Amanda McIntosh: “Don’t jump on any bandwagon”

Ignore what works for other people. Health and nutrition are very individual. What works for me might not work for you. What works for you might not work for me. My dear friend is a functional nutritionist, and she helped me understand that your health is a combination of history and genetics. There are no […]

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Ignore what works for other people. Health and nutrition are very individual. What works for me might not work for you. What works for you might not work for me. My dear friend is a functional nutritionist, and she helped me understand that your health is a combination of history and genetics. There are no cure-all diets, or supplements, or exercises, or regimens. We all have different bodies and different health journeys. Don’t jump on any bandwagon.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda McIntosh.

Amanda McIntosh is the founder of Take My Face Off, a brand that creates reusable, super soft makeup removing Makeup Mittys and Mitty Minis that are much better for the environment than single-use products like makeup wipes and cotton balls. They are on the forefront of combating the beauty waste issue with gentle and effective beauty tools. Plus, they take off every trace of makeup, are way cuter than a gross old washcloth, and can even be used on eyelash extensions! TMFO recently collaborated with world-famous lip artist, Vlada, to create Vlada’s Mitty Pout, a reusable lip cleansing tool that removes even the most stubborn lip color with ease.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I’m from a small town in Texas. I was a little girl with long, brown hair who never talked or smiled until something really mattered to me and then I wouldn’t shut up! I was always told that I was the “creative” type, which was my family’s polite way of saying that I wasn’t a practical person. Now I realize that people were assuming that my enthusiasm was just naïveté. My first big job was playing the clarinet in an orchestra in Spain. I was the only foreigner and female in my section. My harassment stories would be funny if they weren’t real!

Anyway, rather than file a lawsuit against one of my coworkers, I left and took a job as a consultant for a while so we would have health care while my husband pursued music. For the first time, I saw that being creative and practical are not mutually exclusive. I also saw the creative potential in the world of business. That job gave me a chance to understand I can be creative AND practical, which I now see as my greatest strength. Right now, what matters most to me is bringing environmentally sensitive products to the masses, since I see that as the best and fastest way I can help the planet. I also love coaching “creative” types on how they can expand their careers. I’m married to a trumpet player in the Los Angeles Philharmonic and I have two young children.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

The most interesting story took years to unfold, and I learned that people can take a long time to “get it” when you’re doing something new. I’ve always known that there was a need for better reusable products. However, people kept telling me that there was no need for a wipe or cotton ball replacement. I could have listened to one of the gazillion naysayers, but I was stubborn.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m seeing multiple copycats. I’ve had a major brand that copied my messaging, several smaller brands that copied my actual product, and just yesterday I saw a brand stealing videos from my Instagram feed to use in their ads. It took a while, but I’m really glad that I didn’t listen to the people who thought that wipes and cotton balls were “good enough.” Most people won’t understand something unless they’ve seen it before. This is especially true of the “experts” — they’re only an expert on what has already been done.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I thought that I needed a whole line of products to show retailers that they should carry me and that I would be more than one “hero” product. I put too much pressure on myself to produce packages, photos and samples of products before I had even a single retail partnership. I did too much work and spent too much money before I had any proof of concept. Now I know to share things with the world so that I get more feedback sooner. It makes the product better and it cuts out a lot of wasted time and money.

You have to wait and see how people receive your product and then be willing to make changes. It’s not “finished” when you release it. That’s just the beginning of a long conversation.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I had a mentor who gave me permission at the very start to be different. He’s a successful inventor and film producer. He’s not like anyone else I know. I check in with him occasionally for a reset. Over lunch, he’ll usually say something like, “You started your own company so YOU could decide what to do. Quit being such a good student and go be creative. Go break the mold. Quit imitating everyone else.”

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

I’m working on two things. First, I want environmental products to be available to a wider audience. We launched on QVC this month, which was the fulfillment of a huge goal for me. I don’t want environmental products to just be available on Etsy or Whole Foods or Patagonia. I want them to be everywhere, in every store. Consumers shouldn’t have to work so hard to find products that are truly “green” (as opposed to ones that are “greenwashed”). The next goal is helping people understand that skincare is not just aesthetics — it’s about skin health. Dermatologists tell us that the most important thing for skin health is to wear sunscreen, and the next most important thing is to wash your face at night. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they don’t need to wash their face because they don’t wear makeup! This really worries me, and I’m on a mission to get them to understand that face washing isn’t just for makeup wearers.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

1) Start paying attention to your body’s reactions. Notice how you feel when you do things. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay attention to your doctor’s advice, but sometimes your body is trying to send you a message and you shouldn’t ignore it.

Things like gluten, dairy, caffeine, or alcohol are problems for some people, but not for others. You won’t know unless you pay attention.

For example, I always LOVED bread and starch, but I was sick my whole life. I had aches, pains, massive stomach problems, and I was constantly coming down with respiratory diseases. I also felt like a zombie. Doctors told me it was in my head. Out of desperation, I tried several things, including quitting gluten. Five weeks after I cut it out, I was a completely different person. I was more awake, happier, and I was totally pain free for the first time I could ever remember. To complete the trial, I stayed gluten free for a few more weeks, for seven weeks total and then I started adding it back to my diet. Problems that had evaporated over those five weeks slowly came back. It’s hard to overstate what a change this made for me. This was years ago, before “gluten-free” was common. I had an old-fashioned doctor who tried to convince me I was doing myself serious harm, but I felt amazing and I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to feeling awful. So I ignored him and changed doctors. Later, I learned a lot more about the science of what gluten did to me, and I was so glad I had listened to my own body and found new doctors. For years, I tried to quit coffee. Finally, I switched to really noticing how it made me feel instead of letting my thinking be clouded by how I thought I should feel. I finally realized that a small amount of coffee in the morning and afternoon makes me feel amazing.

2) Look at your wellbeing as a “long game” and collect information carefully and over time. I’ve seen so many people make a slight change and then pronounce that it didn’t make any difference. Not to hammer the gluten thing, but you can’t know if it impacts you unless you’re extremely careful about eliminating it for weeks, preferably six. I see people skip a Friday pizza and then decide it didn’t make a difference in their stomach issues. They might be right, but it’s not like that’s a very thorough experiment. Your health matters. Pay attention for longer than a few days.

3) Ignore what works for other people. Health and nutrition are very individual. What works for me might not work for you. What works for you might not work for me. My dear friend is a functional nutritionist, and she helped me understand that your health is a combination of history and genetics. There are no cure-all diets, or supplements, or exercises, or regimens. We all have different bodies and different health journeys. Don’t jump on any bandwagon.

4) Meditate. It’s one of the most powerful “medicines” in the world. More and more science is showing the incredible impact meditation has on so many issues. At the very least, it helps sleep, mood, anxiety, and stomach issues.

It might not solve your problems, but it cannot hurt them. It’s free and it has no negative side effects.

5) When in doubt, eat more kinds of fruits and vegetables.

While there are no panaceas, most people don’t understand how much our bodies benefit from a huge variety of nutrients. They might eat vegetables, but not very many different kinds. If you’re taking in a large variety of fresh food, you’re much more likely to be getting whatever things your body needs. You can’t know your specific needs without testing, but eating a wide variety of plant-based food gives you a great chance of fulfilling your nutritional needs by “accident.”

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

There are so many problems and so many opportunities. I currently focus on the area where I’ve had my best ideas — reducing our use of single-use disposables. Reusable

products only have to be created, packaged, and transported once. Disposables go through that cycle for every single use. Some people say, “but don’t the reusable items have to be washed? Doesn’t that take water and detergent?” That’s true, but it’s a tiny, tiny fraction of the resources and pollution needed to create a new disposable.

Replacing single use items with reusables removes a lot of the pollution, toxins, and waste from our environment. It’s not as visible to those of us living in first-world economies. It’s huge for the workers and residents of third-world economies. Third world cotton production is a good example. Cheap cotton uses the largest dose of pesticides of any crop in the world. The pesticides themselves are the longest-lasting ones known to man. They result is massive health problems for the labor force, much of which is is child labor, as the water supply is used up (cotton is really thirsty) and/or poisoned. I don’t know how to make people quit producing disposables. However, I can play a role by inventing better reusables and by inventing those things, I can maybe reduce the demand for extremely cheap, pesticide-doused cotton that sickens child workers.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1. Ignore the overnight success stories. We hear so much about the brands and the people who achieve success in a year or two that it’s easy to think you’re a failure if it doesn’t work that way for you. Even worse, you might imitate them, which rarely goes well.

2. Take a stab at every area of your business at some point. There should not be a single function that you have not tried to do yourself, including working on your website. Unless you know how it works, you can’t choose the right team members.

3. Don’t look at interns as being the answer to your labor problem. Look at interns as an outlet for giving back by helping someone else’s career.

4. Look for employees and contractors that challenge you, but who you can trust. Beware people contractors who make you feel dumb or less cool than they are. Trustworthy people don’t use manipulation to get work.

5. Understand the IP issues. I actually DID get this advice and I followed it, but I see so many people making big mistakes around this. Talk to a trademark attorney about what names, logos, and slogans you might want to protect. Find out if you need a patent. If you’re working with a lab, be clear on whether they own the formula or you do. These issues HAVE to be understood upfront. It cannot wait until later, when you think you’ll have more money.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

The environment is the issue that seems like the biggest emergency. So that’s where I put most of my effort. Of course, veganism is related — I think the environmental aspect of veganism is really compelling. The angle I focus on is the human affinity for stuff. We like to buy stuff, look at stuff, touch stuff, and use stuff. Of course, all that stuff is part of the problem with the planet — we make too much. It seems unrealistic to expect people to quit wanting new things. Maybe we can consume less, but we’re still going to want to find and consume things. It seems like the only hope we have of healing the planet is inventing new products that cause less harm, that reduce our consumption of other resources, that require less packaging, or that last longer than the old stuff.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

@takemyfaceoff on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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