Even Scarlett Johansson Used to Pick at Her Skin

The Outset co-founder gave us all her skincare secrets.

Scarlett Johansson with the text "What I Put On My Face" overlay

The Outset

What I Put On My Face

All skin is good skin, which is why good skincare is more of a journey than a destination. We all love a one-off tip—but, at Byrdie, we’re more interested in how our skin evolves over time. The product we've used for a decade, the ingredient cocktail that made us glow, the step we never skip, and all the advice in between. This is the stuff that makes a real difference. With What I Put on My Face, we’re bringing you the rituals, recommendations, and failed experiments (we’ve all had them) straight from celebrities, founders, and influencers who’ve gone through it themselves.

In 2023, celebrity beauty brands are as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. News of yet another one is more likely to be met with eye rolls than genuine joy. However, Scarlett Johansson and her business partner Kate Foster were met with that latter, a feat in today's over-competitive, overloaded industry.

Their brand, The Outset, aims to be something different than the bulk of celeb brands on the market. First, because it was inspired by Johansson’s own years-long “struggle” with acne and her annoyance with the messaging and attitudes forced onto people with acne. Secondly, because of the brand's focus on rebuilding the skin barrier rather than putting a Band-Aid on the symptoms of the problem—offering no-frills, vegan formulas that have been clinically proven to work. And lastly, because of the duo's mission to not “make more garbage,” a philosophy which carries from their refillable packaging to products that you want to use to the last drop, rather than try once and watch sit in your medicine cabinet.

The brand, which launched in 2022 to rave reviews, is now making its way into brick-and-mortar Nordstrom locations, a partnership that Johansson says “felt like a fit” because it allows customers to see the products in action before purchasing.

In celebration of her brand’s milestone, Johansson told Byrdie all about her skincare routine. Ahead, everything Scarlett Johansson puts on her face.

About Her Skin

I struggled with acne for a very long time. When I was younger, a lot of the messaging was about stripping your skin. So the routine that I was always prescribed and faced with was drying creams, and even taking charcoal pills and all this stuff to “detox.” 

The skin barrier was not part of common vocabulary, so I just had constantly irritated skin, and I wasn't healing from anything. I was breaking out again. It was this vicious cycle, and I struggled with that until I was in my mid-twenties. I was terrified of putting moisture on my skin for fear that it was going to break me out.

I think I just had this “aha” moment of, “Okay, if I've done all this stripping away, maybe I should try something else.” So, I started a consistent routine of cleansing my skin, prepping it, moisturizing it, and just leaving it alone. It started to repair itself within a week. My skin was completely different. It was life-changing for me.

Scarlett Johansson in a grey three-piece suit and gold jewelry at an event celebrating the launch of her skincare brand The Outset being in Nordstrom stores.

Courtesy of The Outset/GETTY IMAGES

The Ingredients That Made the Biggest Difference

[I love] products that are fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and made for sensitive skin. I used hyaluronic acid, which seemed to help. Squalane was also something that was helpful, [as well as] the botanical alternatives for those two [ingredients].

How She Got Into Skincare

It was out of frustration. I had reached my limit. I knew that everything that I was using had some degree of drying and some degree of either a chemical irritant or harsh ingredient. I definitely was one of those people who thought, “Oh, I'll just use the highest percentage of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide." I just figured using the highest percentage was going to be the most effective because it's sold to you as maximum strength. 

You know, it was out of sheer frustration of, “Why is my skin so raw?” I just thought, I'm going to try something I've not done before—which I was terrified to do—which was, “Maybe my skin is actually dry? Maybe I need to nourish it?” Stopping [all of those harsh products] and seeing the difference was the “aha” moment for me.

How Acne Would Affect Her Mood

When you're struggling [with acne], it can be really depressing. It can affect your whole day, your whole week. Oh my God. When you go out and you think everybody's looking at you, it's the worst. Of course, it's magnified now. Everybody is photographed all the time and photographing themselves all the time. 

I would have to put concealer on before I got to work. I didn't want that to be the first thing people saw, and you feel so ashamed of it. Obviously, now, people have a much healthier mindset towards that. But when I was in my teens, it wasn't as talked about, and there was the conversation around it that you had "dirty" skin, which is really awful. 

All of Scarlett Johansson's skincare products from The Outset

Courtesy of The Outset/GETTY IMAGES

Her Morning Versus Night Routines

I use the Micellar Cleanser. That's the cleanser that I use in the shower. I use it in the morning, I use it at night—I wash my face three times a day. I just feel like living in the city there's a lot of grime out there. 

I use our serum constantly. I use it before I put my moisturizer on in the morning. Sometimes, I will use just the Boosting Oil. Sometimes, if it's the winter time, I'll add the boosting oil to our moisturizer at night. Other times, I'll use the night cream. Usually, in the shower, I'll use the scrub so it's not as concentrated. I use our mask whenever I feel like I have 10 minutes for it.

The Best Skincare Advice She Ever Received

To throw away my 20x magnifying mirror. I used to be such a picker, and obviously, that makes it so much worse. My sister was like, “You gotta get rid of that mirror and stop looking too closely at your pores." Nobody else is seeing all that stuff, and that actually made a big difference mentally as well.

Scarlett Johansson in a grey three-piece suit and gold jewelry with business partner Kate Foster at an event celebrating the launch of her skincare brand The Outset being in Nordstrom stores.

Courtesy of The Outset/GETTY IMAGES

Her Most-Used Products

The serum, definitely. The serum has become my tried-and-true. My skin doesn't feel the same without it, actually. I definitely always have some kind of hippie balm in my bag, which is probably a blend of oils. I always have a tub of coconut oil with me. 

The One Skincare Mistake She'll Never Make Again

Using an apricot scrub, a harsh scrub. That was all of my teens, I definitely would not go back to that.

The Outset products are now available at Nordstrom stores and at nordstrom.com. For a limited-time, Nordy Club members can earn 5x the points on qualifying beauty products, The Outset included.

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