Boss Women of Jersey City: Sara Shah of Journ Beauty
If you’ve ever met Sara Shah in person, it would be hard for you to imagine that she ever struggled with self-confidence. She is the type of woman with immense natural beauty and an incredible personality that radiates everywhere she goes. However, Sara struggled for a large period of her life with cystic acne and the resulting scars. Spending years of her life covering her beautiful face in makeup and products that didn’t compliment her medium skin tone, Sara decided to take matters into her own hands in a way that inspires and uplifts all women, creating her own line of healing makeup products: Journ Beauty. Living in Jersey City, the most diverse city in America, gave her an eclectic canvas to work with and for.
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Embarking on Her Own Journey
While practicing as a lawyer, Sara began to do research on products that would cover her cystic acne but still look natural. It was very important to her that her makeup did not look caked on. However, finding products that covered her skin adequately but with light coverage seemed to be a fruitless task. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Sara had worked as a makeup artist and knew not only were there limited natural coverage options for more serious skin problems, but there were also very few options for medium to dark skin tones such as hers.
Irritated with the market and products available to her, and for those who might be in the same situation as she was, Sara decided to carve her own path in the cosmetic industry and create her own line of products. Her main goal was creating a line of natural skincare products that not only concealed, but also healed. She really wanted to develop a true skincare focused makeup product.
“I was frustrated with layering multiple makeup and skincare products and even after all the effort that I put into my skin, I just couldn’t look natural. I couldn’t get this flawless, natural looking skin,” Sara shares. “The market was lacking truly effective hyper pigmented products that make my skin look like skin.”
Instead of focusing on products that needed to be caked on to camouflage inconsistencies and problem areas of the skin, she channeled her efforts into creating color correctors. By developing products which were highly pigmented, her idea was that consumers could use her products to help balance out problem areas by neutralizing them, which would in turn allow them to apply a lighter coverage of their normal makeup as opposed to having to cake it on.
Formulas and Failures
Sara had a very specific idea for what she was looking for in her product creation and knew she wouldn’t relinquish her goals regardless of how difficult the process was. Sara was very committed to the concept of creating a line of products that offered light but effective coverage, and was all natural, but most importantly, healed the skin overtime. Inspired by the women around her in Jersey City facing many of the same problems, she persevered.
When she reached out to several labs who specialize in creating cosmetic products, she quickly learned that what she was trying to accomplish hadn’t really been done in the industry before. There were labs for makeup and labs for skincare products, but the merging of the two products was unchartered territory.
“Five of the labs that we started to work with said we would probably fail. The reason for that is it’s a full skincare system that lives in an anhydrous formula, which is basically a formula without water which makes it like a skin like finish and a high performance makeup product,” says Sara of the process.
After initial discussions, several of the labs dropped out of the process before it even started. But with several labs still on board, Sara began the process of formulating her unique line of color correctors. One by one, the labs began trying and failing and then eventually dropping out of the process. Sara only had one lab left and even when the product failed testing, she and her team didn’t give up and eventually found their way to a successful formula.
In the end, Sara and her team ended up with 5 beautiful color correctors that not only worked to cover skin problems in a natural way, but would begin to heal the issues over time resulting in improved skin tone and complexion. The products created were designed to help dark circles, spots, hyperpigmentation, dullness, redness, acne scars, and irritated skin for a wide range of skin tones.
After several years of ups and downs and Sara’s refusal to back down from creating the product line which she truly believed in, Journ Beauty was born. Sara made the decision to give up practicing law full-time to solely focus on continuing to create her brand and build her dream cosmetic line.
The Little Touches
Sara wanted every aspect of her product line to be something truly different and special and worked hard to put great effort into every detail. Adding even more to the already tricky formulation process, it was important that each product have several natural elements, including one flower in each color corrector. Having these natural elements was crucial to not only the product itself, but the brand. Even in her packaging the natural world comes alive. Each box containing a Journ Beauty product is carefully curated and packaged in a beautiful way that shows care and a personalized touch.
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But it isn’t just the ingredients and packaging that showcase the unique product. Each of the five color correctors (Kauai, Marrakech, Dew, Matcha, Alpenglow) hold a special story from a time in Sara and her husband, Mir’s, life together. The five brightly pigmented correctors come with a product insert that explains the story and inspiration behind each memory at the product’s center. For Sara and Mir, their journeys together are a fundamental part of Journ’s brand.
“Each product is inspired by special moments in time. For example, Marrakech was inspired by my trip to Morocco. The exact moment was the spice markets in Marrakech. I wanted to add ingredients in the formula that not only remind you of that moment, but help with the underlying skin issue,” Sara gushed as she showed me each of the product inserts.
Another vital part of Sara’s process in creating her own beauty line was the inclusion and showcasing of diverse women. Sara knew how unrealistic the beauty standards were in the industry and refused to be another player in the game. She wanted to showcase a variety of women with different skin tones and skin problems as part of her brand. It was important for her that every woman out there could identify with, and see herself in Journ Beauty models.
A quick glance at Journ’s Instagram feed will show you just that. Not only will you see women who would most likely be labeled by the industry as “average” or “everyday” (big eye roll) but you’ll see a feed of almost all Jersey City based women. Sara knew she didn’t need to look far beyond the city with which she lived and loved. She wanted to highlight her beautiful and diverse friends and neighbors, showcasing the beauty and uniqueness within Jersey City.
“With Instagram filters and Instagram in general. It bothers me that you can just take a filter and change your face. That’s not real and I think it’s really skewing views of ourselves and how we expect to view the world and it’s also causing a lot of sadness that you can’t achieve this thing that’s not real,” Sara says passionately.
The Journ-ey Continues
Sara has big plans for her already successful and growing cosmetic line. Sara’s husband, Mir, recently left his full-time corporate job as well to support her goals and to help grow the company. Their goal is to really expand each of the brand’s five color journeys by adding more products under each. However, Sara will never sacrifice quality in the process and is in no rush to quickly expand her line if it means compromising the quality of the products she has worked so hard to develop.
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Additionally, she envisions retail spaces for Journ Beauty, which would offer an immersive experience into the storylines behind each of the products. Sara’s imagination runs wild with ideas for different installations for the 5 product lines that would transport her customers to the same places and memories from which the products were born. For now, she’s excited to continue sharing her incredible products with women in Jersey City and beyond.