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Tiila Abbitt of Āether Beauty

The vegan beauty crusader on infusing crystals in makeup, why conscious colour cosmetics are lacking and how you can help get product safety regulations in place.

Āether Beauty is unlike any other brand we’ve ever come across. And considering how many brands we test, vet and discover on a daily basis, that (to us) is saying a lot about this California-based newcomer.

With only one product for sale now on the brand’s website, most might not think to pay much attention to this “Supercharged Sustainable Beauty” label or its founder, Tiila Abbitt, a former Sephora product developer of seven years. But that’s where you’re wrong.

Consciously created, her Rose Quartz Crystal Gemstone Palette covers all the bases. Tiila thought to make a clean palette after feeling underwhelmed by the lack of options on the shelves. It’s 100 per cent clean. It has 12 shades, from metallic to ultra-matte. It’s infused with rose quartz powder “to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and redness; while illuminating the skin with its light-reflective crystals”. And the packaging is fully recyclable and sustainable — the first of its kind.

Even though the product is not entirely natural — some ingredients are synthetic — they are safe to use and rated 1-2 on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. So imagine what her upcoming makeup creations will be like — all packaged in materials “never before seen in the beauty industry”.

Āether Beauty’s branding is also supremely eye-catching — ethereal, cosmic and mesmerising. Like its ethos and formulation standards, it’s practically out of this world.

“Science has created safe and sustainable ingredients. Some natural ingredients can actually be harmful and unsustainable.”

Ãether Beauty palette Après Avant

What does “vegan beauty” mean?

Vegan beauty means that Āether Beauty never uses any ingredient that is from or derived from an animal or insect. That includes beeswax, lanolin, honey, collagen, gelatin, carmine, guanine, tallow, squalane, ambergris, estrogen and retinol.

Tell us about your branding, aesthetic and imagery.

Āether Beauty is based on the medieval concept of the cosmos. The word “āether” is a really old word — Aristotle considered it the fifth element to earth, air, fire and water. The Greeks considered it the air that the Gods breathed. The branding is very cosmic and ethereal but also empowering. I wanted to create a brand that helps clients feel empowered while wearing it.

Your first product, the Rose Quartz Crystal Gemstone Palette has rose quartz powder infused in the eyeshadow palettes. What are the skin benefits of infusing makeup with crystal powders?

It actually depends on which crystal powder you are using! Rose quartz powder helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and redness; while illuminating the skin with its light-reflective crystals. Not to mention, it is also a crystal that embodies self-love and self-worth.

The palette contains 70 per cent naturally derived ingredients. What makes up the other 30 per cent, and what is your response to those who are sceptical about the palette being fully “clean”?

Aether Beauty Rose Quartz Après Avant

The palette is 100 per cent clean. That means it passes European cosmetics laws, which ban over 1,300 ‘unclean’ ingredients. Plus, at Āether Beauty, we ban even more than that. We have a page dedicated to learning about the ingredients we ban.

But the palette is not 100 per cent natural. Āether Beauty uses non-toxic synthetic ingredients combined with natural ingredients. This is because science has created safe and sustainable ingredients. Some natural ingredients can actually be harmful and unsustainable. We take the best of both worlds to create clean, effective products.

But to answer your question on the remaining 30 per cent, they are synthetic ingredients that are not available in natural form but help to add viscosity, skin conditioning and colour range. All of them are rated between a 1 and 2 on the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.

Which ingredients or parts of the formulation gives the product efficacy its boost, and what were the difficulties faced when creating it with cleaner ingredients?

Payoff and shade intensity are always a challenge with natural ingredients, and especially when you are limited in using vegan colorants. Carmine is used often as a colourant and it gives you a true red, so you are limited in reds, pinks and purples without it. As such, you have to get creative. Carmine is made from beetles, which is why it is not considered vegan.

Ãether Beauty Rose Quartz Crystal Gemstone Palette Après Avant

You said you decided to start with colour cosmetics due to the lack of options in the clean beauty realm. Why do you think this is an issue?

I think the conventional beauty industry has always been more concerned with creating the next new formula to sell in a fast-fashion model and not focused on the safety in chemicals because it’s not a requirement in the US. I think the tide is beginning to turn though because consumers are looking and requiring more from the brands that they purchase.

From a natural and clean products perspective, I think brands are more concerned with great ingredients but lack storytelling, trend and colour range beyond good ingredients. Many of these brands are indie and started with founders that did not come from the beauty industry or ever formulated makeup products before. It’s definitely not an easy thing to do. I like to say I got my second master’s degree at Sephora, since I learned everything about product development and the beauty business from some of the most talented and business driven people in the industry.

“In reference to the safety of chemicals, the FDA has the mentality of “something is safe until proven otherwise”, which could take decades. The European market has the mentality that you can’t use a chemical until it’s proven safe.”

With so many beauty products manufactured in the US, how far has the local industry come in regulating the safety of ingredients used in beauty products as compared to other countries, and what are some key steps the government can do to tackle this issue?

The local industry is only really concerned with what their customers are looking for. Now since the tides are turning, customers are inquiring and you’re starting to see the shift to more clean and natural formulas. However, it seems like many of these manufacturers are also doing this to jump on the trend, so you have to be careful with whom you work with in regard to expertise in this space vs greenwashing.

In reference to the safety of chemicals, the FDA has the mentality of “something is safe until proven otherwise”, which could take decades. The European market has the mentality that you can’t use a chemical until it’s proven safe. Unfortunately, I don’t see that mentality changing for a while, especially considering our current political state. There are campaigns out there to try to get more safety regulations in place but the FDA is so backed up that I think the industry will have to self-regulate for some time.

There’s a campaign called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics which is more of a grassroots approach to taking on the cosmetics industry. You can learn how to get involved to help here.

What is the best beauty tip you’ve ever received?

Believing that all women are beautiful without makeup, but with the right makeup, they can conquer the world. I love the transformation and confidence that can be manifested with anyone who wear makeup. It’s pretty powerful stuff. Oh, and using setting powder everywhere, including on your lips. Plus it also works as a dry shampoo in a pinch!

Ãether Beauty_Après Avant

What’s next for Āether Beauty?

I have a full line-up for product launches for the next few years and really want to grow Āether Beauty as the standard for sustainable beauty. I am already working on amazing foundations, primers, mascara and some innovative sustainable materials never before seen in the beauty industry. I can’t wait to share them with everyone when they launch!

What does conscious beauty mean to you?

Conscious beauty means that a brand is aware of the ingredients used, the materials used for packaging, as well as its own footprint on earth; and consciously makes an effort to have the best sustainable choices for all three categories. At Āether Beauty, we won’t launch a product unless it is sustainable, but we don’t stop there. We also donate one per cent of sales to charities that resonate with the brand.

Currently, we’re partnering with The Water Project, which provides clean water to communities in Africa. Rose quartz is considered a water stone, so we wanted to partner with a charity that is committed to helping provide clean water in an ethical way. We thought The Water Project would be the perfect charity to support.

Images courtesy of Ãether Beauty