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EXCLUSIVE: Kate Hudson Breaks Into the Beauty Business

The actress and wellness entrepreneur is setting her sights on beauty, launching her first product today with Juice Beauty.

Kate Hudson has offered #Fitspiration with her Fabletics activewear, nutrition with her InBloom powder supplements and fun with her alkaline water vodka brand King St.

Now, she is setting her sights on beauty, launching her first product today, the Kate Hudson Juice Beauty Revitalizing Acacia and Rose Powder Mask.

One has to wonder, as one of Hollywood’s most relatable actors and down-to-earth lifestyle goddesses, what took her so long?

It turns out, it’s been 15 years in the making, a dream project for Hudson and Juice Beauty founder and clean beauty pioneer Karen Behnke since they first met through their mutual friend, Cindy Crawford.

“When you said you were busy but that this was something you wanted to do, I said, I don’t forget. I’m a triathlete, and if I have to swim to L.A. and camp out on your doorstep, I will,” said Behnke, who is based in Petaluma, Calif.

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The lifelong environmentalist, health and wellness entrepreneur who founded Juice Beauty in 2005 after becoming concerned during her later-in-life pregnancies about toxic beauty ingredients, is nothing if not determined.

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“She’s the first one who introduced me to clean beauty,” Hudson said during a joint interview at her Santa Monica offices, where a rose quartz crystal the size of a small dog stands sentinel at the door.

“She was telling me about carcinogens and parabens and it was the first time I’d ever heard about it,” Hudson remembered of that first meeting. “We went up to my very obnoxious bathroom with five cabinets — I’m lucky to have people send me product but after a while you can’t even give it away — and she started showing me what was in everything.…By the end of the hour, I had four products left.”

“We kind of played basketball tossing all of it into the wastebasket,” said Behnke, who naturally, sent Hudson a few Juice Beauty replacements, including the brand’s hero product, the Green Apple Peel Exfoliating Mask.

“It was the best thing I’ve ever used,” Hudson said. “Anything that makes your face red for a night and you wake up looking good makes me happy.”

“It’s what put us on the map,” Behnke said of the product, which has since spawned a whole Green Apple group. “When I was doing the rounds in New York in the early days, editors at the big magazines would say, ‘Well, I know this organic ingredient stuff is ok, but I need some power.’ Then I’d leave them with our full strength Green Apple Peel. And they’d call back and say, what is that? This stuff works.”

Behnke started making certified-organic, cruelty-free, vegan products with botanical juices before clean was even a category. She grew the brand to $100 million in retail sales by creating highly concentrated and potent skin care products effective enough to stand up in clinical trials to their non-natural counterparts. An early collaboration with Gwyneth Paltrow, who was creative director of Juice Beauty makeup before launching her own beauty brand at Goop, helped get the word out.

In 2018, Behnke took her environmental-friendly vision a step further, embarking on a farm-to-beauty initiative, using organic farming methods at her Juice Beauty Farm in the wine-growing region of Dry Creek Valley in Healdsburg, Calif., to cultivate grapes and apples, and harvesting their skins, oils, seeds and stem cells for products.

Juice Beauty is one of the few indies to rank among Ulta’s top 10 prestige skin care brands, and NPD Group’s top 50 prestige skin care brands. “We’re proud we’re in there because we led the way,” said Behnke, adding that the last two years, the brand has been focused on increasing its digital presence, and hoping Hudson will play a part in that.

“Kate really embodies Juice Beauty’s values of wellness, authenticity, happiness and sustainability. So that’s where it starts with me, that our values and missions are aligned. Secondly, it’s how will we resonate with her followers. Since her followers love all those aspects of her, we think we’ll resonate well. In today’s world we want to do as much as we can with social media and PR, and she brings a platform and a voice beyond what we can always do.”

The daughter of actors Bill Hudson and Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson rose to prominence in Hollywood after appearing in the 2000 film “Almost Famous.” In 2013, she partnered with JustFab to launch Fabletics (on the brand’s rumored IPO, she had no comment), and she’s shared her thoughts on the benefits of daily workouts, meditation, supplements and more in two books. She also has a podcast with her brother, Oliver Hudson, called “Sibling Revelry.”

“I believe in a balanced lifestyle. We put too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect and that doesn’t exist. When I cofounded Fabletics, it was about how you don’t need to be an athlete to be active.…I can have a cocktail and workout and be perfectly healthy and happy,” she said.

Kate Hudson and Karen Behnke
Kate Hudson and Karen Behnke Trevor Smith/WWD

Hudson has three children, two with her ex-husband, Black Crowes lead singer Chris Robinson, and one with musician/actor Danny Fujikawa, to whom she recently became engaged.

In person, she lives up to her reputation as a friendly free-spirit. She is open about everything from holiday gifting (“I’m very into my crystals and for Christmas, I had everyone’s charts done and got the stones for what they need.”) to the challenge of finding alone time (“The kids bust into my bathroom, even my 18-year-old!”), to why her youngest daughter’s middle name is Rose (That’s what she looked like when she came out of my…!”)

But when it comes to business, she has been very intentional.

“I’ve had great people in my life — Stella (McCartney) is one of my best friends — and I like transparency and honesty. Karen was that person for me. Beauty is something everyone has wanted me to get into, but beauty for me always starts from the inside out.…It was important to establish the active lifestyle with my products and supplements. Then Karen came and said, ‘Let’s do something’ and I said, ‘It’s time.’ I wanted to do a mask because it’s of the earth, which is something I’m passionate about.”

The two met backstage to brainstorm during Oprah’s “Vision 2020” wellness tour stop in San Francisco in February 2020. “It was days before lockdown.…We were the last two people who breathed on each other,” Behnke laughed. “She gave me a bottle of vodka I carried around in my tote the rest of the day, which is so funny. Then we talked and she said, ‘I want a powder mask, and I want it to clarify and hydrate.’ And I said, ‘What?! Anything that will clarify will tone, but I’m worried about the hydration aspect. Usually, we clarify or hydrate.’

Hudson was adamant.

“Because I want one thing, especially when I’m traveling, I don’t want to bring the clay mask and the hydrating mask. This is one thing that makes me feel like I can wake up in the morning, it’s quick and I feel bright, but I don’t feel like I have to then load a bunch of moisturizer on my face. It’s clarifying but not stripping. It’s also great to use as a primer for makeup.”

“We worked really hard on it,” Behnke said. “One of the things we’re so proud of is our manufacturing labs are very different from conventional chemical manufacturing labs, but our clinical labs are the same as Shiseido and Estée Lauder because we want the same judging as conventional chemical brands. Our goal from day one was to meet or exceed conventional chemical efficacy but do it with beautiful organic-based plant ingredients and sustainable packaging. That’s our benchmark.”

The mask, $39, is loaded with antioxidant-rich Acacia powder; organic aloe; grape skin and olive leaf powder; and vitamin c-packed rose petal phyto-pigment powder, which gives the product its light pink hue and fresh scent — aesthetic and sensory details that aren’t always present in clean beauty products.

Low molecular weight hyaluronic acid helps lock in moisture and make skin appear more plump. “People always ask why organic,” Behnke said. “Number one, efficacy. Organic grown ingredients, it’s been shown many times, have higher antioxidant levels. Number two, to rid the planet, animals and humans of unwanted pesticides. It’s a win-win situation.”

(According to independent clinical trials, after four weeks of use, two times per week, 100 percent of subjects agreed the mask removes impurities; 97 percent agreed their skin looked and felt softer, and that their skin felt more clean after regular use. Immediate results were similar.)

“Isn’t it pretty?” Hudson said, pouring light pink powder into a souffle bowl, stirring it with water and brushing it onto the top of her hand. The packaging is also all-natural, with a Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood cap made without a plastic liner, making it recyclable along with the glass jar. “It makes me feel good when I’m doing things that are beneficial rather than filling our landfills.…Also, I really care about making something that is very premium more affordable.”

“It’s hard with organic ingredients. It’s gotten better, but it’s still expensive,” Behnke said. “And doing this during COVID-19 was another challenge. Normally, I am pretty calm because we know what we’re doing. But I said to Kate, I’m a bit nervous, I’ve never done anything by Zoom and FedEx. Normally, I’d have a story board, and we’d be together once a month going over everything.

“We also had to deal with me being overseas, which was a whole other set of problems,” Hudson said of working on the product at the same time she was shooting “Knives Out 2” in Europe. (On the plot of the film, due out at the end of the year, she’s been sworn to secrecy.)

The mask is launching at Ulta in the U.S. and Sephora stores internationally. In the spring, a second release will offer concentrates to customize the mask.

“To me, it’s all about the ritual of taking the time to self care, and then I really want the products to work. I honestly think it’s the most clarifying thing I’ve ever used on my face,” Hudson said.

Although she is coy when asked about her ambitions in the beauty space beyond this first product, she does share her healthy outlook on aging that suggests she’s thought about how her POV could be translated to a bigger range.

“There’s something about knowing how things change and honoring those things as they’re happening instead of wanting it to be different. The more you connect with yourself as you’re exfoliating, using different products, what I was using in my 20s versus what I’m using now, the better. I love this stuff, it’s fun for me.

How long will the Juice Beauty partnership continue?

Behnke doesn’t miss a beat: “It’s been going on 15 years so I’m going to say 15 more.”

“For me, it’s about building conscious businesses that can grow on their own. I’m not interested in an office job. I want to be involved creatively but then go write a song,” Hudson said.

Ruminating on the promise of the new year, she added, “I haven’t been doing a lot of resolutions but I do like slogans. One year, my mom and I came up with “why not?” and it was great. Now, it’s the opposite. I’m more interested in why. I want to be as present as possible. The passing of Virgil [Abloh] affected so many people….It makes you think about how to live when you’re doing it. For me, moving forward, it’s the why. And not taking on anybody else’s judgment.”