I recently sat at a skincare seminar, not for one second thinking I’d meet any of the inspiring Jews I normally profile here for Jspace. What I found truly surprised me— a Jewish woman about my mother’s age mastering the special combination of sweet and blunt (as so many Jewish women do), and promoting education in the beauty world. That was big for me. There are a lot of women pushing beauty products and the right to feel pretty, but Paula Begoun is simply the only woman I’ve ever seen or heard that is more concerned with the safety and efficacy of beauty than with the trendiness or exotic sound of ingredients. In the 40 or so minutes I sat with her, I realized how deeply passionate about protecting and nurturing beauty for every single woman she is, and that was incredibly inspiring for me.
Paula Begoun, Founder of Paula’s Choice Skincare, is not just a beauty geni, though. She’s a best-selling author of 21 books and a generally accomplished business woman.
“I named my publishing company after the first book of the Torah, Bereshis which translated to ‘Beginning.’ I believe that all things start from the ethics, faith, and responsibility of my Jewish heritage and how better to reflect that than by naming my company where the start of Jewish values and desire for knowledge arose.
Actually even doing this interview feels like part of my Jewish values. It is a reminder of whom I am (I don’t get asked about my Jewish background very often). As sappy as this sounds, it is another opportunity for me to say the Shehechiyanu prayer: ‘Blessed are You, Lord our God who has kept me alive and sustained me and enabled me to reach this moment.’ It reminds me that life is an endless journey and along the path the precious moments are what make it all worthwhile.”
While she didn’t grow up in a religious family, she was surrounded by Jewish immigrants and Holocaust survivors who helped shape and determine her path, work ethic, and values.
“They were hard working, of modest means, and perhaps too serious at times, but they were always open to laughter. I think laughter is what saved my family in many ways as it did for the Jewish people in general. I never appreciated this until much later in life how laughter can heal almost everything. I always told my employees that business needs to be 50% hard work and 50% fun or something is really out of balance and needs to be reevaluated.”
Paula’s hard work and fun cocktail seem to have paid off— her skincare line is a winner domestically in the US and a huge success in Asia. She has become a household name for those seeking better beauty education thanks to several Oprah appearances, best-selling book titles, and a true desire to see woman of all ages, colors, and creeds get better and safer results from what they put on their skin to feel beautiful.
“What my family shared was the Jewish ethos of ‘don’t do to anyone else what you wouldn’t want them to do to you.’ That fundamental aspect of Jewish thought is the motivation behind everything I do. It is one the easiest methods for me to determine my own behavior so I can maintain my integrity through all situations. I think it is this combination of fairness and justice from my family background and my own terrible struggles with skin care that brought me to this moment: 30 years of writing books on skin care and beauty and 20 years of developing products for Paula’s Choice Skincare. This has been my passion and obsession. No one should struggle as I did to find products that would truly make a difference for their skin.”
When she’s not formulating products based on top level research or helping women steer clear of dangerous chemicals and irritants, Paula is heavily involved in the Jewish community. She has an Indian boyfriend and loves connecting to the Jewish community of Mumbai through their local Chabad. She is also active in Hope for Heroism, an IDF associated program and contributes regularly to the Jewish Federation of Seattle, where she currently lives.
For more information on Paula Begoun or her skincare line, Paula’s Choice, visit PaulasChoice.com.