NOTO Botanics's Gloria Noto On The Importance Of Building A Brand That Stands For Something

by André-Naquian Wheeler
Image courtesy of Gloria Noto.

Running a beauty company remotely during a pandemic is not easy. Gloria Noto, a makeup artist with over 15 years of experience and work featured in i-D and Dazed, has faced her share of challenges this year but has found ways to adapt. “Just the life of running a business,” she says, followed by a hearty laugh.

The all-in approach Noto employs with running her brand represents just how personal NOTO Botanics is to her. In 2016, Noto launched the raved-about range of clean skincare and beauty products after becoming disillusioned with how the internet and social media had utterly redefined the roles of makeup artists. “Before, I had time to focus on my craft. Then I was expected to do makeup changes in under ten minutes. I was a hired hand.” She no longer felt the same sparks of creativity and artistry as when she flipped through the work of 90s makeup legend Kevin Aucoin as a post-grad art student, figuring out what to do next with her life, so she decided to create the brand she wished was in the market herself.

NOTO Botanics stands out for its inclusive and charity-focused approach to beauty and products that feature all-natural ingredients. This year alone, NOTO has raised money for the LGBTQ organization Project Q and featured up-and-coming POC-owned brands in its brick-and-mortar storefront in LA.

It also helps that NOTO’s products are really, really good. Sheer, minimalist offerings such as the Hydra Highlighter Stick and Moisture Riser Cream build on Noto’s distinctive “no makeup makeup look” and put a greater emphasis on how the products make you feel over how you look. “Beauty is not so vapid or self-indulgent anymore,” Noto says. “It’s about the collective experience when it comes to products.” And all of this, Noto says, makes the daily grind of running and expanding NOTO worth it. She feels those sparks once again.

Here, Noto speaks with Elite Daily about stay-at-home beauty looks, rapid changes in the beauty sector, and inclusivity.

Tell me what does NOTO stand for as a company and how did it get started?

Around ten years into being a makeup artist I had to ask myself, “Is this an industry I still want to be a part of?” The answer was not necessarily in the capacity that I was at that time. At first I didn’t think the world needed another beauty brand. But when I was taking time off in Thailand, I looked around the landscape and, remember this was six years ago, there were hardly any clean beauty brands using minimalist packaging and advertising and definitely far fewer featuring queer and/or BIPOC people in their advertising at that time. As a queer person, I felt there was a giant gap in that space for me and my friends. I was asking myself, “Why aren’t we being shown?”

How do you feel at the five-year mark of owning a beauty brand?

In a lot of ways it still feels like the brand is a baby, because we’ve just grown so much recently. I have self-funded this brand. I started out making twelve pots of Hydro Highlighter in my kitchen at a time. The first three years of NOTO were really a side hustle for me. I paid my first employee by having her do makeup on a client while on set for me! I feel like NOTO is just beginning because the last two and a half years is when I’ve truly been able to grow my team and conceptualize things. We’re just getting started.

What is the purpose of a beauty brand in 2020?

When I started my brand — at the core of it — it was ultimately a stance and a belief. It stood for something more than beauty. Beauty was just the cherry on top. I think the purpose of any beauty brand in the coming years will be much bigger than the surface level outcome. Today, where people put their money is ultimately a vote for what they believe in. All brands should stand for clean ingredients, diversity and inclusion, social justice, and safer environmental practices at this point. I think these stances and missions are what make supporting a beauty brand worthwhile for customers today.

Tell me how about inclusivity and diversity fits into your brand.

Diversity and inclusion has to start at the core of who your hires are. Since I’ve had the luxury of hiring a larger team, we have really ensured that we are hiring an array of queer, BIPOC individuals that really bring NOTO into function. On the outside, we’re really celebrating what these communities look like; 90-95 percent of my models have been from queer, trans, non-binary, and/or BIPOC communities. We ask questions like who are we talking to on our live channels and what charities are we donating to? Are they trans-focused? Or are we donating to Black communities? In our flagship store we showcase other brands and a majority of them are queer and/or BIPOC-owned. I focus on this so intensely because this is part of who I am. I’m queer and the child of immigrants. It’s all very authentic for me.

Personally, what are some of your favorite products from the brand?

I spent the first year really focused on formulating NOTO’s products. As a makeup artist and someone who practices herbalism, essential oils and raw ingredients were really important to the formulations. The ingredients provide an instant glow and hydration, but with regular use will also change your skin over time. I had severe acne when I first started NOTO. Now, I don’t even need to wear makeup, which is a luxury I never thought I would be able to enjoy. All of my products are skincare first — even the makeup. It’s all about healing, replenishing, hydrating, and nourishing the skin. I want products with dual functions. So hydrating products can also be used as aromatherapy, because the scents are amazing and unique. The makeup products are also multifunction – they can be used on the cheeks, lips, eyes — and are super buildable.

And how could your products fit into the lifestyles of people working from home right now? What products can be beneficial from a self-care perspective?

All of the products smell amazing and really boost your moods! Using these products at home will really give you that sense of mind, body, soul. All of your senses are being targeted. It doesn’t even have to be for a video call – you might catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror later and feel really good about yourself. For me, good clean skin is just as important as drinking water and eating well.