Launched earlier this year, beauty newcomer Gen See sees makeup from a different scope. Creating clean but also sustainable beauty products, the remarkable formulas were created to spark joy in those who use them. Co-founders Danya and Tamar combined their love for beauty into the label, living up to their signature phrase, “so good, you’d never know it’s clean.”
The beauty brand’s current lineup includes a Pick Me Up Lip Matte Lipstick featuring five highly pigmented shades made with synthetic beeswax and lightweight oils, as well as the Spector Sport Mascara and Arch Support Brow Powder Gel, the latter of which comes in three hues that create fuller, natural-looking groomed brows. Meanwhile, Clean Sheen Cheek + Lip Color is comprised of three rosy colors such as “Apple 01,” “Apricot 02,” and “Plum 03.” The formula, which is both sheer and buildable, gives a natural, glowing flush to your complexion in addition to having ingredients like Vitamin E. The Clean Sheen Lip Gloss rounds out Gen See’s launch lineup, not only pairing well with the lip color but serving as a high shine topcoat for your lips.
Staying true to clean beauty, Gen See products are vegan, cruelty-free, and ethically made with inclusive work practices. The packaging, which is also sustainable, take on bright, colorful hues that will stand out in your makeup drawer. Furthermore, as seen on Gen See’s webstore, the formulas were used on everyday people and tested on the skin of different shades, further tackling the beauty industry’s lack of representation. The label doesn’t use any fragrance, phthalates, or nanoparticles as well.
Coming to Gen See soon, a Mixed Media Liquid Eyeshadow will join the brand’s lineup with two different finishes: metallic and matte. The former will come in hues such as a copper “Bronze Age 01,” pink champagne “First Light 02,” and dirty gold “Desert Highway 03,” while the latter will arrive in a chocolate brown “Plush 02” and peach “Reef 01.” To learn more about the brand, we spoke with Gen See co-founder Danya about launching the brand, clean beauty misconceptions, new products, and the future of the beauty label.
What were you both doing career-wise before launching Gen See and how did you get your start in the beauty industry?
Prior to this, I worked in New York for a few of the big cosmetic companies. Some of them you’ve probably heard of like La Mer and Calvin Klein Fragrances. I’ve learned a lot about the industry, and it’s made of many good people and there are high standards for how products are made. Historically, it wasn’t always as inclusive as I thought it could be, and even though the cosmetics industry has done better than other industries. It’s always been top-heavy, led by men and many women working in the ranks. It’s not very diverse and I’ve always dreamed of an environment where everyone matters, including supply chain partners.
That’s not to say that the big companies don’t do this. But for us, when choosing a packaging supplier or agency, it was really important that we checked to make sure all those companies treated their employees well and included people from all over into the mix. I learned a lot from these different experiences throughout my career – some of the best practices and hopes for things that we can do differently if I ever did it myself.
Tamar and I used to work together at Preen.Me, a social media agency before starting Gen See and gathered a ton of experience with Instagram and TikTok. We learned how the voices of people really steer brands. Your community is your brand, and what they think and say as well as how they react is what takes your brand to new heights. The pandemic gave us the courage to take that risk, launch our own brand and create a community with shared values.
What was the first instance when you realized creating a beauty brand would be possible?
We have a product, Pick Me Up Lip, a matte lipstick. After trying it on, we were like WHAT! We had never seen a formula like this before. It makes you want to smile and dance, and throw all of your other makeup away. It’s so comfortable, it’s better than some chapsticks so when I saw the lipstick, it was the moment I realized we could do it ourselves. If clean formulas can be as good as anything MAC or NARS or any of these other big brands, then I was really inspired to bring our version of that to the marketplace. So that was it, once we tried it, there was no looking back
The packaging of our lipstick, an orange matte, was not an obvious choice. We figured if we were going to create a lipstick, how could we make it look iconic? A lot of them are black, sleek, and beautiful. But we wanted one that people would want to pick up. It’s like a mood booster. Once we had these two things started, we were like, “okay let’s keep going.”
The shades were developed for real women. They’re not just models on a site. We’ve been working with these women from inception. They helped us reflect on how these shades look on women with very different skin tones. It’s really remarkable how our lipstick “Rosie,” a deep mauve, named after my mom or “Margaret,” a neutral brownish pink named after Tamar’s grandmother, looks completely different on every person. That was a really important process, taking the time to photograph and speak with different people and try it on together before we hit the button on our final shade range.
Can you briefly talk about Gen See’s phrase: “makeup so good, you’d never know its clean,” and the common perceptions that people generally carry about it in comparison to its counterpart?
Clean for us is about a bigger picture. It’s about more conscious beauty so of course, we think about the formulations, but what’s also important to us is the overall attitude of the product itself. The package, carton, people that we work with, and formula all together have taken a lot of heart and thought to be inclusive, ethical, and thinking about the planet. At the end of the day, that’s really what we’re talking about when we talk about what is clean.
I think, generally speaking, there’s some debate that some manufacturers have formulas that haven’t been checked for a while because the FDA doesn’t put a lot of pressure on American brands to test specific ingredients or check that they are safe or non-toxic. The standards are a bit more stringent in the EU where all the ingredients must be checked and verified before they can go to market. There’s a lot of debate on what the FDA and US can be doing more of to protect customers, and it falls on the brand to be more transparent.
There are so many misconceptions around conventional versus clean and I don’t think we’re here to debate whether conventional products are bad or clean is better. I believe it’s part of a movement that some smaller, independent beauty brands are making to say hey, “let’s try to do better and think more about what’s inside.” We’re also taking a step forward with packaging decisions and the idea is that, if more people step into the conversation, then suppliers will give better choices and everyone will benefit.
Let’s talk about the products, may you talk about the brand’s launch collection, including the matte lipstick, mascara, and lip gloss?
Mascaras, there are plenty, but not all of them work as hard as others. The Spectator Sport Mascara is the mascara that you sit back and watch what happens. We wanted it to be very identifiable, we wanted a pink one that no one could miss it. The Clean Sheen Cheek + Lip, they give your face a warm glow that’s very easy to put on. The gloss, some people just love glossy lips, it’s a 70s kind of thing. Many people love gloss, but not the stickiness where your hair gets stuck to your lips. The nice thing about this product is that you can layer it on your Cheek + Lip or wear it alone.
The Arch Support Brow Powder Gel joins this amazing trend of beauty, more bushy brows. There are so many ways to get a more full brow, but if you can have one that does everything, even better. That was the idea with this product, and they give you that color and tint. Even though you only have five products, you can almost do a full face with them!
Something that I believe many people can appreciate is how despite Gen See being a clean beauty brand, it’s still affordable in comparison to other independent labels.
I’m glad you brought that up. Something that really bothers me with the clean beauty trend is that a lot of products are in the $28 to $36 range which can be a bit out of reach. If you dream about having a lot of young people join the conversation for better packaging and beauty products, then you have to price it well so people can vote with their dollar. We really pushed to make it affordable, something that people can afford and not feel like it’s impossible to buy a couple of products and play a little.
Elsewhere, Gen See is expanding its lineup with the forthcoming release of Mixed Media Metallic and Matte Liquid Eyeshadow. Can you expand on why you chose to introduce these products?
These products themselves are a real compliment to the overall portfolio because most of our products are multi-use. The thing about liquid eyeshadow is that you can place it without too much technique and it has really long wear as well. That was the idea, to get a more polished look. It gives a lot of light into the eyes, it’s easy and brightening but also allows our consumers to take the makeup further.
The next generation and clean beauty is the central focus of your makeup collections. How do you plan on incorporating that into your new products for Spring and beyond?
We give our labs specific requirements that maintain the integrity of the formulations. We always ensure that there are no fragrances, phthalates, or nanoparticles. There are more extreme versions of clean and people who say they’re clean but dial into claims like vegan or cruelty-free. I think the idea is to keep learning and evolving. That’s something we’re really committed to.
Another thing that we’re committed to is packaging. We just announced our partnership with PACT, they are a non-profit that is working on the plastic problem in the cosmetics industry and trying to steer it to a circular economy. Most people take their old makeup packaging and throw it in the trash so it’s really hard to change customer behavior that way. We’re encouraging our customers to send it to PACT – either by dropping off any or all of their cosmetics at Credo stores throughout the US. Or by shipping it to PACT and getting free shipping on their next Gen See purchase. It’s baby steps because there is a lot more to be done. But one step at a time.
What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned throughout the process of creating vegan and cruelty-free makeup?
To have faith! There are moments in every process of your life when you don’t know what’s happening exactly in front of you. It can be an abyss between the moment you saw that amazing lipstick and how are you going to fund the company. There’s so many things that seem impossible when you first start but you have to have faith. Your will can really take you very far.
What changes do you want to see in the beauty and cosmetics industry in the next few years?
I look forward to the day that the Gen See brand is big enough to where we can make deeper requests from suppliers and say hey, “we only want 100% post-consumer recyclable materials.” Til then, I truly love hearing from our community every day and receiving their suggestions and wishes that we can implement in the near term.
In other beauty news, Ries is changing the way we see beauty on the go with travel-size, reusable bottles.