Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.
I've always hated body lotion. It doesn't matter if it comes in an expensive glass jar or a jumbo bottle from the drugstore — most of them leave my skin feeling greasy, sticky, and uncomfortable. In the past, I've only used body lotion out of necessity, like during the winter when my skin is extra dry. People like me are exactly why co-founders Nick Axelrod and Randi Christiansen created Nécessaire, a brand of clean, high-performance, gender-neutral, personal care products, including the ideal body lotion for people who hate body lotion.
Last fall, Nécessaire launched with three products: The Body Lotion, The Body Wash, and The Sex Gel. The Body Lotion is a cult-favorite, and has absolutely converted me into lotion fan. It's light, non-greasy, and absorbs fast without getting all over my clothes.
So, who are the people behind this magic, moisturizing formula? For Axelrod (a former editor) and Christiansen (an Estée Lauder alum), meeting was kismet: They were the only two people wearing black at the bar of the Bel-Air Hotel in L.A. Once they started talking, they connected on a mutual desire to make their personal beauty routines more clean and sustainable. The rest, as they say, is history.
Here, I caught up with Axelrod and Christiansen to find out their inspiration behind the brand, what the term "clean beauty" really means, and what product the brand is launching next.
Tell me how you met.
Nick: I come from the media industry and moved to L.A. after being in New York for 10 years, I had been freelancing and was at the point where I'd had coffee with everyone I knew. I needed to switch up my routine in order to find the next step in my career. When I got to L.A., I was talking with one of my friends who works in product development, and she told me I had to meet Randi Christiansen, an Estée Lauder veteran. We connected because we were both focused on making our own beauty routines cleaner. Then, we quickly realized we had complimentary skill sets, which is what you’re looking for in a co-founder or business partner.
Randi: I worked at Estée Lauder for over 15 years, and worked on all of the start-up brands within the company. I started on La Mer when it was really small, and helped build the business into what it is today. I also worked on Tom Ford’s collection with Estée Lauder before he started his own brand. Our skill sets compliment each other perfectly because I come from classic brand-building and product development, and Nick has a background in editorial and storytelling.
What inspired the brand?
Randi: We started thinking about where we wanted to be in the beauty space. People were beginning to get obsessed with what they were putting into their bodies and the ingredients in their skincare, but personal care was still an afterthought. When you think about body products, it’s all about big sizes at small prices. We wanted to make the body the first thought by reinventing personal care. The brand is about making everyday essentials that are cleaner, high-performing, sustainable, and pH-optimized. We named it Nécessaire because there's a sea of beauty products out there, and we want our products and the conversation around them to be necessary.
In the clean beauty space, words like "natural" and "green" are thrown around. What's your take on this?
Nick: Since we come from journalism and marketing backgrounds, no bullshit has been very important to both of us. We both knew we wanted to be really honest with what we put into the products and how we talk about them, because there are a lot of words that get thrown around in beauty that don’t have any meaning. Clean was the right terminology for us to align with because it’s constantly gaining definition. Beauty retailers and brands are really coming out and beating the drum by providing lists of ingredients they won’t carry and explaining why they aren’t selling or making products with these ingredients.
Randi: I come at it from wanting to create the absolute best product that’s clean, but also performs. The body category is full of cocoa and Shea butter, but one of the things we want to accomplish is getting people to treating their body like their face because there's a lot of skin from the neck down. That’s why we use like ingredients that you find in skincare products like acids, niacinamide, and other vitamins to address concerns like dryness, aging, and exfoliation.
The body lotion has become the brand's hero product. How long did it take to get it just right?
Randi: It took close to 10 times to get right. The ingredients themselves are pretty straightforward, but the challenge was creating a really rich cream that strengthens and tones skin, but still absorbs fast. There’s no mineral oils or silicones in it, which you find in a lot of luxury body products, but it feels phenomenal on the skin.
Nick: You know the expression champagne taste on a beer can budget? When you're creating a clean formulation, you have to go without a lot of ingredients you’d expect to find in a luxury skincare product. Randi was able to take a product to a champagne level without sacrificing the integrity of the ingredients.
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You have a body exfoliator coming out in August. Can you tell me a bit about it?
Randi: The body exfoliator is like a dry brush for your skin. It has pumice and bamboo charcoal as physical exfoliants, which are partnered with chemical exfoliants glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids. Plus, there’s Marula oil to help moisturize skin. It’s unique because even though it has both physical and chemical exfoliants in it, your skin feels like it was exfoliated without getting red and irritated. It will be available in all of our essential oil scents.
Nick: It starts as a scrub, and then gets kind of milky creamy. It's not an aggressive exfoliation, but you feel like you’re sloughing off the dead skin without getting that dry, tight feeling when you step out of the shower.