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Painting my nails has always been a therapeutic and relaxing ritual. There's something so calming about focussing on slow and steady brush strokes, and it reminds me of being a little girl in love with the magic of endless options of nail colours.

In my early twenties, I was a serial acrylic-lover, and I'd subject my hands to harsh chemicals and toxins once a month, every month, changing my nail colour with the trends. In my mid-twenties, when I really started my sustainability journey, I had a rude information awakening, and I went chemical-cold-turkey and nails-no-more. Just like our skin, our nails absorb everything they come into contact with, and I couldn't knowingly use 'the deadly five' any longer.

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and camphor are five of the most common ingredients in nail polish, but they're also deadly toxins, harsh chemicals and known carcinogens. 

DBP is a particularly nasty chemical, and it's used in nail polish to minimise chipping and extend the life of your preened paws, but it's also classified by the Australian Government's Department of Health as an 'endocrine disruptor'. It impairs hormonal development of male foetuses, causes organ damage and contributes to early-onset menopause. It's a risk to the human reproductive system, and certainly not something we should be putting on our precious nails.

DBP is one of the many chemicals that Danielle Egan refuses to use in her nail polish range, and rightfully so. Sienna's polishes are free from toxins, animal products and micro-plastics, and they're also gender-inclusive, water permeable and Wudu-friendly, making them suitable for people of Muslim faith. They're made in Australia with 100% recyclable packaging, and even Sienna's signature caps are handcrafted from a non-native weed wood to keep local rainforest areas free from pest species and allow native revegetation to flourish in its place.

When it comes to sustainable and safe beauty, Sienna polishes truly do make a positive environmental and social impact with every little bottle. Danielle stepped away from her colourful cauldron recently to share a little more about her ethical and sustainable values, and her love of clean beauty...  

When did Sienna become your primary focus?
I don't know if I can pinpoint one moment, but I have been working on Sienna full-time since the beginning. As other people who have launched businesses know, you start out doing everything yourself! For the people who don't know me and the Sienna story, the first bottles were made in my lounge room at home. I launched 13 colours at the local Byron Bay markets and it was so well received, and I have just been working on it since then. We've come such a long way, we're selling around Australia and internationally, employing a great group of people, and we reached a big milestone last year by becoming BCorp Certified. If you had told me five years ago that all this would happen, I wouldn't have believed you! 

Your entire range is non-toxic, cruelty-free and recyclable. Where does 'inclusivity' come into the mix, and why were you passionate about making your polishes accessible for everyone?
With inclusivity, it's just the right thing to do. It's really that simple. If we look around our community, it is diverse, so it makes sense that we reflect the people we see around us. To a certain extent, reflecting a diverse community is still being talked about as though it's 'ground-breaking' or a 'trend', which feels reductive. It should just be normal. Change is coming, I hope! We're going to keep at it as well; beauty should be for everyone, and we don't want anyone to feel left behind.

Many beauty brands still test their products on animals. What are your thoughts about well-known brands using such archaic testing methods?
I can't speak for other brands, but for us, being cruelty-free is core to our ethical foundations, and we will never compromise on this. Science has come a long way and, in the community, there is an expectation that beauty brands don't test on animals. Hopefully all the work being done on this internationally is going to cut through and animal testing will become a thing of the past. It can't come soon enough.

What challenges did you face launching against cheaper corporate competitors?
To be honest, it hasn't been an issue for us. We've been really lucky to launch Sienna in an area that values sustainability and ethical products. It's very much in the DNA of the Byron Bay community to support local businesses that are doing the right thing by people and the planet, and it turns out a lot of people feel this way. We have great customers from all over the world who come to us because they share our values. We're transparent, and we're clear on what we do. I think overall, a lot of people are changing the way they shop as they become more conscious of the environment. 

You've created a close-knit team of women who support each other. Why was this such an important part of growing your business?
I wanted to create a work environment where women could play to their strengths and feel valued, which I think is something we all want in our workplace. Our values are grounded in being compassionate to people and planet, so of course, we extend that to our staff. We're flexible, which I know the mums on our team really appreciate, and if our staff need anything, we are here for them. In return, we have a loyal, committed team who work well together, and everyone wins. 

You collaborated with Rafiki Mwema recently on a gorgeous new shade, and 100% of the profits go to charity. What inspired this collaboration?
We just want to give back, basically. We do want to keep up our commitment to support charities that resonate with us. As well as Rafiki Mwema, we have also collaborated with the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation and Future Dreamers. We have a new collaboration with Rafiki Mwema in the works, so keep an eye out for that one!

The global beauty sector generates over 142 billion units of plastic packaging every year, most of which ends up in landfill or the ocean. How does Sienna conquer plastic waste issues?
The stats are quite shocking, aren't they? I wanted Sienna to be a completely ethical product from the get-go in terms of packaging, production and ingredients. We use a local pest timber to make our signature wooden capped bottles in place of plastic, our packaging is 100% recyclable and we run a recycling program for our bottles in-house for our customers. We have a commitment to low carbon production and supply chain traceability to make sure all the raw ingredients are ethically and sustainably sourced too. Sienna is also glitter-free (a micro-plastic commonly forgotten about). There is just so much 'stuff' in the world; it was essential for me to make something that wasn't there to make a quick dollar and then end up in landfill.

What's your favourite Sienna colour?
Oh that's a tough one, it changes every day! At the moment I'm loving soft pinks like Serenity or Reverie from our Spring collection. I think that might be why I love the ombre nails look so much; I can wear a different colour on every nail!

Support sustainable beauty and switch to Sienna Byron Bay polish via siennabyronbay.com.au. I'm sporting the latest summer shades, Kiss and Sweetheart.

The Fashion Advocate x

The Fashion Advocate Sienna Byron Bay Toxin Free Nail polish

The Fashion Advocate Sienna Byron Bay Toxin Free Nail polish made in Australia clean beauty

The Fashion Advocate Sienna Byron Bay Toxin Free Nail polish made in Australia clean beauty

The Fashion Advocate Sienna Byron Bay Toxin Free Nail polish made in Australia clean beauty

The Fashion Advocate Sienna Byron Bay Toxin Free Nail polish made in Australia clean beauty

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