After spending the first part of her career as a successful marketing executive, Kathryn Murray Dickinson relocated to Colorado from New York more than a decade ago. At first, she continued her work in corporate beauty, but life intervened.
“I started getting very sick and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me,” says Dickinson. Prescribed a host of medications with significant side effects and frustrated by thetreatment of the symptoms, rather than the cause, she turned to message boards for alternatives.
Following the near-immediate success of an elimination diet, she became an “avid label reader,” investigating the products she was putting on her body as well as in her body—and wasappalled by what she discovered.
Dickinson created Aillea out of her desire to build a store where consumers could find luxurious products that met her exacting standards. “I love beauty products—they’re fun, theymake me feel good.”
Aillea (pronounced uh-LEE-uh), offers only the best of clean beauty—more than 50 brands of toxin-free makeup, skincare, haircare and bath and body products, all free from more than 1,500 toxic ingredients including sulfates, phthalates, parabens, petrochemicals, polyethylene glycol and synthetic fragrance… and “the products all work so well, if not better.”
Dickinson is sent around 100 product pitches per month, and each product is carefully evaluated before it can join the curated collected offered at Aillea. Dickinson urges consumers to share her caution, noting that “it’s the Wild West—they don’t have to test for safety, they don’t have to remove something if it’s proven harmful…and there is no regulation on using the terminology.
Something can say organic if it has 20 percent organic ingredients and the rest is toxic sludge.” Her awareness of ] greenwashing tactics, including the use of meaningless terms such as “organic,” “natural” or deceptive “free from” lists, is why Aillea stocks only brands that are committed to the mission of safe, green beauty.
Her concept is catching on. Not only does she now have two stores in Denver, Aillea has locations in Atlanta, Ga.; Raleigh, N.C., Charleston, S.C. and soon, Charlotte, N.C. .Dickinson is quick to note that “Aillea leads from a place of education, not fear.” She lists some of her favorite bloggers—Bare Beauty Blog, Gurl Gone Green, This Organic Girl, Whoorl, Maison Pur, Hullo Sam and the Hermes Hippie and it’s obvious that she enjoys learning as much as she enjoys teaching.
Perhaps this curiosity is part of why Dickinson has built friendships with some of the best innovators in the space. As she looks around at the different lines and talks about their creators, she notes, “It’s like asking me my favorite child! I could literally go around and say why I love everybody.” These relationships are why Aillea is able to offer special events with individuals such as Josh Rosebrook, May Lindstrom and Indie Lee.
Some of Aillea’s most noteworthy products include Lindstrom’s Honey Mud, which can be used as a mask or cleanser. Orgaid’s sheet masks are something Dickinson is particularly proud of—not only are they clean, organic sheet masks, Aillea was also the first retailer in the country to stock them.
Dickinson has a soft spot for Maya Chia—especially since a customer relayed a story about the Super Couple Oil. “Her mother would mix her moisturizer and a few drops of the oil on the back of her left hand and then apply it to her face…well, I guess after about a month the difference between the hands was so distinctive that she ended up having her age spots lasered off just one hand instead of both!”
Kypris’ Pot of Shade is one of her hero products. It’s a titanium dioxide-based sunblock and is particularly soothing. The Indie Lee range is prominently displayed—the Brightening Cleanser and Squalane Oil are both deeply popular. Denver-based Battington Lashes provides silk lashes for those interested in sporting false lashes, while Clove & Hallow offers a range of concealers that would be impressive for any brand, let alone a small independent company. Dickinson singles out Lily Lolo’s mascara and Kjaer Weis’ color cosmetics (which have refillable packaging) and praises RMS’s 2019 rollout. “Watching the groundswell movement aroundsomething I’m so passionate about—it’s amazing. I love that these brands are getting recognition…and we’re all growing up together.”
There are still a few holes in the market—currently Dickinson hopes for a great gel liner, a waterproof mascara and more fragrances. With her expert knowledge, would Dickinson ever consider doing a line herself? “100 percent!”
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Elizabeth Kosar is a Denver-based writer and communications strategist with a bathroom that looks like its own beauty boutique. She has a particular weakness for lipstick and bath products.
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