When you hear Sarah Uslan speak about her work—be it as a celebrity makeup artist or at the helm of her new skincare line—it's clear she's both a creative powerhouse and practical thinker. We're typically trained to think of people as sides of the brain, divided into either the logical or artistic camps, but Uslan clearly occupies (and thrives) in both worlds.
Along with Uslan's career as a professional makeup artist (her clients include everyone from Oscar winners to pop stars), an early fascination with Kevyn Aucoin's work and stories of childhood friends as initial makeup clients point to a strong creative side. But, ask about her latest venture, a botanical-powered skincare line already making waves in the industry, and Uslan snaps into Science Mode, rattling off key ingredients and development processes like she'd been working on it her entire life. But in a way, she has.
LULA, Uslan's all-new skincare brand, puts all those skills to work. The self-described makeup artistry-inspired line debuted with an initial lineup of three hero products. But what that moniker signifies, Uslan explains, is not skincare designed to prep makeup. Instead, it speaks to the impulse to cultivate smooth, hydrated, and glowing skin, "so it can be a feature of focus."
There might not be a person more equipped to develop a line with that prerogative, either. Over her extensive career, Uslan's been up close and personal with celebrity skin, working with the likes of Beyoncé, Florence Pugh, Olivia Coleman, Tori Kelly—not to mention countless fashion shoots and magazine covers.
"From the very beginning of my career, the skin was always the most important aspect of a makeup application," Uslan tells Byrdie. "I always assess skin first before makeup and think about what it needs. What type of skin do they have? Are there areas of dryness? Texture? Are there beautifully clear parts that could be left foundation-free? Could I spot correct vs. using a full coverage foundation? Once I feel and assess my client's skin, I then approach the skincare and makeup in layers rather than pouring a bunch of foundation on their face in one go." She honed this less-is-more approach under her makeup mentor, Bobbi Brown, who ushered in an entire era of beachy, natural-looking celebrity and editorial looks.
The Story Behind LULA
Naturally, it was on-set where Uslan first devised what would become one of LULA's signature products: the melty, dreamy Beyond Balm ($75). The model she was working with had incredible skin, and Uslan wanted to make that the focus. "Rather than using a foundation or highlight or bronzer," she explains, "I really just wanted to bring out her natural glow and use skincare."
Uslan says she couldn't find the right product in her skincare bag, so she began blending her own. She mixed a few balms she had on hand, bottled avocado and grapeseed oil, and essential oils, and then applied the concoction to the model's entire face and body for the shoot. "Her skin just kept getting better and better, and by the end, she commented on how great her skin felt and looked. It was on my way home from that shoot that I realized I needed to bottle up this balm of goodness."
It took three years of development (and plenty of research and testing) to transform Uslan's homemade blend into the packaged LULA products available today. Named for her daughter, Tallulah, Uslan formulated the entire line with botanicals intentionally chosen for their powerful, natural properties. "For instance," Uslan says, "I knew that I wanted the Potion Serum ($125) to have grapeseed oil for its low molecular weight so that it could penetrate deeply into the skin, and turmeric oil for its anti-inflammatory benefits, and I also wanted to include Broad Spectrum CBD in all three products to help soothe and calm the skin."
Also central to the new launch is a larger mission, one started by Uslan's mother. NEU Global, a non-profit committed to supplying potable water to regions of Rwanda, will receive funds from LULA sales. "Our goal is to build one clean water kiosk through our year one sales, adding additional communities in successive years," Uslan shares.
The three products in LULA's current lineup are effectively a launchpad for supremely dewy skin from head to toe. Each is housed in hefty ceramic containers with earth-toned labels and a minimalist typeface. But aside from their efficacy (more on that in a second), one of the first things a LULA user will notice is the rich, soothing scent—a blend of bergamot, jasmine, and lavender—in all three.
Distinctly botanical and fresh, like a eucalyptus-enriched shower, the fragrance is immediately calming—which is exactly how Uslan designed the products to feel. "While working with celebrity clients on oftentimes the most nerve-wracking moments of their careers, I also wanted to find a way to bring a small moment of calm to my time with them," she tells Byrdie. "I turned to botanicals for adding that moment of peace and grounding during an application of balm, oil, or lotion and making a sensorial ritual out of a regular routine."
Shop The Look
The Hand & Body Lotion ($55), contained in a tall pump bottle rather than a tube, is a lightweight hydrator with a touchably silky finish. The thinner formula, powered by squalane and shea butter, is perfect for deskside reapplication thanks to how buildable the product is and the calming properties of the scent and texture. Plus, it just looks impressive in its luxe-yet-solid packaging.
Meanwhile, Beyond Balm ($75), the product that started it all, is as luxurious to apply as it smells and feels. Glossy and moisturizing, its ingredient list is rich with moisture-locking olive and jojoba oil. It feels especially delightful as a booster over regular moisturizer, sealing in hydration while giving the user a dewy, wearable glow. "I have another client, Michelle, who loves the balm after I used it by pressing it into her cheeks before the event, and then she looked youthful glowing in all the event pics," Uslan shares, immediately sending me down an Instagram rabbit hole speculating which famous Michelle she's referring to.
Finally, the aptly named Potion Serum ($125) contains a whopping 14 different botanicals and floral extracts. Uslan recommends this blend for anyone who loves a good face oil, as it delivers moisture and sheen with just a few drops. "My client Tori loves the Potion Serum, especially because I apply it and then use mini facial cupping or a gua sha to give her a little facial massage before makeup application," Uslan says. As a bonus, this serum is also multipurpose, working on dry cuticles and hair ends.
What's Next for LULA
Though Uslan's currently enjoying the ride of LULA's first significant launch, she is already looking to the future—as all good artists and entrepreneurs do. While she's mum on the specifics, she let it slip that the team is already working on the next batch of LULA products. "My vision is that LULA will be coveted for quality, individuality, purpose, intergenerational good, and overall love of the products," Uslan says, clearly already off to an ideal start.