GLS20Online – Interview with Jenise Lee, the Clean Beauty Pioneer

March 31 2020 | CertClean

GLS20Online - Interview with Jenise Lee, the Clean Beauty Pioneer

Jenise is the Founder of CertClean, North America's leading certification for safer skincare. Today, you can find thousands of beauty and personal care products with the CertClean certification - demonstrating that the product labels have been screened for over 1400 harmful chemicals.

For her contributions through CertClean, Jenise was honoured as one of Canada's top sustainability leaders, named Canada's Top 100 health influencers alongside Wayne Gretzky and Sophie Trudeau, and nominated for the Governor General's Innovation Award.

Prior to launching CertClean, Jenise led multi-million dollar environmental assessments and clean tech projects. She has a chemical engineering degree (University of Waterloo) and a MBA (Schulich School of Business), and was a board member for an environmental charity for almost 10 years.

In our interview with Jenise, she spoke about the varying definitions of "green beauty," why preservatives are misunderstood, and her mission to get safer skincare in every home.

What do you think when you hear the term "organic beauty" or "clean beauty"?

10 years ago, we would say "organic beauty" or "natural skincare" but there is no real governance of these terms; advertising laws say that if a brand markets their product as organic then something in it needs to be organic, with no definition of the quantity of organic ingredients. The same goes for natural. So when big conventional brands started using natural and organic terms, which was confusing and misleading consumers, we chose to use "clean." Our standards are not about how "natural" or how "organic" a product is but how "clean" - like how we want clean air and clean water; we screen the product list to ensure it does not contain 1400 chemicals that pose harm to human health.

Tell us about some misconceptions or scary trends in the beauty industry.

Let's talk about preservatives in beauty products as the term "preservative free" is a scary trend.

Have you ever seen a conventional shampoo or body wash go rancid? We haven't either.

How is it that the main ingredient is water, and yet the product looks the same 3 years later? That's chemistry for you! There are some powerful preservatives that prevent mould, bacteria and yeast from growing - especially in humid environments such as our bathrooms! However, we're learning now that some of the preservatives may be contaminated or tinker with our hormonal system and or may be laced with cancer-causing ingredients.

Because some preservatives, like parabens, are being touted as dangerous, brands are now using the term "Preservative Free" to inform customers that their product are "safe"; however, it is absolutely imperative that consumers do not fear preservatives!

Preservatives are absolutely critical to protect the product from microbial growth. Simply put, a world without preservatives is a world full of mold, bacteria and yeast growth.

As a consumer, if you love water-based products like lotions, body washes and shampoos, then you need to ensure that the formulation contains preservatives - so avoid "preservative free" products. However, if you are someone who loves water-free, or anhydrous products such as balms, butters or oil-based serums or formulations with very high or low pH like bar soaps, then you can easily find preservative free products.

The scary part is when a consumer wants a water-based lotion and wants it to be "preservative free," then she is asking for products that may pose public health problems! So, consumers who love water-based products, learn about safer preservatives and reach out to brands or retailers with questions - preservatives are not all bad!

Tell us something that most people don't know about you

As the Founder of CertClean and PurPicks (the TripAdvisor/Yelp of safer skincare), many people think that I'm a beauty product junkie -- that can not be further from the truth! I don't usually wear make-up. I only wear make-up when I give talks at events. For those curious, I use MarieNatie's eyeliner and foundation. As for my daily routine, I always try Finalists and or Winners from the Clean Beauty Awards!

I guess one other thing that most people don't know is that both my aunt and brother died from cancers that were not due to genetics. So I'm on a mission to prevent cancer, and I'm starting by getting safer skincare in every home, so no one needs to wonder if their deodorant or perfume got them sick.

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