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by Tess Finkle, Founder of Y Cosmetics 

I always request “drag queen eyes” when I am afforded the opportunity to sit in a Pro’s makeup artist’s chair. Drag queen eyes - at least, in my book - means a few extra...rows...of lashes, a wing big enough to land a trans-continental aircraft at LAX and blended for the Gods.

Makeup is meant to make you feel your best, right?

For the last 17+ years I have worked in media relations, and the last 5-ish of those 17+ have been spent behind the scenes of global beauty brands, creators and festivals. I guess like any coin, it’s 2-sided. I see the beauty industry as a powerful catalyst for overdue conversations about social justice. Inclusive skin tones and visibility, beauty boys, gender fluidity, body positivity, etc - they have all made their rightful ways to the forefront of mainstream consciousness by way of the beauty industry. That part is dope.

The other side of the coin - the one that was so alarming to me that I decided to sell my house to start Y Cosmetics to challenge it - is this vortex of stunting messages that are physically on the products themselves. The idea of “sex sells” continues to plague the beauty industry. And look, by no means am I prude. Just ask my NYC doorman from 2007 to 2009...but the beauty industry has found its core audience to be younger than ever before, a fact that we can likely credit to the rise of social media. There are so many outlets for young girls to consume beauty related content, and even more influencers in this space to follow.

I created Y Cosmetics for 2 reasons.

The first is to bring balance to the makeup bag. I am not saying we need to completely abandon products that some people may categorize as “fun” and “sex-positive”. There is a conversation to be had there and I am open to the idea of some beauty enthusiasts of age seeing these provocative brands as additive to the experience of makeup. Okay, fine. That said, shouldn’t there be an alternative? I am not here to be a buzzkill for anyone (!), but there is a connection between the messages industries like media and makeup fed to young girls, and how they see themselves as adults. I have worked in this space more than half of my life, I say this with authority.

The second reason is because the word “Why” is a compass. This isn’t to say that we - those who enjoy makeup are lost. Not at all, but if you can ask yourself “Why,” and answer honestly, you will find yourself on the other side of a block most times. Example, why aren’t there more women in power? Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a single, concise answer for that one? There isn’t. But there is room for a larger conversation to take place around it, with the goal of resolve. What better place than a makeup bag to pull back from empty, and sometimes hurtful messages, and refocus and rallying everyone with a makeup bag around something more meaningful. At its core, makeup is more than a product, it’s a billboard to say something of value to the person holding it. What happens when we start to prioritize empowering ourselves and uniting around important messages as daily as our makeup routine?

Y Cosmetics launched with Whyshadows, our super pigmented, pressed eyeshadows that each have a question printed on the mirror inside the compact. Each question starts with “Why” - like, Why are women paid less than men? Why is it hard for women to support each other? Why do you question your ability to lead? I have seen young girls open their compacts and answer the question on the mirror. It’s sobering to see a girl as young as 9 years old be able to articulate her fear of failure and why this keeps her away from any opportunity to lead. “I am scared to let people down”. The Whyshadows are for all ages, but of course kids will be the most truthful.

Our second product - a little lighter in spirit - is our Why Eye: Love You collection of liquid eyeshadows and eyeliner. They are all-inclusive colors that feature shade names that aren’t shady. Like I am Worthy, I am Loved, I am Everything. I am Passionate. And such. There is room for more affirmations in life and certainly the makeup bag. What happens when someone puts on “I am Worthy” every day?

And honestly, I am not some fully realized person that is overflowing with self-love or that friend in my circle that is a source of light for everyone. I am a messy human that openly battles with feeling vulnerable and being able to experience happiness beyond spurts here and there. How do we change this? Not to undermine its goal of Y Cosmetics being a respectable brand and business, but I suppose it is also part social experiment. We are a model for Responsible Beauty, a new category in beauty. It goes beyond clean, vegan and cruelty-free. We are these things, which at this point is to be expected. Responsible Beauty is about being hyper-mindful of the message of your product and how it impacts the spiritual and mental health of the person using it.


Makeup has you in front of the mirror, self reflecting and expressing yourself. Why not take it a step further?


Check out the Y Cosmetics products on their website