For some of us who use makeup, the first person to introduce the products, and how to apply them, was none other than our mother. Some of us may recall those moments flipping through mom's beauty magazines as a pre-teen, looking at the glossy pages of models wearing bright lipstick and eyeshadow, wondering when we'd be old enough to wear the colors on days that weren't Halloween. For some, it was mom who first showed them how to apply blush, and choose a good lipstick color and foundation. Of course, for many others, it was friends, YouTube tutorials, or pure experimentation. But for one mother-daughter duo, the bond over makeup went beyond the home, and into the stores.
Kate O'Brien and her daughter, Sara, run Alima Pure, a clean beauty brand "born from a place of love."
In celebration of Mother's Day and our love for clean beauty products, we spoke to O'Brien about running Alima Pure with her daughter, and why makeup can be such a powerful tool for empowerment and mother-daughter bonding.
Courtesy of Kate O'Brien
On the company's website, it says "Inspired by our mothers, moved by our daughters, we support and celebrate joy, beauty, and well-being in all women." From its inception, Alima Pure has stood by these words.
"I started Alima when my daughter was ready to begin wearing makeup and my mother had passed away of complications of treatment for breast cancer," O'Brien told A Plus. "Natural cosmetics were around back then and you could get any shade of brown you wanted, but not much more. There was a need for a line with beautiful, fun, elegant colors that would appeal to a broad range of women."
The company, founded in Portland, Oregon, in 2004, grew organically with support from the beauty industry there, and with space for O'Brien to form the brand in her own way. While she says there were some hurdles, it was fun and inspiring to create the rules and goals for a company she hoped would empower women to live their life to the fullest, achieve their goals, and make a difference. Her daughter was involved from the very beginning, inspiring colors, and helping with all aspects of the business.
"Needless to say, there have been occasional challenges, but on balance it has been rewarding and inspiring to work together," says O'Brien in reference to her daughter.
“ I love the creativity, energy, and vision Sara brings to Alima.”
Just as O'Brien bonded over makeup with her own daughter, she sees makeup as a natural tool other mothers and daughters can use to connect as it offers such a great number of possibilities for play and self-expression. "Even when used subtly, it makes a statement," says O'Brien.
Speaking of her own inspiration, O'Brien admits it wasn't her mother, but her grandmother who sparked her imagination when it came to experimenting with different makeup styles and colors.
"My mother was very old school when it came to makeup. She wore mostly neutrals and seldom more than two products, usually lipstick and mascara. My grandmother, on the other hand, loved makeup. She always had a beautiful compact in her handbag and enjoyed getting dressed up for an evening out. I was fascinated by her cosmetic collection."
Makeup is so much more than an opportunity for mothers (and grandmothers) to show daughters a means of self-expression, however — it's a chance to show them the importance of seeking sustainable, healthy products.
"For me, good health comes first — in the food we eat and the products we use," says O'Brien. "It's about protecting our health and the planet. By the time Sara started using beauty products, she was used to organic food, natural shampoo, even natural school supplies."
Courtesy of Kate O'Brien
O'Brien ensured her daughter knew the value of healthy sustainable products from a young age, so it was no surprise she created Alima Pure to also align with those ideals.
Alima Pure is committed to sustainability as it is celebrating its seventh year being carbon neutral by offsetting 100 percent of its corporate carbon emissions. The brand is a member of the 1% for the Planet — "a global network of businesses, nonprofits and individuals working together for a healthy planet" — and donates 1 percent of its annual gross revenues to grassroots environmental organizations dedicated to protecting the planet. The company is also a certified B Corporation by the nonprofit BLab to meet "rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency."
They are committed to creating healthy products for its patrons. Surprisingly, there are very few restrictions the FDA poses on cosmetics, meaning you could potentially be putting harmful ingredients — such as parabens or formaldehyde — on your face every time you apply something as innocuous as lipstick. Alima Pure, however, makes their products from natural mineral ingredients, and is carried by Credo, a one-stop shop that curates clean beauty products from around the world.
"Clean beauty products just made sense. What didn't make sense is that they came in only boring colors. That is part of what we wanted to fix with Alima.”
Courtesy of Kate O'Brien
Being a clean beauty brand with a wide-range of colors for customers to experiment with is fundamental to Alima Pure. It is this range of colors and products that O'Brien believes empowers their customers.
"Self-expression is empowering. We have long emphasized that there are no rules — wear what you like, enjoy yourself, experiment. In the end what matters is not the makeup but the person wearing it. Even when you are making a statement it's not a statement about makeup but a statement about yourself. That's the part everyone at Alima loves the most. It's a 'go for it' spirit that's both empowering and enlivening."