All About Natural Beauty / Q+A With Khandiz Joni
I had the pleasure to collaborate with makeup artist Khandiz Joni for the first time on a fashion editorial for LISSOME in the autumn of 2016, and it very much felt like meeting a congenial spirit. Khandiz is not only a creative wizard but also an acknowledged pioneer and expert when it comes to healthy, natural and ethical beauty. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, she moved to London in 2012 and has many years of experience of working in the fields of fashion, film and advertising. In 2014, she founded Novel Beings together with stylist Alice Wilby, as London’s “only style agency exclusively representing conscious creatives for the fashion, beauty and adverting industry”. For the last couple of years, she has been a practising green makeup artist, solely working with natural and organic products.
Inspired by her knowledge and artistic skills, I was thrilled to work with Khandiz again - this time on a series about “clean beauty” that we planned together earlier this year. In six chapters and over a course of six months, our series will outline the clean beauty principles by engaging with the following topics of skin care: skin, hair, makeup, body, hands/nails & feet, and fragrance. As a prelude, Khandiz kindly welcomed us into her cosy London home and answered some of my burning questions - read her great insights in the following interview:
You have been working as a hair and makeup artist since 2000 - when did natural, organic and ethical beauty become an important topic to you and how did you start integrating it into your own work?
In 2006, I went on a trip to the US and I stumbled across a small concession stand in a Sephora - it was Bare Minerals. I was so curious about the product because I had never seen makeup presented in that way. It completely resonated with me. When I got back to South Africa, I started researching mineral makeup. It was extremely hard to come by so I began making my own. To be fair, I had no idea of the implications of cosmetics on our health back then, I just liked the idea of something more natural and unknown. I slowly started finishing off the conventional product I had in my kit and began replacing it with cleaner alternatives. It has taken me a number of years, but I can proudly say that for the last two and a half years I have been working with an exclusively conscious kit.
Did you have some kind of wake-up moment or an experience that shifted your perception and could you describe it to me?
When I moved to London in 2012, that’s when I really started becoming aware of the impact of my work, and so I began researching brands and products that were mindful of their impact. It was only through this decision and subsequent research that I learned about clean beauty, and how, what is in the product matters as much as how it is packaged.
How common is it in the fashion industry to work with clean beauty products, and how are your clients reacting to your approach?
Now that healthy and ethical is on trend, more people are buying into it. The setback is that truly clean brands are still very small in comparison to conventional brands. So they aren’t able to sponsor fashion shows - which is why I don’t work on fashion shows because I am not prepared to compromise the products I use. It is obviously a lot easier when it comes to photoshoots because I supply the kit. Some clients hire me because the message fits into theirs and by working the way I work, it adds value to their story - and others simply hire me because they like my aesthetic and the product I use is irrelevant.
Would you say it is more difficult as a professional hair- and makeup artist to work with natural products?
Not really, no. Once you know where to get the products, there is no shortage of range and diversity. Of course, some work better than others, and I had to unlearn how to use a conventional product - shift my expectations. I truly feel that I became a better makeup artist when I had to start thinking differently because of the constraints.
What exactly is considered “clean/ natural/ organic beauty”?
Ooh, good question! The truth is, there is still so much confusion over all these different terms. Clean beauty is a general term for skin care, hair care and cosmetic products that do not contain any unnecessary synthetic chemicals, and that were manufactured with consideration for the environment too.
Natural and organic beauty, while overlapping on some points are actually two distinct categories - it’s a bit like wheat and gluten free. Something can be wheat free, but not gluten free - but if it says gluten free, it has to be wheat free too. The same goes for natural and organic. If something is naturally derived, it does not mean that it needs to be sourced from organic sources. But if it's an organic product, it means that it has to contain natural ingredients. Also, a note on organic ingredients - only ingredients that are grown using organic farming practices can be certified organic, therefore water cannot be certified organic, neither can ingredients that are mined from the earth like minerals and mica.
What are your personal criteria for a good and healthy product?
Firstly, as a makeup artist, the product has to do the job I need it to do. I am all about transparency because there is always “compromise” - but if I am given all the facts I can make an informed decision.
As much as I like a beautiful aesthetic, sustainable packaging and what is in the box matters more to me. And I research the brands I use - if I have any questions about their ingredients I contact them.
How do consumers know if a product is healthy and effective?
I would recommend you to do your research and to use a bit of common sense. What works for your friend, may not work for you - so try before you buy. As for healthy - stick to a smaller ingredient’s list.
Are there reliable certifications or sources of information?
By choosing certified organic products, you are ensured that the ingredients and products are not tested on animals and that the packaging is sustainable. Also, it’s very important to remember that a vegan certified brand does not guarantee that it is “clean” or sustainable - it simply means that it contains no animal products.
What are your three favourite beauty brands and what do you love about them?
Skin: TWELVE Beauty - it’s based on science and nature (two of my favourite things). The founder, Pedro Catalá is a pharmacist, cosmetologist and botanist - it's very rare to have a brand's formulator also own the brand. I love the transparency that the brand offers, and Pedro’s realistic approach to skincare.
Makeup: Ohh, this is a tough one - because I like different brands for different products - but I can get it down to two. Kjaer Weis - this brand hits the trifecta for me: packaging, ingredients and performance. And Zao Makeup - this brand has the most practically extensive colour range for all skin tones. I also like that their foundation formulations are matter than most organic brands which is handy when I am working on a film.
Hair: Less is More - I love this brand so much. I focus more on styling products when I say this - because that is what I use most hair products for. The products smell amazing, they do the job and they have an great programme that helps refugees.
How do we know our own skin type so that we can treat it in the best way and can our skin type change throughout life?
I think we need to stop thinking of “skin types” - the reality is we all have a combination of skin types - and those combinations differ throughout our lives, and we can have certain ailments that we need to focus on from time to time. You might have sensitive skin, but this could be caused by something internal, or stress or other environmental factors. Dry or dehydrated skin could be caused by simply not drinking enough water or being on a particular medication.
As a general rule throughout your life, make sure you cleanse well with products that don’t strip your skin - don’t overfeed it (think about how over watering your plants can also making them weep) and treat your skin as part of your whole body, not an isolated organ. Stress is one of the biggest factors affecting skin appearance.
I know that you look at beauty in a holistic way. How can we best look after our bodies and faces and maintain our beauty throughout our lives?
By being kind to yourself. Learn to love your “flaws”, smile a lot. Slip up and know it’s ok. Wearing your favourite conventional lipstick for a special occasion is not going to give you cancer - if it makes you happy, wear it. Ageing is natural and normal and a real privilege. Get inspired and try to do something that makes you happy at least once a day. If something isn’t working for you, change it.
I recently read the wonderful and eye-opening book “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf that demonstrates so well how beauty norms are used as instruments of control against women. So often as women, we grow up with being objectified and we learn to feel ashamed of our so-called “imperfections”. How can we develop an appreciative and confident relationship with our own bodies?
I think women wear make up for a number of different reasons - some to hide, some to shine and sure, some because it is expected. I would recommend to switch fashion magazines for art books, and look at how women with fuller deriers and a buxom bosom where celebrated throughout history. It's your uniqueness that makes you special - not how similar you look to your friends.
When you’re feeling low (and it will happen, because its normal and EVERYONE feels unattractive or uncomfortable in their skin at some point) put on your favourite item of clothing. For me, it’s a tomato red vintage dress I bought in a market in Amsterdam in 2003 - I feel powerful in it. Make a little more effort with hair and makeup, and call up your friends who make you smile and go out with them for drink or dinner. Delete your filter apps (it’s fake news) on your smart phones and make sure your selfies are a true reflection of you - in all your beautiful imperfect glory.
And if all else fails, put on Nina Simone's “I ain't go no…I got life”. Stop blaming society and fashion magazines, and start taking responsibility for how you feel.
Thank you for the interview, Khandiz!
Photography by Maaike Mekking.