INSIDER Q&A: JENISE LEE, FOUNDER OF PURPICKS AND CERTCLEAN

Welcome to the next instalment of the #beautyinsider Q&As, where you can find out who is behind some of your favourite beauty brands, what they are working on and how they got there. This month’s guest is Jenise Lee, Founder of PurPicks, an online platform for user-generated reviews on natural and organic beauty products, and CertClean, a Canadian certification for clean beauty brands. I got to know Jenise through the Clean Beauty Awards when I was approached to be a judge and got the chance to trial some exciting niche skincare products that haven’t necessarily made it to the UK market yet, from Taiwanese serum to Turkish toner. The experience was so much fun that I signed up as a judge the following year, this time trialling a selection of natural and organic mascaras. Read on to find out about Jenise’s proudest start-up moment, as well as some niche clean beauty recommendations.

1. Hello Jenise, thank you for being my #beautyinsider Q&A guests this month. Let’s start from the beginning: can you tell us about your beauty ventures, PurPicks and CertClean? 

Thanks for having me! In a nutshell, CertClean is a certification for safer skincare: the distinction brands need and the seal consumers trust. And PurPicks is like the TripAdvisor for safer skincare. 

2. What motivated you to set up these two companies?

With a chemical engineering degree, I understood chemicals – what their functions were and why they were in the formulations. With a passion for environmental health, I knew that many of the chemicals may cause harm to human health and the health of the environment. After getting my MBA, I realized that years have passed and the industry hasn’t changed and I decided to take action. One of my mottos: be part of the solution to the problems that you see.

Also both my brother and aunt were diagnosed with cancer just as I was graduating from my MBA – and seeing both of them die from cancers that were not due to genetics, solidified my motivation to making safer skincare the new norm.

Clean Beauty Awards 2019 mascaras

3. What makes CertClean stand out from other beauty certifications?

When CertClean started, the only prevalent certifications were those that deemed how organic or natural products were. If a product only consists of essential or plant oils, it is easy for this product to get a natural and/or organic certification. But the moment we are adding water to a formulation to create a lotion or a cream, you’ll need emulsifiers to maintain a homogenous mixture, you’ll need stabilizers, you’ll need preservatives, etc. And to find natural or organic emulsifiers, stabilizers and preservatives was incredibly challenging. Many of the organic and natural certifications allow for non-organic and non-natural ingredients; this means the product needs to only be, say, 95% organic or natural. The question then becomes: what is in the other 5%?  Do these chemicals cause harm to human health? Is this a loophole companies will leverage and mislead consumers?

So CertClean is different in that it isn’t about how organic or how natural the formulations are, it is about how “clean” the ingredients are. We ask the question: do any of the ingredients cause harm to human health? So our Standards contain over 1400 ingredients, like carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, that may cause harm to human health, and only products that do not contain these ingredients are eligible to use the CertClean seal of approval.

4. As founder of a tech start up in beauty, what so far has been your proudest moment? 

Well, recently, PurPicks came in as Top 5 start-ups in Canada and the Top 40 start-ups in the world – out of 2000+ start-ups – in Alibaba’s Jumpstarter Global Pitch Competition.  It is extremely rewarding to feel that I’m playing a role in disrupting the beauty market — I’m determined to make sure it isn’t a “niche” sector anymore, and that it is the new normal.

5. Insider news please! What up and coming clean beauty brands should we be looking out for?  

Oh so many! This is probably the hardest question… So for the readers: look at the top reviewed products on PurPicks or the finalists and winners of the annual Clean Beauty Awards – this should be everyone’s shopping guide! Some special mentions:

  • Iremia Skincare stole the show at the Awards – her two lotions came in as 1st and 2nd place in the most competitive category. I’m currently using Iremia’s Protective Cream, after using a mist and a serum in the evenings, and my skin is incredibly supple – I can’t stop touching it!   
  • Always Bearded: their beard serums and balms all carry the CertClean certification, but what’s neat about them? They just created the “Beard Tarp” to help bearded men protect their health and their beards. How neat!
  • Birch Babe: they did an overhaul on their already sustainable packaging product line to become plastic-free! Their shampoo bar also was deemed Top 3 Hair Wash in the Clean Beauty Awards as well – so high performing and plastic-free. That’s a win in my books.

6.  What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline in the upcoming months?

We’re starting to work with a small community of green beauty influencers to co-create content — that’s all I can say for now. I’ll take this opportunity to do a mini shout out – for all the green beauty influencers out there, do contact us!

7. And finally – what do you get up to in your spare time? 

I read a lot – about a book a week or two.  I’ve recently taken up gardening. Cooking with the herbs and vegetables that I’ve grown is so satisfying. And, lastly, sleep. I like to sleep 8 hours a day with a morning and evening stretch/yoga routine.

If you have any burning questions you’d like to ask Jenise why not leave a comment below? Or you can get in touch with CertClean directly on Instagram.

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