Locally-made skincare line keeps it clean
by Katherine Poole | photography by S.P. Murray
Julie Hafer has always been serious about skincare. As a child, she would ride her bike to the drugstore at Cameron Village and scour the beauty aisles for the latest lotions and potions. In middle school, she saved her allowance for trips to the makeup counter at Crabtree Valley Mall. “Are you here to play?” she remembers a sales associate asking. “No,” she replied. “I’m here to buy.”
Her obsession with beauty products continued through college, where she worked on a license in cosmetology while earning a degree in French from UNC Chapel Hill. During that time, she helped a steady stream of friends with skincare and makeup—but the one person she couldn’t help was herself. Her skin was perpetually irritated, and it seemed that the more she spent on high-end products, the worse it became. “I didn’t want to leave the house because I hated my face so much,” says Hafer. Finally, through research and consumer reviews, she realized that her skin was sensitive to the fragrances and harsh additives in the brands she was using. It turned out, expensive did not mean better. She felt duped.
“That sense of betrayal is really what made me want to go into this business, because I wanted to do things differently,” she says. Hafer launched the business Beauty Ethics in 2002, quickly growing from a rented booth at a salon in Five Points to a studio in Cameron Village. She also grew a loyal base of clients by offering aesthetic services that used affordable, fragrance-free, non-irritating skincare products from Paula’s Choice. She had it down to a science, but realized that many of her clients had a hard time sticking to the multi-product beauty routines she prescribed, and that they (like her younger self) were still enticed by the allure of luxury lines. That dichotomy—that they knew what was good for their skin, but wouldn’t do it—frustrated and fascinated her. So in 2011, Hafer returned to school to get a masters in psychology from North Carolina State University. As she learned what motivated human behavior in class, she realized that she could use that knowledge to create her own line of pure, easy-to-use and customizable beauty products. “I just wanted people to love their skin.”
In 2012, Hafer teamed up with a chemist to formulate dye- and fragrance-free products that are made with the most pure active ingredients she could find. She formed focus groups for testing, and surveyed clients to learn what they wanted in a product. She selected a logo that was clean and gender neutral to appeal to both women and men, and gave the products easy-to-remember names. The products are sold in luxe glass bottles, which not only “look beautiful on the bathroom counter, but are also eco-friendly.”
The line of skincare and makeup is made in-house at her studio off Whitaker Mill Road, where she moved the business in 2018. Her products like Glycolic Glow, Spot Solver, Pore Perfector and Smoothing Solution are made in small batches, hand-poured and labeled by a small group of friends and clients that work with her. Hafer keeps her prices reasonable, and allows products to be returned for a full refund and the glass bottles to be refilled. The goal: “Base everything on science and be mindful of the environment. Make sure people aren’t wasting their money if they’re not getting the results they desire,” she says. “That’s beauty ethics.”
Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.; Services by appointment only; 2005 Progress Ct.; beautyethics.com