This week, we’ve had the privilege to sit down with the creator and founder of our favourite reusable cleansing mitt Amanda McIntosh, to talk all things beauty, Mitty, and much more!
What’s a Mitty you might ask? They are only one of the softest and most effective cleansing products on the market. Not only are Amanda’s products practical and adorable; they are also much better for the environment than your standard make up wipes or cotton balls! Want to find out more? Don’t waste a minute and scroll down to find out all about Amanda’s brand Take My Face Off, and how she went from being a classical musician, to inventing a unique beauty product:
AG: Hi Amanda! Thanks so much for sitting down with us to talk about your fabulous Mittys! To start off, could you please tell us a bit more about yourself and how you went from being a musician to founding Take My Face Off?
AM: I was driving home from a late concert about four years ago. I was really tired, and I was dreading taking off my performance makeup, when I realized I had a problem—all my washcloths were dirty, but I needed a clean one for my beloved oil cleansing routine. I had been searching and searching for new ones, but I hadn’t found anything but terrycloth and cheap microfiber. So I kept using the old ones, and I never had enough to last until laundry day. That night, I realized how stupid it was that no one had bothered to invent a washcloth that was soft, practical, and NOT UGLY. I immediately decided I was going to do something about this. I knew nothing about textiles, manufacturing, or the beauty industry, but I just knew that someone needed to tackle this, and that it would be me.
I was already in my 40s when I made this decision. I had started my professional life with an orchestra in Spain. Long story short, I left that and took a job in consulting to support my husband’s music career, and then I went back to performing when his career took off. Everyone had always told me that musicians were “dreamers, not doers.” I always believed them until I became a consultant, at which point I saw that musicians were just as smart as businesspeople. If I had never worked in the business world, I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to take my big leap into beauty. Maybe I would have thought, “I’m just a clarinet player—what do I know?” But I had switched careers once, and it had turned out great. So I just dove in.
AG: I can imagine it must feel exciting to be the creator of such a practical product that is also sustainable for the environment. How important was it for you to find the perfect ”green” textile? Are you very active when it comes to caring for the future of our planet?
AM: At first, I was only thinking about skin health. Getting more serious about the beauty industry, I was shocked to learn how awful wipes and cotton balls are for the planet. All of a sudden, my fun idea turned into a mission. If I could create something that was more effective, more convenient, and more fun than a wipe or cotton ball, I might be able to stem the tidal wave of garbage. People understand that wipes are plastic, and single-use plastic is bad. But they get confused about cotton, since it comes from a plant. First, cheap cotton production is actually one of the most poisonous things on the planet, but the important thing to remember is that any single-use item, even something that comes from a plant, is “dirtier” than any reusable item. The key is to replace as many single-use items as possible with reusable items.
At the beginning and now, I put a lot of pressure on myself to find the perfect textile. I literally tried everything I could get my hands on. I wound up finding this fancy polyester that all my testers loved—it was just wonderful with all skin care products. I was conflicted—I had my heart set on a natural fabric like cotton, but I saw the natural fabrics didn’t work well enough to make consumers ditch wipes. When time proved that my polyester was outlasting the natural fabrics by 400% or more, I dug into the science. It showed that a long-lasting polyester could be greener than a short-lived cotton or hemp. Finally, I had a superior product I could feel good about.
I joke that I am an imperfect environmentalist. I’m busy. I have kids. I do things. The health of the planet is literally the most important thing to all of humankind, but it’s hard to make every decision with this in mind. I work a little bit every day on educating myself and making better choices. But I do plenty of dumb things, like the soda cans I bought the other day, or the plastic water bottle I accepted at an event last week.
Take My Face Off has to be financially viable if it’s going to stay around to make a difference. I balance what we can afford with investments in new ideas, new materials, new procedures. Probably 15-25% of my work hours go towards new ideas that can make us even more green or more helpful to the planet. I’d love to create products out of thin air, with no need of materials or transportation. But “perfect is the enemy of done.” Regardless, I won’t stop trying.
AG: Could you talk us through the process of coming up with your product? From drafting the idea, to actually seeing the product in your hands?
AM: I wish I could just describe the products and have someone else bring them to life; this never works out for me! My products look like they should be simple, but it’s actually really hard to make them consistently and economically. I’ve had to become a pattern-making ninja and I’ve had to buy several industrial sewing machines so I can show the factory how to make my products. It’s a little bit like being a fashion designer who also handles their own technical design.
I usually come up with an ideal that I’ll sketch, and then I start playing with fabric. Once I make a lot of cuts and sew some prototypes, I usually discover some problem that seems insurmountable. But then I figure out a solution that makes everything even better than I imagined. Time has taught me not to freak out—it always happens like this, and something good always comes out of the crisis.
I go through three to 20 versions of prototypes. I have friends try them on and use them. Once I pick the winner, I have to come up with a pattern that is easy to sew and cut—we don’t want to waste labor or fabric. Sometimes, this means another change to the actual product. We finally create the final pattern and hand it off to the cutting and sewing people. If it’s a large order, I work with a great factory in LA. If it’s smaller, my tiny one-woman shop in the mountains does it for me.
I’m always terrified to receive a large order of product—what if everything was done wrong? There have been mistakes before. But usually, it’s all perfect. And even if there’s a mistake, we’ve always been able to repurpose the materials or donate the items so that we weren’t just creating waste. I realize this all seems very “hands on,” but it’s how we make sure the products are good enough for our customers. This fabric is actually very hard to sew into small, geometric shapes. It takes a lot of oversight and planning.
AG: Not only are we fans of the practicality of your product here at TWC, but we also adore your packaging! Do you think creating a beauty product that is also physically appealing is important to your customers? And if so, why do you think that is?
AM: Creating interesting packaging is critical! We’ve found that no one likes washcloths or cotton balls, but it doesn’t mean that they’re looking for an alternative! People have to know we exist to want to buy our product. I joke that it would be so much easier if we were an eye cream—people would know what the product does, and we’d just need to tell them why we’re the best.
Once people understand what we do, they get very excited. But we have to grab their attention first. Unless they see our marketing, the package is our only messenger. We have to grab their eyes and make them READ. Plus, the beauty industry is all about aesthetics. People who go into beauty departments want to be delighted by pretty things. That’s the playing field. If you don’t want to make pretty stuff, don’t go into beauty.
AG: And finally, we would love to know how a typical day at the office looks like, especially as we know how active you are with your social impact initiative, The F Project. Are you more of a tea or coffee person in the morning?
AM: Definitely coffee! And again in the afternoon.
In terms of my day, I usually work from home. We’re tiny, and we all like our home offices. Sometimes, I’ll meet with a coworker at their place or a coffee shop, or maybe a coworking space. I want to delay getting an actual office lease as long as possible! I try to spend the first part of my morning thinking about what needs to get done, as opposed to what seems urgent. It’s really hard to make time for the things that move the business forward. It’s tempting to just answer emails and tackle the to do list. So I try to avoid even looking at email until I’ve given some intelligent thought to the business’s priorities and goals. Once I’m focused on those, I can make better choices about the rest of my day. If I don’t, I wind up saying “yes” to a lot of things that don’t get me anywhere.
I try to group meetings and “field trips” together. They drain me. I need alone time to tackle big problems, so I organize days full of planning time separate from days of factory visits and meetings.
I wish I could take credit for the F Project, but I can’t. It’s run by these amazing women who saw a huge need and decided to do something about it. They’re marketing and networking geniuses, and I’m thrilled to be included in their vision. Women face so many disadvantages in their business lives that it’s hard to make extra time for changing the overall state of things. Groups like the F Project make it possible for women to band together and use this collective influence for lasting change.
Take your pick from our favourite Mittys!
Featured images via Take My Face Off
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