Scarlett Johansson Secured Her Superhero Status by Taking on the Hollywood Machine. Her Next Feat? A Clean Skin-Care Line

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“I walked into our first meeting kind of taking a deep breath thinking, Holy crap, I’m about to meet Scarlett Johansson,” says Kate Foster Lengyel, The Outset’s cofounder, an industry veteran who was introduced to Johansson through mutual friends. She too was immediately charmed by Johansson’s intelligence and humor, which translate as a kind of normal-girl energy that you just don’t expect from Natasha Romanoff. “She’s Old Hollywood in that way,” confirms her longtime makeup artist Frankie Boyd.

But being an engaging conversationalist doesn’t necessarily make you a good business partner, acknowledges Foster Lengyel, who was wary of working on yet another celebrity beauty line—until Johansson gave her the hard sell: a skin-care brand built around her own beauty rituals and the success she has had managing the breakouts, the dryness, and the general maladies that come with many hours spent in the makeup chair and in front of the camera. (“She always says, ‘If I wasn’t an actor, I would be a dermatologist!’ ” reveals Boyd.) Johansson had taken her pitch for clean, elevated basics at the cross section of drugstore finds, apothecary traditions, and French pharmacy efficacy to “the big guys” (Shiseido, Estée Lauder, et al.) before deciding that to make a product that held up to her own expectations, she’d need to do it from scratch.

Johansson took a few introductory calls with Foster Lengyel before they finally sat down to lunch in person—just as New York went into lockdown. “In a way, it sort of accelerated our relationship, because we now had this other kind of intimacy,” Johansson says of how the two women built their brand over Zoom and via FedEx, while homeschooling their children and contending with the fear and uncertainty that has plagued so many of us over the past two years. That shared experience—and the guidance of ​​a product developer with a chemistry background, who educated them on everything from polymers to parabens in accordance with Credo’s exacting clean-ingredient standards—helped finalize their product assortment: The Gentle Micellar Antioxidant Cleanser washes away impurities without stripping the skin, while the Firming Vegan Collagen Prep Serum boosts hydration, and the Nourishing Squalane Daily Moisturizer offers up a quenching drink for parched complexions. That three-step regimen, as well as the rest of the line, which includes a rich niacinamide-spiked night cream, a soothing vitamin C eye cream, and a lip treatment, all retail for under $55 and feature hyaluroset, a botanical alternative to moisturizing hyaluronic acid that plumps and smooths fine lines. The less-is-more approach also extends to a minimalist design aesthetic that was instilled in Johansson by her Scandinavian architect father. “I wanted it to feel like something that was always there,” Johansson says of what she insists is not a “millennial pink brand”; The Outset’s signature color is more of an electric Ceylon blue, rendered in sans serif letters on the front of recyclable glass bottles and bio resin sugarcane tubes.

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