In Bustle’s Quick Question, we ask women leaders for advice. Here, skin care innovator Noelly Michoux talks about inclusivity in beauty, how she calms her mind, and the worst career advice she’s ever received.
In 2013, Noelly Michoux was doing research on the science behind skin care when she learned something that completely upended her understanding of beauty products: More than a dozen physiological differences can be found in Fitzpatrick phototypes four, five, and six, a skin classification system created in the ’70s to denote levels of melanin. Her work led to an a-ha moment: Her trouble finding formulas for her darker skin tone was one affecting women of color at large.
So Michoux, then working at an e-commerce agency in New York City, decided to make a career pivot to address the industry’s diversity gap. “I identified skin care as a space where the status quo had to be challenged,” she tells Bustle. “There was still such a struggle for those with darker skin to find the right products.” She came up with the idea for 4.5.6 Skin, the first customizable skin care brand formulated for melanin-rich complexions.
Michoux found that most products are tested and formulated based on the needs of white skin. But dryness, hyperseborrhea (an over-production of sebum, or the skin’s natural oils), acne, hyperpigmentation, and dullness manifest differently on melanin-rich skin. As she began formulating her line, she took these nuances into account to bring WOC products that actually work for their complexions.
The brand launched in September 2020 with a six-step process that starts with a cleansing gel and ends with a matte moisturizer, all customized based on your particular concerns — and has continued to garner buzz.
Below, Michoux talks about how she shuts off her mind, her best business advice, and how she does self-coaching.
You have so much on your plate. How do you unplug?
It often feels like my brain is constantly buzzing with ideas, worries, and doubts. I’ve certainly tried a lot of things to help switch it off, such as meditation, reading before bed, and breathing exercises — but they only offered temporary relief.
The one method that has really worked for me is something I learned from Brooke Castillo at life coaching school called “thought download.” I do try to do this at least once a week. Essentially, I take at least five minutes to spit out the chaos in my mind by writing it all down. It’s crucial not to judge or censor the thoughts — just write out everything. Every time I do this, I get an instant feeling of quietude in my mind, creating an immediate release from what can often feel like an invisible bully.
“[My customers] sometimes give what can seem like harsh feedback, but they’re actually the best at telling me what needs improvement.”
What’s your go-to way to deal with conflicts or problems that come up?
I make sure to write everything out. Then, once my thoughts are all on paper, I read them and identify which situations are causing me the most strain. I’ll then do some self-coaching by writing: the situation that created the thought in the first place, how the situation makes me feel, the actions I have taken because of these feelings, and the results of these actions.
What’s something that you’ve found rewarding with your business?
I’m lucky to be surrounded by a great ecosystem of entrepreneurs, including my co-founders, who understand the obstacles I face and can offer expert advice and wisdom. And there are my customers — they sometimes give what can seem like harsh feedback, but they’re on the receiving end of the business so they’re actually the best at telling me what needs improvement. I’ve found they’re often right.
What's the worst piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Many professionals and potential investors I went to at the beginning told me not to pursue the idea [of 4.5.6. Skin]. They thought that if a major beauty conglomerate hadn’t created a brand dedicated to melanin-rich skin, it meant there was no viable market. I am looking forward to proving them wrong!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.