Biddy + May Founder, Yasmin Farry. Image supplied.
The past few years has seen a global revolution in the beauty industry with the rise of many independent brands offering natural, effective products as part of the Clean Beauty movement. Here in New Zealand, Yasmin Farry has turned her personal interest in clean beauty into a business, offering a carefully curated selection of high-performing, natural brands on her online store Biddy + May. 18 months on from launching the business, Yasmin has a growing following of customers keen to try Biddy + May’s selection of leading clean beauty brands from NZ and around the world.
But what exactly is clean beauty and why does it matter? As humans have become more aware of the impact of the likes of toxins and chemicals on our bodies and the environment more brands have been making products that are free from harmful ingredients and actually work too. That has increased exponentially in recent years with a huge amount of both products and information out there leading more people to make conscious choices when they shop to make better decisions for their health.
For Yasmin, her interest in clean beauty began several years ago when she was diagnosed with a rare form of aggressive breast cancer, called inflammatory breast cancer, which she had never heard of but forced her to evaluate the decisions she made for her health. Determined to help her body heal itself alongside her treatment she set about arming herself with as much knowledge as she could and changing what she consumed.
“I started looking at what I was putting on my skin but I didn’t really understand then, I just thought it was enough to use a product labelled natural and avoid things like parabens, I never thought to flip around the back of the product to consider reading the ingredients. It wasn’t until about three years ago I just happened upon the term clean beauty so I started delving into it and it opened a Pandora’s Box for me and I was like ‘are you kidding me?’ These harmful ingredients were in everything I have been using and I’ve been thinking I’ve been doing a great job.”
Her disheartenment at learning she was using the wrong products didn’t last long as it gave Yasmin a lightbulb moment, realising that clean beauty was not yet well known in New Zealand and there was an opportunity to create a unique business. “I started reading about clean beauty and researching brands overseas and companies that had online stores and physical stores over in America. I thought this is amazing and this is not here really, not many people know that they can actually use these incredible clean products that work just as well, if not better than the toxic counterparts that you buy and that you’re indoctrinated to buy from a teenager. So I got on a plane and went to this massive expo called Cosmoprof in Las Vegas, I didn’t even have a name for my online store or even have the online store yet but I had been researching brands and a good majority happened to be in the green section of this expo. At the time I didn’t know what it was going to turn into but I met all these amazing brand founders and came back and hit the ground running.”
Clean beauty products from Biddy + May.
Setting up Biddie + May happened quickly once Yasmin returned to New Zealand and she was clear on the ethos behind her store. Every brand and product is carefully examined so that Yasmin knows each ingredient has been researched and they’re proven to be non-toxic. Of great importance to Yasmin is that the products are not going to affect your body in a negative way and specifically that no ingredients disrupt your hormones (known as endocrine disruptors). The ingredients also need to be effective and do what they’re supposed to do, not just be fillers in the bottle. Part of being a clean beauty product is that the ingredients don’t harm the planet which is also important to Yasmin. Beauty is largely still an unregulated industry so there is no legal definition of clean beauty but Yasmin takes her responsibility as a business owner seriously and thoroughly researches everything about the brands and products she stocks on Biddy + May.
Yasmin’s research is often what leads to her finding new brands to stock too as she follows many clean beauty websites and blogs which have a plethora of information on what’s happening in the industry. America in particular has a lot of clean beauty advocates as currently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only bans about 13 toxic ingredients whereas in Europe they ban over 1300.
“There’s a brand called Beauty Counter and the woman behind that Gregg Renfrew is amazing. Her company is leading the charge for stricter guidelines, trying to move the beauty industry away from using harmful ingredients, so she is a good source of information and inspiration. I research brands and if a lot of the big clean beauty stores around the world are carrying them and I like the look of them then I will reach out to them and get some samples to try them. I get my sisters to try them too because I’ve got four sisters and a mum, she loves trying things as well and their feedback is really helpful.”
Before adding any brand to Biddy + May’s offering Yasmin usually spends a good 2 – 3 weeks trialling it or getting family members to trial products for her. She likes to see the benefits of each product and makes sure it does what it says it’s supposed to do and for makeup she will make sure to wear it in different situations to see if it runs or cakes etc. Yasmin also reads lots of reviews and carefully weighs up all the pros and cons before deciding to stock anything too.
After selecting her initial stock Yasmin’s offering has continued to grow and evolve since Biddy + May launched 18 months ago and it’s been the face to face contact as well as online which has helped grow her brand. To date, Biddy + May have done a handful of pop-up stores and expos including at Ponsonby Central and the popular Go Green expos. Being able to meet customers face to face, help them explore new products and answer their questions has seen the business steadily grow a loyal customer base.
Kahina Giving Beauty oil cleanser available from Biddy + May.
“I also pride myself on the fact I understand the needs of the customer because I’ve worked in retail before and that relationship with the customer is so important even if it’s just as simple as putting a note into a package explaining how to use something or how I find it. Making each interaction personal has been a really good way to grow my audience.”
Through her conversations with customers Yasmin has learned that there is a great thirst for knowledge on all things clean beauty and for many it starts with rethinking what they thought they knew about beauty products. That re-education is the reason Yasmin started Biddy + May’s blog which offers articles on treating acne naturally and how to choose natural deodorant.
“I’m also re-educating myself as I go along, there’s so much I didn’t know about the beauty industry that I’ve learnt. I think the blogging side is great because it’s really good to give people knowledge, so they can read and learn that they do have a choice to either go to the pharmacy or department store and buy a known brand or that they can choose something else that might seem a bit risky to them otherwise but it’s actually better for their health. I’ve only really just started with our clean beauty blog, there’s so much more I’ve got planned for it but it will happen in time.”
Part of that education is definitely around price as while many clean beauty products are more expensive than conventional ones, a little amount of a product often goes a long way. The fact that the ingredients are effective, often organic and actually do what they say they’ll do without harming you or the environment makes them the better investment. While people do tend to cling on to what they know in terms of skincare and makeup, Yasmin is quietly confident that when customers try the products from her clean beauty brands they’ll be converted.
The appeal of the international brands was what Yasmin originally intended as the focus of the store and a way of bringing in customers as she offers some brands that you otherwise can’t get in New Zealand and would be really expensive for a consumer to ship here. Although her focus has shifted to also offer more Kiwi brands as well as a result of the relationships she’s formed with local brand owners.
Clean beauty products from Biddy + May.
“I’ve met some fantastic brand owners along the way, specifically Emma McLean from Lakoko who has been running her brand for a long time. I knew her from before I started Biddy and May and I had been using her balm so it was important to me to include it on our site. It’s just one product but it’s really a one pot wonder. There are other amazing brands like Ora Wellbeing from Dunedin, Heidi was a facialist and created these great products, her range is becoming so popular that she’s now closed her spa and is concentrating solely on her skincare and it’s a really considered range, she knows what she’s doing. I love the fact that it’s small batch as well. Then there’s Corbin Rd which is just two products at this point, one is a cleansing balm and the other is a really gentle exfoliating cloth. LaBonics is another and is a natural and organic skincare line. I’d definitely like to grow my New Zealand offering but you’ve also got to be careful about how saturated they are in other stores.”
For someone who spends a lot of time trying beauty products you might think that Yasmin’s own beauty routine is a complicated affair but much like the clean design of her online store, Yasmin likes to keep things simple but effective.
“I’m such a no-fuss kind of person. I cleanse then I always use a serum, a moisturiser and an oil. I do that morning and night. My favourite thing to do is use my facial roller, I love it, it’s fantastic. I do it during downtime while I’m watching Netflix. It makes me stop for a minute and it feels amazing. I do notice a difference in the plumpness in my skin after I’ve done it too. I also have a very minimal makeup routine, I just wear mascara, eyeliner, a little bit of lip colour and a highlighter, sometimes I don’t even wear foundation. But I do love makeup, I have three brands I’m looking into at the moment and they’re all sending me samples which I can’t wait to try.”
Aside from the fact that each brand on Biddy + May has to have clean beauty credentials Yasmin is also a big fan of aesthetics and is drawn to those brands that look good too. Women in particular do tend to be drawn towards beautiful packaging (that’s preferably recyclable and sustainable) and of the many considerations Yasmin makes, that a product looks good on the bathroom shelf and makes the customer happy while looking at it as well as using it definitely factors into her decision making.
Yasmin often helps her customers with their own decision making and one of her most asked questions is where new customers should start with buying clean beauty products? “I always say to start with one product first and don’t overwhelm yourself because you need to patch test it to start. I think the best place to start is a natural deodorant because it’s an easy thing to switch and winter is a great time to try it out. See how you get on with that and then have a look at the products you use all the time for instance your body wash, soap or shampoo because they are going right over your entire body. Then look at your cleansers and moisturisers. My advice is start with one thing and see how you go, don’t go and throw everything out of your bathroom cabinet at once, as things run out then try switching in clean ones.”
As the momentum of clean beauty continues to grow, Yasmin is delighted that more people are seeing the difference it makes in their health and their skin. What began as a personal journey for her has become a way to connect customers with brands they love and continue growing those relationships. As New Zealand settles into its new version of normal Yasmin has big goals for Biddy + May and it’s clear that clean beauty is here to stay.
Axiology lipstick available from Biddy + May.
This story is brought to you in partnership with Biddy + May.