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Huda Kattan Talks Launching a Skin Care Brand During the Coronavirus Pandemic

"You're still a business, and here you are launching a new form of business, and you have to talk about it, but people are losing their jobs and their lives, or they're displaced — it was in some ways unsettling."

Huda Kattan, the founder of Huda Beauty, launched her third beauty brand, Wishful, about a month before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. 

The brand started with just one stockkeeping unit — Yo Glow Enzyme Scrub — in February 2020.

That launch timing left Kattan and her team navigating a new brand through the pandemic and trying to build credibility in the skin care category at the same time. 

Kattan is best known for her makeup brand Huda Beauty, and in 2018, branched into fragrance with Kayali.

“With regards to Huda Beauty, when we launched, everybody was like, ‘oh, let’s just see what happens’ — nobody was taking us seriously, certainly not globally,” Kattan said, remembering when the brand was first picked up by just one Sephora Middle East location. 

For Wishful, “we had a different obstacle,” Kattan said. She had become an established part of the beauty world with global distribution and a massive following, but hadn’t ever ventured into skin care. 

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“Credibility was a huge hurdle. Frankly, our retailers told us it wasn’t possible to be successful in skin care and makeup,” she said. 

But Kattan persisted, adjusting the plan along the way and pulling from prior launch experiences. 

“We wanted to send to influencers, and do all those things we’ve learned as a company, but also reignite some of those factors that originally were strong with Huda Beauty — going out to the community, talking to them, making sure that our really hardcore followers know exactly why we’re doing this,” Kattan said.

“Before we even launched Wishful, they were commenting on my skin. They were like, ‘why does your skin look different, what happened, what did you do?’ So they were almost waiting for the skin care, for the launch of our skin care products. I feel like just that honesty and transparency that we had through that journey was really helpful,” Kattan continued.

Internally, as the launch approached, there were some disagreements, Kattan said — especially around the number of products that should be in the lineup. She wanted to have a concentrated assortment, and the launch strategy changed as the pandemic took hold.

“We had to get creative. Some launches we completely moved out, some launches we were like, ‘you know what, it’s important right now to realize what people are going through. And if there are some products that are going to be making a change in people’s lives, let’s launch it — if they’re not, let’s delay it, or get rid of it completely.’ We did that across all of our brands,” Kattan said.

Wishful’s timing was certainly different than when Kattan introduced makeup from Huda Beauty, which hit in time for the makeup craze. “It was a time where makeup was huge, and it was very hyped about and there was a lot going on. You’re kind of swimming with the current as opposed to swimming against the current, which is kind of what happened during the pandemic,” Kattan said.

“Launching during the pandemic, first of all, it’s probably not good for you in the interim, because you just are not able to gain all of that momentum that you normally would have gained with people going in store,” Kattan said.

“Nobody even wanted to buy products. And you’re still a business, and here you are launching a new form of business, and you have to talk about it, but people are losing their jobs and their lives, or they’re displaced — it was in some ways unsettling,” she added. “That’s something I think is really important for a company always to remain, yes business, but human first.”

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