This article was last updated in December 2018.
Back in the day, when people read magazines instead of blogs, Jean Godfrey-June was the OG beauty influencer.
As the beauty director at Lucky (and before that, Elle), she pioneered an irreverent, approachable style of writing that may be the norm now, but was anything but at the time. Her beloved monthly column, 'From the Beauty Closet' had a way of making you want to run out and buy EVERYTHING she recommended.
In the mid-'00s, she even wrote a book, Free Gift with Purchase: My Improbable Career in Magazines and Makeup, a tell-all about the ins and outs of the beauty industry. If you haven't read it yet, you must!
And now? Jean works alongside Gwyneth Paltrow as the beauty director at Goop, where she's been ever since Lucky folded in 2015 (RIP Lucky!).
Here's the Q&A, where she talks about natural ingredients, her skincare and makeup routines, vagina eggs (!) and so much more.
What's your position on clean beauty?
The Environmental Working Group always talks about transparency as being their goal. It's not synthetic versus natural, it's that we want to know there's nothing toxic. Why would you want to be putting toxins on your body?
The conventional argument is that, "Oh, it's just a little bit." But you get them in the drugs you take, the beauty products you put o
ious feeling, and it used to be a trade-off. "Well, does it really work, or will it really show up on my skin?"
But now clean beauty, as an industry, it's there. That is really exciting for me.
Had you always been interested in natural products, even before you worked at Goop?
Maybe ten years ago, the beauty editors in the US always had to go once a year to this tedious convention in Florida where all the cosmetic companies were. We had to go with our publisher, who would be like, "Would you like to buy an ad in Lucky magazine?"
The head of a really enormous beauty company, his people called us and said, "You all need to be at this meeting." We didn't normally have to go to meetings, but they said, "He's going to be speaking, and we will be taking names of all the beauty editors." They're a big advertiser.
So we all went, and we're sitting in the beauty editors section, and he turns to us. He says, "Beauty products are safe and you're journalists and it's your job to report that."
Before that, none of us had ever considered that they weren't safe. All of a sudden, it was like a tobacco company talking! That really changed everything for me.
I went back and I asked the president of a luxury company why they had to make things with toxins. "Do you really have to have all these things in your products?" And he goes, "It's too expensive [to use clean ingredients], you can't possibly do that." I was like, "What about Burt's Bees? They're doing it for way less!"
The pioneers of natural were in drugstores. Weleda has been around for a jillion years; they make amazing products. Burt's Bees, Yes To. Yes To's got a little more fragrancey and less clean as it's expanded, but those people really paved the way for the luxury brands to understand that there was even a market for it.
So I started learning more, but that was definitely what turned me onto [clean beauty]. I'm from Northern California, so I'm kind of crunchy. Now, I've somehow returned to my family's hippie roots.
What's the most important clean beauty swap to make?
When I tell people to go clean, sunscreen is right at the top of the list of things to switch.
I think chemical sunscreen is one of the worst things you can put on your skin. It's irritating, and most people are putting that sunscreen on to avoid aging. But they're irritating their skin, which causes inflammation, which causes aging. So it seems kind of pointless.
It also degrades in sunlight after two hours, another reason not to use it. It degrades coral, so if you're putting it on before you go into the ocean, you're not only putting toxins on yourself but you're killing coral. I just think it's the worst.
Any guidelines for choosing a safe sunscreen?
Everybody has different opinions, but on sunscreens and sunblocks, there's always an active ingredient label. There are the full ingredients and the active ingredients. If there's anything besides titanium dioxide and zinc oxide in the active ingredients, you know it's a chemical sunscreen. Shop for ones that have those two ingredients and nothing else in the active.
What's the worst ingredient in other products?
The list of things that are bad for you that can be in beauty products is so long, it's crazy.
But an easy one is if you see the word fragrance as an ingredient. Long ago, when brands didn't want other companies to copy their fragrance formulas, they made a law so that you can put whatever you want in that ingredient, and you don't have to disclose it.
So, say a consumer doesn't want to have parabens—which is a very good idea, they're terrible for you. You can look on the back of a label and see, "Oh, there's nothing that ends in parabens." But it could easily be in that fragrance ingredient, now that they know consumers are aware that parabens are no good for you.
I always ask, whether it's online or in a store, "What's in that fragrance ingredient?" Most clean companies are very transparent about it. "Oh yeah, we use a blend of essential oils, we use some plant extracts, and these are what they are."
When somebody says, "Oh, it's proprietary, we keep that a secret," there can often be hundreds and sometimes thousands of ingredients under fragrance, and they don't have to tell you those!
If you go and look at face cream or lip balm or shampoo, it's all going to have fragrance and so it's a question worth asking. Sorry, I always feel I get on my soap box!
Let's talk about the Goop by Juice Beauty skincare line. How involved were you in creating it?
I started at Goop about two years ago, and that was at the tail end of the product development. I wasn't involved in being, "Yeah, we need a cream cleanser, and a this." Everything in our company comes from Gwyneth Paltrow, and these were her dream products—the things she wanted that didn't exist. I came in at the very end of that process.
How involved was Gwyneth?
At the time, our offices were in Gwyneth's guest house, and our big meeting room was her living room. We were sitting in her living room having an editorial meeting, and our head beauty developer kept coming in with samples. Gwyneth would be like, "They put more wax in this. I can tell, didn't they?"
I spent my career seeing celebs who would say, "Yeah, I love this fragrance." You'd ask, "What does it smell like?" They'd say, "I haven't smelled it yet, but I love it." [Gywneth] is like the absolute opposite of that!
I was so excited to try the products when they finally came.
What's your favourite thing in the collection?
I love face oil. I feel like I loved face oil before anyone loved face oil. I think I love moisturizer, but I feel like there's a reason women have been using oil on their faces since the beginning of time. That's because it is really good, and it does something different.
The Face Oil, for me, is just the perfect one. It's super moisturizing and it also sinks in.
How do you use it?
My favourite face oil trick, and I actually just did it, is at four o'clock. Your makeup is kind of fading, so you just put the oil on your hand [and pat it over your skin].
For a second you're like, "Oh, I'm so greasy, I'm going to look insane." Then it sinks in, and it revives your makeup and you don't have to put on more makeup. Or if you do, you're just going to put on a little bit. You're not going to end up with this caked situation.
What is Gwyneth's favourite product?
Our Exfoliating Instant Facial. It's the bestseller on Goop, and I think everywhere else. It's GP's favourite product; she uses it every day. Not everyone's skin can take it every day, because it's super powerful. It's one of those things, when people go, "Well, does clean skincare really work?" And you're like, "Try this, see if it works."
It takes everything off. When [Gwyneth] first talked about it, she said, "I want something that's going to rip my face off!" Not in a painful way, but you do feel it. You put it on your skin and you'll feel tingling. You never have to wonder how long to leave it on. It'll tingle and you'll go, "Okay, yeah, I want to get this off."
Then your skin's just like no pores, smooth, soft, moisturized. It's all the alpha-hydroxy acids. There are five of them, all combined, plus little cellulose beads, vegetable cellulose. And B5, which is moisturizing. So it's both clearing and moisturizing.
We keep saying, "There needs to be a huge jar!" because it is a powerful product. Compared to say, ground-up apricot kernels—which are lovely and natural, but because they have an irregular surface, they'll leave micro-tears in your skin. Alpha-hydroxy acids and cellulose beads will not do that. So it's super gentle even though it's the strongest thing in the world.
What was the most challenging product to make?
One of my favourite products, and the hardest product for us to make, was the Night Cream.
So the Night Cream is like that ultimate, super-thick, luxurious cream. I use it on the airplane, I use it when I go skiing. Or on a day like this when you're home and you're like, "Ah, I just want to feel cushiony comfort." It's a great product.
It was the most difficult to get right in terms of the texture. We had a moment when GP was like, "No, this is not what I signed off on. I want something really thick, really luxe." She is one of those people who doesn't want it if it's not exactly right. She's not going to make a compromise.
There's also a Day Moisturizer. You look at it and you're expecting a light lotion, but it's more of a cream. It's definitely a moisturizing moisturizer. It's not as intense as the night cream, but it's not this light thing, either. It sinks into your skin and you're like, "What just happened?"
And then the Eye Cream is fantastic, I love it under concealer.
And last but not least, the cleanser.
The Luminous Melting Cleanser is a balm cleanser and it comes with a linen cloth that you use warm water on. You can even put it on right before you go into the shower and then when you're done, wipe it off for super-moisturized, happy skin. It's very deluxe and it also lasts forever.
What about the ingestibles?
Yes, we've had great success with targeted vitamins for different health situations, including Why Am I So Effing Tired?, the best name ever. We believe in beauty from the inside out, eating well and all that, so it kind of made sense. Hopefully it'll come here [to Canada] also.
It's an antioxidant powder, specifically for skin, and you can use it with any other vitamin regimen. Whenever I get a beauty vitamin, I'm like, "I already take vitamins, why would I overdose or something?" But it's just antioxidants that you can't OD on. The vitamin C has a proven photo-protective effect. It's not like wearing SPF, but it helps. And SPF, as you know, doesn't completely protect you—nothing completely protects you.
It's also supposed to produce a glow and more collagen. Just that whole philosophy of attacking the problem from all angles.
What else is in your skincare routine?
Let's see. I love Vintner's Daughter. I think that's an amazing treatment product. People see it and they're like, "Oh, it's an oil." It's not an oil; you need a moisturizer after, in my opinion. Not right after, because you want it to work, but it's much more of a treatment product. So that's amazing. I use that at night.
In the morning, I love to use powdered vitamin C. I'm super into that, mixed with water.
Which vitamin C do you use?
True Botanicals. It's just an amazing product because it's fresh all the time, and you can travel with it. It's the best.
What are your favourite sunscreens?
I love the COOLA one.
I love, depending on the situation, Naturopathica SPF 50, which is if you like going out in the real sun.
For a tinted moisturizer, I love Beautycounter Dew Skin. It's fantastic and great makeup as well as SPF.
There's another brand called Ursa Major, it's great.
How do you like to exfoliate?
I like the Tata Harper Cleanser.
You used to swear by Retin-A, didn't you?
Do you still use it?
No, I stopped using that. At the beginning, I was like, "Well, it's a pharmaceutical, so it's different." But it has all the same very toxic things in it.
It was when I tried Vintner's Daughter [that I gave it up]. The makeup artist Alice Lane said to me, "You have to try this, it changes everyone's skin, it's incredible," blah, blah, blah. So I said, "Alright, I'll try it." I started using it more and more and more.
Maybe it's my self-perception, but I don't think there was a difference in my skin when I stopped Retin-A [and started Vintner's Daughter]. I also feel like the Night Cream does amazing, powerful anti-aging.
I've always been exfoliating, so I continue that, and I think vitamin C in the morning makes a big difference too.
And I use a lot of sunscreen. Sunscreen is the ultimate anti-ager. There's nothing better. Just look at your butt and you'll be like, "Oh, yeah!" Or even look at the inside of your wrist. There are no wrinkles there. It does make a big difference. They estimate it's 90 percent of aging that happens from the sun. You might as well protect yourself to some degree, but then you have to take vitamin D.
Would you use a retinoid if it had good ingredients?
True Botanicals had one, but—
They stopped doing it. There are two other ones I like. Tata Harper has a new Retinoic Oil and it gets its retinol from rose hip. Apparently, rose hip oil kind of time-releases the retinol in a way the body can convert.
And there's Pai. The reason why it's this colour is because of the rose hip oil, and this one is retinol-intensive, too. This stuff feels incredible. I love it.
Retin-A definitely does something but I do think that those two products, if you like retinols, they work. Most of the retinol that you buy—you know, conventional retinol—it works a little, but they're not amazing.
Would you recommend oils even for oily skin?
I have oily skin, which is one of the reasons I started taking Retin-A, for breakouts.
I remember a long time ago, when I started, people were telling me, "You should try the Shu Uemura oil cleanser." I'd be thinking, "I'd never use an oil cleanser, that's insane, I'd break out." Somehow, they finally convinced me and I went, "Wow, this makes a big difference."
I think everybody's skin is different and I would never say, "Oh, you have acne? Go ahead and use this super oily cleanser or face oil."
But the oil that causes most of the problems is mineral oil.
What's wrong with mineral oil?
It's Vaseline. It's a petroleum by-product and that clogs your pores. That's why everybody who ever broke out says, "I can't use oil."
I hear that Vintner's Daughter is incredible for people with serious acne. Obviously, everybody's skin is different, but if I was 25 and breaking out, I would definitely try it.
What else would you recommend for acne?
I would keep my pores clean with something like Instant Facial.
I might add something like probiotics. The Beauty Chef has a toner that has probiotics in it, which balance your skin. I think they'll discover more about that being important.
I wouldn't be afraid of face oil. And something like the Pai. Retinol helps your skin function better, so I would think it would help.
The thing is, when you use really drying products, your skin then compensates and makes more oil. And also gets irritated. I fight with my daughter all the time. She's like, "I have this great Clearasil, it really works," and I'm like, "Well, it's not totally working and it's irritating your skin and irritation causes more breakouts."
She's always like,"Your natural stuff." She doesn't want to try it. Although whenever I use The Problem Solver, oh my God. It's this powder and you mix it up. It is the best breakout fighter; even my daughter is like, "Can I have some?" I tell her, "It's gonna cost you."
It's the greatest product. Everything [May Lindstrom makes] smells amazing; everything makes your skin feel so good; it's non-irritating. But if someone breaks out, they need The Problem Solver. It's worth a thousand Clearasils.
Have you found it hard to switch to clean makeup?
I did when I first started at Goop. I remember being like, "What am I going to use?" You know, "None of this stuff is really going to be great."
The first thing that really blew my mind was Juice Beauty Mascara, which is better than any mascara on the market, in my opinion. It doesn't smudge; you can actually see that you're wearing mascara; it lasts. It's your glossy, super-dark pigment.
Then I think I mentioned the Beautycounter Dew Skin that I love, as far as their makeup. I love RMS Beauty's "Un" Cover-Up concealer. I think it is brilliant. That was the last product that I had the toughest time switching. I was like the Laura Mercier lady forever, and that was the last one.
For lips, I think there are so many good options. It has really changed. It was this sort of brownish-pink colour for the longest time. Every clean line had that.
I love Olio E Osso.
I think COOLA's stuff is beautiful.
I love Kosas.
What do you think it will take to have clean products become the norm?
Makeup is where young teenagers start, and they want a sparkly thing that smells like a banana. Those things are hard to formulate, but if you have scale, you can make something. So I think it's a question of their moms demanding it, their dads demanding it, in terms of saying, "I don't want this on my child's skin."
How important are celebrities in making clean beauty "cool"? It seems like most of them use natural in their day-to-day lives, but won't publicize that because they have contracts with mainstream cosmetic companies.
It's certainly fair, you've gotta pay the bills somehow.
I feel like the makeup artist community actually knows a lot about clean products and has spread the word in a way that has certainly enlightened me, like with Vintner's Daughter. I feel like if you're a celebrity, you are hearing from those people a lot more, and so you are more likely to be in circles with clean beauty freaks.
Certainly for makeup, it's going to take someone going, "I'm going to make this cool and widespread," and that takes a long time. But I do think it'll happen. I mean, there's a whole lot of cool right here [at The Detox Market], and I think it'll evolve. I hope so, anyway.
Do you think clean makeup brands are so focused on the natural look that they may not attract makeup aficionados who like their MAC, NARS, etc.?
I think W3ll People is a little bit in the other camp. Not to insult them, but I think they have a more MAC artistry. You're going to mix all these highlighters and do all this stuff and look put-together, which is not my style, but people love that, they absolutely love it.
So it's a matter of people realizing safer alternatives are available.
Clean beauty, a lot of is just that people don't have any idea. They don't know that there's stuff in there, that no one has to disclose it.
In the US, there was WEN haircare. That was 21,000 women and girls who still permanently have hair loss. And obviously, even after it got to 5,000, the company still didn't feel compelled to stop selling it and the FDA didn't feel compelled to save people from that. It's just wrong.
When people learn that, and everybody's like, "Oh, there's just a little bit of this bad chemical and this bad chemical," why would you trust that that was okay? Many of the founders, the reason why they came to clean beauty was because of an illness. They either had cancer or an autoimmune disease, and they they treated their disease not only by cleaning up their food and cleaning products, but also their beauty products. Anything they're exposing themselves to.
Working at Goop, have you developed more of an interest in wellness?
I edit a lot of the wellness content at Goop, and it's a little terrifying. Like, how can I be doing everything? But I do think it makes a big difference.
I went to a spa a thousand years ago called The Ashram. It's super hardcore; they starve you and you do yoga in this kind of gnarly house in LA, in the Hills. It was not a luxury experience, but it was so intense.
We were all kind of delirious with practically not eating food, and at night they'd do these exercises. They'd say, "Okay, try to lift this thing, try to lift this person, do this thing," and they'd have all the other people in the room going, "That looks too heavy, you can't do that." Or they'd say, "You can do it, you've got it." There was a dramatic difference—it's really very powerful, your mind.
Do you get involved with any of the crazy treatments that Gwyneth gets a lot of flack for?
You've probably been seeing vagina egg articles? I had to bring the vagina egg to her because the person was a friend of Gwyneth's. I was like, "I'm going to have to tell her about this and she's going to think I'm insane and no one would ever sell this." She said, "Bring it!" It's been one of our best sellers ever. It killed.
That got so much press, too.
We had gynaecologists saying, "This is terrible. It could bring bacteria into the vagina."
Like a penis, maybe? Like, that's the most ridiculous objection I ever heard. It got a lot of publicity because Gwyneth was using her name, but then at the end of the day, people come and are curious. They start reading our content or whatever, and it increases traffic, even if it's negative.
The egg thing, it could potentially help balance your hormones, it could potentially make your sex life better... why would it be a reprehensible thing?
What's next for you at Goop?
We're coming out with a sex book next year, just like we did the Clean Beauty book.
Working on that, just talking to those experts, it's less about the vagina egg or the vagina facial... it's more about the fact that sex education is all the bad things that could happen to you. You could have STDs, you could be pregnant, someone could get you pregnant and leave you and you would be miserable. All these awful things and it's just about preventing awfulness.
Then there's porn, and those are our two ways that women learn about something that could be a great, huge part of your life. There are people that are like, "Nutty Gwyneth Paltrow, trying all these strange things." But you're like, "Why wouldn't you want to enjoy sex as much as men do?" They're modelling porn and we have a very punitive, unappealing option.
For me, doing that book was sort of expanding my mind to the fact that we experience things differently. It's an advantage in some ways, so why not explore it. I certainly learn a lot from editing and writing about the things that she's interested in. Do we do every last thing that she does? No, I don't. But she's got pretty good taste.
What are the best things you've learned from working with Gwyneth?
Something that she's really taught me, that I feel like I'm still trying to learn, is that being female, you try to please everyone. She's very comfortable with not pleasing people. Not in a negative way, but she's very accepting of people saying, "I don't like that." She'll be like, "Fine!" It's a really hard thing to do. So I definitely learned to be comfortable with the anxiety of not making everybody happy.
She's also very transparent. She gives great feedback—whether it's negative or positive, she's very clear about it. I had people in publishing who were not like that at all, so to work for someone and know exactly how they feel [is great].
We do these exercises. In general, when you have a problem with someone, everyone's strategy is usually to tell someone else. But it's a lot kinder and more efficient to just say, "Here, I'm having this problem, let's work it out." It can be intense at the time to talk about something that you're not happy with, but then you get rid of it instead of always having this constant problem. That's really taught me a lot.
The whole company has meetings over Skype once a week, and it really helps you get on board with how hard everyone has to work. You see everybody else doing X, Y and Z, and here are the results. It's a very exhilarating place to work for that reason.
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