When I was 16, I was driving from pom pon practice to dance class, doing my homework and hanging out with my posse of girlfriends. 16-year-old Ava Anderson juggles her friends, homework and after-school activities like we all did, but that’s not all. She also puts in a day’s work as the founder of her successful business Ava Anderson Non-Toxic, a skincare line she launched last year. Pretty impressive, right? Even more so is the teen’s astounding expertise on the natural and organic beauty industry and her passion to set the record straight.
I first discovered Ava’s face cleanser and moisturizer when a PR agency sent me the products. They were extremely gentle, but what really sold me was how surprisingly good it made me feel to use new products on my skin risk free. I couldn’t believe a teenager was responsible for this brand, so I had to talk to her myself. Where did she start? How did she come up with the idea? I had so many questions and quickly learned that she is well-spoken, mature and someone who definitely does her homework. During our convo, the bubbly high schooler rambled off statistics about toxic chemicals as if she were naming Miley Cyrus’s top hits. She got my attention fast. She told me that when “fragrance” is written on a product label it isn’t necessarily related to scent; this one word can be used to hide 600 chemicals. Scary! She may be young, but her words are wise.TBG How’d you come up with the idea of a non-toxic skincare line?Ava I learned from a report about the health risks of the chemicals I was putting on my face and body every day. I had a pretty large makeup collection, I loved watching makeup you tube videos, and I enjoyed makeup more than the average girl. So, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and was frustrated when I discovered that despite claims of ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ ingredients, most products sold as healthy alternatives still contained hazardous ingredients. I spent all last school year researching natural and organic products, but they all kept registering on the toxicity scale (you can find out where your products measure on the scale at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com).TBG The idea of starting a business is overwhelming. What made you think, “I can do this.”Ava Once my parents saw how much time I was investing in this pursuit for safe products and how much I had learned, they realized it was a viable idea. I first thought this would be just a little online business. But, a friend in the makeup industry referred us to a manufacturer, and after a five-and-a-half hour meeting in which I showed her the top 50 ingredients I did not want in my formulas, we moved forward. Luckily, my family has a history in the direct-selling industry so we were able to use the same strategy as a Mary Kay or Avon and bring on consultants who can come to your door and really explain the skincare line to women.TBG It’s often easier to rule out what you don’t like. What ingredients do you like in a product?Ava I like using ingredients that come from the earth and have been used for centuries. For example, extract from the Neem tree has anti inflammatory benefits, citrus seeds have a great scent and shea butter, which South African women have always used, is in our lipsticks.TBG How do you balance being a teen and having a business?Ava I don’t really talk about it at school so it’s not a big deal. I just make sure to choose extracurriculars like yoga and art that are less timing consuming than a sport. On a day-to-day, my focus is on school, but I do give a lot of input on the products and am involved in the meetings and phone calls.TBG So what can we expect from you and your line in the future?Ava I’ll be testifying in front of congress soon to try and get carcinogens banned from cosmetics. As for the line, we’ll add more makeup and will introduce new categories including men’s, baby, sunscreen, home and bath and body.