Shani Darden and CEO Michelle Shigemasa on retinol: ‘Efficaciousness’ trumps ‘percentages’ – Glossy

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While many children begin to pursue hobbies around at 8 years old, those aren’t typically along the lines of curating a skin-care routine — call Shani Darden a rare breed.
The founder of her eponymous beauty line made a name for herself while working as an esthetician for Hollywood celebrities like Jessica Alba, Kelly Rowland and Chrissy Teigen.
That paved the way for Darden’s next role as beauty brand founder. In 2020, she launched her brand after identifying a white space in the market for retinol products without the typical harsh side effects of flaking, irritation and redness, she said on this week’s Glossy Beauty Podcast.
Following coverage of the brand by US Weekly in 2017, Darden saw an influx of orders. Michelle Shigemasa, former CEO of Murad and current CEO of Shani Darden Skincare, joined the company in July 2021 because of its “highly efficacious” products, as well as Darden’s “authenticity and approach to skin care,” said Shigemasa, who joined Darden on the podcast. 
Now, as the Beverly Hills-based brand approaches the end of its eighth year, Shigemasa is focused on facilitating its evolution, from the inside out. In addition to building the internal team, influencer outreach and overall brand awareness, “We want to win in a meaningful way with Sephora,” she said.
Shani Darden launched on and in March 2020, and later in-store at Sephora in October of the same year. “[However,] we’re not yet a huge brand at Sephora, and that’s our ambition,” Shigemasa said.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Why retinol is the best anti-aging ingredient (aside from sunscreen)
Darden: “Retinol came out and we were using it for people with severe acne. And then, over time, you saw what it did for anti-aging. It can help decrease fine lines and wrinkles, and help with healthy collagen production — all of the things. And it’s the best multitasking ingredient. One of the estheticians I worked with must have been in her 60s, though I still don’t know how old she was, and [there] was not a wrinkle on this woman’s face. She had been using retinol since her early 20s. And the crazy part is that she was not using it on her neck and chest. And that’s where you could see her age. There is not a better anti-aging ingredient than retinol, other than staying out of the sun and sunscreen, obviously.” 
The secret weapon to NPD is the client
Darden: “I work and give facials all the time. That’s where I come up with what I need. It’s by working with clients and seeing what they’re using and what’s not out there. And if it’s out there, I’m [looking at] why it’s not that great and how I can make it better. That has been with everything. The cleanser that I came out with was because I had tried to find the perfect cleanser with the right lather that was super gentle, and I couldn’t find that. And my clients would say to me, ‘I like the one that you’re selling, but I wish it did this.’ And that’s where I come up with [ideas]. That’s where [my philosophy] comes from.”
The proof is in the pudding, and now is the time to broadcast it
Shigemasa: “[Social media] is a native space for Shani; she’s comfortable there. [But] we haven’t had a lot of bandwidth internally to support that [and] the content. How we want to evolve it over time is [by] delivering a little bit more clinical content — the science around why the products are amazing and the visual proof. We’ve got the basic elements. It’s [now about] scaling the content and delivering more content to empower her consumer to [get] better, healthier skin.”
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