Meet the Mother and Child Advocate
It was pregnancy that took beauty executive Annette Rubin’s career in a whole new direction. While carrying her son Jackson, the president of ABT Belli recognized a gap in the beauty industry – there were no medically sound products that specifically addressed the skin care concerns of pregnant women. Collaborating with her husband Jason, a board-certified family practitioner, Annette launched the Belli Pregnancy collection in 2002. The line is formulated with ingredients that the couple determined safe for baby and mother – ingredients selected after ongoing extensive review of the medical literature. Next, it was parenting that inspired Annette and Jason. In 2006 they introduced the Belli Motherhood collection, developed with the goal of avoiding ingredients linked to harmful effects of breastfeeding. And that same year, they introduced Belli Baby, featuring only the purest ingredients for delicate young skin and no xenoestrogens. For more details on the Belli story, please read on.
What is the product development philosophy behind Belli Motherhood? When was it launched?
We launched Belli Motherhood in 2006. Prior to that, our clients told us that they loved and trusted Belli during their pregnancy but their skin care concerns didn’t stop the moment they gave birth. Now they were facing new issues such as slackened skin, stretchmarks, C-section scars and fatigue—which we all know appears around the eye area first. In response, we created a collection of targeted skincare solutions with higher safety standards and ingredients selected for optimal results.
What were some of your major concerns that lead to the development of Belli Baby?
The personal care market for baby was saturated with products that all claimed to be “safe.” However, when we looked at the ingredient decks they all contained one or more xenoestrogens—chemicals that can mimic the effect of estrogen on the body. Though the debate continues, many experts feel that these ingredients are responsible for the early onset of menses in young females, and are associated with abnormal sperm formation and breast enlargement in young males. People are often surprised to learn how many xenoestrogens are found in personal care products—phthalates, paraben preservatives, clear sunscreen ingredients, bisphenol (BPA), and even natural ingredients such as lavender. Though most adult women handle these ingredients without problems, we felt it was best to avoid them in products intended for children. This was the prime motivator behind the creation of Belli Baby, which also launched in 2006.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I have been in the beauty business for over 20 years. When I was fourteen I needed a summer job (my mom was not supporting my designer denim habit) so I answered a classified ad in the local paper to be an Avon Representative. On Saturdays I would visit women at my local senior living home and loved talking with them about lipstick, skincare and fragrance. I supported myself in college by working behind a Clinique counter and then rose through the ranks as a counter manager, account coordinator and later an account executive. In between account coordinator and account executive, I spent a year as an assistant buyer in men’s fragrance for Famous Barr and LS Ayres. In 2002, my husband and I launched Belli. The venture allowed me to develop new products, work with top notch chemists and physicians, source packaging, work with designers to develop brand graphics and marketing materials, hire and train a sales force, create distribution and retail strategies, establish international markets, and find the right investors to fund the vision.
Please describe the LACT-MED database screening process you used in developing the Belli Motherhood products.
We knew that many of our Belli Motherhood customers were still nursing and we wanted a way to offer them a higher ingredient safety standard during this special time of life. Our searches led us to the Lact-Med database. Maintained by the National Library of Medicine, this database offers access to medical research on the safety of various chemicals and ingredients during breastfeeding. Our Lact-Med screening prompted us to avoid salicylic acid and caffeine in our Motherhood products, for example, because of links to metabolic acidosis and sleep disturbances in the newborn.
What is Belli’s exclusive teratology screening process?
The average woman puts over 200 ingredients on her skin each day as part of her normal routine. Small amounts of these ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream where they easily pass into the fetal circulation, yet the FDA has no particular guidelines for safety during pregnancy.
Belli’s teratology screening process offers a higher safety standard for women who want to be more cautious with their bodies while they are expecting. We perform ongoing searches of the world’s published medical research and avoid ingredients with even questionable links to birth defects, miscarriage, or other harmful effects during pregnancy. Our products have earned the recommendations of OB-Gyn physicians around the world.
What do you feel are some key ingredients/products that expecting mothers should avoid?
Vitamin A and its derivatives (retinol, retinoic acid, Retin-A, tretinoin, accutane, isotretinoin) are linked in human studies to neural crest defects and in animal studies to increased fetal death, craniofacial malformations, and cardiac malformations.
Salicylic acid is linked to higher rates of fetal malformation and fetal death in animal studies.
Oxybenzone, a chemical sunscreen ingredient, is linked to reduced numbers of live births in animal studies. It also may have harmful estrogenic effects.
Glycolic acid, a chemical exfoliant commonly found in facial peels, is linked in animal studies to increased rates of vertebral and rib malformations, decreased fetal weight, and other skeletal malformations.
Benzoyl peroxide, a common ingredient in many over-the-counter acne remedies, is linked to abnormal reproductive system formation in human studies.
Aloe vera, an organic botanical ingredient known for its wound healing and anti-irritant effects, is linked to increased frequencies of embryonic death and skeletal anomalies in animal studies.
Rosemary, an organic herbal ingredient known for its anti-oxidant effect, is linked to increased fetal death in animal studies.
What’s in your bag ?
I am a true beauty junkie and have a mixed bag of new products mixed with old trusted favorites. I’ve recently discovered MyChelleDermaceuticals at Whole Foods and have fallen in love with their Pumpkin Renew Cream. I use it right after washing with Belli’s Acne Cleansing Facial Wash (I wash with the Clarisonic). You’ll also find in my bag a Clé de Peau concealer (that I’m using a Q-tip to get every last bit of color out of it before purchasing a replacement), Smashbox halo powder, Paula Dorf lip pencils, a whole mess of lip glosses, Clinique Liquid Eyeliner in both muted brown and black, and Edward Bess All Over Seduction cream (I should clarify—this is a light weight cream bronzer). I have L‘Oréal, Dior and Revlon mascaras. You may find some Latisse in the near future but I have to do my homework on it first. Last but not least is Belli’s Eye Brightening Cream. It creates the illusion that I’m well rested and right now nothing could be further from the truth.
What’s your favorite bag?
Right now I seem to carry my Gucci Icon Bit Large Tote the most. It was a gift to me from my boys and it’s big enough to double as a work bag and diaper bag. I have a 17 month old so along with the cell phone and lap top you’ll find tonka trucks, pacifiers, board books and the occasional stray Cheerio.