Beauty Boss: Linda Rodin’s Unconventional Secret to Success
In our series, Beauty Boss, we’re highlighting individuals who are owning the beauty space and turning it upside down in new, innovative ways. You’ll be able to get an exclusive look at their very personal journeys to success, as well as hear their advice to anyone wanting to follow in their footsteps. This week, we’re featuring face oil guru Linda Rodin.
These days, possessing a “signature” beauty look seems to goes hand in hand with a certain level of celebrity. There are the Kardashians, with their hyper-sculpted cheekbones; It Brits like Alexa Chung and Suki Waterhouse, with their shaggy, cool-girl bangs; the omnipresent Taylor Swift, with her penned-about cherry-red lips. And then there is Linda Rodin, a veteran fashion stylist who established an instantly recognizable beauty aesthetic without any of the pop culture buzz requisite of her younger, more mainstream counterparts. No, 67-year-old Rodin, with her gleaming gray hair, thick-framed glasses, and ubiquitous swipe of bright lipstick, seemingly stumbled into the role of beauty icon and business founder by doing a very simple thing: creating something she loved… for herself. That “something”—a hydrating, soothing, skin-loving face oil that is now the hero product of her full-fledged skincare line, Rodin Olio Lusso—ended up being something thousands of other women wanted too. Recently acquired by Estée Lauder, the brand is now a leader in the luxury face oil sphere, as loved and lauded for its formulation and ingredients as it is for its scents and exquisite packaging.
We sat down with Linda Rodin at Freds at Barneys in Beverly Hills and asked her about her path from fashion stylist to face oil guru. Turns out, Rodin had a rather untraditional plan from the rest—as in, she didn’t really have one at all. But as we spoke with her (and marveled at her perfect poppy-red lipstick), we realized that this unbridled, carefree air is exactly what makes her the type of person women half her age try to emulate (not least of which involves buying her products). From living in the moment to learning to stop being the “most impatient person in the world,” keep scrolling to learn all of Linda Rodin’s unconventional secrets to success.
You had a crazy career that spanned from fashion to photography and everything in between. Was beauty always a passion for you throughout this time?
Rodin: No, not at all. Not anywhere in my mind.
So how did you go from all of that to transitioning into creating this beauty product?
Rodin: I was a stylist in the fashion business and always behind the scenes looking at the makeup and the hair. And I realized that after a shoot, I would go out and buy something. I’d always be like, “Oh I want to try that, that looks so good on her.” But it never really did look good on me, and I never really ended up liking the stuff. It’s all so personal anyway. So, about eight years ago, I decided to just make something myself and see what would happen. And that’s what happened: I just made a face oil for myself, in my bathroom in a cup.
That’s crazy—and that was before face oils got all trendy. So what brought you to this?
Rodin: I always collected oils. I used arnica oil for bruises, I used jojoba oil if I got a massage, I used evening of primrose that I got prescribed by a doctor for rashes. I love jasmine oil, I love calendula oil (which I discovered in South Africa), I discovered argan oil in Morocco. I always buy little bottles of things. I collect little things. I was with a friend one day, many, many years ago. We were in Rome, and she was pregnant and she said, “Let’s go to the health foods store and buy shea butter and avocado butter, then put it together!” It was so disgusting we had to throw it out! But a little bit down the road, I thought, hold on, I love all these different oils—I’m just going to mix them together and see what happens! And they weren’t clumpy butters. They were very mixable, and I just started mixing them up in my bathroom, all the oils I loved. But I wasn’t thinking of making them a skincare line, or anything. I just made them for me.
How did creating these oils for yourself turn into a business?
Rodin: Well, I brought it to work, I brought it to models, and everybody loved it. I would buy little bottles online and I would pour it and bring it to work, and I’d make it on the weekends. And then my nephew came to town, and he said, “What are you doing with all these bottles? What is this?” And I said, “Yeah, I make this wonderful face oil.” He said, “Well, what do you charge for it, and what’s the formula?” And I told him I don’t charge for it, I just give it away, and he told me that was really stupid. So anyway, long story short, he ordered beakers and I made the formula five times by eye, and then the sixth time I poured all of the 11 oils in the vials. I took a Sharpie and labeled it and wrote down the name of the oil—to this day, it’s still the same formula.
Did you have to convince people to buy into this oil idea?
Rodin: No, the first store I actually got into was Barneys, and then Colette.
That’s pretty impressive.
Rodin: Well, it was a product, and someone was behind it. I think that was a big factor to make this work. And I’m also not a kid—I’m who I am.
Well, you have such a youthful spirit.
Rodin: I do! I feel like I’m 18. I mean, I don’t look it, but what can you do? And I wouldn’t get a face-lift, I never dyed my hair, but I love lipstick and I’ve been in the fashion business for a long time. But it was never a plan. So when people ask me those questions, like “How did you get here?”, I have no idea! And I have a few friends who, when I got started, said I had to join a women’s group and get a business plan together and get investors, and I said, “No, I don’t.” I never would have done this if I had to go through all that; I’m just not the type of person to plan. I didn’t take a course. I’m not proud of it, but it’s just, I wouldn’t have done it. The great thing is I’ve had the same accountant for probably 40 years, and I told her I wanted to make these oils and that I wanted to invest some of my money. And she said it wasn’t a good idea but that there were two things we could do: You’re not getting a partner, and you can have this much money. And she said to me later when we were at the signing of Estée Lauder, and she said, “Well, I guess I was wrong and you were right.” Because I really did it my way, and I never made plans; I didn’t say, “When I’m 30, I want to do this, when I’m 40 I’d better do that.” I had no idea I was going to make this a business.
When did you get to a point where you felt you needed to start building out your team, and what kinds of qualities were you looking for in those people?
Rodin: Well, I realized I needed to find a factory, because at one point I was making 500 bottles a weekend, which was absurd. On my living room floor, with my dog. And he was a basset hound and he shed. So I’d have to look at the bottles after I was done and make sure there was no dog hair in it—it was crazy. Then, I had lunch with a friend of mine that I’ve known for years and I told her what I’d been up to, and she said, “Do you have a lawyer?” And I said, “What do I need a lawyer for?” She said, “Well, you can’t have a business without a lawyer,” and I said, “Oh! Yeah, I’d better get a lawyer.” And then I realized I needed clinical testing and this and that. So then I met somebody who could do the clinical testing, and then I got this fabulous lawyer, and a graphic designer to help me with the font and the label design. But it was all just so unplanned. I was walking my dog one day and I ran into someone I knew and told him I was looking for a factory, and he had a best friend who worked at Shiseido for 17 years. So that’s the kind of things where it’s like, if you had planned it, it wouldn’t have happened. And I’ve never planned anything. And I’m very, you know, organized. I’ve always been concerned about paying everything on time. It’s not like I go by the seat of my pants, and I’m not sloppy.
Yeah, there’s a difference.
Rodin: But I never look far ahead, because that for me would be too overwhelming. I’ve never looked at the long-term thing. That just scares me.
Some people that would say not knowing the long-term would scare them.
Rodin: But you know the cliché expression: If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. How can you know? I don’t know, but everybody finds their way. You know, I have friends who have plotted a wedding they’re having in five years. Holy mackerel! You never know what’s going to happen. So I’m just more happy not thinking too far down the road. I get paralyzed; it’s paralyzing for me.
Do you have any words of wisdom or advice that you’ve gotten throughout your career that have really stuck with you?
Rodin: I don’t know if I’ve gotten advice like, literal I’m going to tell you this kind of thing, but I think by osmosis. I learned that I always wanted to be myself and be creative, and not get swayed by somebody else’s opinion. I don’t like to ask. Like, I never did any focus groups or research on other products. I’m not big on comparison shopping. If I like something, I just buy it. I don’t wait to see what’s down the road, maybe better, or maybe, I just like it, I buy it.
And you apply that mentality to your products, too.
Rodin: Yeah, I just make whatever I want, whatever I need. You know, not what I want—what I need. So you know, I needed my own lipstick, and I needed a face wipe, I needed a body oil because I have very dry hands, needed a cream for my hair because I have frizzy hair. So, you know I make things that I need, not just gratuitous stuff, although you could say lipstick’s gratuitous, ’cause you don’t need it. But I wear it every day and I love it, so I wanted to make my own.
Which is really hard to find nowadays, where it seems like brands are creating things because there’s like a demand for it.
Rodin: Because you can.
Or because someone else started making something.
Rodin: Yeah, but I’ve never seen so much stuff in some of these stores—it’s mind-boggling. And brands that I have never heard of. You know it’s great; the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, so I think it’s fascinating, but I can’t look at it all. It makes me a little dizzy.
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You’ve been in the fashion industry and the beauty industry for quite a while. How do you keep yourself motivated through all the ups and downs?
Rodin: Well, I think if you’re creative and passionate, then you’re just motivated by the passion and the creativity. It’s not like I’m doing something that I don’t want to do or that doesn’t interest me. So I think the motivation just comes because you’re so excited about what you can create. I think that’s where that comes from.
Were there any major challenges or roadblocks that happened while you were creating this business that you overcame?
Rodin: I remember I was making this facial cleanser and I’d been making it for three years. It was a powder cleanser, and mine was ready a few years ago, but not perfectly ready. Every turn, there was another problem. We were getting something from Japan, there was an earthquake, we were getting this oil from somewhere, they couldn’t get it. So I think I was tearing my hair out for three years about this one product. But now it’s done. There’s always a roadblock. One thing I did learn through this is that I was the most impatient person on the planet. Now, I’m not so impatient.
Rodin: You can’t be. If they say the lipstick is not going to be ready for you know 18 months—18 months?! I’ll be dead in 18 months. But I’ve learned that yes, I see all the steps and why it could take that long, and it’s always less than they say. I’ve learned a lot of patience, when I’m really not a patient person.
Do you have any advice for any budding young beauty entrepreneurs?
Rodin: Yeah—make what you like and what you want to use yourself. Because if you like it and you need it, there’s going to be plenty of other people out there who will too. I didn’t know that when I was making it, so you know the aha moment for me was when people started clamoring for this face oil. I just loved it; I don’t care if you like it; it’s great for me. So I think you got to do what you really want. Who knew that everyone would want an iPhone or not? You know I don’t want one, so I wouldn’t make one. I think you just have to believe in what you’re making. You have to look around and see what’s out there that would be valuable to somebody—and you’ll always find something, and somebody.
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