Lauren McCrostie speaks to make up artist Nat van Zee about why she chooses to work with natural and ethical beauty products (even on big international campaigns) and how her newly launched natural beauty online store came about.
‘Clean Beauty’ is a term we are increasingly seeing creep into our everyday lives. From publications printing articles streaming off their ‘paraben-free’ picks, to high street department stores stocking modest conscious companies like Pai, to almost 1,500 ingredients being prohibitied from cosmetics in the EU – interest in ‘clean beauty’ is at an all time high.
I spoke to international make up artist Nat van Zee – a natural beauty consultant, with a strong passion, dedication and over 20 years of knowledge in the wellness industry – about her work and how her interest in natural beauty affects her choices.
Nat has worked with top runway make up teams during international fashion weeks and major publications, working on celebrities like Cara Delevigne, Karlie Kloss and Gemma Arterton. In 2012, she made a conscious switch to natural beauty and now shares her journey and expertise as a lecturer at LCF, St. Martins and Solent University. Recently, Nat launched VanzeeBeauty.com – an online marketplace with curated clean beauty brands, tutorials, and services (online tuition, masterclasses and bespoke clean beauty & events).
Here, she shares her inspiration and journey so far.
Why do you value ethical beauty?
For me, choosing organic beauty is a statement of self love, investing in my wellbeing and the planet. Like eating organic food, organic beauty has the highest bio available nutrients that benefits skin, body and mind. My mind was first converted when I experienced an organic skincare facial; the essential oil blend boosted my mood to a blissful moment of zen.
In 2012, I found out that common beauty chemicals are known to be Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs); they travel via the skin into the body mimicking the hormone oestrogen. Long-term exposure to EDCs has been linked to cancer (breast, prostate and thyroid), which I experienced in my close family and community. That’s when I knew I had to find healthy alternatives and I went on a mission to inspire others to do the same.
In my wellness journey I trained in cosmetic acupuncture and polychromatic light therapy – both developed my understanding of how beauty depends on inner health, nutrition, emotional wellbeing and lifestyle. Over time I realised this holistic focus on human health translates to all life on the planet.
Why is this important?
Buying natural and organic beauty means we choose to invest in our health, animals and the planet. Certified organic brands have their supply chains checked to ensure plants are grown in harmony with nature, man-made pesticides or fertilisers are banned, meaning the soil, animals and workers are healthier. Contrary to mainstream beauty, natural ingredients will biodegrade so there is less negative impact on sea life.
How did you get where you are?
Growing up in a small village in Holland, I spent a lot of time outdoors surrounded by nature and animals. I chose to study history and international relations at University of Amsterdam and as my degree progressed I lost heart in politics, and found my creative talent during an exchange programme at Sussex University in Brighton. I started doing make up and hair on friends for fancy dress parties, in any theme, era or colour. I dropped out of uni, trained as a hairstylist doing hair competitions, assisting at hair shows, and at one point winning a prize with Trevor Sorbie. Alongside, I did a part-time course with a former BBC Film & TV make-up artist and started working on my portfolio doing fashion shoots.
My first big job was heading Make up & Hair Department on a feature film. It went well, but confirmed I definitely wanted to work in fashion. Via the wrap party I was introduced to my first make up agency in London, which launched my career working for in fashion, advertising, music and events. Backstage on the shows I learned from make up masters Val Garland, Pat McGrath, Dick Page, Miranda Joyce and Alex Box.
During my years backstage at fashion week I had seen many models flare up with skin allergies and acne. A model’s job intrinsically means exposure to a high number of potentially harmful chemicals, during showtime this increases meaning sensitivities can rise. During London Fashion Week I collaborated with Wilhelmina Model agency to give their models a clean beauty make over, sponsored by natural, organic and vegan brands. I created clean runway beauty looks, for all skin tones and types, with product tips and info where to buy them.
What is your mission?
To inspire people to take control of their own health, wellbeing and the planet. Many people have not connected the dots yet, unaware of how beauty habits, the wrong food, or stress can trigger skin sensitivities.
Modern health issues like allergies, skin issues and health problems are often a direct result of our lifestyle and toxic environment, meaning a lot can be done on prevention. Most of the time, we cannot control the air we breathe, but we do have control about what we buy, eat, drink, and put on our skin. Stress-busting techniques are just as important as choosing the right skin food and nutrition. It is well documented how stress lowers our immune system, leaving us vulnerable to health issues.
Supporting ethical companies that are sustainable is vital for our future, which is why I spend a lot of time on education. Whether it is in the classroom or backstage, people are usually fascinated with my professional kit as they often don’t recognise the brands. I love seeing their response and surprise when they find out my kit is all organic, natural and vegan.
How do your values present themselves in your work?
As a freelance make up artist, I earned money in the past from luxury brands trading editorial credits. When I switched to clean beauty, I stopped endorsing brands I do not choose myself. The clean beauty brands I promote do not pay me, most do gift me free product, but I only showcase the ones I genuinely love.
Last season I was really excited to see a few clean beauty brands sponsoring shows at fashion week – Tata Harper sponsored Stella McCartney and Inika was seen on New York Fashion Week. Until then I have had to be flexible as the majority of show sponsors are not clean, but I still get to use my kit, which benefits the models. Fellow make up artists are often intrigued too, which sparks a conversation and potentially a light bulb so that is still a win.
How does your interest present itself in other areas of your life, outside of your work?
I live and breathe wellness in all areas of my life, but I am flexible and not fanatic about it. I eat and drink organic when I can, take supplements and use nature to reset my button. I don’t have a TV and choose activities that lift my spirit, like gong baths, ecstatic dance, aerial and acro yoga. If I am a little stressed, I may treat myself to some cosmetic acupuncture to unwind, or rest on my ‘bed of nails’.
What’s your favourite item in your kit?
Impossible to say! I have multiple favourites depending on what I am doing, but as I love red lipstick I am currently alternating between RMS Red lipstick and Ilia Beauty Push It Crayon.
(MORE: TOP 10 NATURAL RED LIPSTICKS)
Fragrance is also my thing (Perfume is my favourite book) so I love Edition Perfumes On the road, Abel Cobalt, Vapour Palo Santo deodorant and am very intrigued about Nue Co functional Fragrance.
All the skincare I love is a master blend of essential oils – at the moment I am using Alexandra Several Angel Balm for my evening face massage.
Bodhi & Birch is my go to brand for scent, their food grade Reshen Root Exfoliant smells of liquorice root, so good I want to eat it. I love Tata Harper for fruity scents and light textures. Oskia Micro Exfoliant is my staple in my kit, as well as MV skincare Rose Mist and Rose Soothing Protective Moisturiser. I love Aurelia’s Probiotic skincare, Nourish is best vegan skincare choice and Weleda Skinfood is an all time winner for parched skin.
Inspired? For more natural beauty inspiration, see Sjaniël Turrell‘s guide to Natural and Organic Foundations for All Skin Types and Beauty Basics to Suit Every Budget.
What does ‘Clean Beauty’ really mean? Read Sjaniël’s guide to Decoding Beauty – The meaning of Vegan, Cruelty-Free and Clean