Scarlett Johansson Launches The Outset Skincare Line | Good + Good

OWhen I tell people I’m going to interview Scarlett Johansson about her new skincare line, The Outset, no one is skittish about it. My massage therapist, who is deep into comic book movies, is thrilled with the black widow of it all; women, surprisingly, are curious to know if she is friendly. My husband, choosing his words wisely, is content to say that she is “a very pretty lady” and that she has “a very beautiful voice”. And in typical fashion, online commentators applauded or condemned Johansson for being another famous person launching a product line.

After a few moments on a glitchy cellular connection, that infamous raspy voice comes on the line. We exchange greetings, and I think it’s best to sort out the awkward things first. “So,” I said, “on the internet you see people saying, ‘Oh, another celebrity skincare line. What made you decide to take the plunge?”

I’m not saying this as a trick question, but as a genuine question. Because here’s the problem: creating a brand is hard. It’s one thing to license your image, show up at a launch party, and cash a check; it’s quite another to spend years obsessing over the hundreds of details that go into creating the visuals, the voice acting, the packaging, the wording, all of it. It would have been much lighter for Johansson to continue being a brand ambassador above her acting career.

She knows it. People have suggested allowing her name multiple times, she says. “I guess it would have been easier,” she admits. “But I wanted to explore and do something on my own. I knew it would be difficult but rewarding. I could actually learn in a new industry and create something authentic.”

And here’s a truth about authenticity: Scarlett Johansson doesn’t need to do a skincare line for fame or fortune or just something to do. She is already the highest paid actress in the world. She’s also a mother, and when you have children, you fiercely guard your time. If you were her, wouldn’t you just do what you wanted to do, the way you wanted to do it?

This is precisely his plan. “After working with different brands for over a decade, I increasingly felt like I didn’t want to represent someone else’s beauty ideal,” she says. In previous beauty campaigns for Dolce & Gabbana and L’Oreal, Johansson is conventionally glamorous: voluminous hair, cat-eye liner, crimson lips, corsetry. She looks gorgeous, obviously, but for The Outset, Johansson took a different approach.

The branding is minimalist, with Karl Blossfeldt-esque photographs of plants and models of different genders, races, and ages; refreshingly, a viewer can see their pores and other normal characteristics of human skin. Johansson herself appears clean, dressed simply but smartly, with a confident gaze.

“I’ve been down a lot of different paths,” she says, “and I kept coming back to skin.”

But why not makeup, hairstyle or perfume? “I had my own journey with skin,” she says, alluding to acne during her teenage years. “I’ve tried all the prescription peels and scrubs and creams, stuff,” she says. “It took me a while to realize that I was removing all the good stuff from my skin. [while] trying to clean my face or make my acne go away. When I got back to basics – cleansing, prepping, moisturizing – my skin calmed down.”

The idea for The Outset came from looking at his own bathroom counter, awash in products. “There’s so much noise in space, and I thought there might be an opportunity for reduction,” Johansson says. The result is a small collection of essentials: a cleanser, serum, moisturizer, night cream and eye cream.

The brand’s “less is more” philosophy translates into rigorous formulations that exclude 2,700 ingredients of questionable safety; it’s also fragrance-free, vegan, gluten-free, allergy-tested, Leaping Bunny certified, non-comedogenic, and nut allergen-free. Its star ingredient, the Hyaluroset complex, is a vegetable alternative to hyaluronic acid. “A lot of the products I used had hyaluronic acid in it, which was great for my skin, but it was like, ‘How can we make a botanical alternative to this?'”

Johansson favored plant-based formulas for their effectiveness, but also to avoid the petrochemicals so common in skincare. “When you start looking [traditional] formulas, it’s like, ‘Oh. I put oil on my face. Once you know this, it’s hard to ignore. I don’t want to have any more there.”

The conversation turns to sustainability. I admit to being a climate-obsessed person (join me!), and we talk about waste in the beauty industry. “The unboxing stuff is crazy,” she says, alluding to unboxing videos on social media. “As I get older and have kids, I pay more attention to things like packaging.”

The Outset’s packaging is made with post-consumer recycled materials, all of which are recyclable; the paper is made in wind-powered, carbon-neutral facilities. Rechargeable products are on the way and the brand is a member of 1% For the Planet. “Obviously we know there’s always room for improvement, but we’re constantly evaluating the packaging and the supply chain,” she says. “Keeping sustainability in mind is the top priority.”

And then our time is almost up. It’s always tricky, this whole thing of interviewing actors, because their job is to act. But during our brief phone call, it’s clear that Johansson is in it for the long haul and The Outset is personal to her. “I’ve been down a lot of different paths,” she says, “and I kept coming back to skin.”

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