Caire Beauty: A Start-Up Fights Its Way To Retail

After years in and around the beauty business, Lorrie King and Celeste Lee got tired of fielding constant questions from their 40-something friends, asking for advice about concealers. “They wanted to hide undereye circles and fine lines,” says Lee. “We realized we needed to talk about the fundamentals of aging skin.” So the two launched Caire Beauty. Lee tells D2C Insider how the tiny brand hopes to make its way to big retail.

D2C Insider: Caire launched in 2021. How did you two get started?

Lee: There's this hidden secret in the world of beauty called hormone decline. It happens to everybody, men and women, around age 30. And it directly impacts skin cell generation. At first, it’s minor, maybe 1% a year. But by 40, on average, women’s rate of decline doubles that of men. But there’s not much differentiation in beauty products for age -- most anti-aging formulations are designed for anyone from 16 to 106. Most products address things like U.V. damage and pollution, which is fine. But women between 40 and 60 are dealing with the bigger issue of hormone decline. We couldn’t stand that the issue was being ignored.

D2C Insider: How did you decide how to formulate the products?

Lee: We partnered with Joseph Librizzi, our chief science officer, who has been at Johnson & Johnson. We focused on finding ways to compensate directly for that loss in estrogen. It involves reaccelerating collagen, infusing it with the world's smallest hyaluronic acid molecules. We now have a patent on a natural emulsion that is hyper-absorbable. So we’re focusing on excellent ingredients, working as much as possible from the inside out.

D2C Insider: These are interesting times to launch. Many menopausal women are pushing back, not just against being ignored but also against words like “anti-aging.”

Lee: I think of myself as kind of an anthropologist. The average age of all women in the U.S. is 37, and it will be 40 before the decade is done. That’s colliding with social media, filters and the constant criticism of celebrities, either for the way they’re aging or for work they've done to their faces. It’s a Catch-22. In the last 10 years, the buzzword has become prevention. People are getting preventative Botox, and using retinol in dangerous ways.

D2C Insider: Retinol is everywhere. Why is it dangerous?

Lee: The way it works is by damaging the skin. That little wound causes your body to respond by accelerating collagen generation. But as your skin gets thinner with age, why lose more skin cells to retinol? So women over 40 should use it sparingly and judiciously. And young women shouldn’t use it at all. Their cells are firing perfectly.

D2C Insider: Part of the confusion is that between D.I.Y. trends and TikTok, many people fancy themselves skin chemists.

Lee: We are a very ingredient-driven society. Everything is about clean ingredients: vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free. Everyone is like, "I'm smart. I can be my own chemist."

But skincare is complicated and comes down to delivery. You can have the best ingredients in the world, but they often sit on the skin's surface. It’s not hitting this intrinsic aging. Our battle is to educate people about biotech-enabled delivery.

D2C Insider: Part of that D.I.Y. thinking has led to the love of “dupes” and the success of brands like E.L.F. People believe every beauty product can be knocked off for less. Your products are pricier. Grownup Moisturizer costs $88.

Lee: Yes, it’s a challenge. We think of ourselves as accessible premium. Potential investors criticize us for not selling our product for between $150 and $250. But you know what? By age 50, the income of the average woman in the U.S. starts to go down, coinciding with menopause, with an average age of 51. We try to explain our product's value and high performance in social media and email marketing.

D2C Insider: There are thousands of moisturizers. What’s your plan to break through?

Lee: We got an Oprah Daily Beauty Award and are so proud. Well + Good reviewed us and called us “the one-and-done moisturizer.” We’re small. Our annual sales are under a million, but our goal is to get into a great retailer next year. We're hoping for Ulta, Sephora or a department store. We have had success with a small, clean retailer, Aillea, with just six doors. So we know the market is there. And when we do events, it is rewarding to see how people understand and respond.

D2C Insider: How do you approach marketing?

Lee: We partner with women's groups, podcasters and influencers, especially those in their 40s and 50s. We do an annual event called the Marvelous Mrs. Menopause, which we co-host with Let's Talk Menopause, a nonprofit advocacy and education group. And we’re buying on Meta and Amazon. The Oprah Award has given us this credibility halo. We’ve been able to lower acquisition costs. It means that menopause and midlife are words women are more comfortable with. We’re looking for smaller women's audiences, whether it’s the right TV show or affiliation with a band like Kate Bush.

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