‘If you went into a department store, I’ve developed more than half the beauty products,’ states Colette Haydon matter-of-factly. The French founder of new skincare brand Lixir Skin has worked in the beauty industry for over-30 years, developing products for numerous brands including Space NK and REN, before starting her own business at the end of 2017. The doctor of pharmacy (Haydon studied for seven years in Lyon and specialises in dermo-pharmacy) is feisty and fun and full of joie de vivre. We meet for a cuppa and a chat about good skin, the less-is-more approach and building a brand:
TNMA: Tell me about Lixir Skin and your less-is-more approach to skincare
CH: When you have a product with too many ingredients, my analogy is it’s like having to do too many things at once. When I’m busy and running around like a headless chicken, I do a little bit of everything, and nothing very well. Skin cells are like the rest of us – if they have too much to do they become exhausted. So when skin is confronted with too many actives it doesn’t know what to do. When I first started to conceptualise the brand, I was in my lab in London. I realised that I have cupboards full of ingredients, I don’t have face ingredients and neck ingredients and décolletage ingredients – I just have ingredients, that I like. I wanted to do something with those ingredients. Universal Emulsion is for your face, neck, lips, décolletage, hands, arms; for day and night.
TNMA: How did Lixir Skin come about?
CH: I am very grateful that REN gave me the opportunity to be a shareholder. When REN sold to Unilever, I made a little money. I helped my children to buy a flat and then afterwards I thought, I might as well spend it on me. I think my friends expected me to buy diamonds or a car – but I’m not into that. Setting up Lixir Skin was spending it on me. For a long time I’ve been doing this for others and now I’m doing it for myself.
TNMA: I believe it’s not about looking young, it’s about looking good. What do you think?
CH: I think conformist beauty is much less popular today and this is bringing young and old people together. We’re realising that it’s OK to look how we want. I’ve chosen not to wear makeup or to use Botox and lasers – and so have you. Another woman might be different; it’s a choice. I don’t want to make any unrealistic promises with Lixir Skin; the cosmetics industry can get a bit carried away with metaphorical wording, there’s always been this hype but I want to move beyond that.
TNMA: What’s the best thing for older skin?
CH: I’ve tried so many things over the years and really retinol (if it’s well stabilised), is the one and only. It’s the only de-aging molecule, a skin regulator, that works so well and can benefit old skin with wrinkles and sagging (as well as young skin that’s oily with breakouts). Skin switches to repair mode at night and that’s why I recommend diluting the 1% Retinol Serum with the Universal Emulsion. I have found that women can get addicted to retinol but you need to switch things around, otherwise the skin becomes saturated. When a skin cell is constantly bombarded with the same thing it thinks, “Oh no, not the same shit again.” So my advice is to use retinol for four weeks max and then stop for a week and switch to PHA/AHA. Stop again and go back to retinol.
TNMA: What’s a typical day like in the Lixir Lab?
CH: What takes up most of the time is product development and testing. There’s a lot of testing. And sadly, there’s a lot of admin, too. I’m doing a lot of supply chain work. We formulate the product in the lab and then it’s passed on to the factory in Hampshire. My products are made in the UK – this is a country that adopted me (I moved here in 1984 and got married in 1985) and so I’ve always supported British manufacturing.
TNMA: What advice would you give to someone starting up a business?
CH: It’s about launching something new but it has to be the right thing at the right time. And the right price.The price point was important to me, I wanted Lixir Skin to be reasonably priced so that people could mix and match. A cleanser over £30? It’s just a cleanser. The product has to be good but you do benefit from the flavour of the time; I’m not sure Lixir Skin would’ve been successful five years ago…
TNMA: And what would you do differently?
CH: I’m constantly questioning – is it all right? Should I have done it that way? I think that’s characteristic of a creative woman; part of me is incredibly confident (about my knowledge and experience) and then part of me is completely uncomfortable. People told me I needed a branding agency – and so I spent a lot of money on this and soon started to realise that it was not going anywhere. I had to say “With great respect to your creative talent, I want it to look how I want it to look and so enough is enough.” I took it back in-house and my son (who is a mathematician and not an employee) took over and we designed it ourselves. Then we gave it to a graphic designer to finish. I wanted it to have a timeless, modern feel with a touch of vintage – the colour, the tubes, the little caps like toothpaste, I like that it looks a bit old-fashioned.
Also, we had such a fantastic response to our Universal Emulsion that we were out of stock by the end of October. We sold a lot more than we had forecast. In the cosmetics industry the lead times are three to four months, so it’s all very well realising that you’re running out but it takes time to replenish – that’s why I’m employing an operations director!
Lixir Skin is available online HERE, at Liberty and Victoria’s Health. I’ve been using the Universal Emulsion – it smells lovely, goes on smoothly and feels light on the skin. Totally faff-free, I love it.