Quick Question

Scarlett Johansson & Kate Foster Have Matching Morning Rituals

The Outset founders on building a skin care brand, staying organized, and knowing when to start over.

Quick Question

In Quick Question, Bustle asks women leaders all about advice, from the best guidance they’ve gotten to how they deal with demanding hours. This week, The Outset founders Kate Foster and Scarlett Johansson open up about what it’s like to build a beloved skin care brand collaboratively.

In a sea of celebrity beauty brands, The Outset stands out. First, the product packaging: frosted glass vessels and minimalist, cobalt-blue font give the products a sleek, soothing feel — like a gentle hug for your brain. Then, the ingredients, which swap irritating fillers for natural botanicals that cocoon, hydrate and plump up even the most acne-prone or sensitive skin. And then, of course, the founders: An A-list actor you may have heard of named Scarlett Johansson and industry veteran Kate Foster, who previously helmed brands like Victoria’s Secret and Juicy Couture. Johansson and Foster launched The Outset in February 2022 at the height of the celebrity beauty brand boom, and at first, the brand might have raised a dubious eyebrow or two; other than possessing poreless-looking skin herself, Scarlett Johansson as skin care brand founder was in nobody’s bingo card for 2022.

But over the past year and a half, Johansson and Foster have happily proven the haters wrong. The Outset’s sleek lineup of products is lauded with five-star reviews on Sephora and Nordstrom, has swept industry beauty awards, and surprised and delighted thousands of happy customers with its unique textures and skin-soothing formulas. (See: the Ultralight Moisture Boosting Oil, a dry oil that instantly sinks in and locks in moisture, like a topcoat for the skin, and the Micellar Gentle Micellar Antioxidant Cleanser, a yummy-feeling jelly formula that magically melts off all traces of makeup).

The Outset is straightforward skin care with an elevated, grown-up feel — a stark contrast to the excessive bells and whistles that other celeb beauty brands usually come adorned in. “The idea behind the brand is to de-stress the world of luxury beauty,” says Foster. Bustle caught up with Johansson and Foster at The Outset’s launch at Nordstrom in New York City to learn about the brand’s new Botanical Barrier Rescue Balm, how the two founders keep each other inspired, and the most important part of their morning routine (it involves oat milk).

Congrats on the new balm! How do you use it?

Scarlett Johansson: “Basically, we've been trying to develop a lip balm and we loved it so much, we thought we could make it bigger and it could go anywhere else on the body, like cuticles or heels. I put it on my legs — you know when you're in a taxi cab on your way to dinner and you look down, and you're like, oh my god, my legs are so dry? Stray hairs, too…”

Kate Foster: “...Elbows.”

SJ: “I love this product. It's like the ultimate multi-tasker.”

KF: “It's like a statement piece — you want to pull it out of your bag. And it's genderless, so it's kind of matte. It's not a super slick, shiny finish. A little bit of sheen, but not too much.”

SJ: “My makeup artist Frankie put it all over his face this morning.”

What are your morning routines like? Is there anything you do to set yourself up for a productive day?

SJ: “I wake up thinking of coffee. I don't know if that’s bad. I wake up and I'm like: my coffee. I use an oat milk creamer that I'm obsessed with. It’s from Planet Oat. I'm sure it's terrible for me and spiking my glycemic index. But the taste!”

Are you an early riser?

SJ: “Well, I have kids, so I have to get up before my daughter to get her ready for school. I do the school run with her — I'll go do the school drop off and then I work out. So I wake up in the morning, wash my face, brush my teeth, and I just use The Outset Firming Vegan Collagen Prep Serum. And then later on after I shower, I cleanse my skin again, I use the serum, and then I put moisturizer on. I use serum a lot of times in the day.”

Kate, what about you?

KF: “Well, my kids are my alarm as well, so I don't set an alarm — you hear the feet coming downstairs and then you're awake. I drink decaf coffee only, but I also dream of coffee. I love the taste of it and I feel like it does perk you up. Similarly, I usually am doing the school run, so I'll put The Outset serum and the moisturizer on, go off, do drop-off, go to the gym, and then I'll shower using The Outset cleanser. We both use the Exfoliating Caffeine Micro Polish a couple of times a week, too.”

How do you stay organized while running a business with personal life?

KF: “I communicate pretty much solely through calendar invites. I am always blocking things out — including things related to kids and home life. So my husband and I send calendar invites to each other all the time. I find that treating your personal life a little bit like managing work life is helpful to me.”

SJ: “That sounds better than my situation. I don't know. This is going to sound weird, but I have a remarkable capacity to file a lot in my brain.”

KF: “Your brain holds a lot of information.”

SJ: “It holds a lot of information. That's why I have no long-term memory. Everything is immediate. I just ruminate. That's basically my way of remembering things.”

KF: “Thinker, thinker.”

SJ: “And then I have my incredible assistant, Megan, who has been with me for a million and a half years, who's the left side of my brain.”

As co-founders, how do you make it work when you have different opinions?

SJ: “I think that Kate and I have such a collaborative spirit between us. I think it's really important to work with people that also celebrate that and work well in that capacity.”

What’s something unique about the way that you work well together?

SJ: “We're both comfortable with the idea that if something's not working, you can scrap it and start from scratch — to not be precious about stuff that's not working, or an idea that you thought was great that doesn't totally pan. It's like, let's take a step back. Let's look at this with fresh eyes. Not everybody works well that way, but it's the way that we work well.”

What’s your creative process like?

KF: “I think to be successful collaborators, you have to have trust in each other. You have to have trust in your teammates, but you also have to have trust and confidence in yourself — without ego, without anything like that holding you back.”

SJ: “That's when the best ideas arise.”

@theoutset

Kate, how would you describe Scarlett's strengths?

KF: “I've been a solo founder before and I was like if I ever do this again, I definitely want to partner — and you couldn't ask for a better partner than Scarlett. I think she's so encouraging, fair, and creative. I always say that I've learned to trust my gut more from seeing Scarlet's strength of trusting her gut. She instantly gets the punchline. She can see complex situations and be like, ‘It's that.’ And I'm like, ‘I didn't even finish the sentence.’ Like a great quarterback, she already knows where to find the hole and go for it. And she has great taste. She is a creator.”

Scarlett, what about Kate?

SJ: “Kate, you have so many great qualities and you have incredible leadership skills, which is something that I humongously admire. You're incredibly pragmatic. You are someone who encourages the best in people and you have an ability to also cut to the chase with things and be very brave about making decisions that are either risky or challenging. You have a lot of determination behind the decisions that you make.”

KF: “We should spend every day like this. Just complimenting each other.”

SJ: “She's also really funny and I really appreciate that. We are able to laugh about situations that can feel terrifying. In moments that are uncertain, we’re able to just laugh and enjoy it. You have to have that — otherwise, you just cry.”

What’s been the most challenging part of being a brand founder?

SJ: “Beauty is obviously a crowded space, so trying to constantly reach new customers and get the product in front of people's eyeballs. Being in a store like Nordstrom is awesome because people can come in, they can try the products, they can talk to somebody who is educated about the products, and learn how to incorporate it into their routine.”

KF: “Sometimes with a small company and small team like us, you can't do the thing you want to do right now because you don't have the resources — so, planning for that growth is a challenge, but also it's still a fun challenge. It's figuring out pieces of the puzzle. You might have to say no to this thing now, but in 10 to 12 months you might be ready to take it on.”

What about your favorite part of building a brand?

SJ: “I think my favorite part is seeing the impact that our products have made in people's lives. I'll have friends of mine who I haven't spoken to in a while who will text me and be like, ‘Hey, I've been using your products with my girlfriend for months. We are obsessed. We can't travel without them. When are you coming out with this size? When are you coming out with the next drop?’ It's so awesome.”

That must feel so fulfilling.

SJ: “You see the repeat customer rate and you see that there's the product market fit and you're like, this is something people want in their lives. They're using it and it's making a difference, whether it's clearing their acne or clearing their eczema.”

KF: “I agree. I mean, I don't think I'll ever get tired of somebody saying that they love our cleanser, or they love another The Outset product. It's like it's the first time every time. It just really means a lot.”

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.