Super influencer Huda Kattan is moving on from the Instagram-makeup aesthetic — at least when it comes to skin care.
Launching with just one product, Kattan’s new skin-care brand, Wishful, is a far cry from the more-is-more vibe of her makeup offering, Huda Beauty. The point of this brand — her third — is simplicity.
“Although we represent this almost drag-like beauty at Huda Beauty, I’m not only this person who is made up and always likes to wear their hair flawless and their makeup flawless.…I am also this very simple [person] — I like to be cute sometimes, and to be simple, and to be in my essence and who I am — that’s kind of what Wishful represents,” Kattan said in an interview. “[Huda Beauty] is like posted up, perfect, and the other is like so simple, couldn’t care less how people perceive them. It represents us, everyone out there. We are more than one part of ourselves.”
Wishful’s first product is the Yo Glow Enzyme Scrub, which is housed in a light yellow tube with holographic type. The scrub contains pineapple enzyme, papaya enzyme, alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids, with the goal of providing glowing, even-toned skin. It was manufactured in South Korea.
“We are not going to have products for every single skin issue,” Kattan said. “We’re not going after acne, we’re not going after wrinkles or hyperpigmentation — what we’re going after is soft, smooth skin [and] diminished pores.”
Despite having gained a following in the Middle East for the way she did skin, Kattan didn’t feel comfortable launching skin care from Huda Beauty. “I would never buy skin care from a makeup brand — full transparency,” she said. “It feels like the opposite of makeup.
“I was doing [makeup], mostly the royals in Abu Dhabi, and I was very quickly known for the way I did skin.…I was doing a makeup masterclass one day, and my first product developer was in the class, and she said, ‘It’s so interesting that you prep the skin with this scrub.’ Because it’s like this weird scrub that pulls the dead skin off. And I was like, ‘Yeah, I use that because other scrubs are too harsh, too abrasive, and this is really big [in Korea],” Kattan said.
Her own skin-care routine has historically been elaborate.
On the phone, she described using three serums and an essence.
On YouTube, where she has 3.8 million subscribers, she shows an airplane-based skin-care routine that includes steam, hair removal, face brushing, a Dennis Gross DrX SpectraLight Faceware Pro LED treatment device, ingestible collagen, a 111Skin mask, an eye mask, a lip mask, a 40-minute nap, followed by a sheet mask, pore strip, another two devices worth of treatments, a serum, a moisturizer, lip balm and a face mist.
“My skin-care routine right now, if I go into the full depth of it, it’s way too long,” Kattan said. “How can we really expect people who are so tired and so busy to understand all those steps?
“We want to be this brand that becomes kind of educational, but also simple. The tag line is, ‘gentle, simple, effective,'” she said.
The first products will be centered on the face, and Kattan hinted at a possible expansion into body care. “The evolution outside of face is big, but we want to keep that simple too,” she said.
Wishful is Kattan’s third brand, following the 2018 launch of fragrance brand Kayali, which is run by her sister Mona Kattan, and Huda Beauty, which debuted color cosmetics in 2016.
Initially, Wishful will be sold in about 2,000 of Huda Beauty’s existing retail partners, including Sephora, Harrods, Selfridges, Boots and Cult Beauty. Kattan said that because of the planned narrow product range, she thinks Wishful has potential to expand to retailers where Huda Beauty is not sold. “It is not just for the cake-face person,” she said.
Industry sources expect that in a few years, Wishful could become a $100 million business, in terms of global sales. As a whole, Huda Beauty is said to be growing 25 percent. In 2018, the brand was said to be on track to do $400 million in retail sales.
The growth is significant, and while Kattan said she’s not readying a hair brand behind-the-scenes (she recommends coconut oil), the company does seem to have quite a lot going on.
Aside from Wishful, there are cosmetics at Huda Beauty, which continues to grow, even in the U.S. where most in the makeup category have seen sales fall off a cliff; Kayali, which revamped storytelling efforts for the recent launch of Deja Vu White Flower 57 and sold out of most retailers in a week; Huda Beauty Ventures, which has made an unusual series of tech investments, and there’s Hudamoji, an emoji app with merch plans.
In the makeup world, Huda Beauty has managed a series of successful launches, including Nude Obsession eye shadow palettes and Power Bullet lipsticks. According to Kattan, the makeup line is growing across geographies.
“We didn’t have the 50 percent growth we had previously, but we still are experiencing a lot of growth,” she said. That being said, she’s aware of slowdowns broadly in prestige makeup.
“Definitely all the leading brands are experiencing a decline,” she said. “I feel the same way about makeup that I do about food — I don’t want the big companies to give me my food. I want the niche mom and pops who care about their food making it. I don’t want the Kraft cheese, I want the niche cheese. That’s going to continue, I think in all industries. We’re going to see it go further and further into makeup. We’re very conscious of that, we want to make sure that we maintain the things that are special in our brand.”
Kattan’s multiple brands share a combined product development team, and now that the company has an employee base of roughly 175 people in five countries, Kattan is weighing taking a step back. She’s still the chief executive officer, but she doesn’t necessarily want to be, she said, and would prefer to focus on content and product development. She was as invested as Mona when Kayali launched, though Mona is the one known for being perfume obsessed, but has also learned to step back there, mentoring Mona on leadership and then encouraging her to run free, the sisters said.
“[Mona’s] an amazing fragrance product developer, and if I’m honest with you, I think I was holding her back the first year because I was very scared,” Kattan said.
“When we first launched, we were like, ‘We’re going to give people the best quality juice, the best quality packaging and let them mix and layer together,’ but we realized there was a big gap when it came to storytelling,” Mona said. “So now I’ve just been connecting more emotionally to each of the juices.…Huda’s really been mentoring me on how to be more front facing.”
Kattan may be ready to hand over the executive reins, but she says she’s not interested in an ownership transition. Asked about the company’s financial future — selling to a strategic buyer or the possibility of an initial public offering — Kattan said she’s wary of both. TSG Consumer Partners bought a small minority stake in the business in 2017 that valued the company at $1.2 billion. But Kattan’s willingness to add more partners to the mix seems limited.
“We see strategics invest in a lot of brands. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don’t, sometimes the brands are not happy, sometimes they are. If I’m honest with you, I still don’t think strategics have figured how to properly invest in brands…until it becomes more than just profit, we’re not interested in that,” Kattan said, adding “When you go public, everything changes then. Right now it still makes sense to be a private company, owned by our family and TSG.”
Kattan was one of the first beauty influencers to launch her own beauty line. She now counts more than 41 million followers on the Huda Beauty Instagram account, plus 2 million for her own personal Instagram account, plus more for the Kayali and Huda Beauty Skin accounts. She was also the first influencer to get a traditional private equity investor. Since then, investments in influencer brands have remained rare, with a select few — including Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics — drawing interest.
Now Kattan says she’s curious to see what other influencers do as trends shift toward skin care, which she views as more complex than makeup.
“Finding the right labs and partnering with them and being patient — the reality is with makeup you can launch a product in five to seven months, with skin care, that is not happening unless you take a ready formula that’s already on the market,” she said.
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