Yasmin Farry, the founder of Biddy + May, is passionate about clean, non-toxic, cruelty-free beauty. She tells us why the clean beauty revolution is here to stay.
New Zealand's number one clean beauty store, Biddy + May was founded by clean beauty advocate, Yasmin Farry after a diagnosis of inflammatory breast cancer several years ago. As part of her recovery, Yasmin decided to look more deeply into the skincare and makeup products she had been using.
The more research she did, the more she realised how many potentially damaging chemicals we put on our bodies every day. Not satisfied with what was on the market, Yasmin went looking for products that contain only the safest, most effective ingredients. And so, Biddy + May Clean Beauty Store was born.
If you had to describe Biddy + May in one line, what would it be?
Biddy + May Clean Beauty Store offers a solution for the consumer and gives them the ability, when buying skincare, to make a conscious choice for the good of their health and the health of the planet, by only stocking products that contain safe, effective ingredients.
What were you doing before Biddy + May?
I’ve had a varied career, mostly in the world of events and entertainment as an event and show producer. I spent 16 years producing runway shows for New Zealand’s top designers and smaller indie brands for New Zealand Fashion Week, produced and toured a show to WOMAD for the British Council, produced the launch and inaugural performance of The New Zealand Dance Company to name just a few highlights.
What’s been the most enjoyable surprise while you’ve been in business?
Always the people. Meeting with like-minded entrepreneurs, that have as much energy, drive and enthusiasm as me to change the common perceptions of the beauty industry.
And the biggest challenge?
Changing people’s perceptions of the beauty industry! There is a lot of misguided trust given to the beauty and personal care industry, that what they are selling to us is safe. However, the industry is unregulated, so conventional skincare companies can use terms such as ‘green’ and ‘natural’ alongside images of green leaves on the front of a product and the list of ingredients on the back can be in complete conflict to this. It’s termed ‘green washing’ and it’s super smart marketing.
How much time and effort goes into selecting each brand/product available at Biddy + May? Can you tell us a little more about the selection process?
I spend a good amount of time looking for new brands, I research international trends, read customer reviews good and bad, research the ingredients and the company ethos before actually reaching out to them. After that I’ll get samples sent and I’ll trial products alongside my team, this might take 2-3 weeks. Then I’ll carefully weigh up the pros and cons before deciding to on-board a new brand. I regularly get sent emails from brands reaching out from across the globe, which is fantastic too, some are the right fit and others do not fit our criteria, so I have to gently let them down.
Why are natural and cruelty-free brands and ingredients so important to you? Have you always used and been interested in those kinds of products?
I was diagnosed at a young age with inflammatory breast cancer, which is a particularly aggressive form, this literally propelled me into looking at everything in my life from the way I worked, to the food I ate and what I was using on my skin. Since them I’ve gained more and more knowledge and really had my eyes opened to what natural really means, leading me down a rabbit hole where I discovered the clean beauty movement.
What I’m putting on my skin is just as important as the food I’m eating to maintain optimal health and the idea that a product contains an ingredient that could alter my hormones is quite frankly abhorrent. The industry catches us early, we have been using products marketed to us from our teenage years, using up to a dozen different beauty products daily, each containing dozens of toxic chemicals – it’s a toxic overload. It’s my mission and why it is so important to me to get the word out – that clean beauty is the way to go.
Cruelty-free goes without saying, the only reason for testing anything on an animal is to see if they will react to the toxic component the company plans to include in your skincare product!
Do you have a favourite story or piece of customer feedback?
We actually receive a lot of fantastic feedback from our customers via reviews or emails, but I do love connecting with customers face to face at our pop up stores and events.
One of my favourite interactions was with a mother and young daughter, the daughter was only around 13, but had already decided that natural was the way to go. She came to an event, looking for a great, safe mascara and we were able to help her. I think it was her very first makeup purchase made with her own money. The look of pride on her face was just beautiful.
If we can teach our teen daughters and sons to reach for a clean product when they first start out, then we’ll be winning.
Have you noticed any emerging skincare and/or beauty trends recently? What kinds of products do shoppers seem most interested in at the moment?
The emerging skincare trend at the moment is definitely products containing CBD oil. It’ll be interesting to see if this category takes off in New Zealand, I’m keeping a close eye on it.
Skincare is always in the lead for us, women and now a growing number of men, are wanting to increase their daily routines to incorporate more steps to help combat dehydration, dull skin and also work with sensitive skins. Our offering of skincare brands made locally and from innovative international brands is continuing to grow because of this demand.
What would be your recommendation for someone wanting to follow a cleaner beauty regime? It can be a little overwhelming when you’re faced with so many products and information - where should they start?
My advice is to always start with one or two products that you use most often, don’t go crazy and throw out everything in your bathroom cabinet!
Most people are aware that antiperspirant may be harmful, so a clean deodorant is a great place to begin. And your shampoo and conditioner is another easy clean switch – these products run right down over our bodies (and our skin being our largest organ, absorbs around 60% of what is put onto the skin, into the skin!), so it makes sense to make a change here.
Once you’ve made a clean switch, be patient, as your skin or hair may go through a period of detoxification from the conventional products you are used to. We offer a FREE Clean Beauty Guide when you sign up to our newsletter, which outlines what to expect when making the switch.
What’s next for Biddy + May – any exciting plans?
To be honest, we did have some pretty big plans, but due to Covid-19, these plans have been put on hold for now. In the meantime, we will continue to grow and meet the needs of our customers. Clean beauty is growing at a fast rate internationally and I think New Zealand women and men are open to making more informed decisions about what is best for their skin health. I am grateful to be in a position to help propel the clean beauty revolution forward in this hemisphere and to be amongst some incredible New Zealand brand owners who are also leading the charge.
Learn more about Biddy + May here.