My journey to clean beauty

Celebrity makeup artist Nat van Zee shares her story with Breast Cancer UK.

Nat van Zee | Breast Cancer UK

I started out my make up artist career by chance, playing with make up & hair for fancy dress parties. I loved the magic of transforming faces and bodies with colour, wigs and hairpieces. 'Back then i was such a chameleon, changing looks, that at times even my friends would not recognise me! I moved into the world of fashion, painting faces on shows like Mulberry, Lanvin and Celine. I worked with celebs like Cara & Poppy Delevingne, Gemma Arterton, Karlie Kloss. Vogue, The Times and iD featured my work as many other mags.

In 2012 my ‘make up world’ fell apart. It happened on the other side of the world, in Sydney where I was booked in for my first organic skincare facial. I was all wrapped in heavy soft towels with soothing music piped into the air. My facialist Sharon, a kind-hearted Northern English woman in her late forties, practically massaged me into oblivion. After the treatment I struggled to get off the massage table, asking her questions about the products she used. I had always loved to ‘talk shop’ but had never tried organic beauty products so I was intrigued.

We arranged to meet again to discuss her journey into organic skincare range. That meeting she told me things that stopped me dead in my tracks.  She explained that our skin absorbs what we put on it and that commercial beauty products are formulated with chemicals derived from petrol! How these petrochemicals might possibly disable skin function, add to our toxic body burden risking allergic reactions, pre-mature ageing, hormone imbalance, fertility issues, neurological illness and even cancer. Watch the 2 min film below for more info.

The mention of cancer shocked me; when I was seven my granddad died of cancer, my aunt died of breast cancer, a family friend and cousin all underwent invasive breast cancer treatment. Never had it occurred to me that the products I had used in good faith may be linked to cancer. The realisation of this - and the impact on my life - sent my head in a spin. After all I earned my bread and butter in the beauty industry and my career was built using these products. My professional kit contained all the top end brands, worth thousands of pounds. Luxury brands would send me their latest luxury releases, some would even pay me for the right editorial credit. Lucrative contracts are offered to be a brand ambassador, and I myself had presented new products and brands to press and consumers.

Travelling back to London I decided to go on a quest to find the best cleanest beauty. I started to research which ingredient to avoid and look for alternatives for my beauty staples. Soon I realised that things aren’t what they seem. Brands might call themselves natural, organic and vegan yet many mislead the consumer with ‘conscious' packaging. I learned that the phrases ’natural’ and ‘organic’ have no legal definition.  'Green washing’ is common practice and pretends that a product is safe, yet scanning the ingredient list may reveal toxic ingredients you'd better avoid.

Of course some brands are authentic, unfortunately not all deliver the results I was looking for.  I tried and tested hundreds of products on models and myself to clean up my professional kit. It has been a challenging and rewarding journey. I have met many like minded ethical brand owners that too care about supporting healthy beauty. Even the fashion industry is waking up to the rise of model’s skin break outs and sensitivities triggered by common ingredients in mainstream beauty.

My mission is to inspire people to switch to clean beauty, and share my expertise to make it easy. I understand it can be daunting to change up your beauty routine and I always advise to switch your products one by one when you run out. That way you can see how it works for you. As your body is the largest surface area start with bodycare first, including feminine and dental hygiene and haircare. 

To show you can create fun modern beauty looks I collaborated with a global model agency and their runway models. We filmed beauty tutorials using the best natural, organic and vegan products. The models loved the experience, many commented on how good their skin felt. I explained that choosing non-toxic beauty is the same as avoiding junk food; whatever we feed our body whether via the skin or by eating it affects our health and beauty. Your skin is a mirror of your overall health - and gut - so treat it well and you will be rewarded with that healthy beauty glow both outside and within!

You can find out more about Nat van Zee's work by visiting her website

'I have the most unbelievably sensitive skin in the world, so I love the Rose Moisturiser.

It's extra hydrating and smells of roses - which is heaven.'

Emma Watson