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The Interview: 4.5.6 Skin co-founder Noelly Michoux on simplifying care for melanin rich skin

Kelle Salle
22 May 2023

4.5.6 Skin was launched in 2019 by Noelly Michoux, Imen Jerbi Azaiez, Phd and Carlos A. Charles, MD. The brand’s mission is to simplify skincare for melanin rich skin with their custom skincare offering. 4.5.6 Skin’s story is rooted in compassion and commitment and their journey is guided by a fundamental belief in skin research equity. The brand believes that science backed skincare is a right that should be shared by all, so much so that they are the world’s first skincare lab fully dedicated to studying the needs of darker skin.

CEO and Co-founder Michoux’s journey has been anything but linear. She moved to Paris to study Business and Economics and then moved to London where she dabbled in various industries. Upon graduating, she moved to New York City with her boyfriend where she worked for an E-commerce agency that specialised in luxury beauty brands - her brand portfolio included Serge Lutens, Assouline, HR and Black Up Cosmetics, with the latter giving her the passion she has for products, ingredients and the people using the products. “My ability to adapt, persevere and embrace new beginnings has been crucial in shaping the person I am today,” she says.

Michoux’s personal struggles with skincare were the inspiration behind the launch of the brand. She started learning about the science behind how skin tone impacts skin health, appearance and efficacy and that was when she realised that almost all skincare research and testing catered to lighter skin tones. “Nobody was considering the unique functional and physiological differences of darker skin. I struggled to find the right skin care because the products I was using weren’t made with my skin in mind. 4.5.6 Skin was (and still is) my way of bringing equity to the skincare industry because we all deserve good skin health,” she says.

In addition to setting up the relevant processes prior to launch, Michoux and her team finalised their packaging and adopted a community-based marketing strategy to support the brand’s development phase. “We built a marketing strategy that was centred around our target audience, connecting with potential customers through social media, influencers and educational content. The brand also had amazing press advocates who helped spread the word and raise awareness, which generated valuable publicity and awareness,” she says.

4.5.6 Skin was born out of a need to address Michoux’s personal skincare struggles. She soon realised that many others shared her frustrations and that it wasn’t just a local issue - it was a global one. “Skin phototypes IV, V and VI account for 40% of the world’s population and when it comes to spending on beauty products, WoC (particularly Black women) spend up to nine times more than their white counterparts. In the U.S, African-American women are believed to spend around $7.5 billion on beauty products annually, yet 80% of what they spend doesn’t cater to their unique needs. In the U.K, 70% of darker-skinned women still feel overlooked by high street brands,” she says.

Michoux believed that the scientific process behind product development was flawed as darker skin tones were excluded in the initial stages of product creation. “To this day, legal patch tests and sun protection tests are primarily conducted on white skin, which is shocking when we know the role that irritation plays in hyperpigmentation,” she says. For Michoux, addressing the gap in the market was not only about addressing the unmet needs of WoC, but it was also about empowering them with the knowledge they needed about their unique skincare requirements. With 4.5.6 Skin, it was time to challenge the status quo and make sure that everyone felt seen, heard and cared for in the beauty world.

4.5.6 Skin

At the heart of 4.5.6 Skin lies a commitment to creating skincare that is specifically designed with skin phototypes in mind. Phototypes are used to categorise skin tones based on the amount of melanin pigment in the skin. They are measured using a dermatological system called the Fitzpatrick scale. The brand is actively working to address the foundational needs of skin tones that fall within phototypes IV, V and VI. Michoux tells us that the 4.5.6 Skin woman isn’t just ethnically and culturally diverse - she is also modern, multi-layered and they have a keen sense of intellect and style. “They also appreciate the science behind skincare and set their own trends and demand tangible results from the brands they engage with,” she adds.

4.5.6 Skin was well received by consumers when they launched. The brand aimed to fill a long-standing gap in the skincare market by catering to the unique needs of individuals with skin phototypes IV, V and VI. “The response from consumers was overwhelmingly positive - they were excited to try the brand’s offerings. Customers truly appreciated our efforts to consider their unique needs, making them feel seen and valued in an industry that had previously overlooked them,” Michoux says.

By continuing to learn and adapt, 4.5.6 Skin have cemented their place as a beloved customised skincare brand that is dedicated to inclusivity and diversity. Their customised approach to skincare was a game changer. “Valuable feedback helped us refine our system which then led to a stronger connection with our audience and better-tailored solutions,” Michoux says.

The brand’s bestsellers are the Sevenly Delight Brightening Concentrated Serum and the Green Bae Clarifying Cleansing Gel. Sevenly Delight is a serum that offers a gentle but multi-tiered and complete approach due to its inclusion of seven active ingredients. Each ingredient works to regulate pigmentation through seven different melanin pathways for maximum effect. “People love Sevenly Delight because it delivers results that are sustained over time. Most serums tend to have a single hero ingredient while the rest of the formula falls flat in terms of covering multiple pathways to which melanin is produced. Our melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin) are very active and are prompted to produce excess melanin whenever the skin gets irritated - and Sevenly Delight works to stop that,” she says.

Green Bae is a transformational cleanser that delivers exceptional skin benefits. In addition to effectively cleansing and removing makeup without leaving behind a dry, squeaky sensation, it also addresses excess sebum production, acne and detoxifies and unclogs pores while soothing and nourishing skin. “Our customers feel and see the difference with Green Bae. We know that cleansing is the most important thing for skin health and Green Bae acts as the ultimate skin ally to ensure you nail that first step,” she says.

The brand’s latest launch is the Max Glow-Getter, Firming Radiance Serum. Max Glow has been created with a concentrate of super-nutrients and precious oils that have been combined with Bakuchiol (the retinol mimic that’s generated a lot of buzz recently) to instantly hydrate and promote bouncier skin.

The brand is making beauty effective and accessible for all by developing products that are rooted in the Science of Skin Tone. “Our approach ensures that our products are effective, gentle on skin, and aligned with conscious beauty principles that prioritise overall human health and the environment,” Michoux says. Additionally, they are committed to keeping their prices affordable, making exceptional skin care accessible to a broader audience. By combining efficacy, sustainability and affordability, they strive to make beauty an inclusive and enjoyable experience for all.

4.5.6 Skin is a continuously evolving brand. They are at the beginning of their research journey and always consider that there’s still so much to be discovered by their audiences. Their customers are at the heart of everything they do. “By engaging in an ongoing feedback loop with our customers, we ensure their voices are heard. We actively iterate and improve our products based on their valuable insights and experiences,” Michoux says.

Michoux acknowledges the significant changes that the beauty industry has undergone in recent years, but she believes that the skincare sector is still lagging behind in terms of inclusivity. “The industry has struggled to understand that inclusivity in skincare goes beyond merely adding deeper pigments to formulas. To be genuinely inclusive, one must consider a variety of factors such as skin structure, skin barrier, skin function and melanin production to name a few,” she says. 4.5.6 Skin’s mission was to address the underlying research equity gap, and Michoux believes that there is room in the market for brands who want to tap into this area but only if real change is implemented. As for her hopes for the beauty industry in the years to come, she hopes that transparency and sustainability will continue to be a priority for consumers, driving brands to focus on creating products that are truly clean and eco-friendly.

Michoux’s advice for anyone who wants to get into the beauty industry is to own their mission and not be afraid of switching things up from time to time. “The beauty industry is ever-evolving, so stay adaptable and keep learning. Trends will come and trends will go, so be ready to ride the wave and reinvent yourself as needed.”

4.5.6 Skin’s customer-centric approach, combined with their commitment to using the latest research and high-quality ingredients, has allowed them to provide exceptional skin care solutions for a diverse range of consumers. Elevating consumers’ skin care experiences will continue to be a priority for the brand in the future as they prepare to expand their customised offerings to a broader audience. A new and exciting launch will also be announced soon.

For more information on 4.5.6 Skin, visit the brand’s website.

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