I’ve wanted to feature a seasoned skincare expert on the blog for what seems like ages, so I’m honored to have celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau here today. With over 30 years of hands-on experience working with clients – including famous faces like Lisa Rinna and Demi Lovato – she’s an all-around authority on all things skincare. In addition to her clinic work, Renee is also an entrepreneur who saw the early potential of dotcom businesses when she founded Renee Rouleau Skincare back in 1999. The brand is celebrating 25 years this month with the kick-off of its big site-wide anniversary sale, starting today.
I spoke with Renee earlier this summer about the perks of being a direct-to-consumer (DTC) business, her brand’s famous nine skin type framework (yes, you read that right; there are way more than just three!), skincare myths, hot topics and trends.
Let’s dive in!
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WHY IS RENEE ROULEAU SKINCARE STILL A DTC BRAND? WHY NO RETAIL PARTNERS?
We’ve been DTC since I started back in 1999. We’ve never been in retail before. We got into DTC so early on and recognized how much control we had over messaging and distribution, and things like that. The truth is, we really haven’t needed to be in retail. I own 100% of my company, and I’m not looking to be acquired. I don’t have any investors breathing down my neck to do things so I’ve chosen to grow at the pace that’s right to me. We do very well as is. At the end of the day, we’re always about who we’re trying to please, and that is the customer not investors.
HOW DID YOU DESIGN THE BRAND’S NINE SKIN TYPE FRAMEWORK?
I learned about the dry, normal and oily classifications when I went to school to become an esthetician, but they also taught us about the Fitzpatrick skin types. My real education began when I started working with clients and got that very nuanced, hands-on experience. My clients had skin concerns that didn’t necessarily put them into those dry, normal or oily classifications. Dry, normal, and oily has its place in skincare, but it’s to tell you how light or heavy a moisturizer should be, for example. Dry, normal and oily doesn’t tell me as a professional how to address someone’s concerns with sunspots, melasma, post-breakout marks, or adult acne. So I wondered, how am I supposed to handle these concerns? I learned early on that there were nine skin types and that carried over to when I started my company. Luckily, I’ve never had to change it!
To this day brands are still speaking to those dry, normal or oily buckets, or they’ll come out with a product that they claim is formulated for all skin types. How is possible for someone who’s 20 years old with acne to use the same product as their 85-year-old grandmother? What made my brand so successful is that I delivered a message to people that was unique back in ‘90’s, which was your skin is unique and you have to treat it as such. Fast forward to today where a lot of beauty retailers will curate the perfect routine for you by picking and choosing from the different lines that they sell. They’re technically doing what I’ve been doing, but we just have one line. We have 50 products, so you don’t need to jump ship and go somewhere else. People’s skin types will change – they don’t change season to season – but they can change over the course of years. Our line grows with you.
WHAT DO YOU THINK PEOPLE ARE DOING WRONG IN THEIR SKINCARE ROUTINES?
There are definitely trends and hot topics that people pick up on on social media now. Everyone is talking about how we damage the skin’s barrier, but the reality is that’s been happening for years. At the start of my career, people were using the Clinique 3-step; it was a bar of soap, plus a clarifying lotion that not only contained alcohol but also acetone! There was a lot of alcohol-based toners back then; they were called astringents. People have always been drying out their skin.
In theory, our skin is in much better shape now because people know to use sulfate-free, low-foaming, non-drying products. There’s such a big focus on skin hydration, skin plumping and hyaluronic acid now. Years ago, no one knew what hyaluronic acid was. So I think the conversation around the skin’s barrier is just realizing that you need balance and moderation in everything.
Acids have been around for years; I started using them in 1991. I do think that there’s a part of the population that overuses them because they think “no pain, no gain” or “the more the better.” You have to be careful, but in general most skincare consumers that are educated got the memo a while back that you should be exfoliating every day.
WHAT ARE SOME GO-TO SOURCES FOR RELIABLE SKINCARE INFORMATION?
I think consulting with a skincare professional is always the best route, whether it’s an esthetician or a dermatologist. It’s important to get expert advice when it comes to skincare.
In the digital age, there’s so much available online. During the pandemic a lot of brands started to jump on virtual consultations, so that’s a really easy way to speak with a professional from your home. Some customers are still unsure about virtual because they think you won’t be able to see their skin well through the screen. But the reality is we see enough, and through conversation and asking the right questions you can pull out the right information. We’ve been offering virtual skin consultations with our in-house estheticians since 2012; we call it My Skin Rx. People can take our skin quiz and find out more about their skin type that way. They can also book in for a virtual consultation with one of our estheticians if they have additional questions; it’s free with $100 purchase.
For people who just want to learn and be smarter about skincare, you can go to our blog. I started creating skincare content on there almost 25 years ago when we initially launched my website. The blog is really the cornerstone of my company’s success because we were always a commerce and content company. I’ve always seen myself as an educator pushing out my knowledge. The blog is very well trafficked and loved; we put a lot of energy into putting out skincare information that people can trust. You will learn tips and tricks and even if you never buy one of my products, you’ll gain so much information to become a smarter skincare consumer.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST SKINCARE MYTH CIRCULATING RIGHT NOW?
There are so many choices out there for skincare now, it makes your head spin. People get really confused about what to use, and they also get a little bit of FOMO. They want the newest product with the newest bell-and-whistle and they convince themselves to buy it because they think their current routine doesn’t work anymore. A lot of people ask me if their skin can become “immune” to skincare products and lose their effectiveness. The answer is no. There’s no direct mechanism for your skin to become immune to the effects of products.
When you apply a product, your skin’s receptors will take it in – and assuming it’s a well-formulated product – it will go to work immediately to perform its function. The exception to this rule is with prescription retinoids where your skin can build up a tolerance over time. But in general I think people are changing up their skincare products too much and too often.
Now, that being said, when should you change up products? When your skin is changing. Summer to winter, your skin might feel drier so you up the ante with a heavier moisturizer. But if your skin isn’t changing, you can stick with your tried-and-true.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE GOING TO BE THE NEXT BIG CONVERSATIONS HAPPENING IN SKINCARE?
I think companies will always try to innovate around ingredients, but it’s hard. They’ll try to create their own proprietary mix of ingredients and call it something else, but the reality is there hasn’t been a lot of innovation as much as the trend is to continue to try.
If you look at an ingredient list today compared to 25 years ago, it’s not that much different. Part of this is because animal testing stopped. Trust me, I’m not for animal testing, but basically all the ingredients that are used today were animal tested years ago. Sure, there’s been a lot of movement around how to safety test without animals, but I think that did slow down ingredient innovation a bit.
From a consumer standpoint, I think the big focus will continue to be around educating themselves on specific ingredients. Bakuchiol became big all of sudden, as well as niacinamide.
I hope you enjoyed my chat with celebrity esthetician Renee Rouleau! You can follow her on social @reneerouleau or @reneerouleauskincare.
xo, and be well, Erica
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