Girls just wanna have good clean glam
True + Luscious founder Mehir Sethi discusses the joy and challenge of clean beauty, writes Jody Miller
Few cosmetic brands originate from a graduate of international relations with a job offer from the United Nations. Then again, few university students mixed custom-blended lipstick and make-up for their history professors. But Mehir Sethi is anything but typical and neither is her make-up brand True + Luscious, which recently launched in America.
While attending university in Boston, Sethi was far from her home and family in Pakistan. This was pre-social media, so no video chats or social media, and those intermittent phone calls were expensive. And like a cruel prank to only exacerbate her feeling of isolation, Sethi developed PCOS, which came with a corps of debilitating side effects that were especially difficult for a young woman in a foreign land. She was on her own to find solace and a solution. That solution came by combining creativity with some cosmetic chemistry. Her solace came from memories of her family’s rich traditions that would serve her throughout her life and career.
Sethi observed and duplicated the elaborate beauty rituals she witnessed growing up. ‘My grandmother and my Mom collected and used make-up in an almost ceremonial way,’ Sethi recalls. Finding inspiration in the skills she developed, Sethi garnered quite the reputation among her classmates. ‘I was that girl your friend knew who could colour-adjust your pale drugstore foundation to suit your tan-olive skin,’ she asserts. It wasn’t long before campus staff caught wind of her talents and soon she was custom blending her art professor’s signature burgundy lipstick.
Finally, after years of study and earning notoriety as a make-up wiz, Sethi found herself with a job offer from the United Nations. She had to decline. Instead, she returned to Pakistan to spend time with her ailing mother diagnosed with cancer. The proverb, ‘When life hands you lemons,’ has a salient spot in this saga.
Still grieving after her mother’s passing, Sethi’s father invested in her business venture. The “lemonade” became one of the most popular indie beauty companies in Asia, while she continued her rise to prominence as a make-up consultant for many international lines. But Sethi’s cosmetic vision was as intrepid as her spirit and extended beyond merely creating a best selling brand. As a firm believer in clean beauty, her mission was to settle for nothing less than the cleanest products possible. As an international make-up artist and self-proclaimed beauty junkie, she knew that clean make-up often lacks the pigmentation, ease of application, and variety found in more mainstream products. She demanded her products perform on par with established brands while adhering to the highest standard of non-toxicity.
‘I’ve created colour cosmetics for many years that became cult favourites with make-up artists, which has taught me so much about performance and how formulas behave,’ declares Sethi. ‘Unfortunately, colour cosmetics remains the least regulated category in personal care.’
While the availability of skin care that meets the strict EU guidelines has visibly expanded, make-up lags behind, despite many brands marketing themselves as natural and organic. In a tiny nutshell, the FDA only bans 30 ingredients from cosmetic products. The EU prohibits 1,382. Throw in exorbitant production costs, and it’s no wonder few make-up brands can claim they are truly clean. Working with a team of make-up artists, Sethi ensured every True+Luscious product measured up to consumer standards without ever straying from its commitment to clean.
The rejuvenating benefits combined toxin and talc-free formulas, attracting devotees ranging from Gen Z to boomers. ‘True + Luscious stands out with our practical approach as a colour-embracing brand appealing to a wide base of clean skin care consumers, make-up artists, and regular make-up wearers who are excited to find a better alternative, widening our appeal way beyond the clean beauty niche,’ she says. •