Christmas came early for us this year on Dec 23 Rose-Marie Swift, creator and maven behind RMS Beauty hosted a makeup workshop at Kiss and Makeup! It was such a fantastic morning and we can't wait to share all that we learned.
When it comes to talking about the beauty industry, Rose-Marie Swift doesn’t mince her words.
“I like to say it like it is,” she says. “I’m very opinionated and I think rightfully so because I usually think I’m right. And if I’m not right, I hope someone confronts me and tells me I’m wrong — but it hasn’t happened yet.”
The former Vancouverite talked about the industry’s pitfalls during a master class at Kiss and Makeup boutique in Olympic Village in December.
And she seemed to hold nothing back.
“I would stay away from anything from the traditional cosmetic industry,” Swift says. “You have to remember that the cosmetic companies are making all this shit up like primers and stuff. And it’s for the shareholders. That is all they are doing. They are not really making women’s skin look beautiful.
“That’s what it’s all about. These corporations, man, we are in big trouble.”
It only takes a few moments in Swifts presence — be it as a journalist, a makeup artist or even as a client — to understand that this outspoken beauty guru isn’t afraid to offer up her two cents on virtually any topic.
“I’m an Aquarian, so we’re rebellious anyway,” she says with a laugh when questioned about her candour. “I want to be not the norm. I would kill myself if I was the norm.”
Swift has come a long way from her days of peddling repackaged products in the Vancouver market.
“I started out in Vancouver doing people’s makeup and I used to go to a guy to get label-free makeup and I used to sell it to people,” she says. “So, I kind of started that entrepreneurial thing very young.”
That whole “entrepreneurial thing” appears to have payed off for Swift, who now calls New York home.
Throughout her 20-plus year career as a makeup artist, she has worked on countless celebrities including Gisele Bündchen and Celine Dion, been featured in magazines the likes of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and has had her work photographed by top photographers including Annie Leibovitz, Terry Richardson and Patrick Demarchelier.
But it’s not these resume highlights that Swift is keen to talk about when given the chance in an interview or at an event. It’s her issues with the beauty industry’s safety standards — or lack thereof.
It’s a topic that for Swift, hits close to home.
After struggling with her health for several years, Swift learned her blood contained toxic levels of metals such as aluminum, lead and mercury.
After running tests and making inquiries, she discovered her career and passion in the beauty industry was, in fact, killing her.
“There are some chemicals that are safe,” Swift says. “And there are organic chemicals that can kill you — mercury and lead are organic and they can kill you.”
It’s for this reason Swift created Beautytruth.com, a website that aims to educate consumers about the dangers of chemical-laden products.
Her health problems also prompted Swift to branch back into the beauty product industry, except this time she wasn’t re-branding generic products, but rather putting in the painstaking footwork to create an organic beauty brand free of harmful chemicals.
RMS Beauty was born.
Swift uses raw, food-grade ingredients including raw coconut, cocoa and shea butters in her product line, which includes face oils, eyeshadows and skin-perfecting creams.
“Because I’m the owner of the brand, I can do whatever I want,” she says. “My line is so clean.”
RMS Beauty is privately owned by Swift and operates out of Charleston, S.C.
“I think we are being very smart,” she says of her business model. “We are turning down investors daily because I just don’t want to lose control of my brand. If I lose control of my brand, we are not going to have that pure coconut oil, or the pure powders in there anymore. They will say we need to make bigger margins.”
Rather than focus on margins and returns, Swift focuses on safety and quality.
One product you won’t ever see come from RMS Beauty is silicone and talc-stuffed mineral powder. It’s just one of the many products Swift would like to pick a fight with the mainstream beauty industry over.
“I don’t like mineral powders because a lot of them are very cheap quality. They look cheap and I don’t like the fact that they dry out and age the skin,” she says. “If people think you can put powder all over your face in the amounts that women put on and then think that you’re doing any favours to your skin — you’re in for a big surprise.”
In the long-term, Swift says these powders dry out skin, robbing it of the natural bacteria and enzymes which help keep it healthy.
“These powders are sucking the life out of your face,” she says. “It’s not organic nor is it healthy. It’s safer than some of the other toxic chemicals out there that are used in the cosmetic industry. But when it comes down to Chemistry 101, it is a powder that absorbs all your natural skin oils and therefore dries out your skin.
“It’s not good.”
But the No. 1 reason Swift detests these powders is the particles, which she says are, “toxic as hell.”
“When you inhale them, they don’t dissolve in your stomach, or your nose or your lungs. They stay there,” she says. “There is a HEPA filter on a vacuum cleaner for a reason. Why doesn’t the cosmetic industry have to take responsibility for that too?”
The answer, according to Swift, is because the industry is self-regulated — meaning the people behind the beauty brands are overseeing the rules that regulate the chemicals.
“The only thing the FDA keeps an eye on in cosmetics are synthetics,” she says. “Other than that, it’s like the fox guarding the chicken coup.”
And according to Swift, things won’t be changing any time soon.
“It will never happen,” Swift remarks when asked about a future where big beauty companies remove all potentially toxic ingredients from their products. “Nobody is regulating it so who is ever going to know? Who knows what kind of little extra things they stuck in there that is under the required percentage limit so they don’t have to mark it down. Or when they do the patent or trademark secret thing.
“We have no idea what is in that. It could be anything.”
To Swift, the key to navigating the potential dangers hidden within the beauty industry is for consumers to become educated.
“I think people should really start educating their young girls,” she says. “Because they are all brainwashed ...”
Swift says young people are attracted to cosmetics with celebrity names attached to them, without knowing what’s inside the products themselves.
“They don’t realize that it’s toxic crap,” she says. “It’s toxic crap with some celebrity name on it.”
Since the start of her campaign toward a safer, more transparent beauty industry, Swift says she is increasingly encountering a new type of consumer — ones who have fully educated themselves on the potential perils of chemical-filled beauty products.
“They’re starting to get it, but they’re not getting it fast enough,” Swift said. “The saddest thing I ever hear is when someone comes to me when they’re older and they either have skin cancer or they have some kind of weird thing going on and they start to go all clean.
“Because I think it’s a little late.”
RMS Beauty products are available in Vancouver at Kiss and Makeup in Lonsdale and Olympic Village.