The L Word inspires chemical-free products with Sappho Cosmetics
On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, Jennifer Beals and Mia Kirshner met in a loft near Hastings and Clark streets in East Vancouver. The stars of The L Word weren’t there to shoot a steamy scene for the show’s sixth season. Instead, the gorgeous brunettes were celebrating the launch of Sappho Cosmetics ( www.sapphocosmetics.com/ ), a new chemical-free line from the show’s makeup artist, JoAnn Fowler, who uses this loft space as unofficial headquarters.
The Emmy-nominated Fowler, who could pass for Judi Dench’s younger sister, credits Beals and Kirshner for prompting her to start Sappho. “For a long time, I didn’t think the world needed another makeup line,” she says. That all changed when she discovered research on the effects of chemicals in cosmetic products.
One such group of chemicals is parabens, which often have methyl, ethyl, propyl, or butyl prefixes on ingredient lists. “Most people don’t realize that parabens are just preservatives,” Kirshner says. Indeed, these chemicals are a cheap way for manufacturers to keep their products on shelves longer and are found in everything from makeup and spray-tanning foam to shampoo, shaving gel, and even toothpaste.
According to Fowler, the United States Food and Drug Administration—which shares information with Health Canada—refuses to ban parabens because they are supposedly safe in cosmetics in small amounts. However, Fowler discovered studies in which traces of parabens were found in breast tumours, and other research suggesting the chemicals can lead to abnormalities in boys’ reproductive organs.
“I became really angry with the makeup companies, because I was putting their products on their [the actors’] skin every day,” she says. And so, Sappho Cosmetics was born. “It became a way to help me make things right, to help change the world a little bit,” Fowler says.
Fowler is dedicated to full disclosure of the ingredients used in Sappho products, and all of them meet the European Union’s criteria for safe cosmetics, which are stricter than North American standards. The line is 100-percent chemical-free and composed of approximately 85 percent natural ingredients, with 15 percent inorganic minerals. Products are preserved with essential oils such as organic jojoba, frankincense, and lavender oils. Furthermore, Sappho products aren’t tested on animals and are entirely produced and packaged (using recycled paper) in North America.
For former Flashdance star Beals, part of Sappho’s appeal lies in Fowler’s dedication to chemical-free makeup and the transparency of the company. She recalls cosmetics whose proceeds were pledged to cancer research. “Breast-cancer awareness is now a brand in itself,” marvels Beals. “If the companies only removed those ingredients from their products, they could do so much more for breast-cancer research.”
Kirshner, whose breakout role was in Atom Egoyan’s steamy Exotica, agrees, adding that Sappho products have a sexiness. “This line is for women who care about fashion,” Kirshner explains. “Those other companies don’t represent what you’d see in W or Vogue.” She feels Sappho could be sold at both upscale department stores like Holt Renfrew and at grocery stores like Whole Foods.
For now, Sappho Cosmetics is only available on-line, and the collection is used on the set of The L Word. The products include a chemical-free foundation, as well as a range of eyeshadows, eye liners, lipsticks, glosses, blushes, and powders in vibrant colours. Key looks for this season include a shockingly bright, perfectly on-trend Lovely Lavender loose matte shadow ($16). Pair it with the dramatic Midnight Escapade eye liner ($16)—which doubles as a shadow—and a flawless complexion made possible with the Generous Jennifer or Je Suis Mia mineral liquid foundations ($42), named, of course, after Beals and Kirshner. Finish with the sheer pink Dance Till U Drop gloss ($22), and voilí ! A finished fall look fit for a star. Beals and Kirshner hope Fowler will expand the line to include skin care and, with the help of the show’s hairstylist, a hair-care range. Things look promising.