These days the beauty aisle seems to provide endless choice, but with all the options at hand how many consider the ingredients that go into the beauty products we choose? For Maria Velve, a makeup artist based in Toronto, what’s on the inside began to really matter when her youngest son developed eczema. While researching products best for his tender skin, Velve — mom of two boys, five and two — started questioning the products she used in her work. Now with her company, Maria Velve – Green Beauty Expert, she specializes in green beauty — teaching busy moms tips and tricks for effortless — and ethical — makeup application. We spoke with Velve about this work, and her take on the green beauty industry.
When I look at your tutorials on your website, I see that you’re really focused on making makeup easier for women.
My basic goal with my tutorials is to encourage and teach women how to be comfortable wearing makeup again. I work with a lot of women who are just going back to work, or who haven’t taken this time for themselves in years because they’ve been so busy with their kids, and believe me I understand that. I have the tools and the skills to do makeup really quickly, but with young children I still struggle to even get myself dressed and showered in the morning.
I started a beauty blog when my little one was a baby because I wanted to help busy women learn how to put makeup on in a way that made them feel good about themselves. When my son developed eczema the focus of that blog changed to reflect the research I was doing into green products, and as my business has grown — which coincided with my eldest being in school and my youngest starting daycare — that’s where I’ve focussed it.
You focus a lot on Canadian products on your site.
Yes. I’m really into local brands and love sharing that information. There are some beautiful products coming out of small businesses all across Canada, and I love being able to highlight them.
Aren’t green products way more expensive though? Replacing the entire contents of my makeup bag would cost a couple hundred bucks at least.
Some are, and I know some moms don’t mind splurging like that but I’m not one of them. I prefer to focus on products that are more accessible — from smaller companies that don’t charge a fortune. If you’re ready to switch over to using green products you don’t have to do all it once. I tell my clients to think first about the things you’re putting on the largest area of your face, such as skincare and foundation, and go from there. Concentrate on your biggest real estate and then add little things after that.
What are some of the barriers to buying green products?
Just finding them can be an issue. For instance there’s this really beautiful line I love out of Victoria, Elate Cosmetics. Their products come in sustainable bamboo cases that are, in most cases, refillable. For example, magnetic bamboo palettes for shadows, blush, powder. But there’s only one place that you can buy it off the shelf otherwise you have to buy it online. I know that’s really hard for women because they want to touch it and feel it before they spend money on it. I’d like to see these products be more accessible for people.
I think there are also issues of trust. We know that companies aren’t always truthful when they tell us that products are green or sustainably made. I check the ingredients of the brands I choose to work with very carefully. I consult EWG guides, I have purchased an ingredient dictionary and geek out on researching before representing a brand. Even down to palm oil, for example — great for the skin, not so good for orangutans. I’m also concerned about what happens when we’re finished with things — the last thing I want to think about is how my powder compact is going to sit at a landfill for all eternity so I love it when I find products that are refillable. Like the magnetic cardboard compacts that come from Pure Anada, based in Morden, Manitoba.
I find it really interesting that you’re both a makeup artist and an academic.
Yes, I’m also a part-time professor teaching immigrants and international students English at George Brown College. I was doing a BA in Victoria and I got really bored of pushing papers. I decided to go do something creative, so I moved to Vancouver and went to makeup school for film and TV. My parents freaked out but I promised them that I would go back to university after I finished makeup school and I did. So I’ve had a makeup artistry diploma for 18 years, it’s been there my whole career. I will never be happy just doing the academic side of things, I need that balance — the creativity of makeup to go with it.