Before chatting to Samara Walker, founder of Lust V Cosmetics, the ingredients inside nail polish was not something I was too familiar with. I had heard the terms ‘5 free’ and ‘8 free’ before but I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. As you can probably tell from the episode, I was very shocked to find out that many nail polishes from mainstream brands contain not only the same chemical that is used to embalm dead bodies, but also fish scales to give a glitter effect! Recording this podcast has really opened my eyes to the harmful ingredients nail polishes contain, and introduced me to a fabulous new clean beauty brand!
Lust V Cosmetics, soon to undergo an exciting new rebrand, is a vegan, cruelty free, gluten free and 8 free brand who offer a fabulous collection of nail polishes. Having always searched for and shopped healthy alternatives herself, Samara felt that the clean beauty space was lacking a luxury brand that makes the consumer just feel amazing.
Lust V Cosmetics was created to fill this gap in the market and it does so in a really unique way. Samara releases seasonal collections of nail polish colours which are inspired by Pantone and the fashion industry so your nail colour will always be on trend. Lust V Cosmetics also goes beyond simply supplying great products to consumers with an inspiring partnership with non for profit organisation Survive To Thrive. Some of the proceeds from the signature red nail colour Mae are given to the organisation which offers support for sufferers of domestic violence. You can check out the nail polish here.
In the podcast Samara also offers some great advice for fellow business founders. I’m sure from your own experiences you are all aware that sometimes you make mistakes and things don’t turn out quite like you had planned, but as Samara says, “its not really about how you fall, its about how you get up”. Its okay that things don’t run smoothly all the time because the success of your business will depend on how you respond to the bumps in the road.
A big thank you to Samara for sharing your story on Clean Chat. Were really excited to see your exciting plans for Lust V Cosmetics unfold. Listen to the full episode or read the transcript below!
Raquel: Hi there and welcome to Clean Chat. I’m the host Raquel Wing, founder of The Clean Hub. Every Thursday we help to grow the clean and natural beauty industry by interviewing key experts, founders and influencers so that people can make informed decisions. Check us out at thecleanhub.com to learn more! Now onto the Clean Chat podcast…
Raquel: Hello everyone, thanks again for tuning into Clean Chat. Today we have on Samara Walker, the founder of Lust V Cosmetics. So excited to have Samara on the show because her nail polishes are vegan and 8 free. So I am super unfamiliar with how ingredients work in nail polishes and what 8 free means so Samara is going to walk us through that. So Samara, can you tell us a little about yourself and why you started Lust V Cosmetics?
Samara:Yes so I originally started Lust V Cosmetics because I wanted to provide a variety of luxury products for people shopping in the space of clean beauty. There was kind of a gap in the space of clean beauty and luxury, it kind of doesn’t exist really. I want a lot of women and men to understand that when you put products on your body the ingredients in the products are not always good internally but externally they can feel great. I think people need to be aware of the different ingredients that they put on their body and being a vegan, gluten free and cruelty free brand I provide the option for many different shoppers to have that experience. Also, growing up my mom was a single mom and she loved nail polish – it was kind of like her great escape to get away and have like a beauty product that was you know her kind of luxury, that beautiful experience that she can have without actually breaking the bank. She loved Chanel and different kinds of you know those expensive beauty brands but not really realising that you know there was a safer alternative. At the time without her having that education and having the variety she didn’t really understand that. But providing a product that all women can feel and have that experience of being beautiful is important.
Raquel:Yeh, and obviously you’ve done your research in creating your brand but was there a point where you decided I need to transition to clean beauty and that’s when you started Lust V Cosmetics, or have you always had like a clean focus with your beauty products?
Samara:Yes so originally I always made the initiative to try and shop healthier alternatives, whether it was food or beauty, was kind of the first transition I had to kind of the clean beauty space. So when I came out with my product when I started researching I wanted to make sure I was within that clean beauty space because that’s just something I personally am as a shopper and as a consumer so I wanted my brand to align with who I am as well.
Raquel:Awesome, so speaking of which can you tell us about your shop?
Samara:Yeh, so on our online shopping experience we have different seasonal collections which I think is really important to me because I love fashion and beauty. So all of our collections are kind of inspired by different seasonal trends, based on Pantone and based on fashion weeks. So they kind of align in that manner. If you go on the website you have a fall collection, a spring collection, a summer and winter. That way you can kind of pick your colours based on the trend going on in fashion. Our website also has our different initiatives that’s we have. So we have our Lust Cares campaign, which is a non for profit campaign where we work with an organisation called Survive To Thrive Global. It’s a domestic organisation to help women and men who have been in domestic violence situations. Their signature colour is red which is the colour Mae. So some of our proceeds from the colour Mae go to the organisation to help them whether its shelter, food, its everything from you know shelter to how they feel and look as well.
Raquel: That’s awesome! So are all the nail polishes on your shop, they’re all vegan, they’re all cruelty free, they’re all gluten free and they’re all natural?
Raquel: Ah nice, okay, I didn’t know that. And so what does ‘8 free’ mean? So you like often times I’ll go onto a store and they’ll be like ‘6 free’ and then ‘5 free’ and 8’ free’. So what does ‘8 free’ mean? What exactly are the toxins that are in normal nail polishes?
Samara: Yeh so one of the main ingredients that are in regular nail polishes that is not in the ones that are free is Formaldehyde. So Formaldehyde is probably the most common chemical that people hear about and Formaldehyde is used to embalm dead bodies. So anything used to embalm a dead body probably shouldn’t be used in your nail polish (laughter), so that is one of the main chemicals that are not in the 8 free, in the brands that are free that is in the regular brands. So what is not in 8 free is; Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, TPH, Harpins, fragrances and animal products that make it 8 free. So something I can explain is what they mean by animal products. You know the glitter nail polishes, usually for glitter nail polishes, for the products that are not vegan or free, they use fish scales!
Raquel: What, really?!
Samara:Yeh, they use fish scales to kind of imitate the glitter. So that’s usually in products that have glitter in. So what the free brands use is a kind of a mineral called Mica which imitates the look of the fish scale but isn’t actually a fish scale. Its like if you were vegetarian or vegan and you wanted to do ground beef, you would use something that kind of imitates the texture and taste but its not actually ground beef.
Raquel:Right, that’s so interesting – I didn’t know that!
Samara:Yeh I didn’t know either until I started researching, and I was like wow that’s actually fish scales.
Raquel: Yeh there’s actually fish scales on your nails, oh my goodness. And Formaldehyde which is used to embalm dead bodies is found in all main stream brands.
Samara: Yes, yes.
Raquel:Oh jesus, okay. Aside from Formaldehyde, are there any other ingredients, you said parabens is another one that they usually have.
Samara:Yes so they are probably the ones that people are most familiar with, that I can kind of describe scenarios. But all the chemicals that I named are very harmful for your body. Pregnant women especially, and children because they put their fingers in their mouth so its kind of a direct correlation from your hands to your mouth and its easily ingested into your body. Especially pregnant women, they actually tell pregnant women not to wear nail polish unless it’s a non toxic brand. So your doctor will tell your not supposed to wear nail polish because your fingers are very porous your nails are very porous. So anytime you out something on your nails it immediately absorbs within your nail bed, so if your wearing something that’s very toxic your body is immediately absorbing that the second you put it on your hand.
Raquel: Yeh and you know what actually thinking about that, I went to get a pedicure and you know how they clean the cuticles and everything, and there was a bit of blood where they had cut the skin. And I was like if nail polish gets on that, you know that’s full of horrible stuff that just goes right into your blood stream. Like that’s such a scary thought. So all of your products are 8 free, vegan, no fish scales (laughter), that’s awesome. And you also have a new product, Soy Polish Remover, can you tell us about that a little bit?
Samara:Yeh so the Soy Polish Remover doesn’t have Acetone which is really great. Its all based on soy, so it’s a soy based remover, so its very light, it smells great, there’s no harsh smell. And when you use the remover it doesn’t leave that dry ashy look as if you were using the Acetone. Because the Acetone is what’s drying out your skin and your nail, that’s the chemical that’s making your nail look dry and absorbs the oil from your skin. So it’s a healthy alternative for those who do not like Acetone, and most people don’t. If they found a better alternative they probably wouldn’t use it just because of the smell and the dryness its just a bad solution in all. So the soy based remover also has lots of essential oils that are great for your skin so once take the nail polish off its very oily, it smells great and you just apply a wet alcohol wipe to your nail and get started and paint your nail.
Raquel:Awesome so it actually sounds like it, so the oils kind of bring back natural oils onto your skin and make you yeh, that’s nice okay. And is that something new on the market because I’ve not seen that?
Samara:That is something new on the market. A few other brands do have it so I feel like its up and coming – a lot of people aren’t aware of it so yeh.
Raquel:You mentioned earlier, we were talking about seasonal collections, could you talk about it again? So do you nail polishes stay the same for every season rotation or does it change every year?
Samara:So actually this is something were working on and I’m trying to decide what I want to do – a lot of people ask me this question. So I decided that what I think I’m going to do is the top colours from each seasonal collection each year I think I will keep them on as our like top popular picks. But every season I think it will change because kind of the fashion changes and different inspirations happen and I want to keep up with that because people are into what’s new and what’s going on and I want to feel like I’m included in that you know trends. So just having that option to find a trendy brand is important but also keeping your popular reds, your popular purples , your nice natural nudes, those are important as well.
Raquel: And how do you pick those colours, like your seasonal colours? Its what’s happening in the industry, what’s hot at that moment, is that what your saying?
Samara:Right yeh, we look solely based to Pantone. So Pantone is like 50% of my inspiration, along with New York fashion week, you know what are designers leaning towards for the fashion colours for their new collections for the seasons.
Raquel:That’s awesome. Okay and do you have any plans to expand? You’re selling mainly in the US now.
Samara:Yes I would love to expand to the UK through IBE, that’s just something that were working on. That’s a process because you have to get the EU Certifications, so were working through those steps to get things properly organised to get the EU Certifications. Yeh that’s something that I’m working on.
Raquel:And will you be there hopefully in October then?
Samara:For the Europe trip?
Raquel:Yeh they’re doing IBE London this year. Are you going to be there for that one or maybe next year?
Samara:Yeh maybe next year.
Raquel:Yeh I know the EU Certification process is quite lengthy and time consuming and obviously you have all these various different types of nail polishes. So speaking of which, you’re the clean beauty nail polish lady, what is your best nail beauty tip?
Samara:My best nail beauty tip is, well I have two tips, one for the summer and one for the winter. My best nail beauty tip for the summer, since were in summer, is to make sure you carry around a base coat and a top coat. Just in case your nails get chipped, or your going to the nail salon, that way you have that base coat that you know is good and health for you along with a top coat. Even if your at the beach and your playing in the sand and your nails get kind of dry and ashy looking you can always apply a quick top coat that refreshes the finish and the shine for your nails.
And then I would say for the winter tip, always carry around cuticle oil, that always refreshes your cuticles and makes your polish look fresh and shiny without you having to do anything. Just to rub a little application of it on each nail is perfect – it brings it back to new.
Raquel:And do you guys have a cuticle oil on your website?
Samara:Yes we do we have a Almond Cuticle Oil.
Raquel: Great! And actually I have a question for your first tip because I, so bottom coat basically helps to protect the nail form the nail polish colour? Or what does the bottom coat do I guess is my question?
Samara:So we have a Hydration Base Coat, which helps your nails breath even though the nail polish is going to be applied on it because that’s another part of why your nail looks yellow. Have you ever used a nail polish and your nail looks yellow after?
Samara:Its all about the nail being properly treated before the polish goes on. So it’s a hydration base coat that has oils in it, very natural and non toxic it doesn’t kind of block those pores, so that way when your putting the nail polish on with the top coat its still essentially breathing and it has that nourishment not to get dry and damages while your nail polish is on.
Raquel:Awesome okay. I always wondered why, I mean I knew your nails get yellow but okay that makes sense now. Thank you for the clarification. So could you tell us what’s your most popular Lust V Cosmetics polish and why?
Samara:So my most popular colour is actually this new colour that we have. And it is called Queen B.
Raquel: Queen B okay.
Samara: I’m part of the bhive okay (laughter)! So Queen B is our, that colour actually sold out when I first launched. That was the only nude that I had, but I wanted to make sure it was a nude that worked for both people on the light and the darker end because I wanted a kind of spread. But I wanted to test it and see how people felt about the nude and people loved it. From like your skin tone to my skin tone, it just worked perfect. So that was the most popular colour that sold out like crazy. I don’t even have any more. So now what I’m going to do next is I’m going to launch a whole nude line.
Samara: So I have like 10-12 nudes so that way everyone can have a shade for them. And when I saw kind of the reaction from the nude I though wow people really love nudes. People like the natural soft pinks a lot. The Queen B and Kinp, Kinp was kind of a soft ballerina pink, people love that too. Kind of like a clean natural look as well but kind of like the Queen B.
Raquel:Right, I’ll have to get one when it come available because I’m so into nudes as well as far as my nails. Just for my everyday look you know. Ill put a red on once in a while but I definitely like, I think it looks really clean and classy to have a nice nude nail polish.
Samara:Right and its really easy to apply for people who aren’t good at doing their nails because its not such a solid colour where you can see that you’ve messed up on the outside. So you can apply really quick and fast and it dries really easily as well.
Raquel:Awesome, okay. And when did you start Lust V Cosmetics?
Samara:So I started kind of the research the manufacture, kind of the back end back in 2016. I had a few samples, I was taking them to different salons, sharing them with friends, sharing them with family, kind of getting some feedback just from the salon owners. And not really telling them that I owned the brand just to see what they would say about the polish.
Raquel:Oh that’s a great idea.
Samara:And I was getting the feedback and I was like okay this is really working. I gave it to friends and family and my own research saw, and like tried out different manufacturers as well. And I came to the conclusion that the manufacture that I went for was the best one so after that I moved forward and I ordered my first batch, which was in 2017. Originally I had some different small bottles, but they weren’t quite my style or quite what I wanted to use for my branding. So I kind of was halted a little bit and said once I get the funds I’m going to create this bottle, this style, this design because I want it to really reflect who I am. So once I got that then I ordered my first batch and then we launched in 2017 around May. So that was kind of my first official launch with my new bottles, new branding.
Raquel:Awesome. So where does the name Lust V Cosmetics come from?
Samara:So Lust V originally stands for Luxury Simplistic Tools. And the V is for vegan. Were actually, should I spill the beans, rebranding our name.
Raquel: Oh nice!
Samara:I’m playing with a few names right now, and I don’t have a confirmed name. But that will be changing for us probably in 2019. Which is a lot because a lot of people know me and know the brand as Lust V Cosmetics. But due to different Trademarking issues and as a brand as a whole were just kind of going in a different direction and I really want the name to reconcile with people who are shopping the brand and have a kind of have a stronger impact on the brand as well. So that’s something to look forward to for 2019. And its going to be a lot, but were going to get through it.
Raquel:Yeh, its just about doing little things you know small progress everyday and stuff like that. Obviously that’s really exciting, your constantly thinking of ways to get to the next level. So that so exciting. Can you tell us if you had to go back, would there be anything, besides the name, is there anything that you would have done differently? Or what would you give as advice to someone planning to start a beauty brand?
Samara:The advice, well two things. If I could go back, I would be more strategic and try and get someone on board that was kind of a co-founder with me. Founding a brand by yourself is extremely hard because you don’t really have any one to bounce ideas off of. Like you have your friends and your family, but really having that partner that is just as passionate about the brand as you is really helpful, two is always better. So that’s something if I could go back, but now I’m already here. But I do have my uncle who is very supportive of my brand, he helps me a lot, and I have a publicist, which is kind of like your team. You do create a team in a sense, but its not the same as having like a co-founder with you.
Samara: So the advice that I would give to people to start a brand, or that has a brand and is in their start up phases is don’t give up. Because its really hard, different things will come at you and they’ll be very unexpected. So its not really how you fall, its how to get up, you know. If you fall, how do you get up? Are you crying or are you like I’m going to the hospital to badge this knee up, I’m hurt and bruised but I’m going to take some medicine and I’m going to get right back when I’m in a better state. Realising that its not a perfect road, and I think a lot of people look to social media. They look at peoples social media and they’re like, oh wow everything’s going so well, I want to be an entrepreneur, this looks so cool, shes traveling, shes taking trips, but theyre not really understanding whats really happening behind that. Theyre like, oh my god I really want to go to this business trip but I cant afford it, so how am I going to do this. Hpw am I going to order all these cool new colours but I don’t really have the capacity, the funding or the budget to order that. So really understanding that its as easy as it seems on a surface, its really a lot of hard work and you have to be dedicated, because if your not dedicated it will slowly and surely become very overwhelming and you’ll probably give up.
Raquel:Yeh definitely. And that’s the thing about social media, you never post the things that go wrong, right? Because that’s where your customers are but that’s just part of running a business or just living your life and think that your right you have to kind of take things as they come and issues, like you said its not about how you fall its about how you get back up. Because you are going to make mistakes and things aren’t going to go right, so yeh that’s great.
Samara:Yeh and one thing that I’ve been trying to do is say I’m going to start, is to be more open and honest with my followers on social media. Both my personal page and the brand page, to try and do some kind of take over every time I do go on a trip show them what happens as I’m going through the airport, as I’m landing, I’m going to the hotel, I’m showering, I’m going to this event, I’m grabbing a snack from CBS because I don’t have time to have a real lunch. You know, I feel like we only show, alright just landed and got to my hotel, having a fancy dinner, but between all those big things, that’s what they’re not seeing.
Raquel:Yeh, no that’s cool, I look forward to that. And so you kind of addressed this already, your doing exciting things, your expanding to the UK and rebranding, but also what are the other next steps for Lust V Cosmetics.
Samara:Yeh so, one next step that were actually working on is to connect with a lot of different agencies for our brand, for different editorial shoots, for entertainment opportunities and campaigns. So a lot of the big agencies have those opportunities but its hard for beauty brands to get into the agencies and push the door through so I do have those opportunities to work on these big campaigns with different models, different photoshoots. And one thing that is my dream goal is to be at the gala.
Raquel:Oh the Met Gala? Or no?
Samara:Yeh so usually it’s the same brands every year, Essie and OPI, and that’s all I’ve seen so far. But I really want to get the opportunity to work with different nail artists and have my brand within the Met Gala. And just different opportunities to have my brand on these big commercial, editorial photoshoots would be amazing. For a smaller brand its really hard. So that’s something that were really working on this year and yeh that’s something to look forward to. But its going to be a challenge because I’m a smaller brand so that’s a challenge in itself. Its always a challenge.
Raquel:So OPI obviously they’re a huge player in the nail industry. Are they trying to do anything within the 5 free space?
Samara:I have no idea, I have no idea. At this point I don’t really know if they would.
Raquel:Its not their market yeh.
Samara: Yeh they already have so much space and opportunity in the space that they are in. But who knows, they have thousands of dollars, they can do anything they want. So we’ll just have to wait and see I guess.
Raquel: Support Lust V Cosmetics, obviously they’re doing it right. So can you tell us where we can get a hold of your products?
Samara:So our products are on our website at lustvcosmetics.com and we are in some small boutiques in Boston called Transformations which is in Hyde Park Massachusetts. We are in another boutique in Boston as well. So if you go on our website we have all the locations that we are in. And were hoping to expand sooner than later but just keep up posted, we will keep you guys posted and just keep posting on our website and we will be able to show you.
Raquel:Awesome. And then check out their Instagram @lust_v_cosmetics. Check out the various colours and obviously figure out when Queen B is back on – I will be getting mine! So thank you so much Samara for coming on the show today, its been a pleasure. Thank you again. And thank you to our listeners, I hope you all have a great day!
Samara:Thank you for having me on the show! Thanks bye!
Raquel:Thanks for listening to Clean Chat everyone. Don’t forget to rate us on iTunes, chat soon and viva clean beauty!