Sheena Yaitanes is the Brains Behind Beauty at Kosas

Sheena Yaitanes knows that knowledge is power. Equipped with an academic background in both art and science, this entrepreneur started Kosas, the clean makeup line that’s the stuff of a minimalist’s dreams. Lipstick and blush appear in an edited, elevated palette of neutrals. A fan favorite, the tinted face oil makes good use of Sheena’s smarts—botanical science is all behind that glow. Who knew biology could be so beautiful?

Rip & Tan: Where does the name Kosas come from?
Sheena Yaitines: Our name comes from the philosophy of the five interconnected layers, or “kosas” of the self: the physical, energetic, mental, intellectual, and soul. It’s our purpose to cultivate beauty on every level. There’s more to us than what’s on the surface, and the real beauty is in discovering your relationship to yourself. 
Rip & Tan: How did you become interested in makeup? 
Sheena Yaitines: My mother worked as a rep for makeup brands and she would bring home piles of it. I got interested very early because I’ve always been in love with with materials. I was both fascinated and disappointed by the fact that I couldn’t get neutral lipsticks to flatter my skin, and I wanted to understand why. It was that exploration that ultimately led to the creation of Kosas.
Rip & Tan: Before Kosas, did you have any DIY beauty hacks you used to get the results you wanted?
Sheena Yaitines: Most things I did were a hack or off-label use of a product, from makeup to skincare, to fragrance. I still love blending essential oils to get a certain scent, or blending botanical oils, butters, and other weird fats to achieve a result, like to clear up breakouts or to heal cracked skin. I also used to use grayish-brown eyeshadow to sculpt my face, which of course is now called contouring, or a light colored eyeshadow to bring a pop to my cheekbone (highlighting). 
Rip & Tan: Who do you imagine wearing Kosas? What else would a Kosas woman have in her medicine cabinet, kitchen, or makeup bag?
Sheena Yaitines: Kosas can be for anyone, but I love imagining the person who says “I don’t wear makeup” wearing Kosas. 
Rip & Tan: What is the one product you’d recommend to everyone?
Sheena Yaitines: I’d recommend Tinted Face Oil, because I love seeing the way a person who would typically feel intimidated by something like foundation really light up and sit up a bit straighter, not only because she likes the way she looks while she’s wearing it, but because she feels like it’s something that she’ll know how to use on her own.
Rip & Tan: How did you hit the mark between making rich, beautiful pigments with ingredients that actually nourish? How much trial and error was involved in this process?
Sheena Yaitines: I always have a crystal clear objective when creating a product, so it’s less about trial and error and more about spending the time really deep diving with the R&D team so that they fully understand what we are trying to achieve. Most of the magic happens when we are conceptualizing and exploring the paths that can get us to a destination. 
Rip & Tan: The New York Times called Kosas a “lipstick line for minimalists.” What does this mean to you?
Sheena Yaitines: Makeup doesn’t need to be complicated, and beauty should never feel out-of-reach. Ours is an easy, liberated beauty that celebrates simplicity.
Rip & Tan: Your business model is unique in that you’ve said you create a color only if you feel something is missing, instead of adhering to a schedule of new products. How does this limited edit benefit your company and what are the challenges to producing this way?
Sheena Yaitines: I do this because it’s the only way to get to the absolute truth about makeup, and that’s something that I’m passionate about. It benefits everyone, and it’s the only way to support people and create an open and trusting environment where they can truly feel helped. 
Rip & Tan: How does natural and organic play a role in the rest of your life? 
Sheena Yaitines: I believe in trusting in nature and have always tended toward a clean lifestyle, but I think it comes from a place of caring for myself and my family. It’s not hard to make good choices when you’re coming from a place of love.
Photos by Nicki Sebastian