A founder's quest for the most sustainable skincare tool

This guest post is brought to you by Amanda McIntosh, founder of Take My Face Off and creator of the Mitty.

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

What you'll learn:

Here's more about Amanda, the star of this Q&A:

I started Take My Face Off because I was personally disgusted by washcloths. Early in the game, I learned how awful wipes and cotton balls were for the planet, so I decided that I would invent a next-generation washcloth that was so awesome, it would make wipes and cotton balls (and terrycloth) obsolete. It took a lot of experimenting, but my Mittys wound up even better than I hoped!

Mittys are droplet-shaped mitts made of an incredibly soft, skin-friendly fabric. They each have a pointed Detailer tip that gets into small spaces like the lash line or hairline. They are gentler, easier, faster, less messy, and more thorough than any other cleansing aid I have found.

I am an entrepreneur and classical clarinetist. I have been a journalist, business process consultant, and professional trainer. My side hustle is consulting with my husband's company—he helps performing musicians recreate their careers online (because pandemic). My work life is not easy, but it's amazing—helping the planet and helping classical music enter the 21st century.
A picture of Amanda (left) demonstrating the Mitty
Amanda (left) demonstrates the Mitty.

(Okay, wow, what an impressive career and life.)

Join 4,000 people fighting climate change with our fun, bite-sized plans

No annoying marketing emails. Just 3-minute weekly breakdowns of our monthly sustainability topics.
Informative, bite-sized, and actionable, just for you.
Thank you! You're signed up for the fight against climate change. Make sure you add us to your contacts or mark our welcome email as important so we stay in your primary inbox instead of your promotions tab.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Take action
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google
  1. Tell us about Take My Face Off and why you decided to tackle skincare/beauty, specifically washcloths.

    I had been searching for a softer washcloth for a while because I was in love with a new washcloth-related skincare routine. But washcloths are coarse, thick, ugly, clumsy, harsh on skin...I could complain forever. One night, I was out of clean washcloths AGAIN because I hadn't done enough laundry and my find-a-better-cloth-to-buy attempts had failed, and I realized—millions own washcloths; millions dislike washcloths. Maybe I should create something better? How hard could it be to improve on a coarse square?

    At first, it was fun but frivolous. When I realized the environmental opportunity to replace wipes and cotton balls, it took over my life and became a mission.

    We started off being totally product/function-focused. But I had two "buckets" of fabrics I was testing—the softest materials I could find (regardless of type), and "green" materials that I knew were responsibly sourced. I made hundreds of test products out of all kinds of materials. I was really crushed when none of the "green" materials performed well enough to be an option.

    I felt it was more important to have a truly amazing product than to just have a "pretty good" product, because wipes users weren't going to change their ways for something that was "pretty good." I had a hunch that ANY reusable option had to be greener than wipes.

    The best fabric I could find was an expensive, Korean, polyester plush. It made skincare fluids go farther and work better. Even though I loved how it worked, I hated that it was imported and synthetic.

    Guilt led me to do a lot of research on the carbon footprint of different fabric. I was honestly shocked to see that my fabric was actually "greener" than something like organic hemp, because it lasted so much longer. I learned how all fabric production caused some amount of pollution, and simple math showed me that a polyester that lasted years and years was "greener" than an organic hemp that only lasted a few months.

    After finding the perfect fabric, I was annoyed it wouldn't move with my hand across the face very well. I found hand mitts ugly, so I worked until I came up with the droplet shape. It was cute, and it has a pointy tip I call the Mitty Detailer. Honestly, I think it's brilliant—it handles the lash line better than cotton swabs, and it's more hygienic, since you can make sure to reserve the round side for "germy" areas like lipstick.

  2. Wow, that's quite the journey. Also, totally relate to the guilt thing. What else informed your approach to the Mitty and building Take My Face Off?

    Research and test. Research and test. Research and test. And don't take all of the advice you hear. The "experts" only know about things that have already been done.

    There were always so many things I wanted to do, and they all cost more than I could spend. So I chose expenses carefully (maybe go to a trade show to network and attend relevant seminars) and then do everything else I could think of that was free or cheap. Every time I got frustrated from lack of funds, I stopped and thought, "Is it true that I have to wait for more money to make any progress?" I always found there was something I could be learning, trying, or making that was free.

    If you're persistent enough, you turn roadblocks into advantages. When they told me my products were too hard to make, I came up with a whole new new pattern-making technique. When they told me I had to make them in China, I found new partners who were willing to let me experiment with new construction and cutting techniques to bring the costs down. To save money on a patent attorney, I found a mentor who was an expert in business patent strategy, and he helped me write my own patent applications. To save money, I had to figure out so many things on my own, but that knowledge has turned into the biggest advantage I could imagine.

  3. Many people see sustainability as a trade-off with profit. I can imagine this is a significant part of designing a skincare product more expensive than cotton balls. What do you say to that?

    A prospective investor once said, "Your product is great, but you could sell a lot more if you made them disposable." A lot of people in the business think that way. It's a problem.

    Honestly, I'm really uncomfortable with a lot of the beauty industry. Being sustainable is not as simple as just replacing plastic jars with glass, or changing one ingredient to be organic. The whole system of selling tiny amounts of things that have to be manufactured, packaged, transported, consumed, disposed of, and bought again is nuts. And ten-step skincare routines? Not only are they bad for skin, they're outrageously awful for the planet.

    I spend a lot of my time going back to the drawing board for packaging ideas, fulfillment ideas, and manufacturing ideas that will reduce our waste and pollution. I know my product is already reducing the amount of pollution in the world, but it still feels weird to be participating in the waste-heavy consumer goods economy. Doing it this way is how I sleep at night.

  4. What are some limitations and challenges with using the Mitty?

    You still have to use it with cleansers like makeup remover, or gel, or soap, or toner. But I'm proud to say that you use less of those with my product. I engineered it to be softer and thinner, and less liquid gets absorbed. Basically, it stays on the surface of the fabric and is available to do the work, instead of getting trapped in a thirsty cotton ball.

    I know that wipes come with cleanser, but it's usually really cheap quality cleanser and it's filled with preservatives (it's not possible to have a pile of damp fiber without preservatives).

    I'm not a fan of microfiber cloths that say you can skip the cleanser. Any dermatologist will tell you, cleansers are a GOOD thing. They lubricate the cleansing motion so there's less tugging at skin. More importantly, they get you cleaner. Would you wash your hands with water and scrubbing alone?

    You do have to wash my product, but you can do this at the sink with normal soap or in the laundry. I'm not sure how long they last, because my first testers are still going strong after five years.

  5. What makes Take My Face Off a unique company?

    Most companies create a product and eventually go back and figure out how to make it "greener" in increments. The "green" aspect is part of every single decision I have made. You don't just reduce your use of disposables with Mittys, you reduce your use of skincare products because of how our fabric works. It's the form of the mitt, the fabric, the function, the package, the people who make it, the workshop location, the fulfillment strategy...it's everything.

  6. There are so many companies that claim to provide sustainable washcloth alternatives - why should we trust yours?

    Most of the microfiber products out there just happened into the “no more wipes” marketing angle. It was an afterthought. The good news is that it’s valid—it IS better for the planet to replace wipes with their cloths! But being green is no part of their corporate philosophy, sourcing, or manufacturing. Most of them are made in China in various locations. There’s no concern for reducing waste in packaging. The manufacturing methods are extremely fast and extremely wasteful—tons of discarded product and wasted fabric scraps.

    How do I know? I've considered working with some of these types of manufacturers. It was frustrating, to say the least. The experience led me to create my own small workshop and to develop safer, faster machines and methods.

    There is another category of reusable skincare cloths marketed to the eco-conscious crowd. Again, I'm glad they exist because they're better than disposables, but I don't really know how green they are. One of the biggest companies implies they're just a group of Canadian do-gooders, but I'm doubtful. They import massive volumes of Chinese goods at low cost and spend heavily on social media advertising. In fact, one of them ripped off a video I made in my living room about cotton waste and put it in millions of Instagram and Facebook ads (I eventually got them to stop.) The products are cheap and the ad spend is huge, so it seems unlikely the products are actually high quality or responsibly made.

    It feels like these companies aren't trying very hard. Yes, they're reusable, but there isn't any further innovation, style, or user benefit.

  7. Other than your company, what are some of your favorite tools and resources for fighting climate change?

    No fast fashion for me anymore. I try a lot harder to find nicer things that really fit and that I love. I buy just a few of them. And then I wear them forever.

    I am loving the products that remove water or packaging from the equation. Lately, I've been loving Earthling shampoo bars. I've been meaning to try Ethique. And I get a big kick out of using things like baking soda and vinegar for home cleaning tasks. If you can get multiple types of use out of one container, that's fewer total plastic bottles you had to buy.

    I can't unsee beauty packaging issues these days. So much of the thick, heavy packaging is just for show. Do you know they actually add metal weights to compacts to make them feel more expensive? I'm retraining myself to see thick and heavy as waste, and not as luxury.

  8. What is one thing you wish more people understood about the movement for a more sustainable future?

    It's about buying and trashing less stuff. If you get rid of all of your plastic items and replace them with natural options, you've done more harm than good. Use the plastic until it's at the end of its life and THEN replace it. Buy less stuff, make things last longer, and buy things that don't need to be replaced as often. When people proudly tell me they only buy organic cotton rounds or bamboo-based wipes, I try to smile, but I want to cry. Just because there are plant fibers involved doesn't make a single-use product "green." All manufacturing creates pollution. We need less manufacturing of any kind. We can achieve this in part by replacing single-use items with reusable items.

  9. Any advice for people who are new to the fight against climate change or aren't sure what their place is?

    Just pick one thing to change at a time. Maybe you can bring a refillable mug for your daily coffee pickup. Or you can switch out your plastic-bottled shower gel for a bar soap. Make the change. When it feels comfortable and second-nature, repeat the process with something else.

    Just pick one thing to change at a time. Maybe you can bring a refillable mug for your daily coffee pickup. Or you can switch out your plastic-bottled shower gel for a bar soap. Make the change. When it feels comfortable and second-nature, repeat the process with something else.

  10. How do you see the future of skincare and sustainability?

    The main thing is that I think a lot of people are going to be buying a lot less. A lot of types of products may disappear. Someday, we’ll look back and wonder why we ever needed half of the skincare appliances out there.

    The products will probably cost more, but there will be fewer total bottles and the contents will be used faster, so they’ll be fresher.

    I think there’s a big bubble in skincare and beauty right now. So some of the improvements in sustainability won’t be because companies changed their methods, but because fewer of them exist.

    I really hope that single-use face masks, patches, and beauty samples become taboo soon. I hope that components like spoolies and applicators quit being a disposable part of the package and become higher quality items that you keep and reuse as you replenish the product itself.

    I think people will start realizing that any disposable product is bad, even if it has a natural fiber like bamboo or cotton. The information out there about fast fashion will speed that learning curve.

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Take action
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google