One of the original high-performing organic makeup brands, Vapour Beauty, has made an impact on the better beauty industry from the get-go. In the name of evolution, the brand has taken on investment, reformulated their products and undergone a massive rebrand. So, what does that mean for YOU? We can answer that!
If you’ve been into better beauty for any time at all, I’m sure the name Vapour rings a bell. They are truly one of the pioneers in healthy makeup, bringing consumers a product that blurs the lines between skincare and makeup.
Over time Vapour has evolved, and we want to take a look at what that means for us customers (and our skin) as well as for the brand itself.
IN THIS ARTICLE
- Vapour Beauty standouts
- 10 Questions with Vapour founders
- Our Vapour Beauty TOP PICKS
- What didn’t work for us
Vapour Beauty standouts
Because Vapour has been around for a long time, it means they’ve been able to adapt and adjust to changes in the industry, and continue to promote inclusivity and sustainability, in a way that can be harder for new brands without a lot of up-front money. Let’s look at these highlights and then get into some Q+A with Vapour founders Krysia Bionis and Kristine Keheley.
Some Vapour standouts include:
- Products are made with Renewable Energy & Passive Solar Daylighting: “In 2020, we met our solar renewable energy goal! We now use 100% Daylight Solar at our headquarters, manufacturing, warehouse and research facilities in Taos, New Mexico.” —Vapour
- Offers Terracycle as a service to recycle their plastic packaging.
- Uses FSC Certified paper outer box packaging.
- Uses eco-friendly and compostable shipping materials.
- Offers inclusive shade ranges on many products (and has from the beginning) + doesn’t default to the lightest shade (have you considered this when searching for makeup? The lightest shades tend to come first!).
- Shows what colors look like on several different skin types.
- Cruelty-free certified by Leaping Bunny.
- Champion Safety Status by EWG + Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
- A portion of sales donated to Amigos Bravos to help protect fresh water sources in New Mexico.
- Transparency: They have an ingredient glossary with details about every single ingredient used in the Vapour line.
- They’re conscious of helping people make the swap between conventional makeup and organic makeup brands.
10 Questions with Vapour Beauty founders
Who owns Vapour Beauty?
To answer this question, plus talk a little about what taking on investors has meant for the business, we connected with Vapour founder Krysia Bionis to expand.
“Vapour is owned by its founders’ Kristine and I and our investment partners, Ancora Investment Holdings. Bringing on Ancora has been an expansive opportunity for Vapour; not only do we have additional capital resources, we have an amazing team of brand building specialists with expertise in operations, sales, supply chain, finance and marketing.”
Where are Vapour Beauty products made?
TOG: Vapour originally built its own manufacturing facility in order to have more control over what ingredients are used and how each product is made. We were curious to know if taking on investment has made an impact here.
Krysia says, “Vapour grew out of my previous private label product design and manufacturing company—the original business created anhydrous (waterless) product for other brands in the natural space. Kristine and I saw a huge opportunity in clean color and developed the Vapour brand. Originally all products were made in our facility in Taos, NM. This was great until it was limiting; we were not set up to manufacture certain product types—like mascara or bullet lipsticks. With our investment partners, we now have the resources to work with best-in-class labs to develop these sorts of products. All R&D is still done at home, in Taos, where we maintain vigilant control over ingredients and formulation.”
Can you comment on the shift away from using the word “organic” in Vapour’s storytelling?
TOG: For example, what used to be “Vapour Organic Beauty” is now “Vapour” or “Vapour Beauty.”
Krysia explains: “We have moved away from the word ‘organic’ in the brand name because it poses issues internationally. Nothing has changed with the fact that we make the cleanest products containing high percentages of organic ingredients. Regulatory compliant language around the word ‘organic’ is complex. For example: Mineral pigments, which we use to color our cosmetics, are not included in the USDA Organic formulary, which was designed for food not makeup. Therefore, we cannot speak about the organic percentage of ingredients in formulas that contain mineral pigments.”
What does undecane do for the formula or the skin?
TOG: Undecane is used in Vapour’s Velvet Glow Foundation. This can be a synthetic petrochemical but the one Vapour uses is marked as “plant derived.” Is there a difference? And how does this ingredient benefit the formula and/or the skin?
Kristine Keheley explains, “Undecane, in its natural form, is derived from many renewable plant sources. Its cosmetic function is varied depending on the product. It’s used as an emulsifier, an emollient and skin conditioner. One way to thing of it in terms of performance, is that it gives slip and glide to the product. Texture and skin feel are so important and this gives a sophisticated sensory effect.”
What’s your stance on formulating with synthetics?
TOG: Historically, Vapour has used organic and natural ingredients in a large percentage of their formulas. With the recent rebrand and reformulations, we see the introduction of synthetics like pentylene glycol and ethlhexylglycerin. Can you comment on how these ingredients benefit the formula and/or the skin?
Kristine continues, “In 2019, Vapour branched out into many new product categories like mascara, high performance powders and even a couple of primers that are water-based emulsions. Though these have new ingredient profiles that look different from the original Vapour formulas, they are all still extremely clean products. That’s possible as a result of a revolution in green chemistry over the last few years. Several ingredients that look like they are synthetics (and even share the same INCI names with synthetics) are in fact now available in plant-based forms.
Specifically the pentylene glycol used in Vapour is plant derived, it’s from sugar cane and it’s a humectant. The ethylhexylglycerin in Vapour is also plant derived from responsibly sourced palm oil. This is a preservative.
Vapour notes on our packaging the derivation from plants of these synthetic sound a-likes. It’s always worth asking a brand if the ingredient in question is plant derived or synthetic—and asking for confirmation of RSPO Palm where applicable. I appreciate you brining up such specific ingredient questions as well as asking about Vapour’s history.
We were one of the very first of the luxury clean color lines. The majority (97%) of Vapour’s products remain 100% anhydrous and most of those follow the same high organic content profile as our original product launch in 2009. That was a while ago! So we’ve updated and revised some formulas where there have been beneficial advances in cosmetic chemistry. Evolution and product excellence are definitely part of our mission.”
What are your thoughts on formulating with silicones?
TOG: Soft Focus Foundation has been my fave for YEARS. Some formulators say it’s very hard to get a silky texture in a foundation without the use of silicones. What are your thoughts around this?
Kristine says, “Soft Focus provides a silky skin feel and of course does not contain silicone. Silicone would be very out of place in a clean product and is not necessary to achieve a sophisticated texture. I’ve been formulating exclusively anhydrously using primarily organic, food-grade ingredients for the last 20 years.
That’s a very tight design constraint using a limited formulary. That limitation has been an unexpected blessing that has steered me into a very creative approach. Along the way, I’ve invented new processes to achieve sophisticated textures and dry down. Soft Focus is a great example, as is the Taos AER deodorant. Two products that should be impossible but are in face quite beautiful on the skin and achieve high performance.”
Are Vapour products 3rd party certified?
TOG: Are any of Vapour’s products certified via a third party like USDA Organic or ECOCERT? If so, why is that important to Vapour and if not, how did Vapour come to that decision?
Kristine says, “Vapour’s Lux Organic Lip Conditioner carries the USDA seal and like its name implies, it’s pure luxury for the lips. To obtain the USDA seal on individual products, the ingredients must all be food-grade and organic. That leads to incredibly safe products. The easiest way to think of products with this seal is that they’re close to being edible.
When you see the USDA seal on a product, it’s meaningful and connotes the safety and organic traceability of every ingredient. The USDA Organic standard is very rigorous, but for a finished cosmetic product it’s also really only practical to a narrow range of skincare products as it does not allow cosmetic pigments for example. That’s why (so far) Vapour has only certified one product: Lux Organic Lip Conditioner.
There is another USDA Organic certification for manufacturing facilities that are allowed to produce these organic finished products. As manufactures, we have achieved and maintained the USDA certification as an Organic Processor Handler for our facility in Taos since 2009. This is also a meaningful certification and one that we’re proud of maintaining and supporting.”
Does Vapour use any FD&C colorants?
TOG: We’ve talked about the pros and cons of FD&C colorants before, and we wanted to get Vapour Beauty’s take.
Kristine says, “This is one of those choices that each brand has to make for itself and then be clear about their decision. I’m not saying this can be or should be universally applied. Vapour does not use FD&C dyes. They have potential human health issues that make me wary, such as being endocrine disruptors and having effects on the central nervous system. I can accept that there are safe synthetics, but I am not interested in using FD&C.
It’s also an aesthetic decision since FD&C pigments are one dimensional and look very flat on the skin. After so many years of mixing colors, I can spot products that use FD&C and it’s a visual turn off for me. I love color that is complex, multidimensional and reflects light. Cosmetics are a way to sculpt with light on the skin. I take that approach when developing products and really respect it in makeup artistry as well. Vapour’s color design is complex, adaptable and capable of creating beautifully illuminated skin.”
What is the “aroma/flavor” listed on Vapour’s products?
TOG: Fragrance or flavoring that’s not explicitly broken down on ingredient decks always prompts us to ask the brand to share what might be in them.
Kristine replies, “The goal of an INCI deck is to clarify communication, but I think confusion is frequently the result. Vapour uses only essential oils or natural flavoring extracts for scent. We don’t use artificial fragrance in any of our products as that’s a source of phthalates. High Voltage Lipstick uses a proprietary flavor blend.
As an aside, I’ve always been turned off by the artificial scent of so many conventional lipsticks, so it’s been a goal of mine that ours are more botanical or fruit based. Luxe Organic Lip Conditioner for example is a blend fo organic fit, plum and apricot natural flavors.”
What’s coming in 2021? Anything new?
Krysia says, “There is a lot to get excited about in 2021! We are bringing back some of our original and most beloved products. The first of which is Luminous Foundation in a full spectrum of shades for a wide variety of skin tones. Luminous now has an increased pigment load which makes it perfect to double as a foundation and concealer. It also makes a great contour stick in 2 shades deeper than your foundation shade.
In 2021, we are also excited to be giving back $1 from every Bronzing Powder sold worldwide to protect fresh water rivers and strams in New Mexico with Amigos Bravos.
There are more original favorites on the way, give backs and exciting new products launching later this year!”
What are the best organic beauty products? Here are our Vapour Beauty faves
1. Soft Focus Foundation | $48
My number 1 pick from the entire Vapour line is their Vapour Soft Focus Foundation. This liquid, medium coverage foundation is made with a base of organic camellia seed oil, organic sunflower seed oil, castor seed oil and organic beeswax. Love. Love. Love that it has a dewy finish and leaves skin looking alive and healthy. This is truly a your skin but better look and I can’t get enough.
Soft Focus Foundation Pros:
- Truly a skincare-and-makeup-in-one product: formulated with brightening camellia + frankincense, tulsi and lotus to help sooth, calm and protect.
- Goes on thin and really melts right into skin, giving the appearance of your-skin-but-better.
- Adjustable coverage (overall medium).
- A dewy finish.
- Leaves skin looking alive and healthy—truly at its best.
- Does not dry out skin.
- Blends easily with fingers or a brush.
- Waterless, so you know you’re getting a potent, skin-supporting formula.
- Air-tight packaging.
- Vapour says it’s “great for all skin types.”
- Formulated without silicones.
- Comes in 19 shades.
Soft Focus Foundation Cons (considerations):
- This formula probably won’t work as well for someone with oily skin—it might feel like too much shine.
- It’s on the oilier side (which I love) but might be new for some people.
- Packaged in plastic. (Vapour works with Terracycle to recycle their packaging. Learn how to recycle your Vapour here.)
2. Eyeshadow Quads | $38
Every time I wear these shadows, I get asked, What eyeshadow are you wearing? The shades are super flattering and come in a mix of matte, satin, and pearl finishes. You can wear them dry or wet (for a more pigmented look or as a liner).
Also, one of our TOG FAQs is, Do you have a rec for a matte white or cream? And the answer is yes! Yes, we do! You will find it in the Archetype quad that packs three matte finish options and is perfect for that everyday look.
It’s also featured in my April 2021 Quarterly Faves.
Vapour Eyeshadow Quad Pros:
- The Vapour line is not vegan but these shade quads are.
- Can apply wet or dry.
- Made with skin-nourishing + skin-soothing amino acids.
- Rich in mineral pigments.
- Comes in varied finishes.
- Beautiful color payoff.
- Does not crease.
- Consistent in texture and does not clump or flake.
Vapour Eyeshadow Quad Cons (considerations):
- Packaged in plastic (Vapour works with Terracycle to recycle their packaging).
- We wish they offered Z Palettes where we could pick and choose to create our own quad or extended collection.
- Once you buy one, you are going to want another—lol.
3. Aura Multi Sticks | $36
Simplify your routine and hone in on that monochromatic look with this cream blush that doubles as makeup for eyes and lips too. Made with a base of organic sunflower seed oil, organic beeswax and castor oil, these glide on smooth, deliver buildable pigment and leave skin glowing and radiant. Spark and Grace are my top shade picks.
Aura Multi Stick Pros:
- Lasts all day.
- Buildable color (wear them sheer or build them up!).
- Versatile and can be used on several parts of the face.
- You get a ton of product (I feel like this will never run out!).
- Moisturizes with organic sunflower oil.
- Soothes, calms, and protects with Frankincense, Tulsi + Lotus.
- Easy to use for people who have zero makeup skills *raises hand*!
- Easy to blend.
- No glitter flecks.
- No additional tools needed to apply.
Aura Multi Stick Cons (considerations):
- The texture can change in the product (beads up) as it cools and heats with the seasons.
- Wish there were more color options.
- Packaged in plastic (Vapour works with Terracycle to recycle their packaging).
4. All the brushes | $30 – $48
RELATED: TOG’s fave makeup brushes.
Vapour Beauty skips
Although these may work for some people, they didn’t stand out for me. I personally would recommend skipping:
- Mesmerize Mascara—Not enough va-va voom factor for me.
- Brow Definers—There are no shades here that worked for my salt and pepper gray hair.
- Anything powder (cheeks, bronzer, powder; except the eye shadows!)—I’m all about that dewy fresh-fresh finish!
Do you have a Vapour fave? Share below!