Small-Batch Beauty: Vancouver’s Sappho Cosmetics

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For this week’s column, we took a seat in JoAnn Fowler’s makeup chair. The Vancouver-based artist has spent 25 years in the movie and television industry—her credits include two Twilight flicks, X-Men 2 and The L Word—and when she couldn’t find beauty products made from ingredients she could feel good about, she created her own. The result is Sappho Organic Cosmetics, an all-natural line of makeup, including liquid foundations, powder blushes and eyeshadows. —Carly Ostroff

Was there a specific experience that sparked the idea for your line?
When I was head of the makeup department on The L Word about eight or nine years ago, [actress] Mia Kirshner came to me and said, “JoAnn, I’m not wearing any more parabens in my makeup.” I said to her, “Well, that’s great. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She was appalled. She explained parabens to me, and I promised her I would do my research and get back to her. We tried all of the natural products, and they didn’t work on HD, so I had to go back to using the chemical-based ones. Then during the hiatus that year, I started talking to labs across the U.S. and Canada. I landed on one I respected and began formulating. I started this line so I could go to work and offer an alternative.

Did your industry experience influence product formulations?
Yes. I’m very careful to get actual skin tones mixed [right]. I also know what a professional line is—what works, what is up to standard and what isn’t. That’s helped with formulation. If makeup artists love it, then the regular person is going to love it, too.

What sets Sappho Organic Cosmetics apart?
We’re entirely preserved with essential oils. The liquid foundation is based in greens and ochres rather than pinks, so I think it reflects real skin tones. It smells beautiful and has great coverage. Everything is in recyclable boxes and bottles. We have a philosophy that we’ll get [even more] greener as we grow.

Can you share one of your favourite beauty tips?
I always love to hit the eyes with a little blush at the end of my makeup. Just a tiny amount—over the eyebrow—gives a bit of youth.

Sappho Organic Cosmetics, $22-$52, The Detox Market

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