Danish makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis has solved the elusive formula.
A couple of things we wish we had the idea for first after visiting Kirsten Kjaer Weis’ home-cum-office-cum-studio space: 1) the custom velvet couch in *that* shade of pale pink; 2) her very chic, sustainable, organic cosmetics line, Kjaer Weis.
Of course, the founding of her eponymous brand occurred to her naturally. She noticed the skin issues models sitting in her makeup chair were experiencing from toxic irritants in everyday products like foundation and eyeshadow. The only problem being that at the time, the all-natural formulas weren’t that good and definitely not up to professional standards. “There was a massive gap in the market for a green brand that could truly perform and was luxurious,” Danish-born Weis explained from the aforementioned pink couch when we invited ourselves over. So she did her research, teamed up with an Italian product manufacturer, and created a slew of products that are certified organic, award-winning, and come in the sleekest (refillable!) packaging. Here Weis expounds on the one product that absolutely must be all-natural, what she does to make mornings her favorite time of day, and why you don’t have to sacrifice health for beauty.
Why she created an all-natural beauty line:
“I grew up in Denmark on a farm with a straw roof and moved to the United States in 1997. At that point I’d been working as a makeup artist in Scandinavia and Europe for about fifteen years. What really got the Kjaer Weis line started was the fact that I’d constantly have models sit in my chair and pinpoint stuff in my kit that they couldn’t use—a certain foundation or blush because they reacted badly to it.
“I thought it was wrong... beauty products shouldn’t be like that. At the same time I never used natural products because they didn’t perform. There was a massive gap in the market for a green brand that could truly perform and was luxurious. I’d always dreamt of having my own business, I just didn’t know what it was going to be. It was a natural progression that it turned into a makeup line.”
Taking a MUA point of view to organic products:
“I started with taking synthetics out of the products because they are often irritants. I started going to trade shows; I know what works in the field and I have a huge interest in anything holistic and natural. I teamed up with a manufacturer in Italy to work on packaging that was unique and sustainable; it was a bit challenging finding a material that is recyclable but doesn't look it. I was lucky to team up with award-winning creative director Marc Atlan, I’ve always loved the work that he did, especially with the Comme des Garçons perfume bottles. We worked to turn the packaging into a refillable system so the customer can get both the sustainable and luxury side of things.”
The biggest irritants to avoid in makeup and skin care:
“The first thing we avoided when creating our products was parabens. They are a dormant thing that sits in everything, and a lot of artificial fragrances are really irritating as well. They are easily taken out of the mix. I’m not a big fan of silicons either, they create an artificial layer that sits on everything and clogs up pores. Producing without silicons is time-consuming, but it’s possible. And then phthalates, which are in a lot of nail polishes. Those are the top things I would recommend avoiding, because they’re easy to recognize. Just start step by step, because it’s a big change. Start with something you eat, like lipstick, then foundation and mascara. In terms of skin care, definitely go all-natural for deodorant, because it goes straight into your lymph system. There’s a really great company called Real Purity from Texas, which works well. And then body lotion.
“Having a great formulator is key [when creating organic makeup] because there’s not a magical ingredient that just replaces the harmful ingredients. But you can absolutely put together a formulation of natural ingredients that holds up. We pride ourselves on ‘the bikram test’—if it actually stays on in hot yoga. Natural mascaras are tough because usually they spread under the eyes. We use an ingredient called Cera Carnauba that makes it stay and helps with elasticity.”
Her minimal routine and favorite product:
“My beauty routine is pretty minimal. I rinse my face with an all-natural cleanser from Envy, and apply a face oil (which we’re launching in February). Once or twice a week I’ll mask—I love Honey Mud. Then I apply very little makeup for a natural look. For night, I pop on a little bit more eye—I’m a dark eye, nude lip kind of girl.
“I really like our foundation because skin is the key component to makeup. We took the cakey finish out of it so you can really wear it and it’s completely invisible, or you can build it up to concealer level. I’m all about natural-looking skin, and then a smokey eye or signature lip. I also love our new lipsticks and blushes. If I had to pick just one, it would be a blush because it can give you a glow and transform you instantaneously.”
What an average day looks like (and why she takes time for herself in the morning):
“My day starts around 6 AM. I’m up early because we deal with Europe. If nothing’s on fire I’ll go to the gym and squeeze in some meditation. I’m such a morning person—I love it when it’s black and it’s quiet with some candles lit. Because it’s a living-workspace, it’s ‘me time’ in the morning and then everyone shows up at the office; I have amazing people working here.
“I always carve out time to go out and be creative, because that’s really what I’m best at. For inspiration I love watching movies from the ’70s or spending a morning in the flower market or garment district digging through their old fabrics finding pink velvet and ribbons. I get so inspired up there.
“I try to close my computer around 6 PM because otherwise I could just keep working. Then I’ll see friends. My boyfriend lives in Connecticut, so on the weekends I get out to see him there. I travel a lot for work; I have manufacturers in Italy and we sell to a lot of stores over there, I’ll be gone for three weeks at a time here and there.”
Things to look out for from the brand:
“We’re launching the first Kjaer Weis skin care product—a facial oil. I’m very excited about that. Later on we’re launching pencils, a powder, and more lipsticks! There are tons of things I’d love to do, but we’re spacing it out because we’re still a growing brand.”