Jo Fairley Meets Brandon Truaxe

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It wouldn’t surprise me if there were little voodoo dolls of Brandon Truaxe on the desks of cosmetics bosses all over the world, because this is the man responsible for probably the biggest revolution the beauty industry has ever seen. He has dared to launch high-tech, age-defying skincare products that cost a tenth (or even less) of their rivals with skincare line The Ordinary. (Ironically named, because it’s anything but.) The brand sells at low prices because it doesn’t spend on fancy packaging, expensive marketing or supermodel ‘faces’ – yet still makes a tidy profit. The waiting list for Brandon’s products puts the queues at Harvey Nichols for Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty in the shade – more than 75,000 signed up for the launch of The Ordinary foundations on the Victoria Health website. After all, who can argue with less than £6 for a fabulous face base?

In just four years, Brandon has built a beauty empire (with more than ten brands under the umbrella company Deciem) that not only took more than £335 million in orders in the last quarter, but so intrigued Leonard Lauder, patriarch of the Estée Lauder empire, that the company took a small stake in Deciem. Alongside The Ordinary are NIOD, HIF, the liquid skincare supplement range Fountain, grooming line AB Crew and bodycare line The Chemistry Brand, with approaching 200 products altogether in the portfolio.

Today, this 39-year-old beauty revolutionary is in town on a flying visit. Just after we meet, he will go on to collect the most innovative beauty brand award at Luxury Briefing’s prestigious ceremony before heading back to Toronto, Canada, where this British-born, part-Greek, part-Iranian dynamo is based. ‘These days, I live on an aeroplane,’ he says.

It’s all completely – yes – extraordinary, for someone who trained as a computer scientist and whose grooming regime was once limited to a bar of soap. ‘I was an archetypal geek in a plaid shirt, glued to a computer screen,’ he smiles. ‘And if you had told me then that one day I would have a beauty business, I would have looked at you as if you were on some kind of mind-bending drug.’

But while doing analysis for a major cosmetics company looking at formula costings, Brandon had his lightbulb moment. ‘One of the products launched for around $1,000 cost them less than $2.17 to make.’ So, having made a cool £590,000 selling a (much less sexy) software business that simplified car-leasing agreements, Brandon moved into skincare, building and selling other beauty companies before launching Deciem. It was a non-compete clause restricting him from launching a skincare product costing more than £22 that inspired him to launch products costing far less, setting Brandon on the path to being the ‘beauty disruptor’ he has become.

As Brandon puts it, ‘What I’m about is honesty, integrity and transparency. If you want to spend £500 on a great skin cream, fine. But the point is, there’s no need. If you’re selling someone a beautiful dream, tell them it’s a dream. Don’t turn something that’s entirely functional into a dream.’

More than that, though, The Ordinary cleverly taps into the shift towards personalisation, enabling us to become our own skincare expert and react to what we’re seeing in the mirror on any given day: a dose of skin-plumping Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 here; a drop of brightening Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% there; add a squeeze of hydrating Natural Moisturizing Factors/HA; maybe a puffiness-blitzing burst of Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG on that morning when you wake up with more under-eye baggage than usual. By offering precise, individual ingredients that you use to ‘build’ your skincare regime, explains Brandon, ‘you’re more likely to be able to figure out what works for your skin and what doesn’t’. Vogue has called it a ‘skintellectual’ approach to beauty, while Cosmopolitan observes: ‘It’s skincare that puts you in charge.’

When The Ordinary launched in 2016 – via a modest couple of paragraphs in Victoria Health founder Gill Sinclair’s September newsletter to its customers – both Brandon and Gill held their breath. Gill remembers: ‘We honestly didn’t know what to expect because we were being provocative, challenging the beauty industry. But the entire stock sold out within hours of the newsletter being released.’ From that moment, The Ordinary became a phenomenon.

It certainly isn’t money that motivates Brandon, however – though I’d put £1,000 on at pretty much any odds a bookie could offer that one day he will be very, very rich. ‘Money is like oxygen,’ he says. ‘I need a certain amount of oxygen to breathe, but beyond that any extra really doesn’t make any difference to me.’ He may have moved on from department-store shirts to something decidedly snappier (today’s is ‘either Ermenegildo Zegna or Hugo Boss – I can’t remember’), worn with a sharp suit and whitesoled lace-ups, but home comforts don’t feature on Brandon’s priority list. ‘I like the fact that I live in an apartment with a bed and a shower, some speakers and a wooden floor that feels nice when I do press-ups. I’ve never owned a TV – but I do have a great view of a lake, and I like that.’

Brandon’s background goes some way to helping explain where he gets his phenomenal drive – and his ease with being something of an outsider. His Greek-Iranian parents died when he was very small and he was raised by friends of the family. But his adoptive father ‘wasn’t terribly interested in having me’ and his adoptive mother developed cancer and ultimately died. Brandon is closest to their son, who helped raise him; the fact that his brother lives in Toronto is what drew Brandon to make his home there. ‘Maybe what I experienced was extreme, but it allowed me to be me, to appreciate life and work. Deciem is the family I have chosen, and my work is my life.’ And the ‘family’ is growing fast: Deciem – ‘the abnormal beauty company’ is its tagline – sells in 20 countries and has more than 300 employees, including a graphics team whose streamlined packaging is so completely ‘now’.

Brandon admits that he would be a nightmare to be in a relationship with (though his surprising sweetness does have me mentally scrolling through my single girlfriends, trying to think of someone who would be up for the challenge). And whatever you do, don’t invite him on holiday. ‘I have tried the kind of vacation other people have,’ he says. ‘Friends convinced me to take a week in Mexico and just “relax”. The first two days I was really happy. I thought, “I can do this!” By day three, sitting by the pool and seeing a woman come down and sit on the same lounger, in the same place – well, I felt completely depressed. I ran away in the middle of the night without saying goodbye and flew home.’ If he does take a holiday, it will be three days – yes, three days – in Bhutan, or riding a llama across a totally silent Chilean high plateau. He does admit to having once, just once, watched a box set: Family Guy, with a friend who was in the doldrums. ‘I loved it; it was clever, anarchic, hilarious. But I don’t feel the need to do it again.’ Brandon sleeps for just five hours a night and more than 30 per cent of his (long) day is spent in the lab. ‘I’m trying things, questioning, challenging my 17 chemists. Which is ironic, because the only subject I hated – and failed – at school was chemistry.’

There are at least three more Deciem brands imminent: Loopha (a bodycare range), Hippooh, and his own personal 13-year passion project, a fragrance line to be called Avestan, which will launch in the not-too-distant future with a London store. ‘Unlike skincare, fragrance isn’t rational,’ he says. ‘Skincare can never make someone fall in love. Fragrance is the most powerful thing, and I’m truly excited about it.’ (Just don’t expect £5 price tags on this one.)

For now, though, it is The Ordinary and its democratic appeal that’s grabbing the biggest headlines – and powering sales. ‘The Ordinary allows a larger audience to have proven skincare technologies at their disposal, regardless of income,’ he says. On one landmark occasion, Victoria Health took orders for 5,000 The Ordinary products in just 50 minutes. Fulfilling orders, however, is still a challenge because the Canadian factory can’t always keep up. ‘That’s what the Estée Lauder investment is intended to help with,’ Brandon says. ‘We’re currently going through our fourth factory move in four years.’

Meanwhile, expecting customers to go on a waiting list most definitely isn’t a good marketing strategy – ‘it’s about trying to keep up with demand’. As Gill says: ‘There was absolutely no hype involved when we launched The Ordinary. The waiting lists were very real, very long and very stressful. And they still exist.’

‘I hadn’t really figured out that you could have 75,000 people on a waiting list even before the launch,’ says Brandon, ‘but then when you actually launch, another 200,000 people want to buy that product…’ Nobody could have predicted that The Ordinary would take off quite this fast – and that success has Brandon working even harder in his beloved lab. So it comes as a surprise that when customers have a query that nobody else can answer, they’re likely to get an email from Brandon himself. ‘Ultimately, nothing takes higher priority than the customer,’ he says. Indeed, he believes, to be a beauty disruptor, ‘you have to ignore everything and everybody and focus on one thing: the customer’.

As for the voodoo dolls of Brandon on those jealous skincare CEOs’ desks? ‘I don’t think they exist! I’m not in this to make enemies,’ he says. ‘Although I don’t at all mind if we’re shaking things up.’ Which is surely the beauty world’s understatement of the millennium.


The Rise of the ‘Beauty Disruptors’

Beauty Pie:

After selling her Soap & Glory range to Boots, Marcia Kilgore (who also brought us Bliss Spa and Laboratorie Remède skincare – not to mention FitFlop) has launchedBeauty Pie, through which subscribers can buy a range of make-up and skincare at ‘straight-off-the-production-line prices’. beautypie.com

Trinny London:

Sounding the death-knell for the old-fashioned make-up bag, Trinny Woodall’s TRINNY London has us all ‘stacking’ make-up pots, with perfect shades prescribed by a genius online matching tool and textures that can be blended into skin pretty much in the dark. trinnylondon.com

Blow LTD:

Who has time to visit a salon for a blow-dry or manicure nowadays? Dharmash Mistry and Fiona McIntosh’s app beckons talented stylists, make-up artists, waxers, etc to your door. 7am blow-dry? No problem. Aromatherapy before you roll off the sofa into bed? Sorted. blowltd.com

This article is reproduced with the kind permission of The Mail on Sunday YOU magazine.

The Pros And Cons Of Going Vegan

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There might have been a time when vegans were few and far between, and some might have considered them as tree-hugging, lentil-loving hippies. But that time has well and truly passed. Over the past couple of years, the popularity of veganism has skyrocketed. Last year, The Vegan Society and Vegan Life magazine revealed that at least 542,000 Brits are following the diet.

Tinseltown is also onboard with the likes on Beyonce, Brad Pitt and Leonardo di Caprio all advocating the plant-based diet. The latter has invested in Beyond Burger, a meatless burger made of plant protein.

First things first, what constitutes a vegan diet? Veganism rules out all animal-derived produce, including meat, fish, dairy and some would argue honey. Those following a vegan diet for ethical and environmental reasons also extend this approach beyond the kitchen to household and beauty products, opting for brands and formulas that don’t contain animal-derived ingredients and weren’t tested on animals.

With most things in life, there are pros and cons of going vegan, and it has become quite a contentious subject. We’ve outlined the good and the bad, and offered some suggestions to overcome the latter.

What are the pros of being a vegan?

Veganism is believed to be a healthier option as it’s low in saturated fats, which have been linked to heart disease, diabetes and various cancers. Not only do vegans tend to have lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, they generally consume fewer calories, which reduces the risk of obesity. Some might argue that the weight loss incentive has helped to bolster the popularity of veganism in recent years.

There’s also the ethical stance, whereby vegans and vegetarians are vehemently against the killing of animals for human consumption. Anyone who has watched Netflix’s Cow Conspiracy documentary will also be aware of the huge implications that farming animals and their by-products has on the environment. The industry accounts for around 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and that figure is predicted to rise up to 80 percent by 2050.

What are the potential pitfalls of being vegan?

Cutting out meat and dairy from your diet can have its downsides. Aside from foregoing cheese and most wines, there are several deficiencies associated with the diet. While these can be overcome with food alternatives and supplements, it does require more thought and effort. Here are the key deficiencies linked with veganism and how to prevent them:

Calcium: Cutting out dairy has been linked to lower cholesterol levels and a reduction in acne, but is it a key source of calcium, which is essential for bone health. Fortified, unsweetened  soya, rice and oat drinks are good alternatives to milk. Pulses, sesame seeds and white and brown flours will help boost your calcium levels too.

Whether you’re considering going vegan or not, it is worth incorporating a vitamin D supplement, such as DLux 3000 spray, into your routine as vitamin D helps your body to better absorb calcium.

Vitamin B12: This is one of the biggest concerns for vegans as vitamin B12 cannot be found in plant-based produce. Helping to promote healthy digestion, circulation and energy levels, deficiencies in this vital vitamin have been linked to cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s, as well as short term health issues including fatigue, headaches and loss of appetite. Fortified foods and Marmite can offer small amounts, but supplementation is the steadfast way to keep your levels up. We recommend Methyl B-12 by Jarrow Formulas.

Iron: It’s essential for your body to produce red blood cells and an iron deficiency can slow this, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish, and eventually weakening your immune system. While dark, leafy green vegetables, nuts and pulses are a good source of iron, you’ll need to eat a lot to absorb the same amount as a piece of red meat. Taking an iron supplement, such as Viridian’s Organic Liquid Iron, will help replenish your levels.  

Protein: For most of us, fish and meat are our main source of protein, which is essential for healthy cells, muscles, skin, hair and nails. Grains, beans and pulses are worthy substitutes, but you need to eat higher quantities. For example, the average chicken breast contains around 25 grams of protein, while a cup of broccoli only provides around 6 grams.

Omega 3 fatty acids: For non-vegans, oily fish is the primary source of omega 3 fatty acids, which help keep your heart healthy. Flaxseed, rapeseed and soya oils are good alternatives, but there is evidence to suggest that plant-based omega 3 fatty acids aren’t as competent as the animal-based ones when it comes to looking after your heart.

While there’s no doubt that veganism is becoming more popular, especially with more restaurants and supermarkets offering vegan-friendly alternatives, there are still a lot of people unwilling to change their diet. According to The Vegan Society, 46 percent of Brits say they would never become a vegan, even if it improved their health and impacted on animal welfare.

That said, one in five Brits have cut down on the amount of meat they buy and check if their toiletries are tested on animals, so perhaps we could all be won over by Leonardo di Caprio’s plant-based burgers come 2050…

The Natural Remedy To Help Ease Colic

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Q: Is There Anything Natural To Help A Colicky Crying Baby?

A: Some evidence points to targeted probiotics being helpful in this common condition. A recent article in The Journal of Pediatrics says ‘a sudden explosion of studies’ indicate that an imbalance of bacteria in the infant’s gut may lead to inflammation, causing colic and crying. A small trial showed Bio-Kult Infantis (£11.95 for 16 sachets) significantly reduced symptoms and daily crying time, compared to a placebo. The product may also help infants and children with other tummy troubles, as well as those suffering from eczema.

Read More…

Retinol: What Is It And What Are The Skincare Benefits?

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What is retinol?

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and has long been touted the holy grail of anti-ageing. Several studies have shown that using the ingredient topically can reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles, pigmentation and acne.

What is the difference between a retinol and a retinoid?

Vitamin A comes in different forms, including retinols and retinoids, which is where it gets confusing for most of us. Essentially, for your skin to process vitamin A it needs to be converted into retinoic acid. Retinoids need fewer conversions and are, therefore, the strongest derivative of vitamin A. Only available via prescription, retinoids are most commonly used to treat acne with GPs regularly prescribing tretinoin to help alleviate problem skin.

Retinol is a more diluted form of vitamin A as it needs more conversions and can be bought over the counter. Don’t let the idea of it being a weaker form fool you though, as plenty of studies have revealed its anti-ageing benefits.

What are the skincare benefits?

As mentioned, vitamin A has many skincare benefits, including increasing cell turnover and getting rid of any old one. A US study in 2016, found that using retinol increased the production of collagen and reduced expression wrinkles over a 12 week period. It can also help reduce acne and correct pigmentation over time.

What are the side effects of using a retinol?

With the good must come the bad and there is a downside to using retinol. For some, this is the main reason they avoid them. Vitamin A is an incredibly irritating ingredient and even the lowest percentage of retinol can cause redness, itchiness and peeling, and can increase your skin’s sensitivity. With this in mind, those with sensitive skin should proceed with caution. It’s not safe to use retinol or any form of vitamin A when you’re pregnant either.

What is the best retinol product for your skin?

When shopping for a retinol based product always look for airtight, tinted packaging as vitamin A is photosensitive, breaking down when it is exposed to sunlight. Retinol has many derivatives and can appear on product labels as retinyl acetate, retinyl propionate and retinyl palmitate, depending on its strength. If you’ve never used a retinol before, start with a low percentage and don’t use it every night as it is an incredibly strong ingredient. One pump of LixirSkin Night Switch Retinol 1% mixed into the Universal Emulsion used twice a week before you go to bed is a good place to start, depending on how sensitive your skin is.

However, if you’re shopping The Ordinary, it’s worth noting that Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane is the latest formula with the newest technology and is less irritating than the 0.2% Retinol in Squalane. It contains 0.2 percent hydroxypinacolone retinoate, which is a non-prescription retinoic acid ester that is incredibly unique as it offers little-to-no irritation.

How do you use retinol products?

To reap the benefits and minimise the side effects, build up your skins tolerance and start by using small amounts twice a week.

Some brands strongly advocate using all retinol products overnight due to it’s sensitising powers that can make your skin more susceptible to UV damage, others argue that some forms of the ingredient can in fact give your skin a natural SPF 20 protection. While the jury is out as to whether you should use retinol during the day or not, we recommend using it at night and using an SPF during the day to protect the new skin cells from UV damage.

Remember that this is a strong ingredient and you don’t want to overload your skin with acids. There’s no need to use vitamin C and A at the same, instead opt for a hydrating hyaluronic acid based formula to maximise the results.

As with most skincare ingredients, vitamin A won’t offer instant results. Expect to wait around 12 weeks to see any noticeable change in your skin though as it takes that long for your body to produce collagen.

January Newsletter

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Hello and welcome to 2018 and the January newsletter; I was ever so tempted to make this the first-ever non-product related newsletter because there are so many things that I want to write about other than products. So this is what we are going to do; I am mostly going to write about health issues (actually Shabir is doing nearly all of that) and in between I will have a few soapbox moments, do some feedback, introduce you to new members of our team (exciting!) and somewhere amongst all of this there are a couple of treats and of course the feature articles, which are pretty profound this month.

As the new year begins, the buzz phase is self-care; it is everywhere you look. The New York Times (and as reported in Grazia) has declared that ‘self-care is the new going out’. We are notoriously bad in the UK at doing self-care and I am no exception. We feel guilty about nurturing ourselves and our needs, but in this brave new self-care world I actually ran away (far away) just before Christmas and for the first time ever I didn’t plug my laptop in and I turned my phone off. Life continued. Read More…

Lightness

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As I dive into another scorched almond/slice of panetone/lebekuchen for the 26th day on the trot, it’s tempting to think of the good a large dose of Magnesium Citrate might do me right now.

Possibly we could all do with feeling a little lighter currently, especially after a December (okay so it was November too) of de trop socialising and the dizzying, relentless pace of the run-up to Christmas. Except at the dawn of 2018, I realise I mean lightness in many senses of the word.

It was an email exchange with my former editor, Lisa Armstrong, that got me thinking once again about the importance of living lighter (and consequently, happier, more positive) lives. For a fashion feature, I had asked her to define what luxury meant today. Her definition was lightness in everything from ‘featherweight but warm coats and silk filled duvets to food, luggage, attitudes – and not being hemmed in.’ She thought that if she could cultivate a single thing in everything she did, it would be of lightness of touch. Read More…