Renée Rouleau, the celebrity esthetician and entrepreneur, opened her first spa and launched her first product in 1996. By 1999, she had become an early entrant in e-commerce.
Today, rather than giving facials, Rouleau is focused on her role of founder and CEO of her brand, which offers a robust assortment of SKUs. Still, she makes time for celebrity clients, which include Lili Reinhart and Demi Lovato. Rouleau is known for her unique approach to categorizing skin — she does so by assigning it to nine types, rather than the traditional three or four.
On this week’s episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast, Rouleau spoke about how she categorizes skin, how getting a headstart on e-commerce worked to her brand’s advantage and why, after 27 years, she’s rethinking her DTC sales focus.
The excerpts below have been slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Redefining skin types
“Out of high school, when I first worked at [that] salon, I started understanding skin. When you are in school, they teach you about dry, normal, oily skin types. … When I first started working hands-on with clients, I was like, ‘Wait a minute, my client doesn’t fall into dry, normal and oily’ — the skin is a little more complicated than that. That’s when I started understanding skin types. And it was [then] that I knew there was more than dry, normal and oily. … When I launched Renée Rouleau skin care, I launched with the philosophy that I believe there are nine different types of skin. I started developing products based on those nine skin types. Fast forward 27 years later, and people can take our skin-type quiz and understand their skin type. Because if you really want to drive results for your skin, you just can’t do a one-size-fits-all approach. The more you understand your skin, the better decisions you’ll make in choosing the right products.”
Being an early entrant to e-commerce
“We launched e-commerce in 1999. So, I had the place all to myself, right? There was no one up there. It was a party of one and I owned the space. And I started a blog. I started writing skin-care articles. … I’ve been a content and commerce website since 1999. Now everyone’s commerce and content, but for all those years, you were either just commerce or just content, and I did both. I was just this esthetician who wanted to share my knowledge, and I was just typing on my computer writing all these skin-care articles, not even knowing at the time that it was a strategic SEO play. And so, Google, God love them, has rewarded us with so much organic traffic … because nobody was writing skin-care content. … So we have customers from all over the world. It’s great to have that reach.”
“The decision to stay DTC has simply been because we have flexibility, freedom. … I own 100% of my company. … Not being in retailers allows me to make my own decisions. I’m not having to make product decisions based on what the retailers are asking for. I always say I’ll never sell my soul for the almighty dollar. I’ve gotten a lot of asks to be in retailers and I have said no to a lot of incredible opportunities where people said, ‘Renée, you’re crazy’. But I want to control my destiny. I’m just really strategic about when I do say yes to anything. However, we actually are exploring some retail opportunities, … mainly because DTC has gotten to be a crowded space. … When I had the spas, that was such a great opportunity for customers to touch and feel and really experience our products — not just with reviews and social media videos. I really miss that experience. So we are exploring some options. But it’s going to be really intentional. And I want to embrace how I got my start, which is being an esthetician. So it will be something in the esthetician space.”