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Identical twins make, sell organic cosmetics in Columbia

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:59 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Lauren Byington makes eye shadow at her house in Clark. Byington experimented with making different kinds of makeup using natural products to start her business Epic Mineral Beauty a few months ago along with her twin sister, Kaylen Tiefenbrunn.

CLARK — Lauren Byington pours a concoction of white powders into a coffee grinder, then scribbles the recipe in a notebook.

She adds iron oxide for a glittery sheen and blends a few more sparkly ingredients to make a metallic gold eye shadow.  Byington places the bowl next to the foundation, blush, bronzers and highlighters on her countertop.

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As she opens a cabinet to look for a sample-size container, a dog barks. Suddenly, her work space is just another room in a private household.

Byington lives in a light blue house on a dirt road near Clark . Inside is the workshop where she and her twin sister, Kaylen Tiefenbrunn, put together products for their new business, Epic Mineral Beauty. 

Byington, 24, experiments with the makeup ingredients, while Tiefenbrunn, who lives in Kansas City, markets it.

The makeup line includes cheek highlighter, liquid and powder foundation, eye shadow, an anti-acne clay mask, blush and bronzer, lip balm and a setting spray to prevent smudging. Byington's favorite product is the mineral veil, which she said minimizes pores and wrinkles.

The foundations, bronzer and mineral veil cost between $12.99 and $18.99 while the eye shadow and cheek highlighter start at $5.99.

This month, their organic brand became available on Storenvy.comEtsy.com and at Clover's Natural Markets in Columbia.

The twins say their makeup is meant to highlight facial features, not alter them.

"It's meant to augment natural beauty, not cover it up," Byington said. "There's a psychology behind first impressions — people make up their minds in the first 10 seconds based on your appearance." 

Her sister agreed: "It's about accentuating what God gave you."

The start of something new

Byington began experimenting with makeup in the summer when she discovered she was pregnant. Two months later, Tiefenbrunn found out she, too, was pregnant. Both babies are due next spring.

Together, they wanted to find a creative pursuit that would allow Byington to stay at home with a newborn.

They decided to create all-natural makeup that would be both affordable and nontoxic. The Epic makeup line uses only organic, clean, animal-friendly, local minerals such as oils from fish scales and beeswax, Byington said.

"She's all organic and natural," Tiefenbrunn laughs. "She even buys organic hair dye and dog food."

Byington looks at her sister, smiles, and adds, "My nickname at work was 'tree hugger.'"

She was a fourth-generation public school teacher, but she said her decision to trek down this new path is fully supported by her friends and family.

"I definitely feel like I'm breaking the mold by doing this," she said. "Our family supports us all the way." 

She spends most of her day comparing makeup brands, analyzing ingredients and browsing the Environmental Working Group's database. She also experiments with creating new makeups and tests them out on her own skin for six hours or more per day.

"I would research the minerals I was buying because you need the perfect ratios and ingredients," Byington said. "It's like a science." 

Besides helping her sister with the beauty business, Tiefenbrunn is an operations and training manager at Farmers Insurance in Kansas City. She works alongside her husband, Matt Tiefenbrunn, the district manager at the insurance company.

Twins bring different views to business

The sisters might be twins, but their lifestyles are on different sides of the spectrum. Byington has an environmental outlook, and Tiefenbrunn has a fashion approach.

Byington focuses on which healthy materials go into the makeup while her sister plays with aesthetics and chooses which colors and styles to put together based on current fashion trends.

"She's kind of a hippie girl, and I'm more urban so it (the makeup) appeals to both populations," Tiefenbrunn said.

Byington agrees. "We balance each other because we both have opposite personalities, so we bring different approaches to the business." 

Byington graduated from MU in 2008 after 2 1/2 years of studying psychology and sociology. She then was certified to teach middle school English.

Her sister attended MU for three years, studying art and marketing and graduated from Central Methodist University in 2011 with a degree in nursing.

"She has a good eye for aesthetics and placement," Byington said.

Tiefenbrunn finishes the thought, "She breaks down the psychology and our artistic approach." 

As twins, the sisters use each other as models to test their products and see what certain makeups and patterns would look like.

Mirrors aren't necessary if you have an exact living duplicate. Sometimes, Tiefenbrunn wears a blend of makeups while Byington takes photos of her and asks for feedback.

One twin has blond hair and the other is brunette, so they can match styles and colors to find what looks best on different complexions.

"It's fun as twins. Some days we'll do our makeup together to look exactly alike," Tiefenbrunn said. "We get to experiment with each other to see what certain makeup combinations and styles would look like."

Artistic influences from the past

The twins name their makeup after the women who inspired and supported their  efforts.

A dusky brown eye shadow is called Donna for their mother. A sparkly purple is named after their grandmother, Diane. The light green is Cleo after Byington's husband's grandmother.

Byington smiles and explains, "Our mom is the creative trump. She always tells me why aren't you painting or making more makeup?"

"Our mom had art time in our chore schedule," Tiefenbrunn adds.

Their grandmother Diane was another role model. The bright pigment of the eye shadow matches her colorful personality, Byington said.

"Our grandma fostered our love for art and color," she said. "She would even let us curl her hair and play with her makeup, which was pretty brave." 

The eye shadow for Cleo reminds her of her husband's small-town, country roots, a lifestyle Byington holds dear.

"Cleo is very spunky," she said. "The subtle color coincides with her personality because there's a high sparkle to it."

Their company name and unicorn logo were inspired by Byinton's middle school students.

"My former students were goofy middle-schoolers who used the word 'epic' obsessively," Byington said. "They were so funny; they used to draw unicorns on their papers." 

Country roots spark organic ideas

Byington's home interior is a collage of Pinterest ideas, scribbles on walls and finds from antique scavenger hunts, much of it designed to fuel her imagination.

Her kitchen and bedroom walls are covered with chalkboard black paint, where she writes "Do Unto Others ..." and other positive messages and doodles around the wall above her sink. 

An assortment of mirrors of different sizes, shapes and colors decorate the space above an old wooden boudoir.

"I love thrifting — I got all my mirrors at antique stores," Byington said. "Everything in here is antique, and I redecorate all the time." 

Her husband, Warren, has had a carpentry hobby since they married when she was 19. He is currently building the baby's crib, a wooden couch and a chicken coop. His next mission is to build a dog house out of crates, an idea his wife found on Pinterest.

Byington chuckles: "People think I'm country, but my husband defines the word country." 

Two neat piles of books are stacked on the coffee table in the living room, one for her and one for her husband. On the top of her pile is "201 Organic Baby Purees," a book of all-natural recipes she will cook for her newborn baby due in March.

The importance of being eco-friendly and green is not lost on Byington, who owns 170 acres of land outside her kitchen windows.

A quarter mile down a trail in the woods is a lake where she plans to build a little log cabin as a hunting and fishing getaway. It's going to be a green home with solar power and water from a rain-water system, she said.

"Kaylen's the type that wants to go shopping at the Plaza, but I'd rather tromp through the woods," Byington said with a laugh. "She's a girlie girl, but makeup is as far as I get."

A look into the future

One of their goals is to have an independent website on top of their Storenvy.com and Etsy.com profiles. They are also sending samples to their aunt who owns a skin center in Alabama.

But to the twins, the makeup is more of an artistic adventure than a job for profit.

"Art is our passion," Byington said. Tiefenbrunn laughs and adds, "We're artists at heart —makeup is like an art to us."

 

 


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