How is it possible?

That we spend our entire lives searching for the right products to prevent acne and skin cancer

when science can already deliver these

How to Start Your Own Skincare Brand: An Interview with Cheryl Woodman, Founder of Honesty

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

I do. I mean, I’m a beauty blogger. We all dream of starting our own cosmetic brand (although, I was thinking about it even before starting this blog…).

But, it’s one think to mentally mix your lotions and potions, pick the pretty bottles that will house them and become an overnight success and another to actually go out there and do it. Truth is, most of us wouldn’t know where to even start.

ishonest No.222 - Fine Lines & Wrinkles

No.222 - Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Surely, you have to be a millionaire to start your own skincare line? And how do you even begin to formulate your own products? And let’s not even go into all the rules you have to comply with…

There’s enough to make your head spin. That’s why I asked my friend Cheryl, the founder of Honesty skincare, to share her story with us and tell us what starting your own skincare company is really like.

Cheryl used to be a research & development scientist before deciding she had enough of the lies the beauty industry is feeding us. So, she quit her job and, armed with her beauty science skills and love of truth, decided to create her own line of sensitive-skin friendly products.

She also writes one of the best beauty science blogs out there. Honesty For Your Skin makes science fun and entertaining. You’ll learn how to choose the best moisturizer for your skin and have a laugh, too. Win win.

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There’s no one better to give you a sneak peek into what it takes to create your own brand. So, without further ado, here’s what Cheryl has to say about her journey in the beauty industry, the challenges she faced to create her own line and much more:

1. Hi Cheryl! Can you tell us something about yourself and why you quit your job as a research & development scientist to start your own skincare line?

Oh wow, such a big (but very awesome!) question. Me? I’m a set of walking contradictions. I love science and I love fashion. I love watching documentaries and binging on reality TV. I love exploring new countries and lazing on the beach. As you might be able to tell, I don’t hold back on commitment which is probably why you now find me as the founder of Honesty For Your Skin.

I left my job as a research & development scientist and project manager for many reasons. I had this urge to give more, I wanted to empower others to make smart decisions, to hold the tools to decide for themselves whether skincare, beauty or nutrition products would do for them what they hoped they would. To make the candy shop of beauty, understandable and relatable. To breakdown science in a way that people could use chunks of it to care for themselves in the best way possible. Part of doing this led me to recommending skincare products and when those skincare products where for sensitive skin’d natural beauty’s, I struggled to find options I felt comfortable recommending.

2. How did your background as a R&D scientist influence your skincare line?

For me it means I look at every ingredient through the eyes of science. Whether those ingredients are great for skin, whether they’re skin-similar or skin identical, what scientific research papers have to say, what absolutely needs to be there and what can be left out for the benefit of your skin. One of the decisions I made very early on was to develop formulas completely free from fragrance and essential oils, even though they can both be naturally made, they’re not adding any benefit to your skin… if anything they sometimes aggravate it. I wanted to develop a brand that was completely honest in its love for skin.

3. What was/is your biggest challenge in creating your own skincare line? What’s the most rewarding thing?

ishonest No.171 - Pre-Sun Exposure

No.171 - Pre-Sun Exposure

Oh gosh, there’s been lots of interesting challenges along the way. I’d have to say the most challenging is having to wear so many hats at any one time. I’m the lab girl and the finance officer. I’m the sales manager and the head of regulatory. I’m the packaging assistant and the artwork developer.

The most rewarding part for me is hearing such lovely words from people I’ve helped through our sensitive skin’d natural beauty products or through providing helpful information on our blog. They make my day!

4. What do you wish you had known before starting your own skincare line?

There’s this diagram about how people think success looks and what it actually looks like – it’s so true. When I left my climb the career ladder job, I don’t think I realised the true realness of this diagram. Success is a very wiggly road and anyone who seems to instantly rise to success has been working away doing their thing for years and years before you see it. I think it’s important to know this in your heart before going solo, because there will be lots of people around you eager to see what you have to offer instantly, you have to be confident enough to say, this is going to take time.

5. Is starting your own skincare line as expensive as people think?

It’s as expensive as you make it. I think money can hold a lot of people back from chasing their dreams, because you start with an expectation of your starting point. That could mean launching with 5 products, instead of making a start with just 1. Investing in a 1-off website design or getting started with an off-the-peg one. Paying for a design company or using your own unique talent or borrowing a friend of a friends.

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There’s lots of places you can spend money and it’s about deciding what makes the most sense for you. How you can get started on your journey with the means you have to start with.

6. Let’s talk about regulations. What rules does someone who wants to start her own skincare business needs to comply with?

Great question, this is very important. From the starting line, you need to decide which region you’re selling into as this determines the regulations you have to abide to. I sell only into the EU, which for me means the EU cosmetic regulations are my law. Secondly you need to decide which side of the fence you sit – cosmetic or medicine. This distinction is mostly made by what you want to claim on the label, if you claim it has a measurable change, it’s a medicine, which takes you out of the world of skincare development and into the world of medicine development.

From here on out, there’s many more regulations which are dictated by the markets you sell into. That’s things like good manufacturing practice (GMP), supply chain traceability, proof of safety etc.

7. What Honesty product was the easiest to formulate? And the most challenging? Why?

All of my formulations have had their own unique quirks. Sometimes the challenge has been keeping the formulation simple and avoiding the temptation to over complicate it which was the case for the Honesty Protect Nourishing Cleanse Balm which I’m so excited to say has just won an award! Sometimes it’s been finding a formulation that’s stable over time, this can be a big challenge with cream formulations, because water and oil naturally want to separate, so my job as a formulator is finding a system that holds them together for many years. Other times it’s been finding packaging that plays well with my formulations, so finding a pump that’s able to dose a thicker formula, or an opaque bottle that will protect precious ingredients from light.

8. What frustrates you the most about the beauty industry and how do you plan to change that?

ishonest No.111 - Purge Impurities

No.111 - Purge Impurities

Honesty and transparency. There’s lots of science used in the beauty industry these days, there are big words bounded about, but skincare companies don’t pause to explain what they mean or what they’ll actually do for your skin. It’s truly hard to tell as a non-scientist what will work, what may work and what you should put back down immediately. This is why Honesty is not just about our skincare range, Honesty is also a place to come for science-based advice on skincare, diet and lifestyle changes that will have you glowing from the outside in and the inside out. I want to help empower others to make great and healthy skincare decisions.

9. What are your favourite skincare ingredients and which ones would you never use?

Where to start? I love colloidal oats for one, that’s oatmeal that’s been ground up to such a thin powder that it makes all antioxidants and skin soothing actives bio-available. I love the history of ingredients like these, that 100’s of years ago people took oatmeal baths to help soothe and condition their skin. They knew it worked, they just didn’t know why!

For me I tend to stay away from ingredients I see as fighting against skin’s natural DNA. That’s alcohol-high skincare, highly fragranced & essential oil formulas, ingredients that need to be in a pH different from your skin’s naturally acidic pH, highly foaming formulations that eat up your skin’s naturally protective oils…

10. And, finally, what’s next for you and Honesty?

That’s a big question. At the moment I’m focused on reaching more people. Helping to spread honesty and transparency in skincare even further. Which means at the moment, a lot of my time goes into creating new, empowering content for the Honesty blog, collaborating with like-minded entrepreneurs and helping people find solutions to their skincare needs.

Thank you, Cheryl!

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