People 09 October 2018
In a cosmetics world teeming with mysterious ingredients, strident claims of the efficacy of unknown substances and an almost spiritual belief in nature's ability to cure all-- who can beauty entrepreneurs turn to for a clear, honest understanding of skin care? Paula Begoun the Cosmetics Cop, long known in the beauty industry for her outspoken reviews and now CEO and Founder of Paula's Choice Skincare, seems like the obvious choice.
Begoun started her career in the beauty industry in the early 1980's as a makeup artist in Seattle, Washington. It was here the young makeup artist introduced herself as a cosmetic vigilante-- appearing on a local news station as an investigative journalist of the beauty industry and self-publishing her first book Blue Eyeshadow Should be Illegal in 1982.
The book gained national attention, leading to recurrent appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Begoun's column, “Dear Paula," that diverged from the fatigued and archetypical advice column and instead featured the unprecedented honesty of Begoun over specific cosmetic products.
Begoun's experience in the newspaper industry eventually developed into a larger venture. Like everyones' cherished, fictional columnist Carrie Bradshaw, the young writer complied her column and published the first edition of Don't Go to the Cosmetic Counter Without Me in 1992. This exposition on the cosmetic industry was an immediate sensation, and following its publication,“The Cosmetic Cop" became a household name.
Photo Courtesy of Paula's Choice Skincare Instagram
“Women used to literally take my book before it was online to the cosmetic counter," laughs Begoun, reminiscing about women entering makeup stores, wielding literary protection against harmful face washes. And although the author faced some criticism over her candid assessment of the beauty industry Begoun describes herself as “a nonpartisan critic." The credibility of her work was corroborated when it became a standard of every dermatologist's office, “I remember when I started formulating my products I would walk into chemist's offices and contact manufacturers, I would see my book on their shelves, and that was the best feeling."
Determined to use her status as a conscientious makeup advocate, this writer-turned-entrepreneur launched Paula's Choice Skincare in 1995. At first Begoun released ten products dedicated to the high standards she upholds now some thirty years later. Today her company continues to formulate researched products that provide a full spectrum of documented benefits.
Major makeup corporations constantly advertise new, fast acting skin care that despite promises of blemish free skin, are usually replaced by a newer, trendier product. Small, eclectic brands consistently launch new skin care lines that are just as quickly abandoned by their founders-- well intentioned people who lack the knowledge to create what they envisioned.
However, Paula's Choice Skincare is neither an opaque company nor an impractical indie brand with unrealistic expectations.
“I didn't do any of this because I wanted to be master of the universe-- that I ended up being a successful business women was an accident. I didn't have high expectations", explains Begoun, who's motivation to create a transparent and successful skin care line produced consumer cult favorites from her original ten products. Begoun was not driven by a desire for the beauty industry's recognition, but rather an inclination to develop skin care that actually works.
“Do the research," is Begoun's immediate advice to modern beauty entrepreneurs. “Do the research. It's called medical dermatology science journals-- one study is not going to tell you everything, you need to take a look at it all," expounds the CEO. She credits her success to being involved in both the research and the formulating of her products.
Paula's Choice Skincare was one of the first beauty companies to sell solely on the internet. However, in addition to viewing it as the key to modern marketing, she sees a dark side to the internet. Begoun is wary of the immense amount of incorrect information circulating, “It's way easier to just reread the bullshit research that gets resaid in blog after blog. The information on the internet around skincare is still pretty damn fucking crazy."
The internet is also a driver of trends, but Begoun credits her success to a habit of avoiding the latest thing. “One of the reasons we rarely jump on trendy ingredients is that I know that a trendy ingredient is going away when there's not enough research or the research is just silly." Marketing fads come and go quickly, “Just in terms of oils I've watched emu oil and tea tree oil and I've just watched trends come and go. Trends aren't good skin care-- it's good for reporting but it's not good skin care."
The current affectation of natural skin care has prompted many of our favorite celebrities and influencers to come out with new green product lines. However, Begoun believes that the quick failure of these products results from a lack of knowledge and research about effective skin care, “The entrepreneur themselves aren't usually chemists and they don't know chemistry or biochemistry. They don't have a fundamental knowledge of what makes for good skin care."
Begoun feels that the need for her insights and careful analysis is greater now than ever, “I'm the only one saying that because it's the truth. I always say to people that the truth in beauty is telling women things even when they don't want to hear it, even when it's disappointing." The budding entrepreneur might well choose to follow the path of research, testing and formulating; this will lead to effective, quality products and will avoid the wrath of the Cosmetic Cop.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.