Tara Foley wants you to make choices.
The onetime legal marketing executive—who was unenthused by her day job—developed a passion for healthy living early on. When she became aware of the toxicity in her beloved beauty products, she realized that, perhaps, she could solve both problems at once: After copious research and business school, plus a stint on a French lavender farm and a job for a private label beauty company, she launched clean beauty destination, Follain in 2013. Now, she has three shops (two in Boston and one in Nantucket), as well as her online store—and, on October 19th (today!), she debuts a brand new pop-up at New York City’s Fivestory.
Here, Foley explains why taking responsibility for one’s life and making conscious decisions is the secret to positive change:
Live The Process: Was there an “aha!” moment, when you realized that you should think harder about the toxicity of your skincare?
Tara Foley: Yes, there was definitely an “aha” moment! I was fresh out of college and beginning to really take care of myself: considering serious nutrition and fitness for the first time in my life and even racing triathlons and practicing yoga daily. It felt so empowering to take control of my health like that.
As part of my overall “healthy living” research, I started to learn about the toxins in my beloved beauty and skincare products—and was so upset by this discovery.
Unfulfilled by my law firm “day job” at the time, I spent all my time after hours researching the cleaner brand options on the market. This was 2009, so there were far fewer of these options available, and it was really the perfect time in my own life to begin a little blog and business plan that showcased the options out there. I was young, energetic and looking to change courses to a cause-driven career about which I was passionate. I felt compelled to dive headfirst into a new industry, where I knew for certain that I could make a positive impact.
LTP: Follain started as a business school project. When you first conceptualized it, did you think it would become your everyday reality?
TF: The core tenets have always been health and education. Follain truly originated from that initial feeling of empowerment from when I took control of my own health by educating myself. I wanted to help women everywhere feel the same empowerment. I wanted to help them get answers. I wanted to help them discover—just like I did—that you don’t have to sacrifice your health for safe, luxurious beauty products!
When I first began conceptualizing Follain in school, I never could have imagined how far our business, team and industry would have come—so quickly! It took the healthy food industry literally decades to gain traction, but healthy beauty is moving much more rapidly. Now, not only is Follain my everyday reality, but it’s commonplace for women the world over to search for and demand cleaner beauty ingredients. That “movement” is by far the most powerful part of this business.
LTP: How did you ultimately come to launch Follain and with what intention?
TF: The response I received from the blog I started in 2009 showed me that I wasn’t the only one asking these questions and that many other women were also seeking safe and effective beauty products and skincare. After a stint on a lavender farm, and then with a private label skincare company, I decided to go to business school, before launching our first Follain store in Boston in 2013. The goal has always been to provide the very best in clean beauty, to help women make the switch and then stick with safe and effective products.
We want Follain to stand out as somewhere you can come not only to shop, but to learn. We want it to be a destination for clean beauty and self-care, and we want everyone who walks through our “doors” (online or in-stores) to leave with an understanding of why what you put on your skin matters—and how clean beauty does truly work.
Again, it’s incredible how quickly this industry has grown! We now have new brands and makers reaching out to us daily, and it’s exciting to see more and more new companies enter the space—or established lines adjusting existing formulations and standards to provide healthier options. At Follain, we’re seeing customers ask tougher questions about their beauty ingredients. These questions—and customers “voting with their wallet”—are what drive the growth of clean beauty.
“If you think of life as a result of your own choices, it feels so much more ownable—and beautiful—at every corner.”
LTP: You’re clearly a clean beauty expert. How do you choose the lines you carry and what are some current obsessions?
TF: In the beginning of my own clean beauty journey back in 2009, I reached out to most of the lines out there to interview them for my teeny little blog. Now I’d say we get new and current brands reaching out to us weekly, which is so cool! Our approval process and restricted ingredient list are easily accessible on the site, so the hope is that when a maker reaches out about us carrying their product, they fit the criteria and our standards. Once we do our research on the brand, their products, their ingredients and their ingredient sources, we all test the product to make sure people with different preferences and skin-types enjoy it and find it to be effective (literally, our whole HQ team!). We mainly seek out new brands and products when we hear from customers that they want something they can’t find on our shelves. For example, we brought on non-U.S. brands for the first time in April, and one of them is a brand called Pai. Their whole line is for sensitive skin, which is something that we were hearing our community needed and wanted.
I’m generally pretty mask-obsessed these days. I have at least one for every occasion and need. I love Josh Rosebrook’s Advanced Hydration Mask when my skin is dehydrated, the Tammy Fender Epi-Peel when I need a quick, five-minute facial, Farmaesthetics’ Herbal Hydration Complex when I have a sunburn or redness, La Bella Figura’s Healing Manuka Mask when my skin is looking dull—and so on and so forth!
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
TF: True happiness for me is time spent outdoors—maybe in a cabin in the woods—laughing with family and friends; hiking, cooking, taking a long bath, deep breaths and wearing a face mask.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
TF: To me, it means feeling empowered that these are the people, moments and process that you chose. They add up to the unique formula that is your life, and only your life, and they must all be appreciated.
Prior to launching Follain, I didn’t love my day job, so I took small steps to learn about a new industry and then paved my way for a career in that industry. I didn’t love my commute, so I started biking instead. If you think of life as a result of your own choices, it feels so much more ownable—and beautiful—at every corner.