FORBES – She may be best known to many for playing a larger-than-life superhero in some of the highest-grossing blockbuster movies, but just as the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand, so has the business world for actor, producer, and entrepreneur Scarlett Johansson.
As the Founder and Chair of the new skincare line The Outset, a brand that recently launched back in March, the 37-year-old Black Widow star has dedicated years striving to better understand the beauty industry, while playing an integral part in the creation of The Outset products that exist today.
“Being introduced to an entirely new industry, all of that has been quite an adventure,” Johansson says during our exclusive conversation. “Now finally having the products being in development with other pieces that we will add into the collection and just getting the feedback from people and having those return customers and people that just swear by this line, it really is a dream come true. It took five years to see it through, but now it’s actually here and a reality and working and growing and it’s very, very exciting.”
One of The Outset’s most unique ingredients is its signature Hyaluroset Complex, a botanical alternative to hyaluronic acid, delivering immediate and lasting hydration to the skin. The five available products out on the market today are the antioxidant cleanser, the vegan prep serum, the nourishing daily moisturizer, the restorative night cream, and the smoothing expression lines cream, which Johansson playfully tells me is her husband Colin Jost’s favorite product to use.
In late April, just over a month after The Outset products became available for purchase on the company’s website, Johansson and her Co-Founder & CEO Kate Foster expanded the accessibility of their products by making them available in-store and online at over 500 Sephora locations across the United States.
Just as actors tend to take the time to prepare for their next role, Johansson has brought that same mindset to her skincare business approach. With Foster having previously spent a decade in beauty, a decade in fashion, and a handful of years in entrepreneurship before The Outset, she has witnessed firsthand the dedication that Johansson brings to her work.
“She did spend three years on this project really getting educated on the beauty landscape, on the industry, understanding the different paths available to her to bring this concept to life,” Foster shares with me about Johansson. “I think by the time that she and I got together, she had really already had a master class in the beauty industry and knew what she wanted, but also more importantly, what she didn’t want.”
When I asked Foster about the value that Johansson continues to bring to The Outset team, she says of her Hollywood movie star business partner, “She’s so loved by a very vibrant community who is following us and participating in The Outset story on social [media]. She is such a global powerhouse and it’s very well-earned that it is obviously a huge asset for the brand – but still, we don’t think of ourselves as a celebrity brand. We think of ourselves as this indie brand with a superpower.”
Now that Johansson has found her entrepreneurial footing and knows what it takes to get a start-up company off the ground, I wondered what has been the greatest learning curve so far throughout her business experiences with The Outset.
“Oh my gosh, the whole thing has been such a learning curve. When you have all these different ingredients that come from different places and then are put together in another place and processed in a very certain way. Dealing with quality control and making sure that stuff is then packaged correctly and everything is being mindfully produced. Having a project that is so focused on these kind of conscious choices, there is just a big learning curve there, but that’s also the most exciting thing about having a start-up.”
For Johansson, seeing the ongoing positive feedback that The Outset is receiving goes far beyond just a professional satisfaction for her, but also feels somewhat personal after she struggled for years to achieve a more clear and healthy complexion in front of the public eye.
“I have had very sensitive skin for a long time, as far back as I can remember. Skin is such a huge part of your own feeling of self-confidence, especially in the industry that I’m in and having other people comment on and notice your skin all the time and end up being photographed and dissected in all these ways. I definitely forever [was] looking for some solution to the issues that I was having.”
The two-time Oscar nominee goes on to say that she felt there was an opportunity to create clean skincare essentials that were universally simple, effective, and easy to understand. After years of being the face behind popular marketing campaigns for longtime businesses like L’Oréal and Dolce & Gabbana, I wondered what it means to Johansson today to now not only have a seat at the table with The Outset, but to also be a leader and top decision maker with her own skincare company.
“It’s really exciting. It think it mirrors very much what I’ve done in my acting career, which has moved into production and development. I think for a long time, I worked for other beauty brands and cosmetic companies and I had wonderful experiences learning with them but there came a time where I felt like I didn’t want to be someone else’s version of a beauty ideal – and so, I took it upon myself to kind of dive into the unknown and then you get to write your own story when you take that road. Especially when you have somebody like Kate, a founding partner that really can be your sounding board, that to me is very fulfilling as a career person and somebody who’s interested in business.”
In a competitive beauty industry where it seems as if today’s consumers have endless skincare options to choose from, I asked Johansson for her personal opinion on how The Outset stands out from other available brands in their field.
“We really like to think of ourselves as ‘the white t-shirt of skincare.’ We play very well with others and it’s not about having a crazy multi-step routine where if you skip a step, it doesn’t complete the process or you can’t also use what other favorite things you have at home. You really can use The Outset with whatever else you have going on. It layers so well under makeup – it’s truly for all skin types and particularly for sensitive skin types. We wanted it to feel like a reliable pillar for people to be able to comfortably use every day and that is how we stand out from a very crowded space.”
Now after all of the knowledge and wisdom she has gained in bringing The Outset from a simple idea to an active business, I wondered what Johansson will now bring to her Hollywood projects moving forward, following her entrepreneurial experiences.
“I think those two, there are a lot of similarities between production and having a brand like The Outset – having a start-up. I think that there are no ideas that are not worth throwing on the table. You want to be open to the collaborative process and hearing everybody out and the best idea I think wins. I found that to be very true in filmmaking, as well. There’s a lot of different ways to get a good result and want to make sure you exhaust all possibilities and feel like everybody has a shared goal and is confident enough to also share their means of getting there. Just having that space where people can really thrive in a collaborative way, I think is how you get the best result and it’s true certainly in the start-up and you can certainly apply that to filmmaking and film production for sure.”
As Johansson, Foster, and their team look to the future for The Outset, expansion remains their focused goal while staying true to their purpose of why they created this skincare line in the first place.
“There will be different sizes that are coming out. We have travel sizes coming, our refillables are also coming because obviously a big part of our effort is to not create more waste. We try to be conscious about our footprint. We have several really exciting products that are in the pipeline that will be coming out a little later this year. We want to make sure that we are doing everything mindfully and it’s a slow burn, but we want the whole line to be very thoughtful and not having anything that’s excessive and that everything is part of the same story – that’s really important for us.”
As I wrapped up my conversation with Johansson, I wondered what it would have meant to her to have a skincare line like The Outset around during the years that she struggled with her skin.
“It was such a long time. I was in my mid-20s before I finally understood how to take of my skin and I had been struggling for over 10 years at that point. I wish there had been something like The Outset – having the trust in a line like that would have just saved me a lot of grief and a lot of unhappiness with how I was presenting on the outside. I’m very thankful now that I can confidently endorse this line for my friends and their teenagers, because it really does make a difference when you feel great about the way that you look on the outside, it helps all the stuff on the inside, too.”