Makeup artist Todra Payne was a lot like me in her younger years-totally into beauty and fashion and eager to try every new product she could get her hands on. The latest lip gloss, the latest eye shadow, the latest blush…whatever was getting the “buzz” in the industry, she wanted to try it. Perfecting the faces of such famous women as Mariah Carey and Soledad O’Brien, she needed to be on top of her game.
Then she went to the Philippines on a church mission and went through a life-changing experience. Today Todra is a hardworking advocate for non-toxic cosmetics and the small brands that make them. You can find great recommendations on her website, HealthyBeautySocial.com. We spoke with Todra to find out just what changed her mind about beauty products, and what she feels is important for women’s health today.
Changed by a Child
“I’m not a kid person,” Todra says, “but when I went on a mission to the Philippines with my church, I ended up working at the orphanage.” She laughs and says she tried to fix the mix-up, but there was nothing for it. The orphanage was to be her place of work for the 2-3 weeks she was there.
“I realized really quickly that these children were different,” she says. “I had brought some crackers with me from the airport, and this little girl just kept staring at me, so I gave them to her. Her face lit up and she was like, ‘Are you sure, ma’am?’ I told her of course, to enjoy them, so she got ready to eat them and it was like someone stopped the record. All the children in the courtyard turned and stared at her, like, ‘Look what she’s got!’ I mean, these kids eat rice and bananas every day. The little girl looked around at all their faces, and then she took that small package of crackers-they were like Nutter Butters or something-and broke them all into little pieces and held her hand out so all the other kids could have a taste. I was crying!”
That was just one of the many moving moments Todra experienced on her mission, and when she came back to the United States, she wasn’t the same person anymore. “I was miserable,” she said. “I started thinking about all the people that were really poor and going through so much, and I felt my life was really extravagant, frivolous and silly.”
A Spiritual Journey
Looking for something spiritual and grounding, Todra turned to yoga, and found that her practice gradually broadened her desire for a cleaner, healthier life. “I realized I was consumed with so many things that have very little relevance,” she says. “Bit by bit changes started happening.” Todra took the junk food and sweets out of her diet and started feeling more energy and vitality. “What other natural things can I do?” she asked herself. “What other things are more in line with who I’m becoming?”
Natural Works Just as Well
As a makeup artist, Todra often receives free products from various brands to try in her profession. “Someone sent me a mineral makeup,” she says, “and I remember thinking, ‘What’s the difference?'” Her thoughts turned to the thousands of dollars worth of makeup she had in her professional kits. What was in them? Slowly, she began to separate herself from the flashy marketing, the celebrity glitz, and the design of the products, and began to read the ingredient lists.
“At first I had no idea what I was reading,” she says, but over time she began to research each chemical, even calling cosmetic representatives and researchers. Her blog, which she originally used to update people on her makeup projects, soon became a place to tell readers about safer alternatives. “I found small companies making amazing products, but they were not featured in major magazines like Vogue. I tried them, and realized these were good products-they just weren’t as well known.”
A Better Alternative
Todra became friends with the representatives from the natural cosmetic brands, and soon it was inevitable that she would end up helping them get the word out. Her website, HealthyBeautySocial.com, does just that, providing a forum where women can talk to women-and direct to the manufacturers-about safer alternatives.
Todra and her team screen the brands before allowing them to create pages on the site. Once the brands have established their presence, site visitors may ask questions about products and ingredients, and sometimes even make requests for customized items.
“We wanted the members of Healthy Beauty Social to be able to talk directly to these brand owners,” Todra says. “I love it because I see the heart these manufacturers put into their products,” she says, “and I like their products!”
As for her own journey, Todra says there’s no looking back. Today she continues to be careful what she eats, to use beauty products “without junk” inside them, and to work toward a satisfying exercise program. “I really notice a difference in how I feel,” she says, “and I love it when I tell someone my age and they go, ‘No! Really?’ I think a big part of that is just taking care of myself.”
If you’d like more information on Todra’s recommended products, see her website HealthyBeautySocial.com.