Annie Jackson wants to change the way you see beauty—and, if anyone can do it, she can.
This veteran of the industry started her over 20-year career at Estée Lauder. Later, she was recruited to help bring Sephora to the U.S. and Japan, before directing global product marketing and development at Benefit Cosmetics.
Ultimately, she brought that extensive retail beauty experience into the conscious sphere with Credo, a non-toxic, clean beauty retail concept. At their eight stores around the country, they shepherd independent natural lines into the mainstream, speaking openly about their rigorous screening process and “Dirty List” of banned ingredients. Now, Credo is launching a Hamptons pop-up at Serena & Lily (that will remain open through August) and a new shop-in-shop at Fred Segal in LA.
Here, Jackson explains why we shouldn’t have to sacrifice to keep our beauty clean:
Live The Process: You’ve spent your whole career in beauty. What first drew you to this world and how has it changed?
Annie Jackson: My career in beauty started out of necessity, honestly. I was 19 and needed work. I was lucky enough to land a job as an “admin” for Estée Lauder. They offered an incredible training ground, as well as mobility within the organization. I grew up with them—literally. I’m now 47 (gulp) and things have changed so much during that time. I think the biggest changes revolve around retail environments. In 1997, when I started at Sephora, it was so revolutionary because everything was in an open-sell environment. No one could believe that you could touch and try beauty products instead of peering at them through glass.
Today, we have to continue to adapt quickly to meet the customer where she is, in terms of selling products in physical retail. That might mean doing live video chats with our customers from our stores, offering a variety of services while they’re shopping or training our staff not only as experts on skin and skin physiology, but on ingredients too.
LTP: What inspired you to launch Credo? How has it grown?
AJ: In 1997, when we were part of the U.S. team that rolled out the first Sephora stores, we saw this tidal wave of indie brands that needed a platform to showcase their products. The catalyst for Credo has been a parallel to that, a second generation of entrepreneurs and makers who are passionate about the beauty category, but are conscientious and informed about the harmful ingredients that exist in most conventional products.
We started Credo because we were inspired to change the way people think about the ingredients and products they put on their bodies. We want to create a safer, more sustainable, more ethical beauty industry. This is what “clean beauty” is: We offer about 120 brands, all formulating with safe ingredients, but our focus is on beauty above all else. In other words, first and foremost, it’s about making people look good and feel good. The pioneers of natural beauty in the 70s and early 80s provided healthy ingredients without the beautiful packaging, textures, scents or even the efficacy. They were visionary brands, but they forced women to choose between style and substance or beauty and health. At Credo, we believe that there is an entire new generation of creators who are offering both. Our name, Credo, is reflective of our belief in a holistic vision for what beauty is: looking good and feeling good.
We opened our first store in San Francisco in 2015 and now we have eight stores. We will continue to open stores in markets we feel fit the Credo concept.
LTP: What separates Credo from other beauty destinations out there? How do you select your brands?
AJ: Credo also has the highest standards in beauty retail today. Of course, different retailers have different approaches to their vetting and approval process. At Credo, we ban dozens of ingredients/ingredient classes that are linked to health and/or environmental issues. This list evolves based on new information and research.
But Credo is going much further to ensure we are offering the cleanest products on the market: We’re requiring all brands to obtain composition statements and other documentation on ingredients, and encouraging our brands to use facilities that follow GMP (Good Manufacturing Processes). We’re requiring basic, non-animal safety testing on products before they come to market. We’re requiring our brands to have documentation to back up all claims they are making. We’re even asking our brands to voluntarily disclose fragrance ingredients, and will be requiring them to categorize the type of fragrance in any scented product (e.g. essential oil, plant-derived, synthetic), which is a huge step forward in clean beauty transparency.
Our criteria for selecting brands begins with two fundamentals: authenticity and transparency. Then, we look for brand founders who have a holistic vision for what they have created with a focus both on the inside (formulation: ingredients and efficacy) and the outside (experience: packaging, texture and scent).
Credo aligns with brands that are cruelty-free and are committed to ethical, social values across every aspect of their business. Our brands also pass our screening process, proving that they only use safe ingredients (nothing harmful or toxic) that have a function and nothing added—no unknowns, no secrets.
LTP: What’s the biggest beauty mistake you’ve ever made?
AJ: I have made some extremely poor hair choices. I will try and list them chronologically: a perm that I washed out immediately, but didn’t fully go away, so my hair looked “crimped” and burned for about six months. Bleaching my hair Gwen Stefani white—by myself, so it came out light orange. Then, I got my hair cut like Kate Gosselin. I did it well before she did, but that didn’t make it okay then either. It also made me watch that show with morbid fascination—almost more due to her hair than the fact they had eight kids. Then, I dyed my hair dark brown (almost black).
Looking bad, all of these choices were clearly bad, but you know what they say about hindsight. Now, whenever I say, “I feel like I need a change,” my husband reminds me of these past experiences. So, my hair has been the same for almost a decade now.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
AJ: My family is everything to me. Their health and happiness is extremely important to me, and I consider that a gift that I cherish. If I have that, I don’t need anything else to be happy.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
AJ: Entrepreneurship can be all-consuming and can overwhelm every moment of the day. I need to practice self-discipline in terms of how much time I devote to Credo vs. my family. So, I consciously try to live in the moment and, as much as I can, limit my cell phone use on the weekends. I also try and do something once a day that is totally unplugged like yoga, a run or a hike. Sometimes I feel like I “don’t have time” or am “too busy,” but I am always so glad and grateful when I give myself that time.
Photo by Six N Five.