#PLSkinterview: Tina Hedges—The Beauty Shaman, on Her Company: LOLI Beauty, and Being Your Own Cosmetic Chemist
Welcome back to #PLSkinterviews! In this series we’ll talk to women who inspire us about skin care—and so much else. This series is about more than just our favorite products, but rather about some of our favorite people. We hope you find their stories as inspiring as we have!
Though you might not know her name, Tina Hedges's career has most likely impacted the contents of your last #shelfie. The marketing wunderkind and now, Queen of ‘un-bottled’ DIY natural beauty vis-a-vis LOLI beauty—a subscription beauty box unlike any other we’ve seen has been around the proverbial block. From America to Europe to Asia, Hedges has developed products across the globe for little brands like oh...Dior, Estee Lauder, and L’oreal. We hope you love hearing about the adventures of this talented entrepreneur, in her own words, as much as we did.
Beauty in the Kitchen
I grew up in Jamaica, til I was about 8 years old. I saw beauty being made in the kitchen. In every culture—beauty started as a ritual, and it started in the kitchens. My parents are Cuban, and my grandmother would tell me stories about how they used to make their own deodorant or floral, fragrant water in Cuba...so I always had exposure to beauty coming from the kitchen or mother nature.
I have vivid memories of eating a mango in Jamaica and getting it all over my hands—getting very dirty, I must have been about 5 years old and my nanny said ‘don’t worry’—I was in my bathing suit, and she put the mango on me and scrubbed me and showed me that it was good for the skin—it’s a very vivid memory.
Then when I was a teenager, maybe 12 or 13, and first started having breakouts, my mother took me into the kitchen, and took honey from the cabinet, she patted it on my face, and then she took some herbal tea—chamomile and rosemary and mint—put it in a pot, boiled the water, and when the water was boiled, she put the herbs in, let them steam, took it off the fire, put a towel over my head, and had me steam my face, and started to explain to me that honey was antibacterial and that the steam with the power of the herbs would open up my pores, detoxify, cleanse, and allow the honey to seep in. Because honey is so sticky, it would also bring out the debris. She taught me to do this once a week—and not to squeeze my face like most teenagers.
Beauty as Part of Ritual
With LOLI, Every recipe has an affirmation or a mantra. So there’s an intention that goes into it, which is why I think women, nowadays are so, ya know, not loyal to most products, because it’s just something they’re buying, it’s a commodity, even if it’s an expensive one—there’s no connection to the product, because there’s no personalization.
Beauty should be an experience. It should be a ritual. There’s a reason that when you worship in different religions...every religion has its own take on ritual...but they’re all rituals...when you walk into a Catholic Church, you put your hands in the holy water, on Easter, the lights are dimmed...Greek Orthodox…or Catholicism, or whatever, you light a candle. I just went to a friend’s daughters’ bat mitzvah—they did the same thing. It was beautiful! But it was so similar! They actually gave, this is fascinating, at the Bat Mitzvah, a little amulet of herbs and spices, that was very similar— (Ed Note: Hedges is referring to the Besamim—a special mix of spices used in the Jewish havdalah ceremony, a service that marks the end of the Shabbos) It was filled with cloves, cinnamon...it was very, very similar. When we had a mix like this in a LOLI box, of course I had some other things—Calendula Flowers, Hibiscus Flowers, but it was all about bringing love and protection and happy energy.
Ritual has always been a cornerstone of culture. And yet, we are disconnected from rituals and I think that’s what makes people feel disenfranchised.
Accidentally Taking The Beauty Industry By Storm
I didn’t even think I wanted to be in the beauty industry. So I was actually searching for what to do, and it was very serendipitous. I didn’t have any desire, idea...goal, to land in beauty...but I met the president of Christian Dior perfumes. He was young, he was a gentleman in his 30s, he had just come from Germany to run all of Dior Beauty, and his idea was that the problem with the beauty industry is that it gets very complacent—and senior executives get in jobs at big corporations and they sort of have the same approach to doing something, and they just do it over and over and over again, and they’re in those jobs for 20/30 years, and so, beauty becomes very stagnant. And so, he basically wanted to bring people into the company who had lived around the world, who had no beauty experience, and reinvigorate, and disrupt the way we looked at the things. So he offered me a job! But he said to me, at the time, “You have to go work in a store, and you may be there one week or you may be there one year, and I’m not going to tell you how long you’re gonna be there, but if you don’t want to do that, you have no business being in the beauty industry.”
So, my first job in beauty was to be a sales, a fragrance sales girl at Macy’s Herald Square! It was the hardest job I ever had. I did that for about four months, and then he brought me into the main office, into advertising and corporate communications. And, when I got into the office, I realized I loved the beauty industry, because, essentially we’re selling something that is hopeful and brings joy to people’s lives. You know—we’re not here to cure cancer. It should be lighthearted, but yet it’s still run like a business. It’s still strategic. You need to know what you’re doing. So I loved it. I fell in love with the industry. And then, my career sort of unfolded after that.
Entering Product Development Fast & Furiously
After that, someone who’s a mentor to me, and a very big deal in the beauty industry, found me and brought me into creative marketing and product development. So I started to learn. I learned from the best in the industry—how to develop products. I’m not a chemist, but I understand the science, I’ve gone head-to-head with some of the biggest P.h.D.s in the industry and contributed to patents. So I had an incredible immersion—I left Dior and I went to three companies that were owned by Revlon and just sold to a private family, and those were Halston, Princess Marcella Borghese, and Nautica. And I went in to do product development across all categories—hair, skincare, color, fragrance.
My first day on the job, my mentor and boss had to take a business trip. And, I was called in to see the head of all marketing. And she said, ‘You need to go to the lab today, and you need to develop the number-one-selling shade in our new lipstick line. It’s a nude shade. And we don’t have a prototype. Do you think you can do it?’ So, I had no idea. I’d never done product development before. And my boss, who was supposed to teach me was nowhere to be found. I got in a car, got to the lab, met the chemist, and he of course, was like ‘okay, what do you want to do? there’s no prototype to match, what do you wanna do?’ and I basically had to create the shade...and it became the number-one-selling shade in the portfolio. It was called ‘Michelangelo Nude,’ and the head of marketing said to me “that happens once every 10 years.” So I knew I’d found my calling. I intuitively understood the category.
After that, I went to Estée Lauder, I was head of skincare and makeup product development for the Estée Lauder brands—some of the things that are in the top ten are still things that I was involved in...Double-Wear Makeup is still number one, I was involved in that, Perfectionist, Resilience...most of their hero categories in both skincare and makeup. But I was global. So I would do launches for the U.S. but I would also travel the world and work on things for local markets or regions. So, for about 7 years, I traveled the world, which I loved.
Then, I went to L’oreal, and at L’oreal, it was the only time that they had a marketing person reporting to Research & Development. So, the idea was to drive innovation to help the scientists understand where should they develop, where should they put their investment dollars to develop technologies that then wouldn’t be ready for five-ten years. Or, where were there opportunities outside of beauty, like for joint ventures or acquisitions. So back in 2000, I was looking at smart technologies and devices, before people knew devices, and things like that.
There’s a joyful approach. There’s no shame, or guilt of waking up, or going to sleep and doing 10-steps. That attention to self-care is really fascinating. It’s almost irrelevant to the product itself. Asia’s always been ahead of the trends. Also, they’re willing to take risks, and do things that are a little controversial. Like, let’s just use the snail cream as an example. Imagine having a conversation in the boardrooms of one of the companies in the U.S. and saying “I think we should do a cream with snail extract,” I mean, you’d have someone saying “PETA will be all over us!” “Are the snails harmed?” (Ed Note: Nope, they’re never harmed!) “Isn’t that disgusting?” (Ed Note: Nope, learn more here!) The Korean companies are like “It works—let’s go with it.”
On Gender in Beauty & Leaving The Corporate World
L’oreal was really my last corporate role. In my heart, I’m an entrepreneur. I have an idea a moment. And, I got very fatigued walking into a room with men in suits, because even though we love to think that the beauty industry is a female-run industry, it’s still very much driven, especially in the corporate world, by men. Take a look at most of the multi-billion dollar beauty companies and look at the executive committees and tell me how many women are on the executive committee—not to even mention the CEO. It’s crazy that it’s still...it’s shocking in this day and age. So I got really tired of trying to convince men to believe in future innovations—all they wanted to do was test until they tested them to death and proved them wrong.
On Her Beauty Industry Pet Peeve
LOLI is completely dedicated to the stopping of people-trafficking. For every box we sell, we donate $1 to the stopping of people trafficking. And we’re the only beauty company to be a member of Made In The Free World. Made In A Free World is an organization that has a diagnostic platform that allows us to go online and trace whether even a fair-trade organization that we work with, that is supposed to be stopping people trafficking, is somehow inadvertently, getting organic cotton from a country that is involved in people trafficking. I think that there’s so many brands out there that are playing natural or earth-friendly or caring about some NGO but really don’t do the homework, and it’s more of a flippant marketing play than anything else. That makes me roll my eyes.
On Using Your Intuition To Care For Your Skin
We live in a very dynamic world and our bodies are very dynamic. Our souls are very dynamic. I don’t believe that having a definitive set of rules/ do’s and don’t’s works. So, what worked for you yesterday might not work for you today. That’s why when people have a skincare regimen that’s like “no matter what, I’m gonna do my three-step” Cleanse. Tone. Moisturize. But you’re using the same three products everyday.
Well guess what? You may have had a fight with your boyfriend yesterday and be really angry, and all of a sudden you woke up with a blemish on your skin, you also, because you were angry, may not have gotten enough sleep, and so your body wasn’t able to repair itself fully and so your skin looks a little bit dull, you have bags under your eyes, and then, because you got into a fight with your boyfriend, you also overindulged in maybe having too much alcohol, or eating a pint of ice cream, or whatever you did, but now, your whole system is sluggish. So that cleanse, tone, moisturize regimen, many of which are very salicylic acid/alcohol based, very stripping, may not be what what you need that day.
You have to listen to your intuition. It’s almost like, your wardrobe. You don’t wear the same outfit every single day. You get up and say “today I feel really thin and I feel like looking flirty and feminine, and tomorrow I feel like being slick, and tailored—you know! You listen to yourself! Your hair is never the same every day. If you have your period. If you’re sick—your hair is dryer, it’s frizzier, it’s more unmanageable. When you’re on vacation and you’ve slept and you’re eating well—it’s different.
For example, this weekend, I was feeling a little bit low. It was a full moon coming—full moons really affect me. So on Sunday, I ended up doing a mask. I thought about it and I was like do I do the detox mask from January?—No, that’s too stripping, I need something that is healing and soothing so I did the pomegranate acai yogurt mask, and I put in honey and I used the love herbs. So, that’s my point, depending on where you are emotionally, do you need some self love? Do you need some, ya know, some comfort? Well, that’s about hydrating your skin. Do you need some detoxification? Well that’s more about deeply cleansing the skin.
On How to Choose Products & Being A Discerning Customer...
I don’t want to be on a soapbox...it’s not that because I believe in natural remedies, I don’t believe in other types of skincare. I actually believe that it’s very effective to use both. If you really want high science skincare, there are some wonderful things out there on the market that work. So there’s really great natural brands and really great high-science brands and then there’s a lot of ‘me too’ brands in between. Those ‘me too’ brands sit on the shelf, and you intuitively, walk the shelf, and you can kind of tell because they will have the exact same claims, and the exact same language for the consumer. It’s all you know, the name of this polymer that delivers 20% Vitamin C, and this brand calls it a different name and this brand calls it a different name, and then you turn the bottle around and you start to read through the ingredient list and you start to realize, well 90% is water or alcohol, there are preservatives, and you get to the level of Vitamin C and it’s really low.
I think you just have to be discerning the same way you would be about food. How do you choose the restaurants you go to? Well, one, It has to appeal to you. You have to like the food, and want to go eat that kind of cuisine. Two, You look at the reviews, or you look at the background. Three, You have to like the ambiance, you have to relate to it. LOLI may not be for everyone...some people really like the fancy packaging. I’d rather put the money into the ingredients, but if you care more about fancy packaging in your bathroom, that’s okay, I respect that. There’s a personal choice.
On Her Own Stand-By’s and Ritual
I really believe in taking a bath everyday. Even if you shower first, and you scrub the body, but then taking a soaking bath, everyday with either magnesium, or Himalayan salts, or herbs, or apple cider vinegar, or baking soda with essential oils, but I always take a soaking, healing bath. I love to do a body scrub with coffee, lavender, clove, cinnamon, and then using sunflower oil and coconut oil. There’s something very healing and therapeutic, and I don’t think we take as much time with our bodies as we take with our faces.
My regimen in the morning is probably less intricate because I’m always a little bit late! I use a cleansing oil. In the morning I like to rub it into my face, take a muslin washcloth, put it in some hot water, ring it out, and let the oils sort of steam a little bit, and then wipe it off. I have very, very dry skin so I don’t like anything that’s stripping or harsh. I cleanse with an oil at night too, but I more just use it to wipe off my makeup and then I may do a light scrub, nothing abrasive, like cleansing grains. Sometimes I add a little bit of baking soda to the cleansing grains so it gets a little bit more effervescent. Depending on how cold it is outside, or how dry my skin is, I do either a tincture or a serum that is a combination of some essential oils, and a base oil, or a hydrosol oil. Then I put on a moisturizer that could be either a balm or a salve or an oil. I find that if I’m gonna put on makeup, putting on an oil underneath gives you a radiance, you don’t look so static and dry, so that’s pretty simple.
Two or three times a week, I like to use a mixture of apple cider vinegar and aloe as a toner—when you go and get lasers for example and you skin gets a little bit crusty or inflamed, they tell you to soak sterile cloths in white distilled vinegar, because vinegar actually helps the binding of the dead cells to come apart, so it helps exfoliate and restores the pH of the skin and its antibacterial, and then once a week I try and do a steam/mask that I make.
On her latest venture, LOLI Beauty
What LOLI represents to me is allowing women—some people think they don’t have time to mix something or they’re afraid to mix something—LOLI to me is more about being able to personalize your regimen, and having options, and everything being fresh and sort of made-to-order. People are busy yes, but, you always have time to add water! A lot of our products all you need to do is add water. Literally, just a spoonful of water. We’ve done all of the other work for you. If you want to make it more complicated, then we give you options, you can add glycerin to make it hydrating or you can add essential oils, but we try and give you something in every box, something you can just use as is. So LOLI to me is really about, Living Organic Loving Ingredients—everything we do connects us back to life, there’s love infused in it, it’s organic, but organic, less so about having a seal, it’s organic because it’s coming from a good and a transparent place, and how we approach our beauty regimens through that lens. We’re totally not about saying you need to throw everything out of your cabinet—I don’t believe in that!