Zao: Natural Makeup Goes Lux

The gorgeous cosmetics at the department stores can be very tempting, but you might not want the chemicals that often come with these pretty packages. A high-end totally natural makeup line is now available in the US, and it just might satisfy your craving for a little luxury. Meet ZAO.

ZAO is one of those rare companies that considers everything from sourcing to finished packaging in terms of how it might affect the planet, people and animals. The company believes that “looking beautiful should not compromise your health, the health of animals or the health of the planet,” says the US company’s president, Gretta Perez-Licea.

But ZAO hasn’t been available in the United States until recently; it took a personal struggle to bring it here. In 2010 Gretta’s husband was laid off from his job due to the economic downturn. At the same time, Gretta developed a nasty eye infection from cosmetics that turned into chronic antibiotic use and sensitivity to chemical cosmetics. “I had been using a well-known commercial brand for several years and had no idea the ingredients could be toxic,” she recounts.

After two years she got the infection under control and begrudgingly signed on for life sans makeup. But then she and her husband stumbled upon ZAO. Tentatively she tried it and discovered that it didn’t cause her skin to react and even made it healthier.

The more Perez-Licea learned about the company, the more it appealed to her. She and her husband, Antonio Ruiz-Espaza, loved that ZAO was organic, ethically sourced and cruelty-free. It was a no-brainer for her and her husband to bring ZAO to the US. “Not only could I now help many women who were going through something similar, but I could bring a luxurious and premium beauty system to all women that is safe, organic, performance-based and eco-friendly,” Perez-Licea says.

One key ingredient in many of ZAO’s products is bamboo. “Bamboo is one of the most ecological plants known in the world. All trees store carbon, but the exceptional speed of growth of bamboo makes it a carbon capture champion throughout its life cycle,” explains Ruiz-Espaza. So it makes sense that ZAO uses bamboo for its containers. The cases are refillable so you can refill them with the cosmetic products. But the company also uses bamboo as one of its ingredients. “Bamboo has great beauty benefits,” Ruiz-Espaza points out. “We use our organic bamboo silica (required for skin elasticity) in three forms: bamboo stem powder, bamboo leaves hydrosol, and bamboo rhizome oil.”

Additional certified ingredients include essential minerals, organic oils and butters, antioxidants, amino acids and fatty acids. Also there are no ingredients from the petrochemical industry and no preservatives.

As more women look for chemical-free options for cosmetics, ZAO hopes its luxury line will fill a niche. Ruiz-Espaza states, “Our goal is to make ZAO known and accessible to all health-conscious women around the planet, while contributing to their health and the health of our planet and all living animals.”