How Annie Lawless’s Autoimmune Disease Led Her to Create a Wellness Empire

Photo: Annie Lawless

If you're not a wellness guru, it typically takes trial and error—and plenty of time—to figure out just how influential your diet is to your overall wellness (AKA everything from your skin to your energy levels). Annie Lawless, on the other hand, found the connection quickly after being diagnosed with celiac disease.

While those afflicted with an autoimmune condition have to learn specific lessons about health—for their own sake—Lawless wanted to spread the good word. The California native became a certified holistic health coach, co-founded the cold-pressed, organic juice company Suja Juice, made a pit stop as a yoga instructor, then—most recently—discovered her calling in the beauty business.

Since being ranked on Forbes' 30 under 30 list in 2016 for Suja (which was then valued at over 300 million dollars), Lawless left the brand to launch a makeup company. The eponymous line Lawless also embraces her holistic lifestyle, while offering non-toxic, pigment-rich cosmetics in sleek packaging.

Clearly, all this brilliant hustling has led to a comprehensive knowledge of being a badass #bossbabe. Below, Lawless explains how she turned a personal affliction into a passionate career.

Keep reading for intel on Lawless's light bulb moment—and how that initiated a career pivot that she hopes will transform the cosmetics industry.

What got you into the wellness industry?

As a child, I suffered from chronic eczema due to celiac disease. When I changed my diet, my eczema cleared up, and it was a huge light bulb moment for me that what goes into our bodies affects how we look and feel. I became so passionate about health and grew to understand how our bodies reacts to the chemicals in our food and personal care products that ultimately end up in our blood and tissues.

What was the biggest lesson you learned while helping run Suja Juice?

I learned that doing what you're passionate about ultimately leads to success because there's an authenticity and dedication behind your brand and your products.

What led you to start a cosmetics brand?

Beauty has always been another big love of mine. Because I live such a clean lifestyle, I really wanted to clean up my makeup bag. I spent thousands of dollars trying every so-called "natural” makeup brand I could find....Nothing was close enough to the conventional makeup I was used to, so I wasn't eager to switch to a natural makeup routine.

"I then realized that if I feel this way, there must be many other women who [felt the same]."

I then realized that if I feel this way, there must be many other women who want to use natural products and also feel disappointed by the efficacy and performance of natural makeup on the market. I decided to take matters into my own hands and create something I actually wanted to use with only safe, naturally derived ingredients. I stepped away from Suja in 2015 ready to pour my heart into something new.

What are some struggles you've felt along the way and how did you deal with them?

Learning a whole new business is always a big undertaking. I had no experience working with labs, formulators, and manufacturing of natural cosmetics. Putting together packaging, artwork, and marketing to an audience I'm less familiar with in the beauty space was a learning curve. But if you set your mind to something and ask lots of questions while remaining open to learning, it can be very fun and rewarding. There's nothing better than making it over the hurdles and coming out the other side with your product in people’s hands. It makes all of the stress and late nights worth it.

What's your best advice for career women?

You can literally do anything you want to do—there are no boundaries. If you have passion for what you're doing, you can make anything become a reality. Having confidence in yourself and your decisions and trusting your inner voice are hugely important in keeping your resolve to push forward when the going gets tough. Never give up and keep putting one foot in front of the other every single day, and you'll reach your goals.

What are you the most proud of with your career?

There have been some milestones like Forbes 30 Under 30, penning a New York Times best seller, and winning certain recognitions and awards that have made me feel very proud. But ultimately, the thing that makes me feel the most proud is what I’ve accomplished as a whole at my age.

"It can be really daunting as a young woman to put yourself out there and keep pushing when things are hard."

It can be really daunting as a young woman to put yourself out there and keep pushing when things are hard. I doubt myself like everyone else at times, but I’m really proud of myself for overcoming my own anxieties, doubts, and worries, and going after my goals over and over again. I have definitely failed at things in life, and things aren’t always easy, but resolving to achieve what I’ve set out to do and remain in touch with my passion for it has been the most rewarding.

annie lawless career advice
Photo: Annie Lawless

What are your future goals with your ventures?

I plan to grow Lawless into a full makeup line and hope to change the face of natural makeup and the way it's perceived in the beauty industry. It doesn’t have to feel granola and earthy. I want to show women natural makeup can be just as good as conventional makeup in beautiful, luxurious packaging without harming your health.

For more career badassery, read why being crazy vulnerable helped IT Cosmetics founder catapult her business. And this is how Lisa Price of Carol's Daughter reminds herself she's the boss...even when she doesn't feel like it. 

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