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Through a traditional lens, it could be said that starting a business and creating an extensive line of beauty products soon after becoming a new mother would not be top-of-mind for a lot of young women, especially those with more than one child at home. However, being hyperaware of everything she applied to her children’s skin and scalps was exactly what started Alicia Sharp‘s entrepreneurial journey.

“I deep-dove into ingredients, had a list of absolutely ‘nevers’ and ones to avoid, but also being a millennial meant that I was conscious of our personal household waste and our carbon footprint,” Sharp said. “After searching high and low, I couldn’t find a product that I felt safe using on my kids that was also free of plastic waste.”

On top of her concern over potentially harmful substances breaching the delicate skin of her little ones, Sharp became worried about the impact they could have on their environment, especially the toxins and waxes found in everyday necessities like shampoo and conditioner. Then, Upfront Cosmetics was born.

Upfront Cosmetics shampoo and conditioner bars

Since 2019, Sharp has been creating nutrient-rich hair care products without the plastic, helping consumers form healthier shower habits and minimize their ecological impact with every shampoo and conditioner bar purchased. She’s also the recent recipient of a 2020 Beauty Innovation Award for her vegan, sulphate, paraben, and cruelty-free products made with only eco-certified preservatives in Fredericton, N.B..
In the last year, Upfront has also become a One Per Cent for the Planet member and started planting a tree for every order placed. Today, Sharp continues to diversify her product offerings to include a piece of cheeky wearable merchandise that reads “f*ck plastic* across the front and a collection of root-saving hair masques that make the perfect Christmas gift.
To say that Sharp has had short-term success would be an understatement. She’s doing more than supplying Canadians and people around the world with the tools to complete their clean beauty rituals; she’s helping save the planet one shampoo and conditioner bar at a time. Here, STYLE Canada‘s Digital Editor Anastasia Barbuzzi chats with Sharp about her ambition, her mission, her products, and more.

Photo: Alicia Sharp of Upfront Cosmetics

AB: Reducing packaging waste is a big part of Upfront’s mission. To date, your company has diverted 53,670 plastic bottles from oceans and landfills. Why is this such an integral part of your approach? 

AS: Showing customers how impactful their switch to shampoo bars is, is an important part of what we do. By giving it a number, people can see how their choice has an impact.

AB: Your website states that each Upfront shampoo/conditioner bar replaces up to three bottles of packaged alternatives. Can you explain how that’s done?

AS: Each bar replaces up to three bottles of liquid shampoo or conditioner, diverting people from buying the plastic counterpart. When you pick our bars up in store, they come in a recyclable box unlike many shampoo bars. Not only does it protect the bar from damage, its allows each and every customer to make their own informed decisions about the ingredients and have quick access to the ingredients if they ever need them. Legally, all cosmetics need to come with ingredients lists.

Upfront Cosmetics’ baby and kid-friendly Kind shampoo and conditioner duo

AB: Your collection of conditioner bars are unique to your line – they’re generally hard to find and most lack the creamy, hydrating effect that conventional conditioners have since they suds-up like soap. Can you explain how they work? 

AS: Typically conditioner bars are soap with lots of butter and fatty oils. We formulate the exact same salon-quality conditioner, just without the water. While there may be a small learning curve (as with everything plastic-free), the bars are fairly simple. You take the bars, wet them with warm water, and pull through your hair. Once you can run your fingers through your hair semi-easily, you have applied enough. They rinse out just the same as a regular conditioner.

AB: You once told Authority Magazine that “Beauty doesn’t come in the products we use; it’s rather how we think about ourselves”. Can you explain this theory? 

AS: Beauty is all about how we think about ourselves. As a company, we don’t want our consumers to think they need to buy our products to feel beautiful, contrary to many beauty companies. We empower our consumers to live eco-friendly lifestyles.

Shop Canadian-made Upfront Cosmetics today. 

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