Sitting in her sophomore LXR Hall dorm room four years ago, Charlotte Cook (MSB ’19) felt she was at a crossroads. She knew the finance and banking track was not what she wanted, but viable alternatives escaped her.
Studying marketing at Georgetown, Cook saw that she had the tools to build her own company. Combined with her work at the MSB Technology Center, a tech and IT service offered to McDonough School of Business students, Cook wanted to combine something innovative with what she was interested in.
“I just realized that I’ve always had this passion for beauty,” Cook said in an interview with The Hoya.
When she was 16, Cook was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that requires a gluten-free diet in order to prevent damage to the small intestine. Since then, she said, she has become more conscious about what she puts into and onto her body.
“That kind of started my own journey of reading labels and learning about what was in the products that I was using everyday,” Cook said. “It was terrifying to learn about all the chemicals that were in the self-care and beauty products that I was using.”
Realizing she could turn her interest in both beauty products and health into a business, Cook developed her brand until graduating in December 2018 and continued to travel back and forth to Utah, where her products are manufactured. Charlotte Cook Cosmetics, a small-batch manufactured label that offers healthy alternatives to modern beauty products, launched its first line of lip gloss July 1.
Cook’s products are currently available at Wegmans, a grocery store chain with stores located across the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the country, and were approved on Amazon Prime July 20, according to Cook. On Amazon, Cook’s line ranks 977th out of all lip gloss products, having already received five five-star reviews.
“The brooklyn lip gloss was absolutely worth the price knowing that the product on my lips has no terrible chemicals!!” an Amazon reviewer wrote. “It is great quality, much better than anything I could find at Sephora or Mac, and I am so happy to have found this brand!!!”
Cook originally planned on launching her business in the spring, but because of COVID-19 restrictions on non-essential business launches, she delayed until summer. However, Cook suspects consumers began edging toward healthier buying habits.
“People are just actively thinking about chemicals and disease and all that stuff like that that we put on the back burner because our lives are so busy,” she said. “But now everyone wants to be a part of this movement towards a healthier society, and I think clean beauty is a part of that movement. Even though it’s largely just about women’s personal care, it is part of the movement towards a healthier society.”
This rising trend of clean beauty is not entirely new, according to Cook. Companies like Sephora and Ulta, two major beauty chains with stores across the country where Cook would eventually like to see her products sold, announced clean-focused lines and products this year.
Chemicals such as formaldehyde and parabens, often found in beauty products, have been linked to cases of cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm, according to The Washington Post.
As of July, 65% of all brands sold online at Sephora contain none of the high-priority chemicals the company has deemed unsafe, including types of formaldehyde and parabens, according to the company’s first progress report for Clean at Sephora.
Although beauty companies were hard-hit financially when the COVID-19 pandemic began, compared to the industry at large, clean beauty products have grown in sales this year, according to a report by The NPD Group, a market research company.
Cook chose to launch her company without seeking help from larger and already established brands because there is a need for small businesses in the cosmetics industry, she said.
“It used to just be you had to be one of the big brands in order to produce your stuff,” Cook said. “But, as you see, there are a lot of people like me who want to make a difference in the beauty industry and introduce cleaner, healthier and different products, and so I really think that was recognized.”