What happens when you put a Harvard dermatologist, a former Nike exec, a cosmetic chemist, and a venture capitalist in the same room? You get skincare magic.
Meet Fig.1, a skincare brand created by the aforementioned co-founders, a group of four women with resumes so impressive, they could probably rule the world one day. Luckily for us, they decided to start by disrupting the skincare industry first.
From sustainable packaging to science-backed formulas, every element of Fig.1 is designed to make good skin possible for everyone, regardless of their budget and skincare knowledge. Best of all? Every product in the brand’s debut line is priced under $40. Keep reading for all the details on the launch and my honest review of the line.
Despite their shared love of all things skincare, the backgrounds of the four Fig.1 co-founders could not be more varied. Kelly McCarthy, a marketing expert who previously held roles at LVMH and Nike, and Kimmy Scotti, a founding partner of VC firm 8VC, bring their years of entrepreneurial experience to the business and marketing side of the brand. On the science and formulation side, there’s cosmetic chemist Lizzy Trelstad and board-certified dermatologist Dr. Courtney Rubin, a Harvard Medical School instructor and a rising TikTok star (she boasts 28k followers on the app and counting).
“We each found ourselves in the skincare space through our individual interests, but our goal from the outset was the same: to help everyone unlock their healthy skin,” says McCarthy of the group, who she describes as her friends and fellow “skincare avengers.”
She credits Scotti for bringing the foursome together, explaining that the VC’s “insatiable sense of curiosity” connected some of the best minds in skincare. By teaming up, the group was able to find answers to “seemingly unanswerable questions,” such as: “Why can’t we create great products with experts, at a price point that doesn’t break the bank or the planet in the process?”
To accomplish this lofty goal, McCarthy says the founders “started from scratch and re-wrote the rulebook,” challenging the status quo when it came to everything from their packaging to their technology. As for the brand’s formulas, it all came down to the ingredients.
“Rather than chasing down mystery ingredients, we start with the most trusted, clinically-effective ingredients in proven concentrations,” McCarthy explains. The founders wanted their products to work “like magic” on the skin. The goal is to produce noticeable, consistent results with an uncomplicated line that's easy to use. This need was personal for McCarthy, who had realized the value of simplifying her routines (skincare and otherwise) after years of traveling for work. “I’d rather do two steps instead of ten, and I want to spend time on things that are really right for me,” she says. “We made straightforward products that you can mix, match, and that you can afford to use regularly.”
The brand’s initial launch included six products: a micellar oil cleanser, a ceramide moisturizer, a brightening niacinamide treatment, an exfoliating glycolic treatment, a retinol, and an eye cream. McCarthy says the N4 Niacinamide Nourishing Treatment ($28), made with soothing minerals like magnesium, copper, and zinc, is her favorite. “My skin is always a little stressed, and this silky, cocooning wonder calms it down right away.”
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“Once we started formulating, we quickly realized that creating a great product is only half of the solution,” says McCarthy. “The other half is smart packaging.” The co-founders knew from their own medicine cabinets that their biggest frustration with skincare packaging was waste. They wanted to prevent their offerings from adding to the issue by making sure customers weren’t forced to toss out half-used products.
“When products like creams are exposed to air, light, and dirty fingers, they quickly start to lose stability and efficacy,” McCarthy explains. Their solution was to pack their formulas in glass bottles with refillable, airless pumps. That way, the product inside is protected from air and stays active longer. Plus, once you run out, you can keep the pump and replace the recyclable cartridge inside.
How to Use It
Though the Fig.1 lineup includes a product for every step of your routine, the brand also encourages consumers to mix and match their offerings with others on the market.
“A lot of times, companies are trying to convince you to toss everything you’re using and start fresh, but odds are, you have something in your routine that you like, or that simply works,” says McCarthy. “We don’t want to take that away from you because we have those favorites too.”
The brand also offers a free consultation on their website with an esthetician who can recommend a routine based on your skin concerns. After taking the consultation myself, I expected to receive an automated email proposing a new lineup of all Fig.1 products. Instead, I got a personalized message from an esthetician who recommended a few items and gave me application tips and suggestions for my current routine featuring products from other brands.
Even though the brand encourages customers to mix and match its products with other favorites in their vanity, I decided to test the line using only Fig.1 for a week to get the full experience. And while I can’t say my skin drastically improved (it was only a week, after all), I can say that the proof of the founder’s rigorous standards is in the pudding.
Each formula feels super luxurious on the skin (and like they cost way more than their actual under-$40 price points). The Ceramide Seal Moisturizer ($28) does exactly what I want my moisturizer to do: hydrate and sink in immediately, so I can layer my makeup on top without any pilling. The Eye Cream ($28) is thick and velvety enough to make me an eye cream convert, and the Night Cream ($38) didn’t irritate my sensitive skin at all.
My favorite product, however, is definitely the Micellar Oil Cleanser ($19). So many of the cleansing oils I’ve used in the past leave a residue on my skin, even after I’ve scrubbed them off. This one, however, disappears completely after I wash it off and doesn’t leave a hint of makeup behind. Even though I know it’s the result of a science-backed formula and diligent testing, I have to agree with McCarthy—it does feel a little bit like magic.