“Free-From” Business Spotlight: Jennifer Kurko, Kiss Freely, Allergy-Free Cosmetics & Body Products.
When you think about food allergies, what usually comes to mind is..food. One thing you quickly realize when managing a food allergy yourself, or if you love someone with an allergy, is that there are many other items allergens can be present in, including many body products. Earlier this winter, I shared my favorite allergen-free lotions, and now I’m focusing on an even more personal item: lipstick, and make-up.
Prior to meeting my husband, I never thought twice about buying a lip gloss infused with almond oil. I had never taken a close look at the ingredient list of my cosmetics, and honestly didn’t really have a reason to. Now, like everything else in my life, it’s a totally different story. After close examination, I discovered that many of my favorite lip balms contained ingredients that were derived from nuts. If I were to kiss my husband, this could lead to him to having a serious allergic reaction. Not worth it for a new lip color.
On my wedding day in addition to the hundreds of other items I had to think about, I needed to ensure that my lipstick and lipgloss would be allergen-free to keep my husband safe on a day filled with lots of kissing! During my recent research for allergen-free products, I came across Kiss Freely, a company completely committed to making allergy-friendly bath & body products, including a full line of make-up!
Kiss Freely products are free of the 8 major allergens and then some! Â They avoid the use of other potential allergens such as sesame, shea butter, peas,coconut, avocado and sunflower seeds.Â All of our products are made in a top 8 free environment. I was lucky enough to get to speak with Founder Jennifer Kurko about her amazing company.
AFW: Tell me about why you started Kiss Freely
Jennifer: I was inspired to start Kiss Freely by my oldest daughter. She has multiple food allergies and we were just starting to understand how to navigate life with food allergies. I was putting her to bed and kissed her on the cheek and within seconds she broke out in hives and her face began to swell. There was no food in our house that she was allergic to. My husband and I were baffled about what could have caused the reaction. It wasn’t until I looked at my lip balm that I realized it contained almond oil. That started me looking at personal care products and the ingredients. I was completely shocked that so many products contained her allergens. I couldn’t find products that I felt were safe so I began making them. When other people began asking for our products, we made the decision to begin selling online.
AFW: As the owner of a body and body product company that is free of the top-8 allergens (in addition to sesame, shea butter, peas, coconut, avocado, and sunflower seeds), how do you make great products while ensuring they are 100% allergen free?
Jennifer: Ensuring the products are 100% free takes a lot of time and effort. I grill the suppliers of the raw ingredients and make choices based on what the safest raw materials are. I am hoping to get third party testing in the future to further ensure safety. Being an allergy family, I completely understand cross contamination and have seen it cause reactions in my girls. We have a top 8 free facility were our products are made and use dedicated equipment within the faculty for each item.
AFW: How did you learn to make cosmetics? In addition to lip gloss and lipstick, you also make foundations, serums, blush, and eye shadows! That can’t be easy!
Jennifer: I learned to make cosmetics through trial and error. I made a lot of bad lip balm before I made good ones! I read a lot of cosmetic chemistry books. I do a lot of experimenting!
AFW: Tell me about your manufacturing process. Do you have any help?
Jennifer: My help right now for manufacturing is my husband! At the moment, that’s the part of the business he is in charge of. It is truly a family business. My children help package orders and come up with ideas.
AFW: As the mother of children with food allergies, what precautions do you take to ensure they stay safe?
Jennifer: As a mom of children with food allergies, I really struggle with how to keep them safe. As they get older they are away from me more, and that makes things harder. I worked very hard to teach them how to advocate for themselves. We role play how to say no to people in authority as a way to keep them safe. We also have rules about trying new foods and brands. It is something we do at lunch and when we are all together. We also practice using the Epi pen. Every doll and stuffed animal in our house has had the trainer used in them!
AFW: How do you juggle being a small business owner and a mother?
Jennifer: Some days I am not sure I juggle everything! I actually work full time outside of the business so I can’t function without my to do list! I actively try to include the girls in the business as much as possible. They have maps and the color in states and countries the orders come from. It it a nice way to spend time together and still get work done!
AFW: Have your eating habits changed since having a child with food allergies? Do you avoid certain trigger foods?
Jennifer: We always say a benefit of life with food allergies is that our diet has become very clean. Many processed foods are not safe for the girls, and we don’t have many restaurants we feel comfortable going to. As a result, weâ€™re forced us to cook a lot. My oldest is also allergic to beef so we eat tons of veggies. Weâ€™ve become very creative cooks and eaters!
AFW: What are you most proud of about Kiss Freely?
Jennifer: I get quite a few requests for products and colors from families and teens for dance recitals, Halloween costumes, weddings and parties. It makes me so happy to create a product for someone who may not have had the opportunity to wear makeup for that event. When I get emails and pictures, it makes me cry every time. Helping someone feel included is what I am most proud of.
AFW: Do you have any advice for parents of newly diagnosed children with food allergies?
Jennifer: I want to hug them and say I know how overwhelming it is. And how scared you are. It’s okay to grieve and feel sad. It’s also so important to seek support. Find others who are going through this, they’re are a wealth of information. My friends bought a membership to FARE when my oldest was first diagnosed. It was like a lifeline. (it is also why a portion of Kiss Freely profits are donated to the food allergy community.)
AFW: Describe Kiss Freely in three words.
Jennifer: Safe, inclusive, fabulous!
Thank you Jennifer for taking the time to speak with me. Purchase her amazing allergen-free products here.
As a special thank you to my readers, I’m giving away a lipgloss, lipstick, and body butter from Kiss Freely. To enter, comment below and tell me which Kiss Freely product you’d like to try. Bonus entry: follow me on instagram at @theallergyfreewife and comment on my photo there as well. Good luck!