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Meet the Women Behind the Best Non-Toxic Manicure in Los Angeles

By Christina Najjar | May 31, 2019 | Lifestyle

With locations in LA and NYC, Leah Yari and Mary Lennon launched côte in 2013 to provide a safe, transparent, quality product and an elegant nail care experience that could be shared with their families and friends without worry. They set out to take the “toxins” out of the nail treatment experience; from the shop environment to the technician/guest interaction, to the actual products themselves. With that in mind, all of côte's polishes are created free of the major toxins and allergens that are often associated with nail polish: formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, camphor, formaldehyde resin, TPHP, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, parabens and gluten.

Their journey to founding this successful beauty brand 6 years ago was not a typical one. Mary carries a Master's Degree in Social Sciences and Educational Processes from Stanford University and worked as a teacher in the California school system. Leah holds a degree in Interior Design from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in NYC and worked as an interior designer.


The duo went from cosmetic outsiders to create what is now a destination for clean beauty lovers; Mary became the authority on safer ingredients and cleaner formulas, while Leah took the reigns as the creative director developing timeless, chic, always in fashion colors that adorn the line. Beyond their own non-toxic services in Brentwood and Union Square, and côte's collection of over 100 10-free polishes, the brand celebrates and supports fellow clean beauty pioneers through their e-commerce platform, the Bungalow.

They are also proud members of BeautyCounter's Counteract Coalition, joining forces with like-minded companies to bring actionable bills to Washington to further the cleaner, safer beauty movement.

What inspired côte?
COTE FOUNDERS: Côte was inspired by the unfulfilled need for a clean, safe and upscale option in nail care. We wanted a chic, well-kept location where you could be guaranteed a toxin-free environment and still enjoy a pampering nail care experience. We quickly discovered, however, that in order to realize this perfect nail care destination, we needed a really clean product as the base. We needed to feel confident and secure using the polishes on ourselves, our friends and our children. From this need and this dream, côte was born.


Why are you both passionate about nontoxic beauty?
CF: We are passionate about nontoxic beauty because it plays into our bigger philosophy on how we live our lives. Being good to your body and to the earth just makes sense. Our passion is driven by knowledge and really, how nontoxic beauty makes us feel. Using nontoxic beauty products sets the foundation for looking good and FEELING good all day, every day. As a society, we spend so much time and money worrying about how our food is grown, what kind of emissions we are producing from our cars, how our energy is sourced...focusing on ridding our beauty regimen of toxins is a very logical (and smart!) next step.

What was a pinch-me moment in building the brand?
CF: This has been such an incredible journey from that first crazy conversation we had almost seven years ago that there are really so many pinch-me moments. But probably the most profound was when we received our first shipment of polish. After almost two years of research, development, name creation, logo design, brand look finally have a physical product that we could hold, use and SHARE was pretty surreal and absolutely exhilarating.


What are some of your favorite restaurants in LA?
CF: If you've seen our shop in Brentwood, it will come as no surprise that we love a good outdoor patio! That said, a few of our favorites are a good power lunch of table-side prepared Greek salad at Baltaire, watching the waves and surfers over sushi at Nobu Malibu and vegetarian enchiladas at Gracias Madre (ok, who's kidding who...we keep coming back for the margaritas!)

What's next for côte?
CF: We always have a new color or two in production, in addition to adding a few complimentary non-polish items to our constantly growing suite of products. As always, toxin-free, vegan and cruelty-free rule our cleaner, safer beauty mission. Stay tuned for some exciting new offerings!

We are also continuing to expand our wholesale and distribution arm of the business. It's exciting to travel the country and see côte on so many new shelves! We are thrilled to be able to share our polishes and products with so many more people now! Everyone should have the opportunity to make a smart, healthy choice when it comes to nail care.

What nail colors will you be rocking this summer?
CF: Being in the biz, we probably rock more colors than most...especially when it comes to summertime! (I mean, fingers AND sandal season?! So many opportunities for fun colors!) A few of our go-to favorites for summer include no.10 (Leah's all-time favorite, the perfect barely-there pink, such a classic), no.120 (Mary's all-time favorite, a bold rich navy), no. 86 (a flirty, vibrant orchid purple) and no. 71 (a periwinkle blue, perfect for a day at the beach).

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