Are you even a celebrity if you don’t have a clean skincare brand? Scarlett Johannson doesn’t want to find out. Say hello to The Outset.
Last year’s highest-paid actress, Scarlett Johannson, is getting into the beauty market with The Outset, a six-piece minimalist clean skincare brand she says is an elevated take on drugstore finds, apothecary traditions, and French pharmacy efficacy.
Johannson has been a spokesperson for brands for years, but this is a project she says feels different—because it is different.
“I’ve been the face of several luxury brands throughout my career, and all of those experiences were really wonderful,” Johansson wrote in a social media post, referencing her years with L’Oréal, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, and others. “But—how do I put this? I guess I always felt like I was playing a character in those campaigns, and as I evolved I wanted to create and represent a brand that was true to me.”
That true representation is a clean, beauty range that includes a three-step regimen: an antioxidant cleanser, a vegan collagen prep serum, and a squalane moisturizer, as well as a niacinamide night cream, vitamin C eye cream, and lip treatment. The products are based on a botanical alternative to hyaluronic acid. And they’re also based on a less-is-more approach to beauty in and out of the bottle. The design aesthetic, according to Johannson, comes from her father, an architect by trade.
“I wanted it to feel like something that was always there,” Johansson said of the design, firm in her resolve that it’s not a “millennial pink brand”. Instead, The Outset’s color scheme is a Ceylon blue, and packaged in recyclable glass bottles and bio resin sugarcane tubes.
Johannson teamed up with Kate Foster Lengyel, founder and former CEO of SwearBy—a product recommendation word-of-mouth website. Foster Lengyel will serve as CEO for The Outset and Johannson as chairman. Last year, they raised between $5 million to $10 million from Najafi Companies, a Phoenix-based private investment firm founded by Jahm Najafi (he’s an owner of the Phoenix Suns) to fund The Outset launch.
Johannson and Foster Lengyel met in person in New York just ahead of the pandemic to discuss launching The Outset; the resulting Zoom calls after that bonded them over the products and potential. “In a way, it sort of accelerated our relationship, because we now had this other kind of intimacy,” Johansson said.
Johannson says she was driven in large part to create the brand because of her acting work, the long hours in makeup chairs, and the resulting toll it takes on skin.
Sephora will begin stocking The Outset after it launches. “When we were first asked to take the meeting with Scarlett, I was joking that I’ve talked to so many celebrities during COVID, it’s like I have my own Zoom Oscars,” Priya Venkatesh, senior vice president of merchandising for skin care and hair at Sephora told Vogue. “The world doesn’t need more products,” she says, “but I really like Scarlett’s skin-care philosophy, which is just: Skin care is something that should be done every day, and it should be simple.”
Venkatesh isn’t exaggerating; there is no shortage of celebrity-backed skincare brands on the market. Most notably, there’s Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, which helped make the mom-to-be a billionaire. But in her wake, there is a sea of skincare and cosmetic offerings. There’s a heap of Kardashians with skincare ranges; Kim’s formerly known as KKW Beauty is coming back as SKKNS in the near future, once a trademark lawsuit is settled. Kylie Jenner’s range revamped with clean and vegan ingredients. Selena Gomez, Jennifer Aniston, Kristen Bell, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, all have their own skincare brands. So does Pharrell Williams—and you can count Harry Styles, too with his recent launch into the beauty category with Pleasing.
But for Johannson, it’s not just about using star power to launch a brand. It’s a real passion. She’s long said if she hadn’t gotten into acting, she’d have become a dermatologist. And the products are based on her own success managing breakouts, dry skin, and the occupational hazards of the makeup chair.
The launch also comes after Johannson sued Disney over distribution of 2021’s Black Widow—the Marvel film she starred in. The case settled, but it set a new bar for the industry and earned her heavy criticisms.
“It made me feel like I could push the boulder up the mountain and it wasn’t going to roll back on me,” she said.
The Outset is expected to launch on March 1st, and in Sephora in April.