Career Diaries: ‘When Life Gives You Lemons’ Founder Nita Sederholm Bridges the Gap Between Skincare and Makeup
When Life Gives You Lemons is a newish beauty brand bridging the gap between skincare and makeup. Its tagline: Backed by data. Designed for acne. Inspired by creativity — combines everything that its violet-haired founder, Nita Sederholm stands for. Her personal experience with acne, as well as ten years experience with digital transformation in the skincare industry led her to create a line that filled a gap in the industry. We spoke to Sederholm on WLGYL’s two hero products and why she’s done with beauty brands catering solely to people with healthy skin.
What is the gap in the beauty industry that led you to create When Life Gives You Lemons?
In 2017, I started a technology called Cocoon. And the idea was to figure out mathematically which skincare products, makeup products and medication work together, so not like in silos, but how they would work specifically for problematic skin — anything from psoriasis to eczema to acne. It's very difficult if you look at an influencer or a review from someone to tell whether they have your same skin profile, or whether a product works with the products that you're already using.
When the pandemic hit, I looked into the data and saw that there were women with acne that were having issues where skincare ended and makeup began. They were subjecting themselves to a vicious cycle of over-stripping their skin barrier, then layering on a heavy foundation. These women over-washed in the evening, and then using a toner cleanser in the morning, because the skin had pushed out so much oil. We thought there has to be a way to build products that consumers might not necessarily know they need, but just by this observed behavior, build those products where we can bridge your skincare routine with your makeup routine.
Why did you choose the two products you launched with?
We launched with the duo — the Hi-Function Foundation and Oil-Balance Booster. From a business perspective, everyone said to me you should go into makeup, but for someone with acne to level the playing field.
I have rosacea-prone acne and I felt that my face didn’t reflect who I am inside for the better part of my life. I know who I am — I'm all of these attributes but my face wasn't showing that. I wish I would have had these products. There are so many things I've left undone because I haven't felt … we use the word “confident” but I think it's not only about that … I didn't feel like myself.
I wanted to give the enjoyment of beauty to women with acne and these products are laying the foundation for that. I think everyone has the right to feel their best selves.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I think there is a perception that certain things can’t be put together like chronic skin conditions that sound so medical and harsh and aspirational beauty and color — putting those things together, that's what inspires me. That’s what I love the most.
What presented itself along the way as a challenge that you were able to get through?
Well, we formulated the product during lockdown. We built the shade range during lockdown too so I never went to the lab in Italy. And so, we built a mathematical model and we did all of the color swatching over Zoom. That was the most insane experience of my life.
Any skincare or makeup trends happening right now that you approve of?
I love color. I love hair dyes. I love that there is more playfulness in makeup right now. I feel that makeup used to be about making someone traditionally beautiful, and now I think there are sort of no rules which I find extremely inspiring.
What’s the reaction you're hoping to get from customers?
We've gotten some pretty amazing stories from customers who've felt seen — from someone who didn't cancel their plans or someone who's transitioning from male to female. The moment I can give them a little bit of that feeling back, where they feel like themselves, that's it, that's all I want to do.
What is the one takeaway you’d like to leave readers with?
One big topic that is very dear to me and the brand is mental health and acne, even though they're often decoupled. But there is a correlation and there is data out there to show that they do coincide. I don't think we need to impose that you need to use makeup or you need to do any one thing, other than to just listen to yourself. And I think there's a lot of stigma with wearing makeup when you have acne, especially. There is all this unsolicited advice of the things you shouldn't be doing. But if that's what you need or want, then do it.
Photo courtesy of When Life Gives You Lemons, Design: Juliana Campisi