Editor & Co/Founder Kari: I love how something as simple as a thoughtful gift can ignite a new interest. About a year ago I received a bottle of body oil from the lovely Becky Waddell, founder, and owner of Be Clean, a natural beauty shop that curates their skincare and makeup collection from small batch, handcrafted, plant-based apothecary items, all made in the USA.
I had never used a body oil before nor heard of the product line (Herbivore Botanicals). The oil worked wonders on my winter ravaged skin, so naturally, I wanted to learn more about this product and others like it.
It was her philosophy that hooked me right from the start: "Taking care of your skin doesn’t have to be a struggle. Instead of “fixing problems,” let’s nourish."
I had the privilege of sitting down with Becky over coffee to chat about all things natural skincare, being an entrepreneur, and the importance of self-care and community engagement.
"The concept of "slow skincare" is really what we've come to love and appreciate, and I can wait to see where it takes us." - Becky
Kari: Let's start from the beginning, how did you and your husband decide to make the leap as small business owners, launching your natural, vegan skin care shop?
Becky: My husband and I moved to DC from Oregon to pursue careers in policy. When I got here, I realized I just really did not enjoy or feel happy in my field, and I looked around at a lot of other people and found that they were frustrated, bored, overworked and underpaid. I jumped ship pretty quickly and started working in creative retail. It was then that I realized there were so many young people pursuing their passion not by climbing up the corporate ladder, but by starting businesses that spoke to their values and interests. No matter where I was in life, including throughout undergrad and graduate school, I had a deep interest and appreciation for plant-based skincare. As a vegan, I had a very hard time finding a reliable selection of truly natural and vegan products. Realizing that natural and plant-based skincare was something I cared about for many year, something I enjoyed doing and something I wanted to continue exploring. I started thinking, "If I ever opened a store, I'd carry x, y, and z." Finally my husband said, "Go for it!" I laughed at him because I really thought he was kidding. He wasn't, though, and we started planning right away.
Kari: What was it like from the beginning vs. now?
Becky: Of course, the business has changed over these few short years. We didn't have a budget for a fancy graphic designer, so we went through a few logo changes as we grew into ourselves. I also reacted to the work-oriented culture of DC and found that our products were capable of being tools for down time and self care, and that has become a greater focus for us. The concept of "slow skincare" is really what we've come to love and appreciate, and I can wait to see where it takes us.
Kari: Naturally, in the beginning you have to wear a lot of hats. What's a big challenge in running your shop?
Becky: It’s a challenge to me as I try to do everything. I try to devote as much time to Be Clean, but it’s hard at the end of the day when I have a full day, have to cook dinner, feed the dogs, you know, have a family and do all of that - it’s a challenge. I’m looking forward to the day when Be Clean is it, because it’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we are doing right now. There is so much potential and so many incredible things we can do to help people, the help our community, to just offer something new and exciting for DC but right now we don’t have time to do it all.
On The Creative Community
Kari: How has the creative community been helpful to you, act as a catalyst to collaborate or help from a marketing standpoint?
Becky: DC is excited about new and local and in that way it’s been fantastic. People are so open to collaboration, and I think that’s one of my ways to engage, to think outside the box and invite your friends. It's an opportunity for you to grow but also an opportunity for someone else to grow. For example, on September 1st we had a little party with Redeem, a kickoff, the start of fall. And we invited Hex Ferments from Annapolis to come out and make kombucha cocktails, a local florist to sell her flowers - it’s a fun environment getting to work with other brands like that.
Kari: It’s inspiring, it’s motivating.
Becky: So inspiring, exactly. You can do whatever you want, and you can work with really incredible people. Most of the time people that own their own business, they’re smart, driven, quirky, they’ve learned something that maybe you haven’t and you’ve learned something that they haven’t. We’re always so excited to share with each other and just try new things and that energy is something I need personally to keep moving forward.
"Each pursuit tends to support or enhance the other" - Becky
On Self Identity & Discovery
Kari: I loved reading that you are a writer - I relate to it. I’m trying to be a maker with knitting but the core of me is writing, and it’s something I started out in life doing and then ultimately gave it up, which is a long sob story. How do you still maintain your passion for writing while running Be Clean - you have that beautiful blog - is this something that you are still pursuing? I know you write for Martha Stewart and Chickpea, and I'd love to recruit you to come over to us at Do It Well, Co.
Becky: You’re the second person that’s asked me about my writing. Morgan from A Creative DC called me a writer in one of her articles, and I thought “Oh I don’t know if I’m a writer.”
Kari: You have to embrace that, I did read that article and I knew who you are. I loved the quote “each pursuit tends to support or enhance the other” So, what’s the balance like for you?
Becky: I’ve always been a writer, ever since I was a little girl. I used to write books and stories, and when I was in college at the very beginning I thought I was going to be an English major - I didn’t - but I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I have like an urge to write. Usually, when I feel stressed or have too many things going on, I can’t go to my computer and make a list. I get out a pen or notebook and just write it down. It doesn’t mean that I go back to it or anything, it’s a therapeutic outlet I guess, I enjoy it. Regarding finding balance, I can only write things when I have time and so in that way I only try to write things that I’m excited about. I’ll find the time, and find it to be an incredible project instead of just pumping out a quick article; it’s never like that. It’s always like interviewing people, bringing in brands, you mentioned Chickpea. One of the articles I did for them was a huge vegan Thanksgiving with a bunch of different locals in DC, Chia Tacos, a perfume brand, people that were plant-based and they all did independent style submissions and created this beautiful dinner.
It was awesome and had nothing to do with skincare but it was something I wanted to do, and it was a good way of bringing people together and celebrate what is happening in DC because I feel like it is very underground, anything Vegan in DC. But it’s there, and people are excited to do it even if they aren’t vegan. They want to contribute to this and be accessible.
It was a great way to connect and celebrate what other people are doing and to explore. When you write meaningful content, it’s different than when you are just writing a top ten list. I mean, there is a space for both, I love top ten lists, I consume them every day, but then to sit down and think about why a body oil and an herbal infusion is this magical mix, you have to sit and ponder your feelings for a while It’s important to take the time to do that, just reflect on things, why they mean something to you.
On A Nourish vs. Fix Philosophy
Kari: I think that outlet - what you did for Chickpea, what you are doing for Martha Stewart - fits perfectly for the Be Clean brand, even though it’s not about skin care. In addition to community projects, what I love most about Be Clean is your philosophy around the idea of nourish mind and body vs. fixing a single problem. Honestly, it’s so simple, and something I’ve never thought of applying to a beauty routine. It never occurred to me, at 41, to say “I’m not fixing something here, there’s a bigger to address, that is should just be about skincare, makeup, or whatever.
Becky: Right, we are not just a skincare company. We want people to be excited, to sit and pause and be thoughtful about things. Whether that is not rushing through their shower - like, that’s something to think about - your shower, you’re doing a task to get to work - instead of participating in this very relaxing or energizing ritual that you do literally every day. When you start thinking about in a much broader view there is very little that isn’t related; you can find connections anywhere you look which I think it’s endlessly exciting. I can find connections anywhere to be excited about, move forward with a collaboration and celebrate someone or whatever. It’s endless.
Kari: Do you feel like you’ve always had this philosophy or is this something new and has contributed to you eventually opening Be Clean online and now moving forward to the success that is coming your way?
Becky: I don’t know if I’ve always been this way. When I was younger, I was very introverted in a way that was closed off, and I've learned as I’ve gotten older that that doesn’t invite a lot of positively in one's life and has been a lesson for me. It has taken changes - I mean I’m the poster girl of people saying “You need to smile,” people saying “why are you looking like that” “you look unpleasant” “are you upset about something.” I’ve just learned that there is a very physical representation of what is going on in your head that you can’t really help but show and I haven’t.
It’s not like I’ve changed who I am but I understand that I can look at it from one perspective or look at it from a different perspective and I’ve found being happy with my introversion is a good thing. Recognizing that I’m not super comfortable in front of a camera and being ok with the fact that I am nervous and be silly about it instead of shutting down
Kari: It’s pretty amazing how powerful it is when you get yourself permission, period.
Becky: Yes, it’s very empowering, it’s exciting to watch how you change. I’m a very different person that I was even several years ago. I don’t know that it’s a good or bad thing, it just is what it is, and I don’t think about it too much.
"It’s pretty amazing how powerful it is when you get yourself permission, period." - Kari
On Holistic Skin Care
Kari: Let’s talk about skin care. For me, I just started on a more holistic skincare. Given my current health situation, I freaked out a little bit at all the chemicals that are in our beauty routines. From a cancer perspective apparently a lot of women have an increasing amount of parabens in their tumors - this was the catalyst that started this journey for me. What would you recommend to our readers, those that might want to start a more holistic approach to their beauty needs?
Becky: Just to frame it, when I’m talking about it, I get excited about natural skincare, it’s not an “anti” bad thing, it’s more embracing of simplicity and slow skincare.
Kari: I love the idea of slow skincare!!
Becky: Yes, I’m trademarking this!! I feel very strongly a rejection of body care, skin care, makeup that preys on women’s insecurities. I think you can have a great company doing good things by making women feel beautiful vs. ashamed and men feeling well groomed instead of needing to be masculine, or whatever Axe commercial makes you feel. It is hard (making the transition) as they are different. Natural products don’t always have a 1:1 replacement. Sometimes they are quirky because they don’t contain fillers, you can’t put a balm in a tube and have it come out as a nice concealer you have to dip your finger in a pot, and you just have to get used to it.
I was thinking about where to start, and I don’t think I have a good answer. I would start with the things that you want to switch out, If you are really worried about your foundation, then switch out your foundation, just realizing you’re going to try a few. After all, you found one and stuck with it for many years, probably after trying MAC, Loreal, all the others, and you found one you liked. I think when you get to the age when women start to pay attention to ingredients you are budget oriented and want to find one that works for you. It’s just like everything else you have to find what works for you and be patient, don’t give up. I’ve rotated between three different foundations this year, just being patient is number one. People want to know and decide and have a good experience right off the bat, and that's hard with people that have sensitive skin, autoimmune issues. You respond to things that you didn’t think you’d respond to. Just be patient and let your skin go back to normal - the process of waiting is very frustrating to people.
"Just be patient and let your skin go back to normal - the process of waiting is very frustrating to people." - Becky
Kari: Which I relate too. I’m someone that when I start a project, I dive deep into it. I am research oriented but I still, I want the change now, especially when I had done the research on what I had been putting on my body for so long and being kind of angry about it, so I look for an immediate change.
What I do love from you is the embracing of the entire movement, it’s not solving one issue, it can also lead to a lifestyle change. You have to retrain your way of thinking about what the purpose of these products are, how to even use them.
Becky: When we first started, things have changed a lot in two years with the expectations of our customers interacting with us. When we started, people didn’t want to put oil on their face, and now everybody knows about body oils and serums and things. I’m probably not going to have a super fluffy, lightweight day cream because it’s made lightweight and fluffy because it has a lot of stuff to make it fluffy but not do something. You have to learn that there are things that are still going to be awesome and amazing for you, but they are going to be different. Just let it go. Don’t get too attached to one thing or one outcome. That’s true in skincare and everything else.
Kari: I had never tried body oil before, as a replacement to lotion. I loved it, and it changed my understanding in what ingredients can be. Perfume for me has been one of the last frontiers for me, finding a perfume that doesn't feel like I'm spraying chemicals all over myself. When I spray my current perfumes, the scent goes in my mouth, and I’m super concerned what that is doing to my system.
Becky: I find a synthetic fragrance to be excruciating. It stays with you, and it’s that persistence for me I can’t keep smelling this scent which is so intense. It goes everywhere. People can still have a sensitivity to essential oils and always keep in mind that just becomes something is natural it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come with a set of risks. I think that is always important to recognize and embrace your body’s reaction to things. If you get migraines from fragrance, and if your body is responding negatively to something, don’t push it as there’s probably a reason. Listen to your body to how it’s responding because it will tell you pretty quickly sometimes if it doesn’t like what you’re putting on it.
Kari: What else should our readers be aware of regarding ingredients outside of parabens, sulfates, etc. What other ingredients might still be in there that you should think about - not necessarily good or bad
Becky: I don’t use carmine (crushed beetles) Go for the most limited list of ingredients. If you find an ingredient explore it, if it seems like you don’t want to put it on your face then don’t. If you find a brand you like, explore it. It’s all about exploration - look at it first and see what you think. There could be something that sounds really bad, but it’s actually not and vice versa. It’s all about research.
On Finding What Works For You
Kari: I love hearing that you aren’t anti-anything, it’s more about embracing something, it’s not this or that. Do It Well, CO is all about this philosophy as well. We aren’t going to tell you to do the capsule wardrobe and throw everything out. We aren’t going to tell you to go down this path or that based on what is currently popular in our culture. For us, it’s more about trying things out personally and finding the things that work for you.
Becky: Exactly. The media today is full of "you should do this” and I’m not comfortable with that idea, I’m a human, and I just don’t feel like it’s productive way to spend time to tell somebody what to do. And so, things change, our standards for safety change, our standards for appearances change, I just think you need to be ready to participate in the decisions. I feel like for so long we’ve been told what to do and not expected to look into things, so that’s what I mean by participate - explore what you are putting on your body.
Kari: I love this, this could be applied to so many aspects of our culture, that we are on autopilot, and no one is challenging you, in essence, that you are ultimately responsible, you should participate, life should be fun, interesting, and always help grow you as a person.
Becky: I agree, if you take pretty much any part of your life and delve in deeper you’ll find something.
"I’m not a person who uses the word "journey" but life changes, you change over time, you learn new things, it’s kinda what it means to be #livinglifevibes." - Becky
Kari: High five for that!
Becky: Haha, I think you should just embrace it - don’t fight change, be excited about change.
Kari: If you could only have three things in your medicine cabinet what would they be?
Becky: Oh my gosh. I tend to have dry skin so a beautiful hydrating toner for face and body. A really good balm is also a must have. We are about to bring in a new line without beeswax from Lil Fox. It's very difficult to find balms without beeswax. This balm is the bomb. Finally a really nice mask - a mask that isn’t clay, drying, more gentle and resurfacing.
Kari: You bring up something interesting that I had never thought of and that’s weather. It never occurred to me to switch up my skin care.
Becky: Seasonal skin care is really important - you can start to feel that your products are ineffective. Moisture availability in the atmosphere, those things matter to your skin. If it’s super humid and you’re using a rich oil, you’re probably not going to feel super great.
Kari: How do you source your vendors?
Becky: Looking. Constantly. There are brands that are big and exciting that are still small batch, but I get excited about these little micro brands that are doing something a little wacky, cool, different, effective. We have a lot of customers that come back to us over and over because they found a product that they couldn’t find anywhere else, that has solved a problem, been awesome for them, felt special. That connection is so important so we are always looking for products that you can feel connected with, and I think you do that by doing something from what others are doing.
Kari: You have such a lovely curated. The smoke perfume I tried earlier was a find, a special moment for me. Both the story behind the artisan, the work of art and attention to detail to this small batch brand.
Becky: Yes, with Smoke Perfume, the vessel took so much time and energy to make, but it’s beautiful and enhances your experience with is some important. Skincare can feel so superficial, but it’s not, it’s part of you taking care of yourself. If you use it as that opportunity, that’s what you’ll get out of it. Take it as a quiet time to experience the nuance and if you take the time to sit with it and experience it. I wouldn’t call it meditative, but it’s getting there when you’re sitting and participating and having a quiet moment. I think you should use your skincare routine to take care of yourself.
Kari: I love that, this notion of self-care. Incidentally, this didn’t exist in my 20’s, 30’s. It’s a concept that honestly I recently discovered because weirdly I was kind of forced to - so, dang that, but on the other hand it’s a message that even Do It Well, CO. wants to put it out there. Your word, "participation," is genius, it’s perfect, that reminder that we are living, breathing humans, and we should be aware of that as we go through this weird world of ours.
Becky: So unusual, sometimes it’s surreal that we are living in a world where things are happening around us, and you’re sort of participating without even realizing. Something that makes me passionate in pursuing Be Clean from a personal passion to a life passion is that we work so much, and a huge portion of our life is working for someone else and that notion hits me. I’m like, no, this is my life, so it’s important for me to find something incredible and exciting to do.
"If I’m going to devote so much time to something that I’m not devoting to myself and I want it to be impactful and meaningful." - Becky
On Getting Started
Kari: For our readers who might be interested in switching up their self-care, what resources would you recommend to help them get started?
Becky: EWG is very helpful with reference to ingredients! Product reviews for small indie beauty brands can sometimes be difficult to find. We're pretty accustomed to seeing hundreds of reviews on everything from toasters to toilet paper on sites like Amazon, so when you come across an indie brand with no reviews, how do you make a decision?
I find that there are so many green beauty bloggers out there who are super passionate about testing, reviewing, swatching (for colors, like lipstick and foundation), and generally sharing information that you're bound to find what you're looking for. They all have different styles and you just have to find which person works for you. One of my favorites is Sarita Coren. Visit Instagram or YouTube and search "green beauty review" or "green beauty blogger" and you'll discover a whole new world of information. The great thing about bloggers and vloggers is they start a conversation, and many of them aren't afraid to question an ingredient or claim.