By Kate Harvie
Journalists are supposed to be objective. Maintaining an appropriate distance from one’s subject is expected, nay, demanded. So I am asking for the reader’s indulgence as I have fallen in love with the Emani Mineral Foundation and I have zero ability to write without passion for this product. Since using the Mineral Foundation, I have received many compliments on my skin and the appearance of my rosacea has diminished dramatically. Armed with this newfound complexion confidence, I approached my interview with Michelle Doan, the company’s founder, with the joy and enthusiasm of Marcia Brady in that episode of “The Brady Bunch” where she gets Davy Jones to play at her school’s prom.
Michelle Doan started Emani, which happens to be “faith” in Arabic (though Michelle chose the name because she wanted a word that was unique, global, and singular in its meaning) to address the needs of her own skin. When talking with her from her headquarters in Corona, CA, I learned that Michelle, like so many of us, suffered from breakouts not only as a teenager but that she experienced the now-common affliction that is adult acne. As an Asian woman with fair skin, there was no suitable (read: skin tone matching) foundation whose ingredients didn’t aggravate her skin. There are many theories as to the reasons for acne: bacteria, hormonal changes, stress, diet, inflammation, and others. It was only within the last few years that people realized that the ingredients in the products we use could possibly contribute to skin problems. Michelle met an esthetician who suggested that, “Perhaps it’s your skin care,” that was the acne-causing culprit. This simple comment launched Michelle’s journey seven years ago to create a skin-healthy, complexion-enhancing cosmetics line that has legions of devoted users around the world. Michelle understood the frustration that many of us feel with regards to our skin: having used Accutane and Retin-A, Michelle understands that with acne often comes sensitive skin. It’s not enough to make the products oil-free, they need to be non-comedogenic and without fragrances, waxes, and other fillers because these things can clog pores and cause irritation. Mineral makeup is the logical solution for a range of skin issues, whether it’s rosacea, acne, sun damage, sensitivity, or fine lines and wrinkles. Since 1998, Emani products have made it possible for those without flawless skin to improve the overall health and appearance of their skin. Michelle can boast an impressive celebrity client list but that didn’t come up once in our conversation. Instead, we talked about the importance of taking care of our skin, of believing in what you do and create, and of achieving work-life balance.
Enthusiasm and sincerity emanate from Michelle’s voice as she talks about her products and her company. Her mission is clear: to use the purest ingredients and to create the most flattering shades at the most reasonable price point. Michelle, who began her career in fashion design and manufacturing, is vigilant about both the product components and the creation process. We discussed the painstaking detail that goes into balancing yellow and red tones, finding the right proportions of such ingredients as bismuth oxychloride (a pearlescent mineral pigment with a smooth texture that brightens the skin’s appearance), and the importance of using triple-milled titanium dioxide (which has anti-inflammatory properties besides acting as a broad-spectrum sunscreen). Makeup, it turns out, is just like life: it’s all about the right balance.
As a mother of three young children, Michelle empathizes with women who have minimal time in the morning to look good. As Michelle puts it, “if you have five minutes, you can look good in ten.”
My new hero foundation, the Pressed Mineral Foundation Compact ($22), goes on swiftly with a velvety ease and can be applied with a sponge or a brush. In a departure from other mineral face products, this foundation’s first ingredient is mica, a translucent, earth-mined mineral. Most comparable products’ first ingredient is titanium dioxide, a great ingredient to be sure, and its brilliant white color can impart an unnatural sheen to one’s face when used in high concentrations. There are three shades (Natural Sand, Ginger, and Golden) available in the compact and there are 7 shades in the Crushed Mineral Foundation Powders ($19), which feel like silk and help the user achieve a natural, radiant look. Each foundation has a Sun Protection Factor of 20.
While it seems that mineral makeup brands have cropped up overnight and that one brand in particular dominates the market, Emani products are a little different. The unique balance of ingredients in the mineral foundations means minimal buffing and blending. Most mineral brands lack a pressed product – for those for whom loose powders pose a neatness challenge, Emani’s Compact has come to the rescue: Natural Sand, Ginger, or Golden will match most any fair to medium skin tones. The benefits of mineral makeup are well-known by now: natural ingredients are good for sensitive, acne-prone, and easily irritated skin and protection from the sun is inherent in the titanium dioxide and zinc oxide used in these products. Michelle has ensured that Emani’s products are even better for the skin as she excludes talc, fragrance, oils, and waxes from the formulations. Michelle includes Aloe Vera and Jojoba essential oil. Aloe Vera’s healing properties are legend and Jojoba is very similar to the oil found in our skin. Education is a crucial part of the Emani philosophy. In order to communicate the “natural science of beautiful skin,” Michelle holds seminars at stores and studios around the country. Talking to consumers is the best research, as Michelle can hear accounts of people’s experience with the products and take their concerns into account as she refines the product line. It’s also crucial to share the importance of a healthy lifestyle (proper nutrition, ample water intake, and sufficient sleep) because makeup and skincare can only do so much: one has to take care of the skin from the inside out.
Emani is not just a complexion brand: the pigment-rich, long-lasting formulations extend to cheeks, eyes, and lips. Nine shades of Crushed Cheek Colors ($12) are available, encompassing a range of warm and cool shades for the porcelain and mahogany skin tones and all in between. In the dreary winter months, bronzer helps to lift the skin tone and keep season affectedness disorder from showing up on one’s face. Many of the bronzers available today are too orange, too brown, or too shimmery. Emani Mineral Bronzer ($22 in three shades) contain just enough glow and the Copacabana shade is a duo bronzer, containing a subtle peach and a rich, yet mellow tawny cocoa – a universal shade if ever I saw one. When reviewing the eye products, I was the Eye Base Transformer ($11), a potted formula that turns any powder into a cream color for eyes or lips, was particularly intriguing. With just a smidgen of this unique formula, any of the Crushed Mineral Color Dusts ($8 each in 42 shades for eyes) become a long-wearing, un-creasing cream shadow. Cream shadows are great in theory and very often take up residence in the crease and not on the lid; the Transformer Base helps the powder to adhere and gives the color an added dimension. White Gold Color Dust is a particularly intense shade that looks white in the pot and appears gold on the skin, making it suitable for all skin tones. While it has real luminescence, it lacks the chunky glitter that often travels down the face. This may seem like a small detail, but it makes all the difference – wearability is key in all the Emani makeup. Another small detail that saves both product and the bathroom floor from mess is the presence of just three small holes in the pots (as opposed to the six or nine that usually appear in loose products) – this ensures that one gets only the product one needs with minimal spillage and waste.
I always ask people what inspires them in our culture, be it a work of art, a film, a song, or a book. Michelle told me that what grounds her and feeds her solutions-oriented ideology is a book called The Big Book of Life’s Instructions. This book contains hundreds of strategies and directions for doing simple and not-so-simple things. It’s a true self-help book, guiding people to solve puzzles and problems. This seems a fitting volume to sit on the shelf of someone who has devoted so much time and effort to helping others have the best skin possible and the self-confidence that accompanies that.
Emani Professional Cosmetics and brushes are available at specialty boutiques around the country and for New Yorkers at Beauty Plus II (404 6th Avenue, 212-253-5469) and Candy Beauty (3493 Broadway, 212-281-2800) and via email and mail order on www.emani.com.