When Sarah Jean Muncey-Gordon was growing up on South Whidbey, beauty products were hard to come by. That’s all changed with the opening of her new store, Bandbox Beauty Supply, in downtown Langley.
In Bandbox Beauty Supply, customers can find cruelty-free and predominantly vegan cosmetics, fragrances, skin, body and nail care products that are made by brands independently owned by women and BIPOC, which stands for Black, indigenous and people of color. In addition, Muncey-Gordon is intentional about carrying brands that don’t contain any harmful chemicals that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects.
“These brands adhere to the European Union’s standard of chemical safety in cosmetics and skincare,” she said. “So they don’t have lead or talc or parabens or some of the stuff we’ve more recently discovered are carcinogens.”
Legally, a small amount of lead is allowed in U.S. cosmetics. The FDA has issued guidance to the beauty industry on limiting lead as an impurity in cosmetic lip products and externally applied cosmetics to a maximum of 10 ppm.
“I know women who wear makeup every day of their lives and reapply multiple times a day,” Muncey-Gordon said. “So if they’re going through a tube a month, what percent of lead is that, and does it stay in the body? What percent of lead is okay for a pregnant woman to use in her lipstick? When you start asking questions like that, it’s zero percent.”
The indie brands she’s chosen to support in her store, she added, are owned by women who understand that struggle and are working to create a safer, healthier beauty industry.
A licensed cosmetologist, Muncey-Gordon realized she needed to shift her career when she experienced firsthand what it was like to become allergic to the products she worked with.
“That was definitely a big catalyst,” she said. “I’d always been into the beauty industry and been one of those makeup girls, but having that experience and having to really crack down on what was in my own home made me realize how surrounded by chemicals we are at all times.”
While she emphasized that not all chemicals are bad and some have definite medicinal uses, an ingredient like petroleum jelly is a byproduct of the oil industry. The lip jellies she sells in her store do not contain it.
Walking around Bandbox Beauty Supply, one of the first things that jumps out is the reasonable prices, which are not always found at large chain stores.
“If you’re a 16-year-old who wants to use a foundation that doesn’t have sketchy ingredients in it, is it ethical to charge people such a high amount for safer products? And I always felt like no, everyone should have access to products that don’t contain carcinogens,” Muncey-Gordon said. “And so it’s super important to keep that price point low because you shouldn’t get priced out of safe makeup.”
Bandbox Beauty Supply is Muncey-Gordon’s first retail business and the culmination of a dream she’s had for several years now.
“From growing up here, it was something that had been a struggle through middle school, high school, early adulthood, just not having access to stuff like this and being too broke to take the ferry to go over to a big makeup store,” she said.
The store is currently the only – and possibly the first ever – independently owned beauty supply store on Whidbey Island.
“People keep saying, ‘Oh, there’s a boom in the beauty industry right now’ and it’s like, when has there not been?” she said. “When have we not been obsessed with it?”
Not everyone understood her vision. Muncey-Gordon found the scarcity of available commercial rental space in Langley to be a challenge.
“I had trouble with a lot of the landlords and storefront owners being men and not fully understanding the concept of a beauty supply (store) and not understanding how lucrative the beauty industry is, and they were nervous about the idea of it,” she said.
Luckily, the stars aligned and a team of women came together to find her a spot on Anthes Avenue. The name of Muncey-Gordon’s store is an homage to her namesake and grandmother, who likes to say, “You look like you just came fresh out of a bandbox” whenever someone looks their best.
“I decided when I was 8 years old that I was gonna get into the beauty industry,” Muncey-Gordon said, adding that she’s always had support from the women in her family to pursue her aspirations of opening her own business.
About half of the products in her store are imported, and the other half are made in the U.S. A perfume line made by a woman in Friday Harbor is a top seller. One of the brands, BITCHSTIX, donates 100% of its net proceeds to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“While the name can be a bit jarring at first ‘cause it’s not the most safe for work name, it’s all about taking ownership back of a word that was used against us for so long as women,” Muncey-Gordon said.
Above all, she hopes her new store will become a source for women to make connections and feel comfortable.
Bandbox Beauty Supply is located at 225 Anthes Avenue, Suite 102A in Langley and is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except for Tuesday.
Visit the store’s Facebook page or Instagram @bandboxbeauty for updates.