When I met Scarlett Johansson at The Outset HQ in Manhattan's Flatiron district, she exuded cool boss vibes, power-walking from a conference room to a rustic leather couch in the entryway. She sported a freshly-chopped haircut styled with a subtle wave, which she tells me is a byproduct of wearing sunglasses on her head while her hair dried — the epitome of effortless.
Leaning into the leather-backed cushion, Johansson and I chat about The Outset, the skincare startup Johansson co-created with beauty veteran Kate Foster Lengyel. Ahead, we get into why she started brand, everything she uses on her skin, and my personal favorite topic: accessories (including the story behind her Irish finger tattoo.)
Refinery29: The obvious question: You've been a working actor, and also a producer, for so long — what made you want to move from the film industry into beauty?
Scarlett Johansson: I've always been interested in skincare. When I talk to friends, they're like, 'Of course you're doing skincare.' Because I had problem skin, it's something I've been conscious of forever. When I was in my late 20s and after having my daughter, everything kind of narrowed, and I started thinking about how I wanted to spend my time because I have less of it. I thought, what would be fulfilling to me? The idea of having a startup and learning a new industry seemed like an exciting prospect.
R29: How was your skin problematic?
SJ: When I was adolescent, there were a couple of brands that I was using; Clinique was a big deal. When I started getting acne, I tried Proactiv and those skin-care systems with so many actives stripping my skin. It wasn't until I started using a gentle routine — like, micellar water and gentle moisturizer — that my skin rebalanced and it was the best version of itself.
When I talk to friends, they're like, 'Of course you're doing skincare.'
R29: What does your skin-care routine look like today?
SJ: I use the Gentle Miceller Antioxidant Cleanser anytime I wash my face. I used to use a drugstore brand, like Cetaphil, but I found that those cleaners were made with so many [ingredients] — so this was our answer to the daily cleanser. It's fragrance-free, made for sensitive skin. Then I use our Prep Serum and Daily Moisturizer. That's my whole prep for everyday. I wanted to take the same amount of time as my husband.
R29: Your husband [Colin Jost] uses The Outset products, too?
SJ: We do the same steps. He uses the same products, plus the eye cream. I only use the eye cream at night. And I put on my cuticles. I was like, if we're going to make an eye cream, I want it to be more of an 'everywhere' cream.
R29: Do you supplement your skincare routine with other things, injectables or facials?
R29: I love this blunt lob, too! How do you style it? What do you use to create this soft wave?
SJ: Nothing [laughs]. I just recently cut it all off — so that's what I did for it — and I don't really do anything. I sometimes put sunglasses on my head as it dries and I get a wave.
R29: What about makeup? What are your go-tos?
SJ: I curl my eyelashes. I use the Shiseido mascara. A little concealer and a highlighter, both from NYX Professional Makeup, and I'm out the door.
R29: You call The Outset, the 'white t-shirt of skincare' — how would you describe your personal style?
SJ: I feel feminine because I'm breastfeeding. Recently, I've been into wearing things that are feminine and flowy. I'm a jeans girl, too. When you don't have to wear an elasticated waistband anymore, you're like, whoo-hoo. I'm functional, too. I grew up in the city so my clothes are reflective of that. I wear footwear that I can walk 40 city blocks in.
I feel feminine because I'm breastfeeding. Recently, I've been into wearing things that are feminine and flowy.
R29: And your children will have the city upbringing as well. What piece of skincare or beauty advice will you give your daughter as she's growing up?
SJ: My daughter shows an interest in all that stuff, like my makeup. I would encourage her to take care of her skin early on and be mindful of not using all those harsh, resurfacing actives. It's trendy right now, but kind of unnecessary for teenagers. I think that time should be about preserving your skin for the future. I wouldn't pass on the apricot scrub that I used, which seemed like 'the cool thing' at the time. Who knew?
R29: Do you have an exfoliant in The Outset line?
SJ: Yes, we have the alternative to the apricot scrub, [the Exfoliating Caffeine Micro Polish]. Everyone has been asking for a polish. I've had acne, even adult acne, and it wasn't until I started using a polish and then the putting moisture back into my skin that it cleared. This is meant to be used everyday. It has a physical exfoliant, the fine perlite, but it's spherical so it won't cut your skin. I wash my face with the cleanser and then use the micro polish. But Kate uses it only a few times a week in place of a cleanser. It's up to you.
R29: Tell me about your nails. What is this deep-green polish? And that pinkie ring?
SJ: I'm wearing the oldest nail polish I could find in my drawer. It's a dark green, and I was feeling dark green for whatever reason. It's from when American Apparel made nail polish, so it's definitely vintage. I've collected nail polish since I was ten years old and I swear I still have bottles from that long ago. Then Evan Yurman, David Yurman's son, just made this incredible ring for me. I'm obsessed with it. To me it looks intergalactic.
R29: Do you have a tiny tattoo on the inside of your finger?
SJ: I do have a tattoo in there. It's a four-leaf clover. I got it on a trip to Ireland with a group of friends of mine.
SJ: My daughter got me this earring. She always buys me the cutest presents. She must have gone to get something with her dad. [Editor's note: Johansson shares her eight-year-old daughter with ex-husband Romain Dauriac.] She was like, 'I got you and Daddy earrings' — because her father has a pierced ear too — and she goes, 'I got you the martini because they didn't have a margarita.'
R29: Do you prefer a spicy or regular margarita?
SJ: Just regular. Why mess with a good thing?
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