I believe beauty comes from connection. Beauty can be connecting with yourself during your nightly skincare routine or grabbing coffee with a friend and having a conversation that nourishes the soul.

As a part of our series about how technology will be changing the beauty industry over the next five years, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leigh Winters.

Leigh is the founder and CEO of Leigh Winters Beauty. Leigh’s clean beauty and holistic wellness expertise has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including NBC News, Allure, Shape, Health, Well+Good, mindbodygreen, Bustle, and POPSUGAR.

Thank you for joining us! What brought you to your current career path?

I attended graduate school for neuroscience and focused my research on olfaction. Growing up, I was enchanted by our sense of smell and personal care products. My lifelong interest informed my academic path and a few twists and turns of life later, I now work in clean skincare and sustainable beauty.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you began to see that you were on the road to success? In retrospect, did you do anything differently in order to begin seeing positive results? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from your realizations?

In all honestly, a particularly salient memory was when I woke up one morning and was suddenly verified on Instagram. It was like a sign from the universe because I was deep in reflection contemplating my overall contribution in the digital sphere — was I sharing meaningful and educational content that made a difference in the world and aligned with my authentic purpose? I was really racking my brain with these important questions and pondering what it meant to give precious time and energy to a platform where I could be creating bigger change or re-directing my creative energy elsewhere.

Having this blue badge is what made me not delete my Instagram account. I was on the cusp of actually saying goodbye to it! Seeing it next to my name made me confront some self-limiting beliefs that I had about myself, and my business — sentiments of imposter syndrome and the like, which a lot of women entrepreneurs face. It made me come to terms with the idea that I can present myself and my work on my own terms and not actually need any sort of external validation to do so. My work was making an impact in the world because I stuck to what I believe in and I shared it with others.

Do what you love, even if it’s in a small way. The universe has funny little ways of surprising and supporting us.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

It truly takes a village. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for a gifted mentor of mine, whom I will not name out of respect for privacy, but he is a gifted biochemist who has helped me greatly with the development of my science and ethos.

Some people come into our lives right when we need them and it seems like magic — that’s what it was like when we connected. Though we live on opposite corners of the world, are nearly forty years apart in age, and come from different cultures and backgrounds, it was the marriage of our partnership that really created something magical.

Allow people to help you on your journey, but also trust your gut when a connection seems off or doesn’t feel quite right. Finding talented people to trust who can help you build your dreams doesn’t come overnight for most of us. Take your time searching for people with whom you truly would love to work or learn from and do what you can to make it happen!

The beauty industry today has tremendous technological advances. Can you tell us about the technologies that you are working with, utilizing, or introducing? How do you think these technologies will help consumers of beauty products?

For updates on everything that I’m working on, you’ll have to stay tuned for Leigh Winters Beauty. If I said anything else, my lawyer would not be happy with me!

But I’m excited about a few areas of the industry — like understanding if skincare personalization is the way to go, as I’m still deciding if it’s actually an area that’s worthy of investment. I’m also very enthusiastic about some proprietary developments that are being made in natural preservatives and sustainable packaging, which I believe are major areas in which there is impressive progress.

Keeping the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about technology developments in the beauty industry that people should be aware of?

For years, the beauty industry has benefitted from providing consumers with little to no transparency — from product markups to ingredients sourcing. Now, more than ever, consumers are educated and hungry for more information about brands and products. With the ability to Google ingredients and poke around on the Internet anywhere in the world from your cell phone, brands are starting to face the music about a whole slew of concerns raised by conscious consumers — from adverse events shared on Twitter to baseless marketing claims.

A lot of beauty tech companies are focusing on high-end platforms or algorithms that are promising to greatly improve different skin measurements (moisture, wrinkle formation, etc.) But are we already in the weeds of splitting hairs? These technologies are expensive to develop and most companies in this space are in the midst of developing de facto answers as to whether their solutions improve skin or solve problems better than what already exists on the market. Given what science and research currently demonstrates about certain ingredients and how to formulate them for particular concerns and conditions, is personalization the end all be all? It’s a sexy idea, there’s no doubt about that. But is the venture capital world obsessed with it mostly because of the promise of ROI and not because there’s enough definitive research to validate the hype?

I think an unintended consequence of swinging too hard in this tech-obsessed direction might lead to consumers and experts in the industry shedding light on different techniques and products that care for skin in a similar vein as some of the ones that have been developed with AI technology. Consumers might reject the promise of personalization when they realize that the benefits are so marginal, and that they can get more bang for their buck elsewhere. This opens up a larger philosophical conversation about universal skin behavior — if there is such thing, which I believe there is: how does personalization and the conversation around “skin type” fit into the future of beauty? Interestingly, there’s been a real consumer return to loving and supporting basic skincare — from understanding which nutrients are needed by all skin types and how best to use products. This shift might give beauty tech a big run for its money as we return to nature and look at other variables that impact skin, like nutrition and fitness.

What are three things that most excite you about the “beauty-tech” industry?

Unveiling technology that’s driven by research on the lymphatic system, fascia, and inflammation; deepening research on and developing sustainable and clean biotechnology ingredients; and focusing on sustainable supply chain and packaging initiatives.

What are three things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement ways in which to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

Lack of federal personal care product and beauty safety regulation; non-existence of independent, third-party accountability organizations to vet vapid and misleading marketing claims; and rampant misinformation and fearmongering from the misunderstanding of terms such as “chemicals”, “toxic”, and even “essential oils.”

I am a fierce advocate for federal change in the personal care product space — we are truly behind the times. In the future, the FDA should be responsible for regulating formulations of personal care products, which is something that our country hasn’t initiated since 1938, when mercury was still touted as a miracle cure for pimples. Most other industrialized countries have regulatory agencies that protect consumers, for instance the European Union bans over 1,500 ingredients for use in personal care products and the United States bans about thirty.

Just as our government has funded massive research efforts in the medical sector over the last century, it should turn its attention to funding research for green chemistry education and sustainable business initiatives.

Can you share some ideas — with examples — that anyone can use to feel beautiful?

I believe beauty comes from connection. Beauty can be connecting with yourself during your nightly skincare routine or grabbing coffee with a friend and having a conversation that nourishes the soul.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most good to the greatest number of people, what would that be?

Stay tuned for my mission and vision for Leigh Winters Beauty! But, I will say that I believe education is one of the keys to empowerment. When we educate people about the science and safety behind products and chemicals, we grant them the opportunity to make more informed decisions for themselves and those in their care.

As beauty and wellness continue to go hand-in-hand, the movement around what it means to have a totally interconnected body that operates healthily will continue to gain momentum. In my eyes, beauty is ultimately just health.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how it was relevant to you in your life and career journey?

“Keep two pieces of paper in your pockets at all times. One says ‘I am a speck of dust,’ and the other, ‘The world was created for me.’” — Rabbi Bunim of P’shiskha.

When I was in graduate school, I came across this quote, or rather a version of it and it has stuck with me every since. It’s a great reminder to me of balance — we are all more than we can possibly imagine, but we cannot take our significance seriously.

There is wisdom in knowing which pocket to reach for at different times in life. As an entrepreneur, coming back to this idea of being both everything and nothing is comforting and serves as a reminder to trust the process.



Leigh Winters: “Beauty comes from connection” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.