Who's That Gal: Tara & Holly of Follain

Some of you may have already caught wind of Follain, or maybe you've been wondering why we keep tweeting about it, but we honestly can't get enough of this healthy skincare store and the gals behind it all, Tara and Holly. We first heard about Follain from Cameron, our most environmentally driven author, who opened both Meredith and my eyes up to the complex issues with the cosmetic industry, especially in the U.S. market. Last week we were thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Tara and Holly of Follain, and to learn their story of bringing safe cosmetics to Boston.

Follain is at the cutting-edge of today's safe cosmetic retail, what sparked your interest in safe beauty products and inspired you to start Follain?

T A R A:

I was inspired to start the store about five years ago when I was living in New York City and working at a law firm. Outside of work, I became very passionate about my personal health and fitness. I practiced yoga everyday, I raced in triathlons, and I was very interested in what I was putting in my body and where my food was coming from.

I started to learn of all the unsafe ingredients in skincare products, and after a little research, I found that there are huge problems with the skin care industry in the US. That really freaked me out and I couldn't stop thinking or talking about it and eventually started a blog as an outlet.  I had a decent viewership, nothing crazy, but I noticed one post,  on where to buy healthy skin care items in the city, got tons of hits.  That's when I realized that people really cared about this, and I wanted to lead the charge on where to find these products.

So, I quit my day job and over the next few years tried to gain as much knowledge as I could. I moved to France to work on an organic lavender farm and then for a skin care manufacturer in Maine to learn about how products evolve - everything from ingredients to packaging. Then, I went to Babson to get my MBA and learn how to run a business.

While at Babson, I was advised against starting a brick and mortar since it has a high upfront cost. However, in my second year, I submitted my business plan to a business plan competition on a whim and ended up winning the regionals and the nationals against other MBA student's from schools like MIT Sloan and HBS. It was great because it not only gave me some business connections and a little bit of funding, but it validated the fact that people were interested in safe beauty and my concept.

I decided to take the risk and to just go for it. I graduated Babson in May 2013, signed the lease on our space that month and we opened in July 2013.

H O L L Y:

I went Boston University School of Public Health and my program was called Health Law, Bio-Ethics and Human Rights. I stumbled upon the issue of cosmetics when it came time to write my thesis and my professor told me to find a broad topic that I would eat, sleep, and breath for the next six months because that was all I’d be doing.

I started out researching food and drug regulation industries and their tie to health problems. As I was looking at the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Legislation of 1938 (it’s the same act that founded the FDA) I thought "this should be interesting, the European Union has so much regulation, surely the U.S. must be really strict."

I flipped to the the cosmetic section of the legislation - it was one page, half page of text that was three paragraphs each consisting of two sentences. That was it.

I was shocked. The U.S. cosmetic industry is a 50 billion dollar industry and is regulated by half a page!

All it says is the definition of a cosmetic, which is anything you put on your skin for hygienic or beautification purposes. I then started my thesis on the U.S. cosmetic industry.

When it came time to present my thesis, I was in front of people who presented on much heavier topics and I got grilled by my classmates. While it was intimidating, I got more questions, smiles, and overall responses than all my classmates and that's when it hit me. Everyone can relate to this because everyone uses cosmetics.

So I graduated and I knew this is what I wanted to do, I just didn't know how I was going to do it. I was fortunate to be set up with Mia Davis, a celebrity in the safe cosmetic world, and she gave me this one piece of advice: "Be the change you want to see. Tackle the industry from the inside outwards."

A few months passed by and I was working for another company thinking about what to do next and how to follow Mia's advice when I kept hearing this buzz about Follain. So, one day I decided to stop by and right away Tara started showing me around the store. I expressed my interest in the cosmetic regulations and we just hit it off. Right then and there we agreed we had the same goals and we had to do it together.

Your motto is “Healthy. Wholesome. Sound.” Can you tell us what that means and why is it important for women to pay attention to ingredients in their cosmetics?

We set health and safety standards that no one else has. We focus on safe. Everything in the store is safe and that is different from the term "organic."  You could put organic poison ivy on yourself and it wouldn’t be safe. In the cosmetic industry the words "eco" or "organic" oftentimes mean nothing, they are marketing terms. Along with choosing the right products based on ingredients, we really pride ourselves  on being stringent with the brands we bring in and in building relationships with those brands.

When someone is totally new to safe beauty products, what product do you suggest they try first?

We teach people about their own skin. Every single person that walks in the store consult on their own personal needs. It's about catering to your own skin, it’s not about being brand loyal.

An easy first product we recommend is the deodorant, it’s our gateway product. There’s so much buzz around the toxins in deodorant and we did the homework. We tested 32 products and the one we sell is the one that works. 

If not deodorant, pick the thing that sits on you all day long - those are really important because you don’t wash them off. 

What is next for Follain? 

We’re growing! Our goal is to open many stores and educate as many people as we can. We’re doing a  pop up in D.C. April 4th through the 6th, and then we are opening up a store on Nantucket in May. Following the Nantucket store we will be launching our e-commerce shop. 

J U G S   F A V O R I T E   F O L L A I N   B U Y S

Cameron: Rica Butter All Over

Meredith: RMS Beauty Living Luminizer

Suzanne: Soap Soap Walla Deodorant Cream

F I N D  F O L L A I N

53 Dartmouth Street (At corner of Warren Avenue)

Boston's South End, 02116

Be sure to tell Tara and Holly, "The JUGs" sent you!