A Juice Beauty product is so natural and safe that company founder Karen Behnke admits one could, if one needed to, ingest it. “You could eat it,” she nods, perched next to the Holt Renfrew Vancouver counter of her California-based company. She smiles, and raises her hands as if in caution: “We don’t formulate for taste, but you could eat it.”
A lipstick safe enough to eat? Though not promoted, it is a comforting notion. After all, our skin absorbs an awful lot of what we put on it.
Before Juice, Behnke founded one of America’s first corporate wellness companies, and worked in that business for 20 years until, into her forties, she had two children. As with so many new parents, the sudden realization that another human being would be relying on her inspired Behnke to look at what exactly she was putting on her skin. The unpronounceable ingredient lists of her cosmetics and skin care treatments worried her. Despite being conscious of healthy food and the importance of exercise, “I’d never, ever thought about products,” she says. “That led to: ‘Wow, I could do this better.’” Behnke, who calls herself a “crazy entrepreneur,” credits the fact that she did not come from a beauty background with allowing her to think critically and differently, eventually landing on the idea that instead of making products with water or petroleum as the base, she should experiment with using juice.
Her cardiologist husband set her up with some fantastic scientists, and they began formulating the first Juice Beauty products using botanical, organic juice made up of goodies like aloe, grapeseed, and shea. It was the brand’s Green Apple Peel that really catapulted it into the big leagues; made using organic apples sourced from Washington State up to California, the intense peel works to fix dark spots and discolouration. Its effectiveness grows with usage, but even a short spread on the back of a hand reveals more even-toned skin. There are cleansing milks, moisturizers, exfoliators, serums—each is soft and nourishing, made without artificial scents. “What you’re smelling is the actual ingredients,” Behnke says. How novel.
The brand’s vegan, certified cruelty-free products eventually caught the attention of Gwyneth Paltrow, who came on board as creative director of Juice’s new makeup line. “When we started with Gwyneth, she gave us a basic chemical benchmark for every product and said, ‘I want to match that efficacy and I want to match that payoff,’” Behnke recalls. “So that’s what we had to go to work on, was the slip and the feel and the texture.” It was not an easy task, considering the fact that all of those not-so-nice chemicals are the ingredients that give makeup most of its colour, lasting power, and potency. But by crushing everything from purple carrots to rose petals, and working with a team of dedicated scientists who are not afraid of trial and error, Juice has reached its goal of producing a high-quality cosmetics line that meets its ethical and environmental standards. Fans of Paltrow may notice that certain shades are named after people in her life, such as Apple and Reese (the former: her daughter; the latter: Witherspoon), while others pay tribute to California. “She really wanted a better place for her children,” Behnke says of Paltrow. “She wanted her daughter to have really great products that were good for her.”
Behnke’s own daughter, 16, now uses Juice products; then there is her son, 18, who experiments the acne treatment sporadically. Behnke mentions going back and forth with him as he starts with it, stops with it, starts again. “He’ll use it for a week and say, ‘This stuff really works!’” Behnke says, to which she responds: “Of course it does!”
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