Monday, November 21, 2011

Say Hello To Valana Minerals

An article I featured on the PiNK Blog.

Say Hello to Valana Minerals

By: Jasmine Rose P9
Thursday, October 27, 2011

Earlier this month, the blog team had the opportunity to get to know Valana Minerals and it's founder, Valerie. Valerie is also a member of Pi Nappa Kappa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and expertise with other PiNK sorors about natural mineral cosmetics.

 Photo Credit: Valana Minerals

Products varying from foundation to lipgloss, the company's ingredients are reassured to be benefical and suit a diverse population of women.

With the natural movement in full speed, natural cosmetics are also a staple of the future! We are thrilled to have Valana Minerals as part of our organization, to educate and inform natural women on natural beauty. Say goodbye to traditional make-up and hello to Valana Minerals! 
Q: Can you share the history and inspiration of Valana Minerals?

Officially, I started my business four and a half years ago. Before that I made cosmetic products for family members and myself but didn’t sell anything to the public. Before starting Valana Minerals I had other home based businesses but nothing that I was passionate about or that was inspiring.

There were a few things that inspired me to start my business. Several years ago I suffered an illness that stemmed from an allergic reaction to antibiotics and the symptoms were worsened when I ended up with abnormally high levels of an ingredient commonly found in cosmetics. One of the results was that my hair fell out. That’s when I started more extensive research for natural alternatives in cosmetics.

Another aspect of my inspiration stems from my frustration with horrible customer service and the lack of choices for natural and vegan color cosmetics for people with tan and brown skin. When I was able to find color cosmetics in realistic shades they caused breakouts. I finally decided that if I wanted makeup that worked for me, I'd have to make it myself. I learned to formulate for myself and haven’t had a breakout since. Eventually, I figured I couldn’t be the only one with these frustrations so I started Valana Minerals. I named my company for my goddaughters and myself. Their names are Maryana and Kiana. I used the first part of my name and the last part of their names for Valana Minerals. I wanted the business to be a model for them to demonstrate some of the things they could do someday.

Q: What makeup products were you using before you decided to develop your own line?
Over the years I’ve used countless different brands. When it comes to business models, I like Mary Kay. I think the original business model was one of the most innovative of the time and truly pioneering.

Q: What makes mineral make-up so much healthier than regular make-up?

First, all mineral makeup is not created equally. Some of the "Mass Market" brands contain Bismouth Oxychloride, which isn't good for sensitive skin, can lead to irritation, itching and a burning sensation. Also, Bismouth Oxychloride can make deep brown skin look ashen. There are also very large companies that use the title "mineral makeup" but when you read the ingredients they are primarily synthetic and artificial ingredients. Some companies use natural minerals but they also add non-mineral ingredients, like oils or herbal extracts. So, it's important to read ingredients. Generally, mineral makeup is healthier when it’s not full of ingredients that can overwhelm your skin.

Our Stardust Luxury Foundation has only four ingredients (iron oxide, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and mica), all of which are natural and vegan. When you compare our ingredient list to other brands, you'll see that we take a minimalist approach. By keeping our ingredient list narrowed down to only the most essential components, your skin isn't burdened with harsh ingredients. Less is more in this case and the more natural and pure your makeup is, the less likely you are to have breakouts or experience an allergic reaction. Many dermatologists and other skin care professionals recommend mineral foundation for people with a range of skin conditions including acne, rosacea, sensitive skin, vitiligo, dry skin and oily skin.

Q: How did you learn what ingredients would work best in your line? Did you actually go to school for it or did you teach yourself in your own free time? 

I began learning about natural living from my Gradma Mae. She was into “Green Living” before it was called “Green Living” and before it was “in style.” She actually told people that cigarettes were deadly back in the 40s when doctors told people that it was healthy. After high school I earned a degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising. Later, I earned degrees in Sociology. After the illness that took my hair, I began studying cosmetic chemistry on my own. I was able to combine what I knew about “Green Living,” fashion design and merchandising, sociology and cosmetic chemistry to start Valana Minerals. I also work full-time as a Sociology Professor, so I have to be very strategic with my time. 

Q: What would you say is your best product in Valana Minerals?

All of our products sell well (if they are slow sellers, we discontinue them). The most popular products are Stardust Luxury Foundation, Sparkie Lips Gloss and Faux Synthetic brushes. There aren’t any other companies that could be categorized ‘Prestige’ or ‘Luxury’ that are also 100% natural, vegan that specialize in shades for people of color. Valana Minerals is the only one that actually formulates with those goals in mind. The goal of providing such a line means that if it’s not “the best” we don’t want the Valana Minerals name on it. We want to give women of color the best so we focus on trying to perfect a very targeted line that highlights foundation.

Q: Out of a variety of choices in your line, what would you suggest would be the best foundation for a woman who has problems with Acne or Freckles??

At this time we offer one line of foundation, Stardust Luxury, so anything in that line would be great as well as any foundation line we offer in the future. However, I wouldn’t put Acne and Frckles in the same category. Acne would be akin to a minor skin ‘injury’ that result in a minor lesion where Freckles would be more along the lines of discoloration or hyper pigmentation and lesions would not be present. Of course, acne scarring can lead to discoloration but not always. 

Those with Acne would benefit from Valana Minerals foundation because the ingredient list is minimal. Your skin isn’t overwhelmed with all types of chemicals, which gives your skin the ability to focus on healing. Also, our foundation contains zinc oxide, which has anti-inflammatory properties. This can calm swelling to make acne scares appear less prominent. 

Personally, I don’t consider Freckles a problem but I do understand that some people want to cover Freckles, Hyperpigmentation or other discoloration. Our foundation can be beneficial in this area because it can be used as concealer. We prefer to create products that are multi-use so our foundation can be used as a light loose powder, moderate coverage foundation or concealer (we also have demonstration videos on YouTube). Also, the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide will help so that discoloration doesn't get worse from sun damage.

Stardust Luxury Foundation used as concealer (Before & After)

Q:  How often do you travel to promote Valana Minerals? Where are your favorite places to promote your products??

My products are primarily sold and promoted online. Our marketing includes the use of social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube. We’ve also received exposure and a great deal of support from bloggers, product reviewers and in the mainstream media (local TV, national and international magazines, book references etc.). When I started Valana Minerals we regularly promoted our products through booth events. I travel at least twice a year to promote my company through various events. That's also a way for us to formulate and test new foundation shades. However, my customers have been the best marketing vehicles imaginable.

Q: Do you ever do any special offers during your company’s anniversary?

For our first three anniversaries, I was so busy that I forgot that we needed to take a break to celebrate. A friend reminded me about a month after the third anniversary. So, I took my helpers out for dinner to celebrate but we didn’t do anything for our customers. For our forth anniversary we had a contest in which we gave away prizes every day for one week. That was fun.

Q: What makes Valana Minerals different from other natural mineral cosmetic companies such as: Lavera Organic Cosmetics or Bare Minerals?

Our products are unique in that we offer a deep rich color palate that is both all natural and vegan. My niche market is somewhat specific but from a global perspective it’s quite diverse. This is because my vision of “people of color” is very broad. I also market my products to those interested in natural and vegan products and accessories.

Our wholesale vegan lipstick and lip-gloss are made to order, fresh. However, I don’t do custom formulations for retail sales anymore because I simply don’t have time. I do formulate new shades and consistently add them to the line based on customer demand.

Many companies have a rather limited perspective of what “people of color” means. My approach is atypical because of my sociological background. My customer base is very diverse and includes Asians, Africans, African Americans, Latino/Hispanics, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, Pacific Islanders and Native Americans. We actually formulate our foundation shades by testing them on real people. 

When I formulate new shades and products I take into consideration various skin tones and undertones. I consider the gaps in the mass market and work to fill those gaps while maintaining my mission to create natural and vegan products. 

For example, one of the central complaints about mineral makeup is that shades for tan and brown skin tend to look ashen. I offer a variety of undertones and shades formulated so that even those with deep brown skin can find a shade with an appropriate undertone and avoid the gray ashen look. Our burgundy shades don’t turn orange, our browns actually show up and our pinks and blues are sheer enough to look great on any skin tone. Our vegan lipstick, eye colors and cheek colors are all formulated with the same considerations in mind.

My customers remind me everyday of the differences they see in our products. One of my customers first came to a booth I’d set up at an event. She has deep brown skin with red undertones and she was certain that I wouldn’t have a foundation shade for her. She told me she was 60 years old and had never had foundation that matched. Once I found a match and finished her makeover she was so thrilled that she walked around the event the rest of the day telling people to stop by my booth. Our products were able to offer something that she had been unable to find with other companies. Several months ago a customer called me to thank me for the lipstick she’d just received. She told me that she had severe chemical and fragrance allergies and had given up on finding lipstick that would work for her. She could hardly get her words out because she was so happy she was crying. We were able to offer her lipstick that looked good on her deep brown skin, while at the same time avoiding perfumes and synthetic ingredients. I have customers with Lupus who tell me that they are amazed at the fact that my foundation can be used as concealer, it matches their skin tone and it doesn’t make their symptoms worse. 

My company is small and new so by the time customers find me, they have already tried a number of other brands that might not provide what they need, which may be why they kept looking long enough to find Valana Minerals.

Q: If you could apply a product from your cosmetic line on any female celebrity who would it be and why?

I’m not really into the “celebrity - fan” thing. It means a lot to me that everyday, normal people benefit from our products. I know a makeup artist in Brazil who used my products on several political candidates for their television debates. So, I suppose if I had to choose…I’d be tickled to see Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Robinson Obama using my foundation.

Q: I was reading your biography in the PiNK house that you’ve made your own natural hair products as well, are you thinking about showcasing those as part of your line since natural hair has become one of the major movements of today?
I do believe that hair and skin care is important. When I have time I still make my own skin and hair care concoctions. However, when it comes to business, I’d rather focus on areas that show a need in the United States and abroad. There are tons of hair care companies, small and large. People who need those products already have choices. Those choices might be limited in some respects but the choices exist. I have considered adding skin care to our color cosmetics line but because there are a number of other choices for consumers, I’m not in a hurry to expand in that way at this time.

I truly believe that there is enormous potential for what I offer. Part of my long-term plan is education to let the world know that they need products like ours (many don’t know it yet). For people of color who are either looking for realistic foundation shades, 100% natural and vegan options that are also Luxury or Prestige quality, Valana Minerals is the only choice.

Q: PiNK is one of the many prime examples of just how serious African-American women and women of African decent are embracing their natural God-given hair, what are your hopes of someday that those same women will start to embrace natural, mineral cosmetic make-up as well?

I would love to see the day when we put as much emphasis on our skin care as we do on hair care. I understand the emphasis on “healthy hair,” hair adornment and the cultures of the Diaspora that emphasizes hair care and adornment. However, our hair is made up of dead cells, Karatin, but our skin is the largest organ on the human body. Don’t get me wrong; I’m into my hair. But I like the idea of taking care of the living cells that make up my skin, which also acts as a central entry point into the body (transdermal delivery methods). In many instances, what we put on our skin (including the scalp) can end up inside our bodies. The effects of this can be profound. I’d love to see us put more emphasis on the natural care of the largest organ, which is central to our overall health. This is why I believe that what is in our makeup truly matters. 

To learn more about this company, you can also liked their page on Facebook by clicking here.

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