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Sheena Yaitanes | Woman Made

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The Violet Files

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With lip color line Kosas, the former painter has created a palette of universally flattering, buildable pigments.

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VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit. Here, we talk to the founder of Kosas, an all-natural lip color line.

“Every item has to achieve three things: look just right, be easy and straightforward in application, and act as skincare.” Easy enough. With this mission statement, Sheena Yaitanes set out to create a beauty line that would make every woman feel like the best version of herself. She envisioned a woman who had something to do and say, and whose life didn’t revolve around her looks.

Yaitanes, who studied biology, chemistry, and art in college, is also a makeup retailer’s dream. She loves products. But, like the rest of us, she spent many hours and many dollars trying to find lipstick with the perfect texture and shade. Finally, she set out to create it herself. In order to develop her finely edited palette, Yaitanes, a painter, used a color-mixing technique favored by master artists. When developing her earthy first four lipsticks, her foremost consideration was the richness involved in skin tone. “Nude is contextual, it is a wall color. Nude for your face can’t be beige or you’ll look dead,” she says. Yaitanes stresses that you need to understand how the body works in order to create for it. (Don’t think for a second that her science degree wasn’t helpful.) She ended up with four expertly handcrafted batches of color.

In October 2015, Yaitanes launched Kosas, a refined line of four lipsticks in elevated neutrals—berries, reds, and nudes. Many fans believe these are the only four shades you will ever need. Rosewater, Undone, Fringe, and Darkroom are meant to flatter all skin tones—and they do! They are also super hydrating, made with botanical oils, and free of parabens and fragrance. The demand for her product was so high, Yaitanes added another four colors: Stardust, Royal, Electra, and Thrillest.

Interestingly, when people ask when her next lip colors are set to debut, she is quick to slow them down. She wants to get away from the commerce model that is beholden to a schedule and inundates people with choices. “We have two reds. One is a bluer red and one is an orange-red—this is meant to be easy. I create a new color only if I feel like something is missing. This brand is an extension of me as a person, and I am anxious when I have too much around me,” she explains. Too many choices isn’t always a good thing.

On that note, she has been focusing on a different part of the face. Soon, Yaitanes will introduce botanically infused pressed blush-highlighter duos that will be available in three universal, trustworthy shades. Music to our ears. Yaitanes’ nearly immediate success was born from her refusal to waver in her approach to modern beauty for the modern girl. She aims to provide easy-to-wear, minimalist offerings that women can put on every day and feel confident in. She describes Kosas as a brand that “at its core, will never make women feel bad first so they will buy products second. I refuse to sell products to people by making them think there’s something wrong with them.” Thank you, Kosas. We could just kiss you!



What is the atmosphere of your bedroom?
Serene, serene, serene. Everything is tonal and neutral and nonstimulating. I won’t even put any interesting art in my room. I don’t want to think when I’m in there. I chose cozy textures for everything. Shearling chairs that I lounge in after showers, squishy carpet that makes you very aware of your feet, linen sheets, and double protection on the windows. Drapery over roman shades so it’s extra dark.

Please describe your bed and your favorite thing about it.
It’s a four-poster traditional-style bed. I love traditional things. It has an upholstered headboard and footboard, which makes me feel extra safe and like my qi isn’t going to fly away. I have a variety of pillows because I never know what my neck is going to need. My husband works out of town a lot, and when he’s gone our dog sleeps on his pillow.

What time do you wake up?
If I’m lucky, I get to sleep until 7:30 a.m. But usually my daughter comes in sometime between 6 and 7 with her stuffed bunnies and they all get in bed with me, and it’s kind of over after that.

How many hours of sleep do you require?
I don’t even know anymore because I still feel like I’m repaying the sleep debt I acquired when I had my daughter! I think eight hours. Definitely not less. I love sleep. LOVE.

Any bedside beauty essentials?
I keep a few different calming crystals by my bed, and I switch them out depending on what I need. Sometimes I wake up and have a hard time falling back to sleep, so I hold a little piece of lepidolite in each hand. It has a high lithium content and works in minutes. I also like to light a vetiver candle before bed. I have one from Maison Louis Marie and one from Lite+Cycle. I think it makes me sleep better, but I don’t know if it’s the vetiver scent or the ritual.


Do you drink coffee or tea, eat breakfast?
I start with a glass of warm water with lemon and Himalayan salt. Then I have one mini French Press coffee. I usually drink Intelligentsia, but I recently tried La Mill and I like that too. I love rich coffee with good body. I always add a decent amount of organic half and half or butter. I need that fat in the morning. I don’t eat breakfast until 11 a.m., and it’s almost always whole yogurt with goji berries. That’s just the time my body is ready for it. Sometimes people will tell me that’s not breakfast, and I say, “Okay, fine, it’s meal number one.”

Do you work out in the a.m.?
I practice yoga twice a week during lunchtime. Of course I love feeling strong and exercising my body, but the real reason I work out is to get out of my head. That time is totally, 100 percent for me.


What is your morning skincare regimen?
I cleanse in the shower with either a Japanese charcoal soap or clay bar soap by Herbivore Botanicals, and I use a mild exfoliant every other day. Right now I’m using one by Tata Harper, and it’s very gentle. I mist my face with something containing rosewater (currently Little Barn Apothecary), let it sink in, moisturize with Crème de la Mer (I just can’t quit it), and then mist again. I have a skinny face and I’m always trying to achieve plumpness, so all that hydration helps.

What makeup and products do you use on a daily basis?
I’m always in some part of the testing phase with my own products, so it’s a mix of Kosas prototypes and other brands that I keep in my makeup bag. I don’t wear makeup every day; maybe twice a week. If I’m going to wear makeup, I take a minute to assess the situation. My face needs something different every day, and I don’t like to make assumptions about what that is. It could be any combination of the following: spot conceal with YSL Touche Éclat, even tone with Jane Iredale BB cream or YSL Fusion Ink foundation, pump up cheek color with powder or cream blush (I alternate depending on the day, the weather, and what my skin needs), highlight with Touche Éclat or a powder, mascara (never black), and lipstick. I rarely add anything to my eyes, but on the rare occasion that I do, I always like the way I look and I tell myself I should do it more often.

I used to skip lipstick pretty frequently, but the older I’ve gotten, the less possible this has become. I find I need at least a little something to look complete. Sometimes I take a second shower at night and cleanse in there again. I really prefer it to bending my head over the sink. I cycle my evening skincare weekly. One day I do hyaluronic acid and an oil blend, and the next day I do retinol. I went through this phase where I stopped using retinol, but I’m glad I’m over that phase. I use it twice a week now. Then the next day I’ll do just oils, but I mix them myself so they vary. Then Biologique Recherche P50 lotion. Maybe a night with just Crème de La Mer. And then repeat.

What’s your hair situation in the a.m.?
I never wash my hair in the morning because it takes forever to dry. I wash it every three days, blow-dry it, and accept whatever it is in the morning. I used to curl my hair and use products, but that went away with motherhood. I don’t mind it, though. I like the casualness and ease. And my hair feels healthier.


What’s the first thing you read each morning?
My husband has been working out of town for the past few months and he’s three hours ahead, plus he gets up at the crack of dawn, so I wake up to a whole bunch of text messages from him. I’ll have the updates of everything he’s been up to, pictures of the places he’s been, and links to articles. That keeps me busy for a while.

What business do you conduct before 10:00 a.m.?
I check email and respond to anything that’s pressing, but I try not to schedule anything until 10 a.m. so I can have my mornings with my daughter before dropping her off at school at 9:30. I get to the office by about 10, and then the day really starts.

What time do you head to your office?
I’m usually in my office by 10 a.m., but I also spend a lot of time developing product in our labs or meeting with stores, so I’m not always there. My days don’t all look the same, and I am really grateful for that. I have done it the other way, too, and I know how lucky I am. I just do whatever the calendar says.