Beauty experts on Deciem skin care founder Brandon Truaxe's legacy: 'New, nimble, cut-out-the-middle-man'

Brandon Truaxe is shown in this undated handout photo posted to Instagram. (Photo: Instagram)
Brandon Truaxe is shown in this undated handout photo posted to Instagram. (Photo: Instagram)

The beauty industry has just suffered a devastating loss with the death of Brandon Truaxe, founder of the Canadian skin care company Deciem. Company executives confirmed the news on Monday with an Instagram post that read: “Whilst we can’t imagine a world without you, we promise to take care of each other and will work hard to continue your vision. May you finally be at peace.”

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Details surrounding Truaxe’s death have yet to be confirmed, but his brilliance as an innovator was established when he launched the company in 2013 with an impressive 10 subbrands, including the wallet-friendly skin care line The Ordinary and bath and body line Loopha.

When he was starting out, Truaxe explained, as quoted on the company’s website: “Everyone’s guidance was that ‘you can’t do 10 things at once.” His response: “And so we did what was the right thing to do. We decided to do 10 things at once and called our craziness DECIEM,” from decimus, “the Latin word for 10 in a sequence.”

Felicia Walker Benson, the editor-in-chief of ThisThatBeauty, remembers “hearing buzz about this new, nimble, ‘cut-out-the-middle-man’ skin care line with these highly effective formulas under $10. I just had to further explore,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Beauty editors still rave about Deciem’s Hyaluronic Acid and why it’s a must-have for layering with moisturizer, especially during winter. YouTubers, meanwhile, continue to upload reviews praising the foundation, which attracted a 25,000-person waiting list when it debuted in 2017.

Last year, Truaxe posted a series of perplexing messages on the company’s Instagram account that had many speculating about drug use and his mental health (he denied having any mental illness), Subsequently, Estée Lauder, which had a minority stake in the company, took legal action against him. He was booted as CEO in October.

But although his legacy is complicated by the controversy, Truaxe’s natural affinity for being “radically transparent” is what “earned him a lot of respect and trust with beauty consumers,” according to Jill Dunn, co-host of the podcast Breaking Beauty.

Carlene Higgins, Breaking Beauty’s co-host, adds, “We have to work to remove the stigma around mental health, so that people can have the space and dignity to treat themselves the same way they would if they were suffering from cancer. Empathy, respect, avoiding the use of terms like ‘nutter,’ ‘crazy,’ ‘insane,’ will be a personal goal of mine and I hope many others.”

Yahoo Lifestyle asked some of the top beauty experts and influencers to expand on Truaxe’s lasting impact, as well as to reflect on how they were first introduced to Deciem. Ahead, read about the brand’s cult products they swear by and more.

Felicia Walker Benson, editor-in-chief, ThisThatBeauty

On what makes Deciem different: Everyone deserves good skin care that’s affordable, and Deciem/The Ordinary really championed that. The skin care education piece also stood out for me. You really felt Brandon’s passion in his products and in how he presented them to the world.

<strong><a href="https://fave.co/2T9Td7t" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Shop it</a></strong>: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG, $7, <a href="https://fave.co/2T9Td7t" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:deciem.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">deciem.com</a>. (Photo: Deciem)
Shop it: The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG, $7, deciem.com. (Photo: Deciem)

Two favorite Deciem products: When I’m asked for eye cream recommendations for puffiness and dark circles, I always explain that caffeine is a great ingredient because it helps to improve circulation. And I’m always so surprised that there are so few eye creams with caffeine on the market. Deciem’s Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG is a great formula for puffy eyes. And The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 is a good, basic hydrating serum for skin care newbies.

<a href="https://fave.co/2T9i3nT" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Shop it</strong></a>: The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA, $7, <a href="https://fave.co/2T9i3nT" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:sephora.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">sephora.com</a> (Photo: Sephora)
Shop it: The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA, $7, sephora.com (Photo: Sephora)

Best product for hyperpigmentation or deeper skin tones: As the skin ages, deeper skin tones might see fine lines or slight creasing. But, in my observation, texture is a bigger concern. To improve the skin’s surface, try incorporating a gentle peeling serum into the routine, maybe once or twice a week. The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA helps to refine the surface and reveal more radiant texture over time. This form of mild exfoliation keeps skin brighter and more even-toned. It also encourages better penetration of your subsequent topical skin care solutions.

Stephanie Saltzman, senior editor, beauty, Fashionista

First introduction to Deciem/The Ordinary: I’m sure it had to be through social media that I first discovered them. I was immediately curious — with The Ordinary specifically, how were they managing to make and sell these products for such small fractions of what other brands charge for them?

On what makes Deciem different: It stands out because of its commitment to innovation with product development and speed to market across all its brands. Of course, The Ordinary stands out because it has been at the forefront of major industry trends like fast beauty, minimalist/social media-friendly packaging and single-ingredient marketing. Its price points are obviously a huge draw, and in a lot of ways, it has been responsible for the democratization of skin care we’ve seen over the past few years: By offering accessibly priced products and educating consumers about the active ingredients in them, The Ordinary has played a crucial role in driving the skin care boom.

<strong><a href="https://theordinary.com/product/rdn-aha-30pct-bha-2pct-peeling-solution-30ml" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Shop it</a></strong>: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, $7, <a href="https://theordinary.com/product/rdn-aha-30pct-bha-2pct-peeling-solution-30ml" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:theordinary.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">theordinary.com</a> (Photo: Deciem)
Shop it: The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, $7, theordinary.com (Photo: Deciem)

Two favorite products: The Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG is excellent for brightening and de-puffing the under-eye area. I am also a big fan of chemical exfoliators and acids in general, so of course I love the AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, which makes skin look so glow-y and dewy — and also makes for some crazy selfie opportunities, given that it’s blood-red.

Carlene Higgins, beauty editor, co-host of Breaking Beauty podcast

First introduction to Deciem/The Ordinary: Brandon Truaxe came to the Rogers offices when I worked as the beauty editor at Flare magazine several years ago. He introduced me to Deciem’s first product, the Hand Chemistry hand cream, which contained skin care ingredients so premium, you could use it on your face (those were the headlines in the U.K., where it launched first.) Then he showed me a tub of the brand’s clear, Hyaluronic Acid concentrate that was so large I could slather my entire body in it. That was followed by a handful of bottles that claimed to grow your hair. So many category-busters, all coming at once. He talked fast, and I had to struggle to keep up. That’s the way it was with Brandon.

<strong><a href="https://fave.co/2Ta77Gm" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Shop it</a>:</strong> The Chemistry Brand Hand Chemistry, $20, <a href="https://fave.co/2Ta77Gm" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:deciem.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">deciem.com</a> (Photo: Deciem)
Shop it: The Chemistry Brand Hand Chemistry, $20, deciem.com (Photo: Deciem)

Favorite product: I’m still a fan of the Hand Chemistry, because unlike most other hand creams, it doesn’t evaporate after just a couple of hours. Besides, hands are just as quick to suffer the signs of premature aging, so why wouldn’t I want some Copper Peptide Complex there, too?

Jill Dunn, beauty editor and co-host of Breaking Beauty Podcast

Thoughts on Brandon Truaxe: In a word, Brandon was an innovator. He had a passion for the beauty industry that was truly one of a kind. I mean, even the tagline for Deciem is “The Abnormal Beauty Company” — evidence that he never took himself too seriously. This mix of innovation and cheeky sense of humor that informed everything he did endeared him to legions of beauty fans.

On what makes the brand stand out: When The Ordinary launched, never before had such incredible formulations, centered around hero ingredients like vitamin C and retinol, been delivered in chic, no-frills packaging at rock-bottom prices. When we asked him about this blockbuster, budget-friendly creation dethroning prestige skin care 10 times its price, he said: “There’s nothing luxurious about being taken for an idiot.”

<strong><a href="https://fave.co/2Wb2cqF" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Shop it</a>: </strong>The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, $6, <a href="https://fave.co/2Wb2cqF" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:sephora.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">sephora.com</a> (Photo: Sephora)
Shop it: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, $6, sephora.com (Photo: Sephora)

Favorite product: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. It’s $5.80, and it’s one of the best creams I’ve used for fading any spots or pigmentation.

Cassandra Bankson, skin care YouTuber and acne expert

First introduction to Deciem/The Ordinary: I first found The Ordinary online, on the Sephora “Upcoming Trends” list. Being someone who has suffered with severe acne for over 15 years, I have learned to read my labels pretty religiously. At the time, it was unconventional to see such inexpensive products with pure and efficacious ingredients, especially at a retailer like Sephora.

On what makes the brand stand out: The Ordinary was a breath of fresh air to me. Finally, a company that is transparent about their manufacturing and ingredient processes. Finally, a way to get pure, basic ingredients without having to resort to buying 3 kilograms of a suspicious yellow powder on Alibaba. The Ordinary made highly efficacious, single ingredients and basic blends available to the masses, at a price that made treating our skin affordable and unintimidating.

We approach every single day face first, and even with the highest amount of confidence, our skin is a reflection of who we are — biologically, as well as through identity. The Ordinary has given me an option to not only treat my own skin, but to make recommendations that align with my morals and values, and have helped my audience significantly. I truly believe that this line’s founding and existence is a catalyst to affordable and transparent skin care, and I hope that the beauty industry continues to be exposed, evaluated and enjoyed in new, innovative ways.

Before Deciem, there was no company that went up against the beauty standards, that fought against the industry from the inside out, to bring transparency, honesty and efficacy to customers. I feel that [Trueaxe’s] founding of the line was a kick-start to that, and even after his passing, this has catalyzed something that is just beginning to blossom.

<strong><a href="https://fave.co/2T4OweW" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Shop it</a>: </strong>The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, $6, <a href="https://fave.co/2T4OweW" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:sephora.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">sephora.com</a> (Photo: Sephora)
Shop it: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, $6, sephora.com (Photo: Sephora)

Two favorite products: The Ordinary Moisturizing Factors + HA has done wonders for my acne-prone skin, and has not triggered additional oil in my face. A harsh reality of having acne is that sometimes the skin overproduces oil, but can be dehydrated on lower layers. Additionally, the constant damage and compromised barrier function makes even moisturization difficult. This product not only matches my cheap-girl-on-the-go budget and fits into my carry-on, but it truly hydrates and helps repair my skin.

The AHA BHA Peeling Solution at 30% — this stuff is in your coat in a bottle. When I was in aesthetics school back in 2009, we worked with glycolic acid and other AHA peels in concentrations from 10 to 40 percent. After leaving aesthetics school, I realized how nearly impossible it was to find similar and efficacious products over the counter without a medical license or special contacts. Finally, The Ordinary made these products available to the masses at a price that was even less than I got with my aesthetic student discounts. This peeling solution not only has helped my pitted acne scars and active breakouts, but it has been safe to recommend to my viewers who have darker skin tones.

Cheryl Wischhover, beauty/wellness reporter and contributor, The Goods/Vox

First introduction to Deciem/The Ordinary: In late 2016, I started seeing the company referenced on Reddit’s SkincareAddiction subreddit, and I wrote my first story about it about a month after The Ordinary had launched. I could sense that there was a real excitement about the company.

Thoughts on Brandon Truaxe: I had a few in-person meetings with Brandon and many phone calls. In the beginning, he was funny and quirky and charismatic and obviously very smart. It was hard for me as a human being (with my journalist hat off) to watch the changes in his behavior over the last year. I also really felt terrible for the employees there who were trying to keep the train on the tracks.

What happened to Brandon is tragic, but I think he’s left a lasting legacy that will change the beauty industry. Deciem did a lot to educate consumers about the ridiculous markup on beauty products, and we’re already starting to see new brands inspired by The Ordinary’s model.

On what makes the brand stand out: The combination of The Ordinary’s very accessible price point and ingredients that are effective without any fluffy marketing was radical.

<strong><a href="https://fave.co/2Wc5VEm" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Shop it</a>:</strong> The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, $9, <a href="https://fave.co/2Wc5VEm" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:theordinary.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">theordinary.com</a> (Photo: Deciem)
Shop it: The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, $9, theordinary.com (Photo: Deciem)

Two favorite products: Any of the acids from The Ordinary! They are a great and inexpensive way to experiment, and I’ve recommended them to countless people who wanted to try acids or who wanted to add more “serious” products to their regimens.

Renée Chow, skin care expert, vlogger, Gothamista

First introduction to Deciem/The Ordinary: My introduction to Deciem/The Ordinary was through classic word of mouth. I was already a fan of NIOD & Hylamide, and when The Ordinary launched, the simple, surprisingly affordable, ingredient-focused brand just spoke my language.

What makes the brand stand out: Its devotion to transparency, ingredients, innovative formulations and education not only sets it apart from other brands, but has created a movement in the industry towards more accountability, in a way no other brand has. Higher concentrations of proven ingredients and less nonsense.

Thoughts on Brandon Truaxe: My first-ever conversation with Brandon in 2017 lasted over four hours and was fun, educational, cathartic — and I could’ve continued chatting for longer. He was immediately dynamic, funny, down-to-earth and humble, not to mention generous with his accessibility, which was unmatched, as was his passion for his brand. Even days later, he would follow up with details of our conversation and queries in passing with lab results and/or personal thoughts.

This kind of attentiveness — even though I had a small social presence — was above and beyond what I’m used to from brands, let alone the founder. I am still in shock and saddened, and despite all that has happened, I am grateful for his vision and the impact he has had on this industry.

<strong><a href="https://fave.co/2Ta7O2q" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Shop it</a>:</strong> NIOD CAIS 2, $60, <a href="https://fave.co/2Ta7O2q" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:niod.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">niod.com</a> (Photo: Deciem)
Shop it: NIOD CAIS 2, $60, niod.com (Photo: Deciem)

Two favorite products: NIOD CAIS 2 — one of the most transformative serums I’ve used to date. This highly concentrated copper peptide serum is the ultimate youth preserver that also improves the skin surface texture greatly. And Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution is one of my all-time favorite acid toners for skin resurfacing. Powerfully effective but gentle and non-irritating. This elegant formula is the best value available.

*Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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