Just 16% of venture-funded companies worldwide have at least one female founder. That’s why it’s so important to support not only female-run companies but also businesses that champion the rights of women everywhere. In this series, Vote With Your Wallet, we—along with our sister sites Who What Wear and MyDomaine—curate shopping guides featuring women-owned, women-led businesses that support female causes. It’s time to make your money do more.
Original Illustration by Haobin Ye
It's no secret women have been shut out of board meetings and high-powered offices for decades—that we've been treated as second-class citizens not only in the workplace but also by companies selling us our products, dressing them up in pink in order to better appeal to those who identify as female. Frankly, we've had enough. And it seems the rest of the country has too. Female empowerment and advocates for women's rights are louder and even more motivated to change things up. That's why we'd like to shine a light on the women making a huge splash in this industry, the one we hold so close to our hearts (and faces).
We rounded up a ton of companies founded, run, and operated by women and for women. They all support organizations on the forefront of the fight for equality, whether it be for female assault survivors, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, sustainability, or more. Below, find their stories and a few of our favorite products they make. Purchasing from these companies will better your skin, health, and body, as well as your future.
Throughout her career as a celebrity makeup artist, Munemi Imai landed jobs at magazines such as Vogue and Elle; on ad campaigns for Marc Jacobs, Altuzarra, Avon, and Shu Uemura; and backstage at the runways in New York, Paris, and Milan. It wasn't until a brief illness motivated her to radically shift her diet that she fully realized the enormous overall impact of the ingredients we put in—and on—our bodies. Soon after, Mūn was born.
Mūn's hero ingredient is prickly pear seed oil, which is sourced in partnership with a union of women’s co-operatives in Morocco (along with the argan and olive oils used in Imai's products). Profits from the co-ops support a social fund that provides tutors who teach the women how to read and write, scholarships for their children to attend college, and a health fund that covers healthcare costs.
"The world doesn't need more lip stuff. It needs the right stuff," Sara Happ, the founder of Sara Happ, Inc., said before launching her first product, The Lip Scrub, in 2005. She spent the next three years coming up with the most indulgent, effective, healing, deeply hydrating balm: The Lip Slip. It launched in 2008 and remains the company's best seller.
Still, Happ advocates for nonprofits including Baby2Baby, where 10% of the proceeds from her Sprinkles Red Velvet Lip Scrub are donated each year, as well as HelpUsAdopt and The Cashmere Foundation (the latter was started by Sara's little sister after battling an eating disorder).
Take My Face Off
After spending hours each week cleaning washcloths and becoming increasingly frustrated with the texture of traditional terry cloth, bamboo, and microfiber rags, Amanda McIntosh decided to give the product an upgrade. For a year, she tested hundreds of fabrics and learned industrial pattern-making and sewing until Take My Face Off's Mitty line of cleansing tools was born.
As she was developing the brand, McIntosh learned more about the sustainability issues in the beauty industry and was troubled by consumers' use of disposables like wipes and cotton balls. And so her mission evolved. She wanted to provide not only softer, more effective cleansing aids but also products so useful that disposables would be left behind. Then, she began donating to The Trevor Project during pride month and regularly donating a portion of proceeds to Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas campaign.
"Urban Decay has always stood for the empowerment of women—from the products we create to the causes we support," the brand writes. In 2015, it launched The Ultraviolet Edge, a global initiative meant to empower women. "By supporting organizations that fight for the rights of women everywhere, we encourage all women to embrace their individuality in everything they do. To us, that's the definition of beauty with an edge."
Because women's rights is a complicated landscape with many worthy causes, Urban Decay decided to pool together the money it raised to support a variety of organizations with missions to help, inspire, and empower women. By 2018, the brand donated over $2 million to women's empowerment nonprofits including Women's Global Empowerment Fund, Her Justice, and Equality Now.
After spending seven years at Sephora in charge of product development for makeup collaborations and accessories, Tiila Abbitt shifted to head of research and development for sustainable materials while also being on the sustainability leadership council for the retailer. Abbitt quickly learned that in the U.S., there are only 11 banned chemicals in color cosmetics while the European Union prohibits over 1300.
As a vegan, Abbitt was always bringing natural, organic alternatives into her everyday and started to look at natural makeup formulation. After realizing the space lacked choice of color and trend, as well as truly sustainable packaging, Āether Beauty was born. Plastic makeup componentry is a huge source of pollution globally, and Abbitt really wanted her brand to be ethically sustainable in everything—beyond just the formulation. So a portion of Āether Beauty product sales goes to environmental charities.
Indigo & Iris
"It is a no brainer for us to leave out the things that are not needed—animal testing and animal ingredients," Bonnie and Hannah, the founders of Indigo & Iris, say. "But to definitely include the goodies, coconut oil, ingredients that ensure your mascara is safe to use near your eyes and keep it perfect all day long, and of course love! We only sell our products online to skip the super-expensive retail markup cost and to provide shipping worldwide." Together, they are passionate about changing the traditional business model by applying modern ideologies that have merit. "Change is life, baby," they say.
Plus, 50% of all Indigo & Iris profits is donated to curing treatable blindness in the Pacific Islands. "Donating 50% of our profit is not a marketing technique, although many people really do love this about Indigo & Iris," the founders explain.
European Wax Center
Because of the pink tax, the average woman pays an extra $1351 every year. Just for being a woman. In a recent study, the Department of Consumer Affairs found that women pay 13% more for personal care products than men and 8% more for healthcare products. To help raise awareness, European Wax Center began a campaign to #AxthePinkTax by making educational videos, doing studies, and offering pink brows at their locations to spread the word over social media.
Moreover, European Wax Center partnered with Girls in Tech, a global nonprofit focused on the engagement, education, and empowerment of women. Today, Girls in Tech aims to "accelerate the growth of innovative women entering into the high-tech industry and building startups."
Lipslut was birthed in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election by a group of "jaded romantics" (their words) in Los Angeles. "We're a middle finger to the current sociopolitical landscape and practices found in the cosmetics industry," the Lipslut website reads. "We pride ourselves on taking action and putting our money where our mouth is. While trends may come and go, we believe questioning the world around us and working towards improving society will always be 'in vogue.'"
Selected by popular vote, the brand launched F*ck Trump Matte Liquid Lipstick in a mid-tone, nude pink, and 50% of all earnings go toward helping a civil rights organization targeted by the Trump administration. "This organization is to be chosen by the people," the brand explains, "as with every lipstick purchased comes an opportunity to vote."
"We're driven by the hope of a cleaner environment and make sure we give back to the planet and those who occupy it," Abhati's founder, Anju Rupal, says. "We don't just operate sustainably and fair trade. We invest in those who work with us. We consider our work to be twofold: We bring an exceptional product range to our clients, and, at the same time, we nurture our farmers, the local population, and the environment by supporting them with education initiatives and reforestation projects. We work tirelessly to find solutions for minimizing waste and using sustainable elements in our marketing."
"We make significant efforts to create and support local trusts and initiatives related to the education of women in rural India," notes Rupal. "We practice Seva which means 'selfless service,' a key element in our business model. Growing up in rural India comes with some challenges; growing up as a girl poses a lot more. Part of our mission is to offer support to young ladies who struggle by spearheading local education programs, making it possible for them to attend school, where none existed before. To date, in collaboration with Educate Girls, we have made it possible for an estimated 120,000 girls to acquire an education."
"We've got you covered with trusted period and sexual health products delivered to your door," reads the Lola website. And it's for real. The company has been dedicated to providing an ever-expanding portfolio of trusted products and candid information for women to make deliberate decisions about their own reproductive health. It's "reproductive care for women, by women."
“If we care about the ingredients in everything from our food to our face cream, why should our feminine care and sexual health products be any different?" the founders, Jordana and Alex, asked themselves before starting the company. The brand offers 100% organic tampons as well as gynecologist-approved sexual health products designed with a woman's needs in mind (and no creepy male-targeted branding).
"Billie is female first," the company writes. Because historically, shaving companies have always been created for men (product-wise, marketing-wise, etc.), which explains why women are still overpaying for razors and "referred to as goddesses for shaving." So Billie was born to give women a great shave (if you choose to remove your body hair at all) and make your daily routine a little better and a little bit more affordable.
The company is strongly against the pink tax and, as such, create razors that are half the price of your usual razors (which is in line with how much men pay for their razors, FYI). Plus, its products are free of toxins and bad additives, and Billie donates 1% of all revenue to women's causes around the world. Currently, it's donating to Every Mother Counts, an organization that is committed to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for women everywhere.
"Senteurs d'Orient's story begins with my mother Hana, whose journey took her from East to East, starting in Tokyo and finding its way to Beirut, Lebanon," Sarah Akkari writes of her mother's road to founding their company, Senteurs d'Orient. Inspired by the bathing rituals of the Far and Middle East, Hana Debs Akkari aimed to create handcrafted soap with treasured flowers, blossoms, and senses for a unique bathing experience.
Then, her daughter, Sarah, joined the company, and it's since been a mother-daughter mission to make great products and give back to women. "We are proudly committed to employ women in every role, while the sale of our products [supports] the education of women in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme," the women write on their website.
"We have spent our lives working with the knowledge that a great lipstick can be a pick-me-up that inspires, whether at work on a factory assembly line or taking center stage as a movie star," writes Kristen Leonard, a beauty-industry vet who founded Beautiful Rights. "The need for inspiration is now more urgent than ever, and we knew that we had something to contribute that both celebrates women and to help stand up for the rights that we have as Americans. We have experienced sexism firsthand in the workplace and in our daily lives, and have been judged based on conventional norms of beauty."
So they're "taking beauty back" and redefining it as an act of resistance and empowerment, open to each individual woman to define for herself—and no one else. As a proud female-created and -owned company, Beautiful Rights donates 20% of sales to an organization of your choice that supports women's rights and gender justice.
Thistle Farms' mission is to heal, empower, and employ women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. Every product is naturally hand-crafted by female survivors and the company even provides safe and supportive housing and a strong community of advocates and partners for every employee.
Plus, Thistle Farms is creating respite kits for families at the boarder between Mexico and the U.S. "These kits, bearing messages of love as well as basic hygiene supplies, will be distributed by The Humanitarian Respite Center to more than 1000 families and individuals who have been released from detention and have entered the asylum process," the company writes on their website.
The Lipstick Lobby
"Wearing this lipstick is a reminder that small actions can create big waves. It's a small thing we can all do right here, right now to create change," the company writes on their website. The Lipstick Lobby's products each support a different cause to help speak up and speak out against the threats to freedoms posed by the Trump administration.
100% of the net profits of Fired Up are donated to The Brady Center to prevent gun violence, while for each lipstick sold (no matter the shade), $5 will be donated to the ACLU with a minimum contribution of $10000, and 100% of net profits from Kiss My Pink will be donated to Planned Parenthood.