How Zahir Dossa, CEO and Co-Founder of Function of Beauty, Made Customizable Skin Care a Reality
There are so many great beauty products out there, but it can still be a challenge to find the perfect formulas that meet all of your unique needs. That’s why Zahir Dossa co-founded Function of Beauty, a brand that offers customizable hair, body and newly, skin-care products. Among Function of Beauty’s three skin-care offerings (a cleanser, serum and moisturizer), there are three billion formula possibilities — yes, billion. All you have to do is take a simple quiz and the brand gets to work at creating the ideal, personalized formula for you. And the best part? The products all cost less than $50.
To find out how Dossa made customized beauty a reality and more on how the process works, read on for our exclusive interview with him.
How was Function of Beauty born and why did you decide to start with hair care?
I launched my first company, The Argan Tree, in 2009 as a result of studying value chains in various industries while completing my Ph.D. at MIT. The idea was to directly connect an argan oil cooperative of 60 women in Morocco with customers who wanted argan oil-based products for hair and body. After launch, we surveyed our growing customer base and asked them to describe how to make our products perfect. We found that each person had a different answer based on their own needs and goals. It was overwhelming. Everyone wanted something different. That led to the ‘aha’ moment for the seemingly improbable (at the time) idea for unique products for every customer.
We launched Function of Beauty in 2016 with customized hair care because of those learnings from The Argan Tree, but I always hoped to build a brand that could connect beyond hair care. I wanted to personalize beauty AND make it accessible for everyday consumers.
Why do you think there are so few custom beauty brands out there? What are some of the challenges that the brand has had to overcome?
It's really hard to truly customize every order and even more challenging to do it at scale. My co-founder Josh Maciejewski, whom I met at MIT, was previously a nuclear-trained submarine warfare officer in the US Navy, and then an operations manager for Amazon. His sole focus at Function of Beauty is how to deliver customization at scale and he created the first-of-its-kind custom production system to fill each order. We believe nothing else like it exists anywhere in the world. When you combine all of these factors, we’ve set a high bar for the customization category and any new entrants.
How long were you working on the skin-care line before it launched?
Our skin care products have been in the works for over three years. One of our co-founders, Hien Kaplan, is also our chief science officer who — with a masters in cosmetic science — has created a multitude of big beauty brand formulations from skin care to hair care. She leads a team of in-house chemists who develop our products. They focus on new product innovation, ingredients, and formulations.
Tell me a little bit about what went into developing your algorithm and skin quiz?
We launched our first products (shampoo and conditioner) five years ago and since then, we’ve tested a variety of quiz questions, formats and lengths. We took the learnings gained from our hair-care quiz and applied them to our skin-care quiz.
We offer the world’s most custom skin care with over three billion possibilities. For context, when we launched hair care, we had 24 million possible formulations and have since grown that number to over 54 trillion.
Our skin-care line has three products with six different formats and the same standards as our hair and body care: clean, vegan and cruelty-free ingredients that really work. We have an entirely new skin quiz where we provide our recommendations based on our algorithm but as always, it’s up to the customer to select what they want based on their skin type, skin goals, texture preferences and fragrance preferences.
What products are you personally using from the line?
It’s hard for me to choose my favorite, but I am a big fan of our serum and its auto-loading dropper. I am living in Miami at the moment and using the jelly cleanser along with the gel moisturizer, which are perfect for my current skin-care needs.
Finally, what’s next for Function of Beauty?
In the past year, we've launched two new categories (body care and skin care) and moved to a new manufacturing facility. In December, we launched customizable hair care exclusively at Target. There is never a dull moment and 2021 will bring even more exciting developments.
Photo: Courtesy of Function of Beauty