Michelle Pfeiffer‘s new direct-to-consumer perfume company, Henry Rose–which launched in April–is bringing groundbreaking transparency to a stubbornly opaque industry. Henry Rose offers customers the full ingredient list for each of its inaugural five scents, all certified as safe and environmentally sound by nonprofit watchdogs Cradle to Cradle and the Environmental Working Group, where Pfeiffer is a board member.
Fast Company: What inspired these perfumes?
Michelle Pfeiffer: Back when people used to smoke on airplanes and on sets, I lived off a six-pack of Coca-Cola and three packs of Marlboros a day. I quit smoking, and when I became a mom [about 20 years ago], I started to read labels. I stumbled on the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, where you can look up the ingredients of products you are using. When I looked up [products’ fragrances], the hazard level would shoot up. So I stopped wearing perfume. But I started to miss it, and to question whether it was possible to create something [safer] that I loved.
FC: Did you ever consider signing a licensing deal with an existing cosmetics company?
MP: I explored the possibility [around 2010]. In meetings, I would mention things like parabens and phthalates, and ask if we could only use trustworthy ingredients. I got nowhere.
FC: What were the challenges of using such stringently vetted raw materials?
MP: Perfumers typically choose from a palette of 3,000 ingredients. We ended up having to whittle it down to about 250. No one had ever tried to develop a fragrance to meet these standards and achieve the level of quality we were looking for.
FC: As a private person, how do you feel as the face of a company?
MP: I’m now on Instagram. I’m having more fun with it than I expected. But my name and image aren’t anywhere on Henry Rose’s packaging. If the brand is going to succeed, it has to be about more than me.