When we first began our food allergy journey, we were shocked to learn how many household items our son’s allergens were hidden in. Milk in lotion? Almonds in soap? After removing all harmful foods from our house, the next step was to do a full inventory of cosmetics and toiletries. What we found was that many “healthy” items we used regularly were not safe to have around our son. (You may remember from the story of how our son was diagnosed with food allergies that we had been slathering him in expensive organic lotion with a milk base. Eek!)
I began investigating cosmetics in more detail, fearing that my beloved chapstick would have to be ditched. And it did! Fortunately, I connected with the folks at Kiss Freely, who happen to be fellow food allergy parents. It turns out that the founder, Jennifer, is not only smart, but she’s also super sweet and cute (see Exhibit A) as well as kind enough to let me ask her a bunch of questions.
Exhibit A: Jennifer and her family
Q: Why did you start an allergy friendly cosmetic company?
A: It was impossible to find (or read!) the ingredients for the lotions and lip balms I was trying to use for my oldest daughter who has multiple food allergies. As I was already making what felt like was everything, bread, cookies, jello, I figured I would just add cosmetics to the list! It was actually my daughter who suggested we start selling them. I had been making products for about a year just for our family to use and one night at dinner she said, “I can’t be the only person who needs special lip balm. I think we should sell them.” It was one of those light bulb moments and we began the process of creating business. We knew she was right. So many other kids needed safe products and parents needed it to be easy to know a product is safe without having to make phone calls or trying to find or understand ingredients lists. Cosmetics do not require the “May Contain” statement that food does.
Q: I’ve tried to make some of my own lotions with mixed results. And by that, I mean I made a mess. Do you have a background in chemistry or the cosmetics industry?
A: I do not have a background in chemistry, marketing or cosmetics. This is all new to me. I am actually a psychotherapist! This whole experience has been an exciting learning experience. But truthfully if it was not something I felt so passionately about and felt was so needed, I don’t think this would have been my path. It has been incredibly rewarding the short time we have been in business. I get emails from moms of little girls who say their daughter was so thrilled to be able to wear lip-gloss like her friends or eye shadow. It makes me tear up every time!
Q: How exactly do you go about creating allergy-safe products?
A: My oldest has multiple food allergies so my home is actually free from the majority of the top 8 allergens to begin with. However, we created a separate kitchen that is used only for production of our products. Only ingredients that are used in our products enter that space and touch the equipment. We prevent cross-contact by eliminating the presence of those allergens. I felt very strongly about limiting other highly-allergic ingredients. We do not use sesame, beeswax, shea or coconut because as a parent of a child with multiple allergies I know it is not just those top 8 that rule out product options and I wanted our products to be as inclusive as possible. We also get special color requests sometimes for Halloween or recitals and it is such a joy to make that happen for someone.
After talking to Jennifer, I realized that she really knows her stuff AND she really cares about what she’s doing. I told her my son’s allergens and made sure the products would all be safe for him. Not that he was going to wear lipstick, but I wanted to be confident that it was safe to kiss those sweet little cheeks of his. She kindly sent us a few of her favorite products, including lipstick, lip balm, and sugar scrub.
At first I thought the shade of lipstick (Electric Pink) might be a bit bright, but once I applied it I realized it was pleasantly subtle – just perfect! My daughter told me it “looks pretty on [me]”, which I take as the official seal of approval. (First graders are a tough audience!) We were so excited about it that I allowed her to wear it to church one day to “look extra fancy.” She was proud and I was pleased, knowing she wasn’t putting any harmful chemicals on her face.
The lip balm was wonderful, from what I can remember, because after a few weeks it ended up disappearing into the kids’ bathroom. Apparently my big girl liked the way it made her lips feel and, just like the lipstick, I was fine with her using it because I trusted the ingredients and manufacturing process.
The unexpected star ended up being the sugar scrub though. I’m pretty sure I’ve only used hand scrubs a few times in my life, and that was from ladies dispensing them in fancy restrooms. (But that’s another story.) My initial thought was “I don’t really think I need that…” BUT fortunately, I gave it a shot and was so pleased with the results I couldn’t stop raving about it. The scrub was perfect for smoothing out my rough skin and it didn’t leave any oily residue. As an extra bonus, my hands smelled so good I could eat them. Fortunately, I refrained. However, I was able to talk my husband (aka – business partner, daddy, and Chris) into trying it out. And don’t tell him I posted this, but he kinda loved it. Actually, there’s no kinda about it. He loved it. So much so that it has become a staple in our kitchen, right next to the soap. I had to assure him that “sugar scrubs are super manly,” but I think in the end what won him over was his silky smooth (yet still masculine) hands.
Overall, we love our products from Kiss Freely, and if they hadn’t given us samples to review we would still say the same thing. Their products are safe to have around our food-allergic toddler and enjoyed by the whole family. We will definitely be ordering more in the future and I can’t wait to see what new things she comes up with next!