Ilia’s Sasha Plavsic on the Realities of Clean Beauty

The founder of everyone’s favorite makeup line goes deep on sustainability, her favorite NuFace hack, and the brow products she swears by.

by Eleonore Condo

The founder of Ilia, Sasha Plavsic
Sasha Plavsic. Courtesy of Ilia Beauty.

Everyone loves Ilia. Peruse past editions of this column and you’ll consistently see their products getting a shout-out. Sidia founder Erin Kleinberg and Body Stone creator Kate McLeod love their eyeshadow palettes; Wonder Valley’s Alison Carroll swears by their mascara. When the brand gets brought up in a W digital meeting, heads in every Zoom square nod knowingly. My friends love Ilia, my mom, my sister, I love Ilia—the contemporary makeup bag is no longer complete without something from their clean, effective line. In an effort to understand the brains behind the operation, I reached out to Sasha Plavsic, Ilia’s founder, to talk about the brand’s sustainability efforts, the demanding beauty routines of children, and the magnificence of Cher.

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How do you like to start your day? Describe your morning routine.

Well, I think there’s the question of, how do you like to start your day versus how do you have to start your day? I have two kids, a three-year-old and an eight-year-old, so I have to start my day by making sure they get ready for school. Their beauty routine comes first: I make sure that their hair is dry and that their skin is moisturized. I use Nécessaire on them. Then, if I feel motivated, I’ll exercise. I’ll find something online like Sculpt Society or use my Peloton. I’ll shower and use my Dyson Air Wrap, which makes my hair look really amazing, better than any blow-out, in like ten minutes. I cannot believe how much that product changed my life. Then I use NuFace—the trick with NuFace is you need moisture on your skin and you need to be consistent. So I will use Vintner’s Daughter oil and then put NuFace gel over the oil, then I use Biossance’s Squalane + Hyaluronic Mist. That’s on the days when there’s time, and it feels ritualistic and kind of special. I really am very simple in my skincare, but I like effective products and makeup, too. It’s the same with the way we make our own products: they’re really pragmatic and they have to be effective.

What do you do, make-up-wise?

Our Super Serum Skin Tint, a little bit of our Serum Concealer. I mix brow products—I use some from Hourglass, Charlotte Tilbury. Brows are important, I’m really tempted to try a tint. I use our Limitless Lash Mascara and our Multi-Stick. We just launched new Multi Sticks and there’s a shade called “In the City” which is a beautiful bronze shade. I used that this morning for a little bit of color. Then I’ll use one of our highlighting products. I think everyone wants the look of fresh, hydrated skin. They don’t necessarily want to look dewy, but they want fresh, plump, and natural.

Why is clean beauty important?

It’s interesting, the phrase “clean beauty” is very popular now in the U.S. and it had a hard time gaining traction a few years ago. I don't know if it's the right word for the category. Europe doesn't like it. They're not into the word “clean” because they think “clean” should mean completely natural, and clean beauty is not natural. To me, clean beauty is where the best of natural and, usually safe, synthetics collide. They come together in a very thoughtful way. So, a better word for clean beauty is thoughtful beauty. That doesn't just mean in ingredients, that doesn’t just mean in packaging, it’s also about the bigger initiative. How are they looking to make an impact outside of the brand? Sustainability is something many brands are starting to look at. I think some of them are starting to look at it because it's a trend and that's great, and some of them are looking at it because they see it as the only way to change what is happening in the world. I think that the clean movement, whether it's in food, beauty, or fashion is very important to the world because little by little becomes a lot.

Little by little, I like that.

That’s one of our sayings at Ilia.

I wanted to ask you about your work with 1% for the Planet and Pact Collective, both of which embody the mission that phrase communicates.

Yeah. Well, I don’t really believe in the terms “net-zero emissions” or “carbon neutral.” I think that’s really tough if you’re any brand and you’re producing goods. There are all these pieces and all these parts and at the end of the day, the majority of them are going to end up in the landfill. So I think, how can we make it better? With Pact Collective, people mail in empty beauty products and they break them down responsibly. 1% for the Planet is a reforestation initiative. The easiest way to start reversing the effects of climate change is to reforest. It’s not political, it’s physical. It’s immediate gratification, and it helps to rebuild communities in a positive way. Last year we planted trees in Northern Brazil and Ecuador, and this year we are focusing on one area in Peru where over the course of the year we’ll plant a total of a million trees.

How do you wind down at the end of the day?

For most moms who are working, it’s mayhem from five to eight o’clock. You have to get the kids fed and bathed, you have to get everything organized and try to get them to bed on time so you can have a bit of bonus time for you and your partner or just yourself. I know they say, “Get off the computer,” but sometimes for the first hour, I will either watch something with my husband or just aimlessly scroll. Or put things in a shopping cart and abandon it, just to feel like I did something for myself. And then I usually read for a little bit—I love Elle Decor from the UK. If I do that, I have a much better sleep. They say if you read even for 10 minutes before you go to bed, it will improve your REM sleep.

Do you have any beauty icons?


Cher’s pretty magnificent.

She’s magnificent. She took risks. She was doing sheer, open skin. She was the first, I think, to bare her belly button in public. She was a natural beauty and a very strong woman who championed individuality and eccentricities that were probably not as openly accepted back then. I see her as somebody who really embraced her own beauty and let that shine.

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