Beauty + Brains
A Clean Beauty Wonderland | Meet Tara Foley of Follain
Imagine the most gorgeous store, stocked to the brim with over 600 clean beauty products! Enter Follain, the brainchild of founder Tara Foley. Follain, Gaelic for healthy and wholesome but also closely related to Foley’s own last name, is aptly named. This amazing store has done the vetting and screening of all products for you – from make-up to skin care and hair care, they’ve got your clean beauty game covered. Learn a bit more about the brand and the woman behind it below!
When did the Follain journey begin?
We officially opened our doors in 2013, so we were kind of early days, ahead of most of the other companies. I actually started my journey into the space in 2009. I was fresh out of college with a public policy degree and thought I wanted to go change the world, get into advocacy and all that. For the first time, I was focused on my own health and wellness – what I was eating, fitness, all of it. I realized that all the products I was using did not align with those values. I kept sensing this opportunity from all the brands I was meeting, and from everyone in the space, that there was no kind of clean and green Sephora.
You’re right; that’s always been my problem when I go in there. There’s really only one or two brands that geared more towards “natural beauty.”
They’ll go through one month where they’re really focused on it, and then it will fall out of favor with them. They can’t necessarily be trusted for a long-term commitment to it.
Which is so funny to me, because it seems like such an obvious thing. They have proven so much scientifically about the products that are used on your skin and how they affect your hormones.
Yes, there’s a real science to it. Basically, I wanted to learn more about it, so I worked on a lavender farm in France for a while. I got an MBA so I can run the business model. I really wanted to, since day one, use this as an opportunity to educate women as much as possible instead of going into advocacy and law and policy, which I really do care so much about! I just knew that I could make a really beautiful business and get access to so many more women with really empowering products.
I think you absolutely still are an advocate. The minute people become attuned to green beauty, they become aware of what’s going into food, what’s goes into their products, how people are being treated in the factories… there’s just so many layers to it that encompass advocacy. So, when did you open your first physical store?
In 2013, in Boston, which is where we’re based, and then we kept on opening stores and small pop-ups: New York, D.C., and then we really took a pause on opening physical stores to focus on building our online business. We were realizing there’s women all over the country who want the same stuff, that may not have access to the physical stores. So, we decided to spend a good chunk of time focusing on building a digital experience that replicates our in-store experience, which we think is pretty magical – from our matchmaking, and question asking, to pairing our customers up with the best products. Once we got our digital experience in a good place, we decided to open stores again! So, now we have two stores in Boston, one in Nantucket, and we’re opening in Seattle, Dallas, Bethesda, MD, just outside D.C. Now we have our sights set on opening a lot of physical stores over the next few years here. So, a lot is happening!
That’s really exciting! Hopefully LA will show up in there, too! For someone who is just becoming aware of the whole green beauty initiative, it can feel pretty overwhelming. There’s that initial desire to throw everything away and replace it with all new stuff, but that can feel almost paralyzing and really expensive. What is your advice for them?
I hear this everyday and it’s actually really important to us. We sell all of the categories of products: hair care, body care, skin care, make-up, everything. We actually developed a whole product for this, because we were hearing it everyday. It’s our Intro to Clean Beauty kit, which is a little mini travel size of our skin care routine and body products, so that’s one way to start. (And we are GIVING ONE AWAY!) But if they just want to start very small, we just usually start with the ones that are the most “unsafe” or “unhealthy,” so, deodorant, lotions – the things that cover the most real estate of your body and that are linked to the most science.
It’s so scary.
I know, but I don’t want people to feel scared by this. People should feel super empowered to know that there are better options!
Absolutely! It’s still so fascinating to me that green beauty is its own separate category, that it’s not just “beauty”, and that everything doesn’t operate according to these standards.
I know. That’s the goal, for it to be the same thing one day.
So, as a beauty lady, what is your daily routine?
Well… we have 600 products in the store.
Oh my gosh, you must just love them all.
I know! I have to really love trying products, because I’ve literally tried them all. So, some of my favorites, I mean, it’s so hard to pick favorites because it’s hard to pick a favorite child. But I’ll try.
I have very dry skin, so I really like balmy things. May Lindstrom’s Blue Cocoon, it’s unbelievable. It’s a cure-all for redness, dryness, fine lines and wrinkles and it smells amazing. I keep it on my bedside table and use it at night. So, that’s a great product. I wear a lot of red lipstick, and I’m loving ILIA in Crimson and Clover. It’s just a really nice bright pop of red all year. And then SPF would be a big one. Have you heard about all those things with Hawaii banning the chemical sunscreens?
I did; it’s so exciting.
There’s always the Banana Boats and the Coppertones and the things that nobody really thought were good for you. But there were a lot of brands that were calling themselves good and safe, that had those major chemicals in them. So, I was really psyched that happened, because it really opened people’s eyes.
How do you think they’re enforcing that? Do they have sunscreen police on the beaches?
So, basically they are requiring all companies, who’re selling in the states, to have these chemicals out by 2020. Of course, it’s too far away, but what it did was it opened people’s eyes to the fact that there is bad stuff in sunscreen. There’s this misconception that you’re doing something good for yourself when you’re putting sunscreen on to “protect” your skin.
So, really, what you need to use is mineral sunscreens. They don’t let any sun get in, and they’re not only better for you and for the planet but they’re better for sun damage. You don’t get any wrinkles when you’re wearing an actual physical sun-screen on your skin. One of our top-selling products in the whole entire store is Josh Rosebrook’s Nutrient Day Cream. It’s a daily anti-aging moisturizer, it’s unbelievable!
So, you’ve been in this industry for a few years now, are you coming up on your 5th anniversary this year?
Yes, in one month, it’ll be our fifth year anniversary!
Congrats, that’s a big deal! So, over that time, have you noticed a difference in how brands are using plastics in their packaging?
Absolutely! I mean, these brands have always valued that aspect, so you will have always seen a ton of glass, much more so in the clean beauty space than you’ve seen in conventional beauty. Recently, we’ve seen a ton of new innovations in the types of plastics that are used – so there’s beet root plastic, and really interesting ones that biodegrade.
We also have a program at a stores where we do refills of liquid hand and body soaps, and it’s actually online, too. So, it’s really cool – you buy a soap bottle you can just keep using that bottle. In our actual stores, we also work with a program called Terracycle. When you bring in your empty containers to us, we’ll give you 10% off your next purchase! So many containers mix plastic and glass, so they’re not easy to recycle. We go to that extra step for you.
That’s great; make it easy for people to do so they don’t have to think about it. What makes Follain Beauty different than other clean beauty retailers?
We’re trying to offer the best of clean beauty. We consider ourselves to be matchmakers and curators, so we actually don’t carry any full brand portfolios. When you come into our stores, they’re set up by category. We’re really in the business of finding the best thing for your skin. When you walk into a normal beauty store, you’ll see products displayed by brand. But you’re really just looking for a moisturizer or a lipstick, and you want to look at all the different options and see what’s best for you. Our whole journey is asking questions and matching you up. We don’t carry products that don’t fit a need. I think that’s an important thing to note about Follain, and I think that’s why a lot of women will start their clean beauty journey with us. That’s really important to us, we love that.
So you guys have consultants that people can talk to in order to get set up with exactly what they need or they’re looking for?
Exactly, you can call or text message. We make it as easy as possible. We really are committed to doing it the right way. And it sounds like that’s really important to you, too. We’re like you; we’re storytellers and matchmakers. We really love that experience with our customers. It’s magic.
What’s been so exciting about the OTW green beauty week is learning that so many of these entrepreneurs are women. So many of these new beauty companies are being run by women where they used to be run by men.
Well, if you look at big beauty, it’s still run by men. But these smaller brands are disrupting the bigger brands, which is really special, and they’re all run by women.
And you’re a part of that!
I’m honored to be a part of that. And to be talking with you. Any moment we get to be sharing this message with more people, it’s really special and treasured for us!