Charlotte Palermino wants a more honest conversation around beauty.
Welcome to On Beauty, a series where we take a deep-dive look into one person's relationship to beauty, how that relationship has transformed over the years, and how they experience being seen. This week, we're talking to Charlotte Palermino, cofounder of Dieux Skin, about how the women in her life shaped her views on aging, why she’s not afraid to admit that her brand isn’t for everybody, and more.
“It’s really interesting because the women in my family taught me from a very young age that your looks do not matter because they fade. It’s not that you can’t take pride in it or that you shouldn’t care for yourself, but you shouldn’t build an idea of yourself off of what you look like at a certain age. They moisturized, they used sunscreen, and they ate really well. I started using cold cream at a pretty young age because I had dry skin, but also because it was a habit that was instilled in me.
“My mom, I’ve never seen her with a stitch of makeup, but my grandmother was so glam. I had a really good balance of the two, but I was very into beauty from a young age. I destroyed so many of my grandmother’s lipsticks because I was trying to put them on when I was five years old and crushing the stick against my mouth.
“When I think about beauty, what comes to mind are the rituals involved. Getting ready with your friends before going out is the most fun part of the night. Sometimes, I feel like I’m balancing on a razor’s edge where on one hand, I don’t want to contribute to beauty standards that make women feel bad about themselves in order to incentivize them to purchase, but at the same time I love costumes and dressing up. I feel like a part of rebelling against those standards is just doing whatever the fuck you want and not judging anyone for it.”
“I grew up in rural New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and just outside of Providence, Massachusetts for a brief moment. I was also going back and forth to France as a kid. There was a time where I didn’t go to France for a few years and that’s when my eating disorder was at its worst. Back in the States, I was surrounded by girls who didn’t eat. We would make a box of mac and cheese then split it amongst five people and that was our meal for the day. It was just so weird. So for 10 years, I had this idea that dairy was bad for you, that carbs were bad for you. It wasn’t until I went to McGill University in Canada where I stopped being so fixated on food. I lived with women who ate; it was literally that simple. And people weren't as obsessed about talking about dieting.
“Although I was living in Canada, none of my friends were from Canada. Their families were Italian or Russian or Lebanese and food was an experience; it was a fucking blessing. So I was able to throw away the idea of weight being tied to health. And also if somebody wants to eat a lot, who gives a fuck? Right? It’s not about excess or else we wouldn’t let billionaires acquire so much wealth. And if you actually cared about people’s health, you’d be fighting for universal healthcare.
“I was at Snapchat for two years, based in New York, but I was also traveling a lot to California and I saw what was going on with cannabis. My first instinct was, ‘Oh God, they’re going to ruin another thing,’ and by ‘they’ I meant the people who were in charge of all these dispensaries. So I was hanging out a lot with Marta [Mae], my now business partner, and we decided to create a newsletter to show people what cool products were coming out, discuss different educational pieces, and also talk about how fucked up it is that we have brands selling CBD and weed on 5th Avenue in New York, yet we still have people locked up for drug charges on Rikers Island.
“We eventually found our way into skin care and that’s how we met Joyce [de Lemos], a cosmetic chemist. We asked her how she felt about CBD in skin care and she immediately rolled her eyes. But the way I convinced her to get onboard was I sent her every piece of documentation I could find on cannabinoids including clinical studies; CBD has gone further in clinicals than a lot of other cosmetic products. So this idea that CBD is fully bullshit is false; it’s just not studied enough.”
“I’d be sitting in meetings with Joyce [for Dieux Skin] and I’d pitch her ideas and her response was always, ‘That’s not really how skin works.’ I decided to enroll in an esthetician school and take classes on weekends because, as the CEO of the company, I need to understand basic skin histology and I wanted to make sure we could make scientific claims and stand behind them. I’m more discerning now and able to truly understand scientific studies. There’s always more to learn.
“A lot of these ingredients have become trendy and brands aren’t really taking a step back to think about how they’re communicating it. Also, anytime you hear the phrase “miracle ingredient,” red flags should immediately go up. I love retinol, but even that ingredient isn’t a miracle. I feel like we’re at a moment in the beauty industry where every brand’s making the claim that they’re the best, but the best for what? Depending on your skin type and needs, it may not be the best for you. Deliverance doesn’t work for everybody and I would never say that it does.
“In America especially, we don’t really value women; we lose value as we age. If you’re not pretty anymore then you’re thrown all the way out. We're all going to age, it’s inevitable, and I think it's really futile and stupid to demonize wrinkles.
“For me, it’s more about protecting the skin and keeping it comfortable. You just kind of learn to embrace your face as you grow more comfortable in your own skin.”
Photos: Courtesy of Charlotte Palermino
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