grrrl talk: alexis krauss + samantha urbani

these rad ladies make a case for switching over to all-natural beauty products.

photo by sunny shokrae

While there may be nothing granola-looking about them, Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells and Samantha Urbani, who sings with Blood Orange, make a case for switching over to all-natural beauty products.

Samantha Urbani: You know what’s really crazy? When we first met, we bonded over using and loving all-natural beauty products. We were just like, “Duh!” 

Alexis Krauss: It’s really interesting! I always grew up as a relatively conscious consumer— but more with food and the environment—until I learned that exfoliants contain micro beads of small pieces of plastic, which accumulate across oceans and great lakes and damage ecosystems. I think there’s still ignorance about how ubiquitous certain ingredients are in beauty products because consumers are told that it’s not toxic if it’s in a low dose—but we’re getting low doses of these ingredients in so many different products that it adds up. 

SU: Totally!

AK: I got so passionate about it and wanted to write something on the topic, but found myself frustrated with a lot of mainstream beauty sites and the fact that they didn’t dive deep into issues like how certain ingredients affected women’s bodies and the environment. But then I met this woman named Jessica Assaf, a cosmetic activist, and it was like meeting my bandmate. We were just like, “Fuck, let’s start a website that women can go to and share their own stories”— so we launched a blog called Beauty Lies Truth. It’s exciting to see how many eyes we've opened.

SU: That’s so exciting! Starting something like that and seeing it grow as a movement. 

AK: Yeah! I mean it’s really all about taking raw, wonderful ingredients that come from nature and turning them into formulas that work for your skin and body. It's also about consumer activism; we have a lot of buying power, especially as women. There are things that we haven’t seen until the past 50 years when chemicals really started to inundate our lives in a crazy way.

SU: That’s so scary!

AK: I know! How did you get into using all-natural beauty alternatives?

SU: My mom has always been into organic things like homeopathic medicine, food, and things like that. When I was growing up I had a love- hate relationship with the idea of femininity and the idea of what it means to be a girl. For years, when I was a teenager, I totally swore off makeup and didn’t want to wear any ofitatall.ThenIgottoa point where I didn’t want to be so obstinate against femininity, I wanted to take it in my own hands and embrace it. I started thinking about all these things that you’re talking about because I was raised to think about what I’m putting in my body and what’s going on my skin. Especially when I started to tour, things like essential oils and certain oils for moisturizing were very important to me.

AK: Yeah, sure. Nobody teaches you to look at ingredients on products like you look at labels on food because people can’t pronounce them and they don’t know what they are. It’s overwhelming.

SU: Exactly! People assume that they must be OK because they’re telling you to put it
on your skin and the models look beautiful.

AK: What are some of your favorite ingredients? 

SU: I love tamanu oil. It’s super reparative to your skin—it works for scarring, for zits, for anything really. You can rub it onto your face or you can dab it— everyone’s skin is different so it’s a process of figuring it out. This is what I take on tour. I also love macadamia oil for skin and hair. But I don’t know a lot about all-natural makeup brands. Help me! 

AK: OK! So in terms of makeup brands, there are a lot of them. Ilia is a really great brand—they have a lot of highly saturated colors. This is my favorite lipstick by them, it’s called “Crimson and Clover.” Another similar cosmetic company is Jane Iredale— I love their eye stuff, they have great mineral-based shadows. If you look on the blog, we just did a huge thing on lipstick companies like Bite Beauty and RMS. There are tons of them. People should be able to wear a great lipstick and eye shadow in a way that’s healthy for them. 

SU: Ah, I love these colors!

AK: Also, Juice Beauty is a newer brand, which uses a lot of juice formulations packed with a ton of different fruits and vegetables. Their green apple brightening pads are really wonderful. It’s high-quality stuff; there isn’t anything superfluous or toxic in there. You know, less is more.

SU: Absolutely.

AK: S.W. Basics is also a great line, and they’re Brooklyn-based. They have a really wonderful toner that is mostly apple cider vinegar, which is awesome for treating acne. They have a great makeup remover made of jojoba and olive oil. People don’t realize you can just use essential oils for makeup remover. And you can leave it on your skin!

SU: Yeah, you don’t have to remove the makeup remover! [Laughs]

AK: It’s so interesting how people are so freaked out by oil. I guess I was, too, because you always learn, “Scrub the oil away.” 

SU: As long as it’s good oil, it’s really beneficial.

AK: And nourishing for your skin! What you put on your skin is just as important as what you put in your body.

SU: Totally. Your body is so absorbent. It drinks things. It’s crazy.

AK: I mean, there are also extremes of natural beauty—I’m more in the moderate spectrum. I think if I’m consuming responsibly then there are certain products
I can make exceptions for. Like, I still dye my hair—I’m not 100 percent natural and that’s OK. And I still eat ice cream. [Laughs]

SU: What about your nails?

AK: My nail artist Rhea Lopez uses this new polish company called Smith & Cult—they have the coolest bottles. It’s all 5-free, so there’s no formaldehyde or phthalates, which is great. We do a nail-art tutorial on the blog because there are tons of 5-free and 3-free polishes. But don’t get me wrong, nail polish is a chemical cocktail, there are just safer ways to make it.

SU: There was a point a few years ago where I looked at the nail polish on my hands and I was like, “This is insane, I eat food with this on!” So I stopped wearing it for an entire year. I used henna on my nails for a while which was cool because it looked weird and different and would sometimes go all the way up to my knuckle and it was on the tips of my fingers. Experiment if you don’t feel comfortable with something!