Finding your new favorite organic beauty products at Boston’s Follain.
Stepping into Beacon Hill’s Follain is a sensory experience. The white walls are crisp, and clean, while the floors are glossy wooden panels. In the window display there is an old-fashioned clawfoot bathtub surrounded by plants and containers of bath soaks, shampoo, and conditioner. A white fireplace gives the boutique a homey feel. But most notable is the fresh, herbal aroma that permeates the store, creating a spa-like atmosphere.
If it weren't for the shelves of all natural beauty products waiting to be explored, you might even be tempted to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Follain, Gaelic for “healthy, wholesome, and sound,” offers an alternative to mass-produced, synthetic cosmetics and skin care. Their brand credo is on display on the wall: “We exercise and eat our greens, but don’t stop there. We also feed our skin beautiful ingredients that it knows how to use. We are here to complement your healthy lifestyle. Your beautiful self. Clean, pure, and effective. Spa-grade and US made. Join the movement.”
The movement started in 2009, when founder Tara Foley started a blog called the Naturalchemyst, where she to this day writes about her research and experiences with natural beauty products. Her blogging led her to launch a brick-and-mortar store in the South End July 2013. In the past two years, three more locations have opened in Washington D.C., Nantucket, and most recently in Beacon Hill.
At the front of the Charles Street boutique is a white marble counter with the store’s cosmetics. Follain stocks natural makeup brands brands like RMS Beauty, Jane Iredale, and W3ll People. The rest of the store is lined with shelves made of brass piping and white panels. The first shelf to the left houses the store’s skin care. The first shelf is stocked with serums, cleansers, and toners from brands like Herbivore Botanicals, Farmaesthetics, and La Bella Figura. Follain conveniently has the products arranged by skin type: products for dry skin are on the left, whereas products for oily skin are on the right of the shelf.
To the right of the skincare shelf is a black trough sink where customers can not only sample products, but also wash their hands with Follain’s in house liquid soap. Customers can buy reusable amber soap bottles and fill them their soap in scents such as lavender, lemongrass, orange, and sweetgrass. Their homemade soap is one of their best-selling products, along with deodorant by the brand Soapwalla.
On the upper level of the store, there is shelf dedicated to men’s products like shaving cream and mustache wax from brands like Ursa Major, Crux, and Beard Balm. To the right there’s another shelf with bath and body products like bath soaks, scrubs, and lotions. On the top shelf there are bath soaks from RICA, which if you didn’t know otherwise, you might assume were containers of tea because the blend of herbs such as sage, lavender, and jasmine. The final shelf on the far right houses Follain’s selection of hair care from brands like Rahua and Lulu Organics, as well as products dedicated to new moms and babies like diaper cream and baby oil.
For Follain, the main priority is not just to stock products with organic ingredients, but products that they have screened for safety. They don’t allow any ingredients that are known to be harmful for your health or for the health of the environment. Because their products don’t contain harsh ingredients, they cater to customers with sensitive skin due to conditions like psoriasis and rosacea, or to due to cancer treatments. Laura, one of sales associates, says that doctors of customers who are cancer patients have advised using natural products. “With cancer treatment, the patient’s skin is more sensitive,” she says. “Doctors will say that they need to clean up their products.”
Compared to other countries, the United States has lenient restrictions on what can be in cosmetics items. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits only eleven ingredients in cosmetics. On their website, Follain has a list of common ingredients they don’t allow in the products they sell. Among the list: aluminum (found in most deordorants), sulfates (found in most shampoos), and parabens (preservatives pretty much found in everything).
Some people are hesitant to make the switch over to all-natural beauty products because they don’t think they’ll be effective. “There’s a misconception that natural products don’t work,” says Laura. “But the ingredients in natural products are more concentrated. Products from the drugstore or departments have a lot of fillers. They’ll have the same ingredients [as natural products], but they’ll be buried in with other stuff.”
The people of Follain believe that if you care about what is your food, you should also care about what you’re putting on your skin and body. Jenna, another associate, says that your body absorbs everything you put on your body, as well as in it. “Your body bioaccumulates all the toxins, and it doesn’t know how to get rid of them,” she says.
Even if you’re still skeptical about natural products, Follain encourages consumers to sample their products. Although their products may be slightly more expensive than what you can buy at CVS, Follain believes that making the switch is worth it. “It’s important that your body absorbs good things. It’s nutrition for your skin,” says Laura.
For those looking to get involved with the Follain community, they hosts events such as makeup tutorials with resident makeup artist Sarah Adams, to yoga classes held in the store. Just in the month of October, they’re hosting a “Vintage Vixen” makeup class and a DIYclass with the brand Organic Bath Co. where attendees can make their own body butter. To learn more about store events or products check out Follain on Facebook, or just make the ten-minute walk from campus and experience the boutique for yourself.