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.
The number of brands and products out there makes shopping for makeup overwhelming. That's why Cheryl Yannotti Foland took a Marie Kondo approach to creating lilah b., a line of clean, luxe, high-performing makeup products.
Before becoming a beauty entrepreneur, Yannotti Foland worked as a consultant at a beauty marketing company, a role that eventually moved her from New York to the West Coast. Once she landed in California, she immediately adopted a healthier, simpler, lifestyle that eventually inspired lilah b.
Once she realized that the beauty industry was missing a brand with products that are multipurpose and luxe, she took her concept for a minimalist line one step further by only including clean ingredients in her formulas.
Since launching lilah b. four years ago, the brand has more than doubled its line and new products sell out when they hit Sephora. Here, we caught up with Yannotti Foland to talk about the challenges of being a clean indie beauty brand, what makes formulating these products tough, and more.
Tell me about how you got your start in the beauty industry.
Never in a million years would I have guessed that I would end up in the beauty space. I lived on the East Coast and started working in finance right out of school. The private equity firm I was working for acquired Arcade Marketing, which has a beauty division under it. This division works with brands to get samples and trial-sized products into consumers’ hands, and I was consulting for all of the big conglomerates and the brands under them. This led me to the West Coast where I worked with brands like Benefit and Urban Decay — they were still small at the time. Fast forward to eight years later, and we sold the business. I needed to decide whether I was going to go back to New York or stay here to do something entrepreneurial. I ended up staying and that’s how I defaulted into beauty.
How did you come up with lilah b.?
My world in New York was chaotic and frivolous. I was out of school in the early ’90s and this time was a heyday in the financial world. I had a very unhealthy lifestyle with very little work-life balance. When I moved out to California, I really embraced this healthy, simple, minimalist lifestyle that was introduced to me. It gave me the opportunity to consider how cluttered and confusing the world of beauty had become, and how daunting it must be to the modern-day consumer who just wants simplicity. When Arcade was up for sale, I seriously started thinking about what brand was missing, which is the brand I wanted: multipurpose products that are simple, clean, and streamline my routine.
You launched the brand with just a few products. Was this challenging to get retailers to look at it?
We have over 40 SKUs now, but when we launched we only had 12. It was challenging to pitch a small, curated brand, but I also think that’s what made us unique. We’re luxe, high-performance, clean, and simple, and that was new and exciting for buyers. At the time, there were no luxe clean beauty brands. We’re trying to get women out of the mindset that clean, healthy ingredients have to be crunchy — they can be high-performance if you do it right.
Lilah b. only launched four years ago, but in this time clean beauty has become more than a trend. How has this space changed in your eyes?
I truly believe that the whole mega trend of wellness will continue — whether that’s products or experiences. I think that clean beauty is the new norm, and I couldn’t imagine a brand launching today without a clean beauty or sustainability story. A few years ago, this wasn’t as important as it is today, and that’s why our story stood out. Now, women are very focused on ingredients, but they’re not willing to compromise. We’re a luxe brand that performs, which is something you previously couldn’t find in clean beauty.
VIDEO: How to Use a Beautyblender
What products are you most proud of creating?
My Aglow Face Mist is our hero product. It’s so universal — it sets, refreshes, and hydrates. The mist has a beautiful French lavender scent and sets makeup without feeling sticky or stiff. Plus, it hydrates during the day.
Also, our latest launch, the Lovingly Lip Tinted Lip Oil. It’s like having a treatment in your lip gloss. It eliminates the need to buy a lip treatment and then a gloss or a lipstick. We launched it across all of our retailers and all of the shades sold out within seven days at Sephora.
What products are hard to make clean and still have them perform?
Mascaras are definitely challenging and that’s why to date, I still don’t have one in my line. My chemists have been working on that and continue to work with new innovations and ingredients. I think that clean mascara is just not the mascara we grew up with. It couldn’t be more toxic and bad for you, but there will be a day when I have something I feel proud of to release.
Lip products are hard, too. Often times the staying power of clean, natural lip products aren’t there and you have to constantly reapply them through the day. All of our lip products are formulated with botanical ingredients and have staying power.