Q&A: Kirsten Kjaer Weis’ organic makeup is designed for high performance
Danish-born, New York-based makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis doesn’t think you have to sacrifice luxury for non-irritating ingredients or settle for organic makeup that doesn’t deliver high-performance color. The Paris-trained Weis — who has worked on numerous magazine covers and fashion pages for clients including Elle, Lucky, Marie Claire and Vogue — set out on an eight-year quest to perfect natural and organic formulations that yield beautifully colored cosmetics and textures. The result is the well-edited Kjaer Weis makeup line filled with sophisticated, luminous modern hues housed in sleek, refillable packaging. The cream blush, lip tint and mascara are certified organic, and eye shadows are certified natural by Italy’s CCPB (Controllo e Certificazione Prodotti Biologic). The makeup contains no parabens, silicone, petrochemical emulsifiers or synthetic fragrances.
We met with Weis at the chic beauty boutique Violet Grey in West Hollywood and talked about her spring and summer launches, which include the positively uplifting product names Dazzling Highlighter, Happy Cream Blush and Grace Eye Shadow ($56, $56, $45 at kjaerweis.com) — what a lovely way to ease into warmer weather.
What was the catalyst for starting your own makeup line?
I just felt this great frustration. There’s a big open gap in the market for a line that combined the green world — where you’d go to a health food place, where you do something good for yourself, but you would really compromise in performance and packaging. Then you go to like a Barneys and get the more high-end, conventional brands, but you would just then have to accept that it was almost all synthetic. So it was sort of merging these two worlds, saying, “It’s got to be possible to have [makeup that’s] beautiful inside that can actually perform that looks good on the outside.” … I’m not a formulator, so I just started looking for formulators and I found somebody in Italy that is phenomenal. The toughest part of all of it is literally perfecting the textures.
When people say “natural” we know sometimes it can mean nothing and even the word “organic” can mean nothing if it’s not legitimately certified.
Definitely. There’s a lot of confusion and sort of miscommunication around that. In this case, our certified organic products are formulated with 95% organic ingredients.
You grew up on a farm in Denmark and went on to live in big cities, but have said you miss the countryside. Sometimes I notice women who stay in the countryside have fabulous skin. Can you talk a little bit about what women in L.A. and other big cities can learn about beautiful skin from your experience growing up?
Well, I really think good skin definitely starts from the inside and out. It’s almost like it’s your gut; you’ve got to control the toxins you take in because they’ll definitely show up in your face. So it starts with, I believe, drinking a lot of water, fresh juices and just trying to think of your body as a holistic organ so that it’s not just skin care. I would say a clean diet is essential. Try and not have it be too acidic.... I mean, I totally drink coffee and I drink wine but it’s a fine balance. And processed food, I would just dump as much as you can.
Do I have to keep your products in my refrigerator?
No. No, no. They have actually a long shelf life.... A lot of times there’s a lot of sort of stigma around natural pigments. With my products, like the eye shadows, you get amazing pigment. We use bamboo powder and that gives it a really blendable, silky-soft finish. And it really holds up. They last all day.
I noticed many Danish women don’t wear a ton of makeup, especially compared with women in L.A.
I would say that is true. I mean, over there, there’s just sort of a general less-is-more. There’s a minimalist approach to beauty. It’s definitely changing. I’d say my nieces are a lot more into makeup than I ever was. It’s the Internet, it’s Facebook, Instagram, all these things. But as a whole, it’s a natural look. You can definitely have a beautiful smoky eye or a strong lip but you want your skin to be seen — not a pancake-y look.... Using cream base will always end up looking more natural than anything that’s powder because the skin can kind of be seen. Our [base] has a fine sheen, a fine glow — it’s a lot more youthful.
The makeup colors are so pretty, sophisticated and well-edited. It made me think of your time in France. They edit. They’re not about more is more but, for example, owning one beautiful, perfectly tailored jacket. The jacket may be expensive but she’ll wear it for 30 years. It’s very different than overly trendy, fast fashion.
It’s true.... You’re picking up that the colors [in my collection] are very modern because they’re wearable. I feel like a lot of times, when I tried to use natural colors in my kit [made by other brands], it was, for example, the wrong brown. It was the wrong cream texture. My makeup has a lightness to it. My strength is color. I know what works, for lighter skin tones and darker skin tones, because just working [as a makeup artist] for 20 years, you get a good understanding of what really looks good. These colors are curated.