Seeking Natural Beauty: Fighting The Tide Of Organic Marketing


Every time you shop for cosmetics you’re surrounded by a sea of green. Promises of gentle, organic skincare that will return you to your pristine, healthy state are ubiquitous. Confused by the labels, how do you choose the product that is actually naturally best for your skin? Unfortunately, it may be that all these wondrous products are nearly identical and not very natural at all.

This is the mantra of Deborah Burnes, CEO and Co-Founder of SumbodySkincare,and author of Look Great, Live Green and Natural Beauty Skin Care. Burnes entered cosmetology school following her career as a model during which, posing for surrealist painter Salvador Dali drove her to develop an appreciation for makeup and fashion. But for the young model cosmetology school was not a lesson in beauty trends, but rather the beginning of her conversion from a makeup enthusiast to a leading authority in skincare.

This “passionate love affair with skin”, as she affectionately describes it, started the entrepreneur’s fruitless search for transformative, natural beauty products. “Everything was just chemically filled,” says Burnes reflecting on the nineties, a decade obsessed with silicon-based products and pore strips— a painful application used by all relatable girls on all favorite TV sitcoms.

Burnes, disillusioned by the contemporary skincare market of the nineties launched Sumbody, a natural product line designed to transform skin with its fast acting and organic formulas manufactured by the CEO herself. To a modern consumer, a commitment to creating pure skincare is perhaps the most enticing quality. However, Sumbody began advertising in 1999 long before anyone was concerned about what was in their face wash.

"Everything is about results and solution driven, luxury driven, skin transformation. I think that is the true story with beauty" - Deborah Burnes (Photo Courtesy of Sumbody)

“We never really had the conversation on our packaging, on our labels or anywhere about being a natural or organic brand,” Burnes contemplates. She recognized the benefits of all-natural skincare years before it captured the market’s imagination, “At the time I started, it wouldn’t have worked. I really wanted to create this modern, fresh, cutting edge, highly effective skin care— but if I had done too much advertising with that it definitely would have come off too hippy.”

“We never really had the conversation on our packaging, on our labels or anywhere about being a natural or organic brand. At the time I started, it wouldn’t have worked" - Deborah Burnes (Photo Courtesy of Sumbody)

Despite (or possible because of) the company’s limited campaigns broadcasting their all-natural formulas, Sumbody was an immediate success, “Everything is about results and solution driven, luxury driven, skin transformation. I think that is the true story with beauty—that’s what we’re ultimately looking for,” she explains, “And, as it so happens, being natural helps you get there faster than the chemicals.”

Following the establishment of Sumbody and the publication of Burnes’ first book in 1999, like-minded members of the beauty industry began advocating for conscientious advertising and healthier products. And as all trends do, the organic beauty movement captivated everyone. But Burnes knew that there was little or no credible information behind this trend, “It was all the rage, everybody was looking into it and were like, ‘Hey natural skin is actually effective and does amazing things.’”

However, Burnes insists that this superficial interest in “green” products is not actually changing the beauty industry in any substantial way. “It became such a comedy of itself,” she groans, “Everything is supposedly all natural and organic, but we’re greenwashing the planet—and everything is still filled with chemicals.”

Although there has been an increased demand among consumers for organic beauty products, most brands continue to use the same formulas— disguised behind green advertisements boasting organic properties and natural compounds. The number one factor that sustains these false proclamations Burnes argues is a lack of knowledge regarding manufacturing among brand creators. “I believe that people have the highest amount of integrity to think that they’re creating an all-natural, green brand but they have to buy into what some chemist is selling them,” Burnes reflects, disclosing that almost all of our favorite small, “indie” labels are actually manufactured by the same three labs. “It breaks my heart when I look at their ingredients and I have to tell them that their brand isn’t any better than what’s already out there.”

Despite these companies chasing the zeitgeist Burnes maintains that the only way to have created and sustained Sumbody’s success was controlling every aspect of the line and preserving brand transparency, “As the chemist behind all our products, I make each and every formula,” she states, effortlessly naming the sources of each ingredient in her line. “Being the chemist, having our own manufacturing facility and sourcing each and every ingredient really makes us unique and our products extremely powerful.”

While typical beauty companies have altered their brands various times since their launch to match contemporary trends, Sumbody has largely remained unchanged. “When it comes to skin, it doesn’t change. Skin hasn’t changed, skin is the same,” remarks the CEO, “If you really know skin, and know what you’re doing, you really don’t need to change that much.” And although you won’t find Sumbody entering the contest between the major labels over who’s the greenest, the company continues its mission from the beginning to be environmentally friendly, “We don’t have any secondary packaging. When we started the company, we had three stores as well. We still have bamboo floors and recycled lumber. All of our plastic is PET and is recyclable, and we use glass whenever we can.”

“Being the chemist, having our own manufacturing facility and sourcing each and every ingredient really makes us unique and our products extremely powerful” - Deborah Burnes (Photo Courtesy of Sumbody)

Burnes took the next step in promoting a truly environmentally conscious line, with the publication of her second book Natural Beauty Skin Care: 110 Organic Formulas for a Radiant You!In 2016. With recipes, tips and tricks to creating DIY skin care products Burnes aims to both contribute to the no waste movement and, “empower women so that they can make effective and transformational products in their own home.”

In 2018 Deborah Burnes fulfills the same role that she did when she started 20 years ago. The CEO of Sumbody is still a leader to those concerned with what they’re lathering on themselves, providing an honest and clear path to organic skincare.

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I'm On Track To Save $100K By 25. Here's How You Can Too.

Three years ago, I made a deal with myself - I wanted to have $100,000 saved when I'm 25. But I didn't mind if it didn't happen until the day before my 26th birthday.

One of my biggest priorities in life has always been to save as much money as possible — and I owe much of that to my parents, who made sure I had a strong financial education at a young age.

My dad even helped me start a vending machine business when I was nine. The experience taught me essential skills like how to pitch a business, cope with rejection and open a checking and savings account.

For the past three years, I've never made more than $80,000. About a year ago, I reviewed my rate of savings and investments and realized that I was on track to save $100,000. With only a car loan away from being debt free, I've got another year and $10K to go!

I want to acknowledge that privilege is a key part of my story. I'm white, I come from a middle-class family, and I was able to graduate college without any debt. All these things helped a great deal.

But my parents didn't raise me with a silver spoon. Paying for college was a collaborative process. We'd sit down at least twice a year to discuss how we were going to pay for the next semester. The first question they'd always ask me was: "How much can you contribute?"

I've been fortunate. But it also takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and responsibility to save and maximize your earnings. Feeling motivated and knowing that I'll be prepared for whatever life throws my way fuels my drive to keep making smart financial decisions. Here's how I'm getting to $100K.

  1. I side-hustled

This kick-started my journey towards six-figures. In addition to saving the majority of my 9-5 salary, my first year of freelance social media marketing made me quite a bit of cash that I could immediately save. I was able to establish both a SEP IRA and a fully-funded emergency fund with my earnings.

2. I started investing early

Knowing that compound interest is so important, I wanted to start investing early to have my money work for me. Once I started my first big-girl job, I opened my first Roth IRA. Starting to save for retirement at age 22, I was able to max out my Roth each year and also contribute to aSEP IRA and a non-retirement investment account. My first job out of school had a 401(k), but you couldn't contribute until you were there at least a year. Knowing I wasn't planning on staying long — I was at that job for a year and a few months — I opened a Roth 401(k) and then rolled my earnings to my Roth IRA.

3. I negotiated salary offers and raises

Negotiating should be a collaboration, not a confrontation. Growing up, I watched my father sit on hold, patiently waiting to negotiate our cable and phone bills. Negotiation was always part of my life, and I grew up with parents who knew how to do it. So when I was offered my first social media freelance gig, I negotiated over $10k more than they offered. And after achieving a 20% bump at my first 9-5, I negotiated $20k more than what was offered at my next job. And $10k more at the next job. If negotiating for raises freaks you out, here's a guide that can help.

4. I've automated my savings

Automating your money not only makes your life easier, but it makes you feel like the percentage you're saving just doesn't exist. I have 26% of each paycheck automatically deposited into a high-yield savings account. This savings account is purposefully at a different bank than my day-to-day checking account, so I'm less likely to withdraw from it and less likely to think about it. This "set it and forget it" level of financial freedom was something I worked hard for -- through money diarying, budgeting, and conscious spending. So now, my savings amount is completely on autopilot.

At the age of 24, I know that I am on the right track to make my goal a reality. Inspired by my own journey, I wanted to help women everywhere to have that same feeling of confidence that financial education gives — and get information from someone who isn't an old, rich white dude. As a money speaker and coach, I run Her First $100K, a financial literacy platform for millennial women on the path to get their first $100K too.

It's possible to achieve your first $100K — whether that's debt paid off, earned, saved, invested, or something else. With intentional strategies and focus, you've got this!