A Minute with Sasha Plavsic: The ILIA Founder on Transparency in Beauty, Innovation, and Facing Fear

It started ten years ago between the mountains and ocean. Sasha Plavsic briefly moved back to her native Vancouver after she had spent the previous decade studying in London and working in New York and Los Angeles. The Canadian air was calling her—and so was her entrepreneurial card.

Plavsic was seeking change; a career pivot that would allow her to invest in something more fulfilling. She pondered as she spent time with family. And then, as one's upbringing so often holds a portent of one's passion, Plavsic's mother dropped a breadcrumb: She encouraged her daughter to read the ingredients list on her makeup. Plavsic was shocked at the level of toxicity she innocuously used every day. 

It was no surprise that this truth unveiling came from her mother, a longtime advocate of natural health. Plavsic grew up watching her start an organic food co-op and invest in naturopathic remedies. But what was a surprise was the lack of natural makeup alternatives. When Plavsic started to look she couldn't find any rich, vivid, luxurious clean lipsticks, balms, or blushes. So that was it: She created one—and launched ILIA in 2011. 

There's a lot that sets ILIA apart. For one, it stays loyal to the charge that drove Plavisc: the colors are deeply pigmented, the formulations lush. Light serum foundations that make skin look illuminated from within. Glossy mascara that enliven lashes. Creamy multi-sticks that brighten complexions. Each product is based on the ILIA idea of "clean color," a blend of natural and safe synthetic ingredients. The collection also works as a makeup-skin care hybrid. The products really "improve the skin, not mask it or make it break out," Plavsic says. "They should make your skin feel and look alive."

Plavsic likes to use the word boundless when talking about how the brand has evolved. It drives her, she says. The word also signifies how much she's learned and grown since she took that hiatus ten years ago to find her next calling. 

A Q&A with Sasha Plavsic

Q: How have you seen the beauty industry change? Do you believe transparency is becoming a larger part of the conversation?

A: Transparency is definitely part of the conversation in clean beauty. It’s another core value we carry and find it still resonates the most in the industry. It’s one of the reasons I started the brand, because I felt there wasn’t enough transparency at the time. Health is equally important, yet that is something we all get to choose, and if there is an option made with safe ingredients that works, I think the choice becomes easy. 

Q: What is your advice to someone who is seeking clean beauty products? How can they educate themselves to make wise decisions?

A: My advice would be to watch your skin and what it reacts to. Fragrance is one of the biggest skin disrupters, comedogenic oils is another, certain essential oils, chemical sunscreens, and some silicones. But all depends how these are used and in what percentages. That is something really important to remember when navigating the world of clean beauty.

Q: What is at the forefront for you and your team at ILIA?

We are inspired by formulas, discovering new ingredients, innovating against what already exists and challenging the conforms of what clean beauty actually means. Through all of this, educating our customer and empowering them is always at the forefront.

Q: You created ILIA products to work as a hybrid of skin care and makeup. Will you talk about this duality?

A: Having suffered from acne for half my adult life, and having tried so many makeup and skincare brands, it was a personal pursuit to see how I could marry the two together. One of the big differences that sets us apart is that we are using skincare actives at active levels. Many claims are done at marketing levels, which means the skincare active is added at a very low percentage. In the next year we will be showing many more “colors” in this area and hope those with troubled skin will come to us first when looking for something that makes your skin look like skin with makeup as a secondary element. 

Q: What ILIA products or projects are you most excited about right now?

A: Next year is a big year for us and we will be revamping some areas in several ways with items I think are missing from the market. It’s going to be one of our greatest years yet!

Q: What beauty and wellness practices do you believe in? 

A: I believe in real food and buying from your local farmers market. I believe in time out for yourself—especially away from the phone. I do believe in good skincare and taking care of your body. My body just had a baby, and sleep isn’t always on my side. Yet my face I can take care of and enjoy a ritual morning and night that takes about five minutes. Carving out time is what matters most to enjoy those little moments.

Q: What are some learnings you'd be willing to share? 

A: Fear is the only thing holding you back. And whenever there is an up, there is always a down. It is important to know that with persistence you will climb up again, and that without those shifts life would be utterly boring. 

To learn more about Plavsic and ILIA, visit: iliabeauty.com


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