Scarlett Johansson on Her New Skincare Line and Why She Doesn't Get Facials


Say hello to Unfiltered, a beauty series where you’ll get an exclusive glimpse into the dressed-down beauty routines of our favorite celebrities. They’ll reveal their guilty-pleasure beauty practices, the five-minute-routine product lineup they can’t live without, the one good-skin tip they’ll be forever thankful for, and so much more. To bring every conversation full circle, we ask each celebrity to send us a selection of self-shot, filter-free photos of their choosing to capture the essence of their Unfiltered beauty philosophy. 

Up next, we’re getting to know the actor and co-founder of the just-launched skincare brand The Outset, Scarlett Johansson. As a fellow beauty enthusiast, she’s answering all of our rapid-fire questions and sharing her best-kept beauty secrets below. Enjoy!


(Image credit: Courtesy of The Outset)

If you had to leave the house in five minutes, what are a few staple beauty products you’d apply or bring with you?

Oh my gosh… five minutes? Well, that’s often the case actually [laughs].

I feel like that’s probably the norm for you right now!

We have a great lip treatment that will be coming out, so now, I always have that in my bag. I would probably use a concealer, definitely. There’s a Givenchy click pen that I really like—it’s great for everywhere and provides a really nice corrective cover. And I would use mascara. Makeup artist Pat McGrath once told me that all of the luxury mascaras are made in the same facility as Max Factor, so if you use any Max Factor mascara, it’s the same as all of those super-expensive ones. So I use Max Factor mascaras now [laughs]. I was like, "What?!”

That’s so funny. I’ve heard similar things about a certain drugstore foundation basically being the same formula as a way more expensive iconic formula that shall go nameless [laughs].

Isn’t that crazy? But yeah, I feel like a lip treatment, concealer, and mascara is my quick out-the-door routine.

What about your skincare regimen? Can you walk me through your morning and evening regimen?

They are kind of the same! I wake up and wash my face every morning. I know some people don’t, but I do. I use our Gentle Micellar Antioxidant Cleanser ($32), and then I use our Firming Vegan Collagen Prep Serum ($46), the Nourishing Squalane Daily Moisturizer ($44), lip treatment, and then I usually take A+D Ointment ($3) and put it all over my cuticles, in and around my nose—I’m so dry [laughs]—and that’s it! I floss at night. … It’s basically just lathering moisture all over my face.

I totally get it, and you’re in New York, right? 

Yes, and it’s so dry.


(Image credit: Courtesy of The Outset)

Okay, let’s talk about your skincare brand that just launched, The Outset. You have access to and are probably sent literally everything and anything under the sun, so I would love to know what inspired you to create your own brand.

I have been interested in skincare for a very long time. I had problem skin as a teenager and well into my 20s. I remember my makeup artist telling me, "And now, you’re going to get wrinkles, and then you’ll have acne and wrinkles at the same time!” [Laughs] So I think I’ve just always been hyper-aware of how that’s had an impact on my self-confidence, and I’ve always been curious about what other people are using for their skin and how I could improve my own skin. I would use every mask and peel and scrub and prescription cream that I could get my hands on, and it’s just tough, you know? I think anyone who has problem skin can relate to wanting it to go away with some miracle treatment. 

When you were dealing with that, what—if anything—made the biggest or most positive impact on your skin?

Actually, I always found that when I returned to the same basics—just cleansing, priming, and moisturizing my skin—it would be its best self. For so long, I was using all of these other products to just strip it away, and it took me a long time to understand that I was doing too much. So when I was looking to create this line, I was curious to know what other people were looking for. I knew I wanted something that felt refined—it’s a very crowded space right now—and often, I feel like you need a PhD to understand everything, how different products and ingredients interact and that kind of thing. I wanted to create a line that played well with others and wasn’t going to cause a crazy reaction with whatever other products people choose to use. Really, it’s a return to basics, and we did a lot of consumer research. It turned out that the majority of people—like over 90% of the consumers that we asked—were pretty happy with the quality of their skin and were more looking to preserve what they already have. … After that, I felt like we were on the right path. And that’s really what The Outset’s principles are all about—returning to the essentials and being liberated from these complicated skincare routines. Every day is really an opportunity to start fresh. 

Definitely, and it’s a refreshing stance within a market that often feels so prescriptive or black-and-white in terms of brand monogamy and super-intensive routines. What has been the most shocking thing about the industry since entering the beauty space as an entrepreneur versus a consumer?

I think it was pretty shocking once I started looking at and being able to really understand the benchmarks of the different products that I had been using. Pulling them all apart, I realized how much harmful stuff is in skincare. I mean, I just had no idea. Things can look really clean, and it can give you this false sense of comfort, like using a nice drugstore brand that’s touted to be noncomedogenic and dermatologist tested and approved. And the packaging can look very "American pharmacy,” so you’re like, "Oh yeah, this feels clean and safe,” and then you start to realize that’s not really the case. And it’s not just the cheaper brands. I mean, I had no idea that my really expensive day cream was full of all of these fillers and basically petroleum. It’s kind of shocking. Unless you went on an exhaustive quest as a consumer to research and find out what each and every ingredient in your product is, how would you ever really know? And then once you know that, it’s hard to unknow it. I wanted to make a line that felt transparent.


(Image credit: Courtesy of The Outset)

What were some of the biggest challenges once you honed in on the type of line you wanted to create?

Creating a clean skincare line that’s also effective is extremely challenging. You can create something that’s clean, sure, but it might not actually do anything for your skin. I realized I couldn’t really use "natural” products because I had a really bad reaction to that stuff too. It’s just this whole other world!

I completely relate. I have very sensitive, acne-prone skin, and I just can’t use most natural or organic products because they often have ingredients like essential oils or other actives that really aggravate my skin and actually make it worse.

Yes, definitely. It’s been a really long and challenging process. Like, we will finally approve a day-cream formula, and then months go by and you hear, "Oh, well, when we did further testing, it actually has a trace nut oil in it,” and you just want to scream [laughs]. So it’s tough! It’s been frustrating at times, but I can honestly say what we are putting out there I am 100% behind. Like you, I also have sensitive, acne-prone skin that easily reacts to things, and I feel really good about this line. 

Well, I’ve been testing some of the products, and I’ve only been impressed so far. No reactions! Okay, this is a fun one. Switching gears a little bit, is there anything about your routine that you think would surprise people? 

[Laughs] Well, firstly, talking to a beauty editor, you have far more access to all of the crazy things people might think I do, like facials and different types of treatments. I think what would be most surprising is the fact that I have never done any kind of crazy facial treatment. Because I have problem skin, I’m paranoid about trying things, anyone touching my face. I never get facials. I’ve never done any of that insane stuff like getting blood injected into your skin. So yeah, I think people would be surprised to know that I’ve probably only had about three facials in my entire life. 

That is surprising! I would never have guessed because I so often hear celebrities go on about the importance of getting a facial every month or, you know, whatever it is. It’s like you said, though! Sometimes, less really is more with that kind of thing.

Yeah, for me, it definitely is. 

Okay, last question! What’s your Unfiltered beauty philosophy in seven words or less?

I mean, it’s such an overused thing to say, but I think beauty comes from within—when I feel happy in my life and when I love myself, you know? I think that really shines through whatever else you have going on, and people notice that. For me, the sense of "beauty” really stems from self-love.

Shop Scarlett’s Unfiltered Beauty Edit

Up next, America Ferrera on Her Secret to Glowing Skin and Changing the Beauty Narrative

Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.