Welcome to Byrdie's series, The Hustle. We're profiling BIPOC women and woman-aligned folks in the beauty and wellness industries who are usually behind-the-scenes. From the cosmetic chemists formulating your holy-grail serum to CFOs driving the biggest beauty companies forward, these women are the definition of career goals, and they're getting real about the journeys that led them to where they are—the highs, the lows, and everything in between.
Body care has become one of the buzziest beauty categories, with 2022 being called "The Year of Bodycare." The industry segment wasn’t as prominent when Blair Armstrong launched Gilded Body in 2018. While working as a dermatology physician assistant, Armstrong saw a widespread emphasis on facial care. However, she noticed beauty consumers and companies didn't pay as much attention to the skin below the neck. For Armstrong, creating Gilded Body was a way to encourage everyone to care for themselves from head to toe.
The brand's collection of products—which includes everything from marble dry brushes to organic body oils—wholly leans into the art of self-care. Armstrong masterfully merges effective formulas with elegant packaging, allowing you to create a luxurious spa-like experience at home. Her thoughtful approach to body care has earned the brand awards and support from several retail partners (like Saks, Goop, and Thirteen Lune). And with Gilded Body only in its fourth year, there's no doubt there's much more in store for the brand.
Ahead, Armstrong discusses her journey building Gilded Body, the lessons she's learned as an entrepreneur, and the self-care rituals that keep her grounded.
You worked as a dermatology PA before launching your brand. What sparked your interest in a career in skincare?
I was always really passionate about beauty and would try to take care of my skin at a young age. But before becoming a dermatologist PA, I was an accountant. However, I was at a crossroads in my career. I needed to get a Master's to continue to grow in the accounting industry, and I didn't want to do that. I have always had a love for science and healthcare, so I decided to return to school to study medicine.
What inspired you to launch Gilded Body?
Before I started Gilded Body, I noticed people shop for body care products primarily in big box stores. But, at the time, there were limited options for body skincare. I also noticed consumers would spend excessive time on face care, often neglecting to care for their bodies. I wanted to create products that would elevate bodycare and make it something we would look forward to. I wanted to inspire people to be more thoughtful about their body care practices.
What was year one like for you? What were some of the highs and lows you encountered?
If you don't have a background in beauty, there are many things you don't know. You have to learn as you go and do everything yourself. So, it was challenging. Initially, I started by thinking about the products I wanted to create. I didn't want to launch with high-level products. I wanted to launch with the basics—like exfoliators and moisturizers. I contacted East Coast manufacturers for a few months and talked with them about the products they manufacture, their minimums, and their ingredients. There are a lot of logistics to navigate.
You've previously talked about the challenges you've faced as a Black founder and how you've been hesitant to be the face of your brand. Do you still feel that way? Do you think things have changed over the last two years?
There's been slightly more focus on founders of color and Black founders. A lot of it occurred during the BLM Movement, and it's been interesting to see how much of that has continued. However, my not wanting to be the face of my brand is partially based on my personality. I like to let my work speak for itself.
However, to this day, I still get asked if my products are for people of color only. It's very shocking. So, I think a lot of work needs to be done to make beauty diverse in an authentic, meaningful, and helpful way.
What's been your proudest moment thus far?
I'm happy my products are patented, have won beauty awards, and secured retail partnerships. It's amazing to be in spaces I dreamed about. It feels incredible to have people receive your products well and tell you they enjoy them. Seeing my vision come to life is exciting.
What's next for the brand?
I want to continue to expand into retail and grow the product offering slightly. My goal is to make the most beautiful products and elevate the conversation around body care. I want to make things that will stand the test of time.
I love that the brand is rooted in purpose and intention. Can you talk about your "Care in Skincare" project?
Dermatology is one of the least diverse specialties. I saw that firsthand growing up, and it's a barrier to care. When I was training, I vividly recall seeing patients' faces light up when they would walk into the room and see me. I started thinking: What can I do to move the needle and increase access to care? I created the "Care in Skincare" program to provide dermatologic care to underserved communities. I want people to be able to see a dermatologist even if they are uninsured. Receiving treatment for your skin concerns can help you put your best self forward.
What does your head-to-toe skincare routine consist of?
I'll start with my bodycare routine. I love dry brushing. It makes your skin more radiant, and it's great for exfoliation. I'm also loving body oils and balms right now. I set aside time for a morning or evening bath during the cooler months. For my face, I have a simple and effective routine. My essentials are a cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen. I'm into preventative care, so I also use retinol at night.
What does your self-care routine look like?
I love cycling or riding my bike outdoors. I also enjoy working with my hands, so I garden. I like to grow grapes and roses. I've also tried my hand at growing lemons and grapefruit. Another part of my self-care is reminding myself life isn't a race. I can't achieve my long-term goals overnight. That's why I try to rest appropriately. When you're rested, you can think clearly and make good decisions. My best ideas come to me when I'm relaxed. I never want to be completely consumed with work. It's essential to live a balanced, meaningful life and recognize work is just one part.