I'm excited to introduce you to this week's #GirlBoss, Kathryn Murray Dickinson Dean, owner of AILLEA. AILLEA is a clean beauty haven with stores in Atlanta, Denver, Raleigh and Charleston. Kathryn started AILLEA because she was trying to clean up her own beauty routine and was disheartened with the lack of performance in many products and the amount of greenwashing. It took her 3 months and $150 to find a great shampoo that was truly clean. She realized that nobody has the time and energy to finding clean products.
Here is what Kathryn had to say ...
Name: Kathryn Murray Dickinson
Current Title/Company: Owner AILLEA
Education: BA Dartmouth, MBA Columbia Business School
What was your first job out of college? Working at Merrill Lynch. It was a wonderful experience but helped me realize that I did not want to work in finance. That helped lead me to beauty where I spent most of my career.
Tell us more about AILLEA. AILLEA is a clean beauty boutique. We have ~50 brands of makeup, skincare, haircare, fragrance, bath and body and more. All of the products are free of sulfates, phthalates, parabens, petrochemicals or other endocrine disruptors. We have over 1300 banned ingredients.
What inspired you to start your own company? Several years ago I had developed severe late in life allergies. In trying to clean up my own beauty routine. I was so disheartened with the lack of performance in many products and the amount of greenwashing. It took me 3 months and $150 to find a great shampoo that was truly clean. I realized that nobody has the time and energy I was putting in to finding products. With a background in beauty where I have worked with the biggest retailers in the country, I knew I could help bring this to other women.
What advice would you give others thinking about starting their own business? It is 10x more work than you expect, it takes twice as long to build and is 100x more rewarding than you expect.
What was your biggest fear in starting your own business? Would everyone else be as passionate about clean beauty as I am? I think the tides are shifting in that direction, but when I first started it was not as prevalent.
Why is non-toxic beauty so important to you? Have you always been interested in it? I have always been interested in beauty, but only after I was having health issues did I really focus on clean beauty. The more I learned and the more I researched, the more passionate I became about lifting the veil on ingredients and their impacts. I don’t like to speak from a place of fear - but we need to be aware that breast cancer rates for women have gone from 1 in 20 to 1 in 8, over 90% of breast cancer tumors had parabens in them, childhood cancers are on the rise.
Are there any ingredients in beauty and skincare products that we should be avoiding? Yes! There are the big ones that everyone knows about - Sulfates, Phthalates, Parabens. But there are others that are a bit sneakier. The ingredient “Fragrance" can disguise HUNDREDS of ingredients. Because it is considered trade secret, brands are not required to disclose what makes up that ingredient. Synthetic sunscreens are another big one, it usually shows up as oxybenzone, octisalate or octinoxate.
Do you have any products would you recommend for Winter and Summer, as I know our skin takes a beating.
Maya Chia’s ‘The Super Blend’ Pressed Serum Brightening Moisture Concentrate really offers it all - MAJOR hydration, anti-aging, and skin brightening.
What does a typical day look like for you? It changes EVERY day which I love. Some days I am in the store with the team, some days I am on the road for events, and some days I am at a Starbucks working on paying bills, returning emails and planning our expansion.
What’s your most proud moment since launching AILLEA? Being named by Well+Good as one of the top beauty retailers in the country and being named to the Goop city guide were 2 big ones for me. To receive that level of national recognition for a small boutique is really validating.
What advice would you give to your younger self? I wish I had started taking better care of myself earlier. I wish it wasn’t health issues that had driven me to seek out the clean products. Although that was a gift in itself as it helped me start AILLEA.
If you could have drinks with four women who would it be? Oprah Winfrey, Jane Goodall, Kris Jenner and Vera Wang.
What’s next for AILLEA? Any collaborations? Stores we can find you in? We are opening stores this winter/spring in Charleston and Raleigh and I am so excited that these locations will now have spa rooms offering clean services.