If you're at all tapped into the clean beauty scene — or have stepped foot in an Ulta or Neiman Marcus lately — it's likely that Juice Beauty is on your radar. The company, founded in 2005 by Karen Behnke, is a pioneer in the clean, natural, and organic beauty space, and has amassed a loyal following thanks to award-winning products like the Green Apple Brightening Essence and Blemish Clearing Serum. Heck, even Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan of Behnke's: Behnke helped Paltrow develop her Goop skin care line, and in turn, the Goop founder helped develop makeup products for Juice Beauty as its Creative Director. And Behnke's latest accomplishment might be her most ambitious and impressive one yet: buying and converting a sustainable farm to a certified organic farm, with the purpose of using the fruits and vegetables grown there as ingredients for her beauty line, and more.
But before getting to that, let's talk first about how Behnke got to this exact life moment. It all started in the 1980s, when she was starting a wellness program that had even won a contest at Stanford's business school. She went from bank to bank to try to secure a loan — they'd always ask her if she had a husband who could co-sign (and she did not) — and was constantly turned down, so she instead signed up for 17 different credit cards to help fund her project. (Years later, that company — PacifiCare Wellness Company — would be acquired by United Healthcare and she’d become a board member of the nationwide fitness center chain 24 Hour Fitness.)
Compare those initial efforts with her experiences in 2007, when Behnke raised money for Juice Beauty: It only took 24 hours to meet her funding goal. But unlike wellness, Behnke wasn't originally makeup and skin care-obsessed — in fact, the idea for Juice Beauty came out of necessity. While Behnke had always followed a pretty healthy and green lifestyle, she only began to question the ingredients she was putting onto her skin when she became pregnant with her first child. And as she researched, Behnke was appalled by what she learned were in her favorite products.
"That's the first time I read a label and almost passed out," Behnke tells me. "Formaldehyde, parabens, artificial dyes, artificial fragrance, all the animal parts, like carmine, horse-hoof glue, squalene, which was originally from sharks... that really motivated me that I could do this better," she explains. When she searched for products that didn't contain possible endocrine disrupters (like phthalates and parabens), but would still be effective, she found none that she loved. So Behnke put her entrepreneurial cap back on and launched Juice Beauty.
Since then, Behnke has made it her mission to create products only using certified organic ingredients with formulas that aren't just beloved by its users, but are also clinically validated. And while that achievement alone is worth praising, Behnke's newest venture truly proves her commitment to forging a path in the clean beauty space.
Last year, Behnke purchased her own sustainable farm in Sonoma County where she plans to grow and harvest certified organic ingredients. (Currently, she's in the process of converting the sustainable farm to meet California Certified Organic Farming, or CCOF, certification standards.) She has always been dedicated to supporting organic farming and working with organic farmers to source ingredients for Juice Beauty that limit synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. However, having her own farm will allow for Juice Beauty to truly become a "farm-to-beauty" business, she says.
After traveling up a windy road past rows of wineries, you'll find Behnke's modern farmhouse situated in front of a vast green expanse. It's outfitted with completely sustainable materials, from the paint on the walls to the kitchen towels. Across the vineyards and groves are small Juice Beauty signs to indicate what fruit is being grown where. The farm currently produces between 40 to 50 tons of grapes annually, but you'll also find over 300 olive trees, green apple trees, and a garden of growing sunflowers, sacred lily, and evening primrose plants. Behnke's goal is to ensure everything grown on Juice Beauty’s farm will be used for production, consumption, or research purposes, so nothing goes to waste.
One of Juice Beauty's most popular collections is its Stem Cellular line, which is made with an organic grapeseed base. Grapes (like other berries) are rich in resveratrol, which is one of the most potent antioxidants and, when used in beauty products, may fight damage and aging the way it helps protect plants that are under stress. Behnke tells me that she plans on using the seed, juice, and stem cells from the grapes on her farm to produce this collection, as well as Juice Beauty's Phyto-Pigments makeup collection. The olives, which can help with skin hydration, will be farmed and used for the Stem Cellular collection as well, but will also be put into the brand's Green Apple line with the rest of the green apples that are growing on the farm. (Green apples are rich in malic acid, which studies have shown can help to brighten the skin). The flowers will also be used in Juice Beauty's products: the sunflowers in its Signal Peptides Firming collection and the Sacred Lily and Evening Primrose in the Stem Cellular Anti-Wrinkle Overnight Cream.
It is an ambitious plan for a beauty brand to not only source the cleanest, most sustainably grown ingredients for its products, but to also grow them yourself and ensure they are as effective as possible. But Behnke does not seem the least intimidated. Doing everything herself (with the help of her team, of course) is the only way she knows.
"We do everything in house — we come up with the concepts, we formulate, we [now] grow the ingredients, we do almost everything," Behnke says. "It's funny, when I came into the beauty industry, I didn't realize that people just outsourced everything... That's what goes on a lot, but that would never occur to me [to ever do that.] What we do is harder."
Juice Beauty is still one of the only brands to go past 70 percent total organic content in every product, and owning her own organic farm will continue to support this mission.
"We do [this] because we believe in organic farming to protect the earth, but we also do that because organically farmed ingredients have a 30 percent higher level of antioxidants than conventionally farmed ingredients, so I think that's one of the reasons we get such great results, which is amazing," she shares. You will also find a list of nearly 4,000 ingredients that Juice Beauty does not use that are commonly found in other beauty products that the brand believes are harmful to people, the planet, or animals.
"We take it all the way," Behnke tells Bustle.
The Juice Beauty Farm will produce the first ingredients for its products within the next two years. With Behnke at the helm, the future of clean beauty is looking brighter and more fruitful.