Can one woman reinvent the concept of Jersey Shore beauty?
Growing up at the Jersey Shore, there was a weird dichotomy between how my friends and I looked, and how the rest of the world thought Jersey Shore girls looked.
To outsiders, the Jersey Shore is all about giant hair, caked-on bronzer, daytime smokey eyes, and way too much lip gloss. Don’t forget the rhinestone-encrusted going-out tops and acrylic French manicures. It’s a lewk, for sure. But it’s not something you’d call natural.
The big secret about girls who style themselves that way, though, is that they usually aren’t from the Shore at all. While I love and have been known to channel their bombastic aesthetic, the truth is these girls are usually from North Jersey and New York. They’re not from the Shore at all. They just vacation there.
For those of us who actually grew up at the Jersey Shore, natural beauty looks were much more prevalent. If you walked into my high school and didn’t know where you were, your first guess probably would’ve been California or Florida, not New Jersey.
So it makes sense that Jakki Quattro is setting the record straight about the Jersey Shore aesthetic with her aptly named beauty line, Jersey Shore Cosmetics.
“Years ago, the Jersey Shore was really popular but it wasn’t being shown in a positive way,” she said, alluding to the iconic MTV show set in our home region. “So I wanted to do something good. I wanted to show the nation that hey, you know, something good can come out of Jersey. We’re not entirely silly.”
“There’s nothing wrong with fun and parody,” she continued, “but we were getting so much flack during that time.”
She started the company in 2013, after kicking around the idea since 2010. Jakki had worked in high-end cosmetics before, and she’d always wanted to start a non-toxic beauty brand.
“People made fun of the name,” Jakki said. “They didn’t know what it was. They thought it was something else before they really delved into it. I thought about changing the name a couple of times because of the show, but every now and then, people would say no, don’t change your name. The shore is really good and clean and natural. Where you grew up, the pines and the beaches, that’s Jersey.”
New Jersey is nicknamed the Garden State, after all, because of its farms and natural resources. Jakki herself grew up on a farm in South Jersey with 100 acres.
“Growing up, everything was really natural,” she said. “My mom’s Native American, so we had home remedies all the time. We brushed our teeth with baking soda and used olive oil for moisturizer and baking soda for deodorizer.”
After working as a flight attendant, Jakki moved into the beauty space, managing the Christian Dior counter in Bridgewater, NJ. But she found that after a lifetime of employing natural beauty tricks, the chemicals used by big beauty brands irritated her skin and eyes.
When it was time to start Jersey Shore Cosmetics, Jakki “sold all [her] designer stuff” to raise funds. Us Jersey girls might like the finer things, but we can also be super pragmatic.
“I did it the rough way,” Jakki told me, “from the bottom up. I had to scrape and do it myself. I had to prove it was a real, viable business.”
A loan from her sister and brother-in-law helped, and soon Jakki had her first few products: a line of sunscreens.
“I started with sunscreens because they are the worst offenders when it comes to toxins in products,” she said. “They have hormone disruptors, petrochemicals. They’re supposed to protect you from the sun, but [they can also do some damage].”
Jakki worked to create a truly blendable sunscreen and got feedback from triathletes, skin cancer survivors and parents. After she nailed that, she made hand cleansers. And then, she got into the fun stuff.
“I figured nontoxic and natural didn’t have to be boring and beige,” Jakki said. “It could be colorful and fun. I started formulating rouges and bronzers and that was a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. You have to have ingredients that are cohesive and effective.”
Jakki tests al of her products on her family, and having tried a few myself, they really are effective. She is realistic about the limitations of chemical-free products, too. She encourages her customers not to use products that have been sitting around in their bathrooms for too long, since natural cosmetics have a shorter shelf life.
One of Jersey Shore Cosmetics’ signature products is its mongongo lip balm. Mongongo oil is nutrient-rich, Jakki said. She’s sold over two million of these nourishing, moisturizing lip products.
Most of Jersey Shore Cosmetics’ products are vegan, although some contain beeswax. Jakki’s sunscreen was voted number-one on Livestrong.com and beauty influencers have organically placed her products in their Instagram feeds, without her even asking.
“When you make a great product, people are grateful and they spread the word,” Jakki said. “It’s word of mouth.”