When Sephora originally contacted Sweat Cosmetics over e-mail last August, cofounder and chief executive officer Courtney Jones Louks thought it was a joke. “It was very professional to the point where we thought it was fake,” she recalled.
A few days later, with the e-mail left unanswered, Jones Louks attended a speech by Stitch Fix chief operating officer Julie Bornstein and seized upon the opportunity to pass along Sweat Cosmetics’ products to the Sephora alum, who was impressed by them and let her past colleagues know. Not long after, the brand landed a meeting with Sephora and discovered the e-mail hadn’t been an elaborate rouse. “We laughed about it,” Jones Louks said.
Sephora certainly took Sweat Cosmetics seriously and last month premiered the brand online with its two initial products: Twist-Brush + Translucent Mineral Powder and Twist-Brush + Mineral Foundation SPF 30. On Aug. 9, Sweat Cosmetics is expanding its sephora.com repertoire with mineral powder illuminator Gleam On, mineral powder bronzer Glow Hard and Skin-Balancing Cleansing Towelettes. Prices run from $7 to $42.
Launched last year by five women connected through soccer — four played professionally and one played collegiate soccer – Sweat Cosmetics was originally intended for athletes. But the brand pivoted quickly to the broader public of active women and formulated each product with ingredients such as milk thistle, vitamin E, rhodiola rosea and the sun protectant zinc oxide to be effective during exercise.
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“We want ingredients for active skin. When women are running around, it does have an effect on skin. Sweat being so salty, it can make you dry. And there are many environmental factors from the outside that cause stress on your skin, so we wanted to use ingredients that aid in repairing those effects,” Jones Louks said. “I have used almost everything, and I can tell the difference when I use a liquid foundation that’s not ours from when I use our foundation.”
Sweat Cosmetics also bore in mind active women in the packaging design. The powder and foundations are enclosed in a twist brush similar to brushes in Peter Thomas Roth’s Instant Mineral 45 and Colorescience’s Sunforgettable. With its target age range between 18 and 35 years old, Jones Louks envisions Sweat Cosmetics’ twist-brush items as younger, hipper versions of the competitors’ products. They are $15 cheaper than Sunforgettable and have the option for refills unlike Instant Mineral 45.
Discussing the origins of the twist-brush concept, Jones Louks detailed, “We were thinking about our teammates and what products they would like. I couldn’t picture any of my teammates coming to practice and taking out a big makeup brush, whirling it around in a compact and looking in the mirror to apply it. We wanted to create something easy to hold plus it didn’t really look like makeup. It was almost a little undercover. We wanted people to feel comfortable using it throughout the day. You can whip this out, use it, and no one is going to think you are piling on makeup.”
Outsiders to the beauty industry before Sweat Cosmetics, the cofounders sought out investors and industry veterans to help them with the business. Cosmetic chemist Valerie George assists the brand with manufacturing and formulation. From primarily friends and family, it’s raised $800,000 in two fund-raising rounds to support inventory, marketing and merchandise creation. Generating about $10,000 in sales monthly a year ago, Sweat Cosmetics’ sales have reached $50,000 a month, according to Jones Louks, forecasting the brand is on track to be profitable by its third or fourth year on the market.
Enlarging the assortment is crucial to fueling growth. The latest products are a step in that direction. The Cleansing Towelettes contain natural coconut water, and Jones Louks said she “loves them for after-workout cooling towels. They have vitamins and green tea extract to detox your skin, and you can use them to clean your twist brushes.” Glow Hard, she continued, “Definitely gives color. We tried to make it like our translucent SPF powder, but with more of an all-over glow for the summertime. It’s great to use on your chest.”
Jones Louks pointed out Sweat Cosmetics’ goal is to develop a six-pack of products with gym essentials. The brand is slated to release pots of loose powder in the fall and among the future items being considering are additional shades of existing products, different types of towelettes, sheet masks, recovery balms, bronze-blush duos and cream highlighters. “I don’t think we will get into a colorful blue or purple eye shadow ever because we’re more natural,” said Jones Louks, noting, “We want to stick to convenient packaging for the gym.”
Sweat Cosmetics has enlisted roughly 50 ambassadors to raise brand awareness. Jones Louks described its ambassador program as a cross between Nike’s initiatives spotlighting elite athletes and Lululemon’s community-oriented approach. Sweat Cosmetics’ ambassadors include Olympic sprinter Natasha Hastings, snowboarder Elena Hight, equestrian rider Lauren Billys, skier Jamie Crane-Mauzy, champion cheerleader Anna Petry, golfer Marissa Dodd and CrossFit athletes Jackie Perez and Christmas Abbott. “We want to make sure we have a wide range of women,” Jones Louks said.
The common bond between the ambassadors and the brand is a passion for fitness and inspiring other women to not be afraid to sweat. “We wanted to use our company as leverage to encourage women to workout and feel beautiful at the same time,” Jones Louks said. “We’ve been in situations where we have had problem skin and being able to cover up with a little bit of coverage makes us a bit more confident, and we have sun protection in our products. That’s way more important than the coverage.”