The global skincare industry is rapidly growing, with estimates that it will nearly double in size to $213.3 billion by 2028. But the founders of Dieux, a New York City-based skincare brand, are urging consumers to buy less.
This may seem like an ironic proposition for a skincare brand to make when business goals have to be met, but it's one that has helped to propel the disruptive company forward, says CEO Charlotte Palermino, 35--even if the messaging sounds confusing. "People definitely questioned [the brand] at the beginning," she says. "But our proof of concept actually proved out, and we've been able to hire, build out our product line, and raise money."
Dieux launched in late 2020 after co-founders Palermino, Joyce de Lemos, 39, and Marta Freedman, 32, raised a small friends-and-family round pre-launch. Earlier this year, the brand completed a seed funding round with New York City venture capital firms Redo Ventures and True Beauty Ventures, with plans to soon raise a series A, though it declined to share how much it has raised. The company currently has six full-time employees.
While buying less is part of the brand's ethos--a note on Dieux's website reads, "If we can make a product that gets you to buy or use less, we will make it"--its aims aren't quite so simple. Dieux wants customers to consume less with sustainability as a goal, which, as Palermino notes, is far more complex an issue than competitors may suggest.
"There are two things to think about when it comes to sustainability," she says. "The first is harm reduction--ultimately, you should never be buying a product because it's sustainable. It should be because you think it's going to work for you. The second is not spreading misinformation." Misinformation, Palermino says, can run rampant in the beauty industry, pointing, as example, to brands that suggest their products are sustainable because they only use "plant-based" ingredients--when in reality, agriculture contributes to environmental degradation through elaborate shipping and processing processes, pesticide runoff, among other potential consequences.
"We really do our research on what is going to cause the least harm, instead of just buying carbon credits or planting trees," Palermino says. "When a brand presents a really simple solution, there are always more questions to ask."
Those questions are something that Dieux's team takes ample time to consider. The brand's first product, reusable silicone eye patches inscribed with the brand's name, offered a straightforward benefit to customers: Buy them once, use them to help your serum or moisturizer of choice better absorb, and forget about single-use alternatives. It helped that the team designed the patches with social media shareability in mind. So, Dieux's "Forever Eye Mask" helped to increase brand awareness as de Lemos, Dieux's head of product, worked on clinical trials for the brand's first product formulations: Deliverance, a serum launched in May 2021, and Instant Angel, a moisturizer released in February 2022. In the fall, Dieux will launch its third formulation, an eye gel, in addition to offering new sizes options for Instant Angel.
As de Lemos, a cosmetic chemist with 10 years of experience in the beauty industry, takes time to clinically vet Dieux's formulations, Palermino (who became a licensed esthetician to better collaborate with de Lemos) looks for opportunities for the business to become more sustainable, transparent, and efficient. That led, for example, to the decision to package Instant Angel in an easily recyclable aluminum tube that comes with a reusable metal squeeze key, designed to help users extract every last drop of product from its container--as a result, they can buy less.
This philosophy has also led to pricing transparency on Dieux's website, which breaks down, dollar by dollar, the cost of formulation, testing, packaging, payment processing, and shipping, plus mark-up cost. The brand also regularly makes donations to charitable organizations, including Stacey Abrams's voter mobilizing organization Fair Fight, in addition to making ongoing donations through product partnerships. Because Dieux's serum contains cannabinoids, $1 from every purchase goes to Floret Coalition, an anti-racist collective of small businesses in the cannabis space supporting equity-oriented actions--a decision made in light of the oversize influence of the War on Drugs on communities of color, Palermino says. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, Dieux also announced that it would donate $1 from each purchase of Instant Angel to reproductive justice organizations.
Transparency of this degree can easily lead to information overload--but Palermino's intention is to inform, not overwhelm. On Dieux's social media channels, the brand regularly shares skincare information, user testimonials, along with before-and-afters. On her own platforms, Palermino (whose audience is even larger than her brand's, with 251K followers on Instagram and 354.2K on TikTok) frequently shares her own skincare expertise, which has helped to garner interest in Dieux. It's all about finding customers where they are, which doesn't mean just targeting the shoppers who are intent on finding a sustainable skincare brand, she says.
One of Dieux's most-watched TikToks focuses on the squeeze key that comes free with Instant Angel and the pros and cons of aluminum packaging. "That's something that some random person who has no interest in skincare could fall upon because it's about packaging," Palermino says. "That's how we get to a bunch of different people, because at the end of the day, I see skincare as a basic thing everyone should be doing, like brushing your teeth."
But a lot goes into making skincare simple for a consumer--especially when you're trying to challenge longtime industry status quos. While many investors had little faith in Dieux during early pitches, Palermino says that the company's current investors are fully on board with its mission, and customers, especially the brand's 130,000 email subscribers, appear to be engaged. Dieux declined to share its revenue, but reported 430 percent year-over-year growth.
Scaling that engagement, and getting even more customers on board with an impact-driven brand will present a new challenge. But not all customers have to come to the brand with the goal of doing good. It's fine, too, if they just want something that works for their skin.
"You can have all these missions and visions of how you want to positively impact the world and that's great, but if you don't have an effective product, you could just start a fund instead," Palermino says."That's why it's important that our products actually work."