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Meet the Founder of the Organic Cosmetics Line That Gives J.Crew Models Their Glow

After cosmetics made her sick, makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift founded RMS Beauty, based on her raw food background.

For most makeup artists, working with famous faces like Gisele Bündchen, Miranda Kerr, and Tilda Swinton would be evidence enough that you’ve made it. But Rose-Marie Swift, founder of non-toxic makeup line RMS Beauty, was driven to change the beauty industry after a health scare. Facing a litany of mysterious ailments, a light bulb went off for Swift when a lab technician returned her test results and asked her, "Do you work in the cosmetic industry?"


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By 2008, Swift launched her self-financed organic color cosmetics, designing both the line’s branding, and the ingredients based on her raw food background. "I believe in integrity. Someone had to create a line with safer cosmetic ingredients, so it may as well just be me. I have the desire, knowledge and I am brave and more than willing to go out on a limb," she told Racked.

rmsherself

Image: RMS Beauty

Beyond being natural, the products are really user friendly — they’re designed to be applied with just your fingertips. That glowy, effortless approach is what made one of RMS’s cult products, the Living Luminizer, the go-to beauty look for J.Crew’s catalog models. Swift explained the brand’s J.Crew connection to Racked, as well as how she inadvertently ended up as a makeup artist to the stars, her best entrepreneurship tips, and why she’s so passionate about advocating for safer products for consumers and beauty industry insiders alike.

Did you always know you wanted to be in the beauty industry?

I was obsessed with classic Hollywood and actually wanted to be a fashion designer. Being a makeup artist was never in my mind at all. I have to admit it completely landed in my hands by the suggestion of my sister.

How did you start doing makeup? How did you get your name out there in the beginning?

I always did pretty well as a makeup artist and was extremely lucky, considering that it was not my dream. My real break came when I was hired by Mario Sorrenti for an 18-page beauty story for Self Service with all of the big models at the time. Still to this day, it is one of my favorite photo shoots.

Why did you start your own line?

After many years in the fashion and makeup industry, I’ve learned a lot about the impact of daily exposure to chemicals in beauty care products. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t live up to its promises. I realized that what women need are skin care, color cosmetics, [and] toiletries that are as pure as possible, lines that create a solid foundation for anti-aging and long-term beauty.

Unfortunately, it is still believed that the skin acts as a barrier to the outside world, blocking out whatever was applied to it. We now know that what we put on the skin can be absorbed in the skin — and in some circumstances into the bloodstream. You only need to look to medical patches, anti-smoking patches and hormone replacement patches for proof.

My background as an advocate for cleaner cosmetics came when my own health deteriorated years ago, and through my research I realized many of the chemicals that were in my body were also found throughout the beauty industry.

"I wanted a clean, elegant simplistic look without all of the so called "green" imaging/branding everyone was convinced that I needed. Boy, were they wrong."

Sadly, the list of harmful ingredients in your personal care products is long — and we continue to use them daily despite being banned in other countries. I am honestly trying to educate every woman to be more aware of not just what they put on their skin, but also what they put in their bodies.

How did you go about creating the formulas? What was your vision for the packaging and branding?

I originally wanted to do a skincare line but the market was so saturated that I decided to do what I was best at: color. I took the idea/concept of skincare and added the color, giving makeup a whole new meaning. I had a friend that worked for a paint factory and she helped do the percentages for the formula. My ingredient ideas came completely from my "raw food" background.

I did the whole branding myself because no one could offer me any better ideas than what was already in my head. I wanted a clean, elegant simplistic look without all of the so called "green" imaging/branding everyone was convinced that I needed. Boy, were they wrong.

How have you funded your business?

I am pretty simple and never needed to express myself by throwing my money around foolishly. I had a strong respect for the power of money. I just saved. I always did. I completely finance the line myself and it is 100% owned by me.

What lesson did you learn the hard way?

Do not depend on anyone but yourself. I had the vision and whenever I listened to someone else, the end result was not satisfactory.

Did you know that J.Crew used your products on its models? What do you think of that connection?

"There is so much information out there now. Only someone with blinders on would dismiss this knowledge."

Yes, I knew they were using them for sure. The connection was fabulous for RMS Beauty. It showed that a huge company was brave enough to take the jump and make organic mainstream. Best fashion statement ever.

Do you feel that consumers are more aware of the ingredients in their cosmetics now versus when you started?

Most definitely. There is so much information out there now. Only someone with blinders on would dismiss this knowledge. It is a real wakeup call when you see brands actually removing these nasty ingredients that are making undesirable headlines. It is for a good reason, and now sites such as Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Database are exposing some of the brands using highly questionable ingredients.

It seems pretty hard to deny what is taking place in the beauty industry in this regard. Do you think the labeling and terminology that beauty brands use is confusing?

Hell yes! Can you decipher those tongue twisting words?! I can't, let alone a novice. Marketing makes it seems like it is all a beautiful walk in the park — or should I say walk down the makeup aisle — and people are sucked in by that. It certainly isn't the whole truth.

Do you feel like a tide is turning in terms of people learning about the dangers for cosmetologists, hairdressers, and manicurists who are exposed to chemicals daily?

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Image: RMS Beauty

Yes… walking past a nail salon and you see manicurists wearing masks (even though that doesn't do anything to protect themselves, sorry to say) or watching someone have their makeup sprayed where the makeup artist is wearing a mask is definitely telling you something. Yikes. Hair spray alone at a hair campaign shoot is enough to have you running to the window for a clean hit of air. The beauty industry is not a safe working environment. Every day, photo studios are painted and spray paint[ed] again, as well as all the questionable ingredients from hair, makeup and nail products… not good. These all affect the body in various ways that are not healthy by any means.

What challenges do you face now?

The biggest challenge is not with the customers’ enlightenment anymore, it is the actual cosmetic labs. They really don't have any idea on how to create good natural and organic products. They all come from a chemical background and they seriously have difficulty thinking outside of that box. Most formulas are a watered down version of what everyone else is doing, and in most cases it isn't even being done well.

What other beauty brands do you like?

I am the biggest fan of Alkaitis Skin Care. The man is a famous scientist and has so many degrees behind his belt, it is seriously impressive. He gets it. I am thankful he is a great friend and I have learned so much valuable information from him. His line is hands down one of the best organic skincare brands out there.

What would you tell other would-be entrepreneurs?

Never take no for an answer. Spend the time to really study and know what it is you are trying to create. The more knowledge you have the better the product will be. Take control.

What’s next for RMS?

We will be launching new products very soon, so stay tuned!

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