat sun damage and clear up what damage may already be present. Retinol products like the retinol oil from Jordan Samuel, the one from Biossance, or the one from Marie Veronique (she has two different strengths) can also help, although again, please make sure to wear sunscreen and a hat when you’re outside!

To cover or conceal, if you’re dealing with serious discoloration, the cleanest foundations that provide the most full, long wear coverage at the moment are from Ilia, in their new serum format, and the cream foundation from Kjaer Weis. There are other great options if you’ve got mild discoloration and just want to even skin tone, including the stick foundations from Vapour Organic Beauty and Au Naturale, the concealer that can be used as such, or applied sheerly from Rituel de Fille, or the newest sheer tinted oil from Kosas. I show how I like to apply a variety of foundations and concealers in videos on my YouTube channel!
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Clarifying Oil
Rip & Tan: How many steps should a skincare routine be, realistically? What’s absolutely necessary? What can you do without?
Katey Denno: First off: There are no hard and fast rules – that’s the good news. For some, a gentle face wash and a light moisturizer is more than enough, while for others, a 6 step regimen is the only way. Across the board, I generally suggest:

Evening: 1. Face wash, 2. Hydrating oil or serum or moisturizer, 3. Some sort of treatment depending on what your skin needs. Keep in mind our skin changes depending on age, climate, season, and time of the month. Examples of treatments are:

Exfoliation (which might include a product with some sort of fruit acid, a retinol, an old fashioned scrub, et cetera….it’s all about testing and seeing what works for you).

Extra-deep hydration. I’m a fan of hyaluronic acid to lock in all the moisture before sleep if you’re in need of a little extra hydration.

An anti-oxidant (most of us over age 35 would benefit by incorporating a high-quality Vitamin C or a peptide into the mix).

Daytime: If you don’t sleep on dirty hair or a dirty pillow and haven’t had your partner’s hands or face on yours during the night, you probably don’t need to wash your face again in the morning; perhaps just a splash of cold water to get you going. For others, another round of face serum and oil or lotion is a must, and don’t forget SUNSCREEN (and a hat!) Those are the bare minimums for all skin types.

I’m also a fan of starting eye cream daily use in your 20’s, whether that means splurging on some fancy one, or just making sure you pat in your facial moisturizer around the eyes. So many of us don’t concentrate on moisturizing that delicate skin. 
Photos by Nicki Sebastian