Vanessa Hudgens isn’t one to shy away from new beginnings; rather, the actress-turned-entrepreneur has spent the better part of the last decade redefining the boundaries of her professional life.
In the last few years alone, Hudgens cofounded antioxidant-infused water brand Caliwater; joined craft spirits company Thomas Ashbourne as one of its many A-list founding partners, and in 2021 teamed with singer Madison Beer for a foray into the celebrity beauty arena, launching skin care brand Know Beauty.
Rooted in the premise of personalization, Know Beauty spanned cleansers, moisturizers, serums and masks and sought to pair consumers with a tailor-made regimen based on the results of an online questionnaire and $95 DNA kit mailed to their home.
Despite the burgeoning potential of the personalized beauty space, though, cultivating a loyal consumer base quickly proved trickier than expected.
“We had been trying to get customers acquainted with the brand for a while, but it just wasn’t translating like we thought it would. After a year, we knew we needed to switch gears and try something different,” said Hudgens in an exclusive interview with WWD.
Nearly two years after the brand’s initial debut, Hudgens is reintroducing Know Beauty to the world — this time as the sole founder, following Beer’s exit to focus on her musical career. Hudgens has nixed the DNA swabs, the online quiz and any former ambitions of providing a one-stop skin care shop. She reemerges instead with a single stock keeping unit, and an undeterred resolve to carve Know Beauty’s place in the beauty sphere.
“Trying to take over an entire skin care line is a bit ambitious, so I instead decided to focus on something specific that could easily be slotted into a skin care routine — something we can be known for,” said Hudgens.
Enter the Glacial Bay Clay Mask, a $35 mineral and lactic acid-infused colloidal clay mask, formulated to draw out impurities and cater to the needs of oily and acne-prone skin. Launching Wednesday on Amazon and direct-to-consumer, the mask is the sole product commemorating Know Beauty’s second life — and if all goes according to Hudgens’ plan, will remain as such for a while.
“The name of the game, for me, is to make it easy,” said Hudgens, adding that partnering with an accessible retailer like Amazon for the brand’s relaunch is one means to that end; taking a slow-and-steady approach to product development is another.
“We have one product that does exactly what we want it to do; I’m passionate about it, there’s a lot that went into it, and I feel confident starting with it,” said Hudgens, who partnered with Mary Berry’s Cosmos Labs to develop the mask, and with whom a few other masks are in the early stages of development.
While Hudgens did not comment on sales expectations for Know Beauty’s relaunch, industry sources anticipate the brand could do more than $5 million in first-year retail sales via its Amazon and direct-to-consumer channels.
The Glacial Bay Clay Mask is cruelty-free, vegan and designed with those who have sensitive skin (like Hudgens, who has long been open about her at-times-tumultuous skin journey) in mind. While Hudgens isn’t ruling out the potential of a brick-and-mortar presence for the brand farther down the line, she sees the Amazon partnership as a strategic step toward developing a devout customer base.
Data from Profitero suggests Hudgens’ wager could indeed pay off: the e-commerce insights platform tracked a roughly 23 percent increase in U.S. Amazon sales of face masks, cleansers and moisturizers in 2022 versus 2021.
“Our vision for Amazon beauty is quite single-minded — we want to make Amazon the most trusted beauty destination in the U.S.,” said Melis Del Rey, director of beauty at Amazon, adding that the online retailer had been in talks with Hudgens about potentially joining forces even before the relaunch. “One of the great things about Amazon beauty is we work with small, niche brands, but we also work with large, billion-dollar brands — and our consumer base is just as diverse, so we’re excited to enable discovery of Vanessa’s new innovation.”
For Hudgens, striking a partnership with Amazon, and the precision of Know Beauty’s reimagined mission, are a reflection of the multihyphenate’s own budding self-assuredness.
“Through my [entrepreneurial] endeavors, I’ve learned that I’m very decisive,” said Hudgens. “It’s easy to be puppeteered, especially when you’re an actor who’s been on sets your entire life; leaning into entrepreneurship and projects I love and enjoy like [Know Beauty], putting my boss hat on, especially as a woman, and making decisions that are listened to, has been a huge confidence boost for me.”