This summer, I finally had a chance to sit down and film a video with my good friend (and beauty industry legend), Caroline Hirons! (You can watch here.) We had an amazing time talking all things skincare and beauty, including how I got my start in the industry, where I trained, which famous dermatologist influenced my philosophy and more.
Here are some highlights—enjoy!
How I Got My Start
Renée Rouleau: I’ve been an esthetician for thirty years. My grandmother was a hairstylist and the owner of a hair salon, so I grew up in that environment and just was always a skincare junkie. I didn’t know this, but I went to a class reunion one time and someone was like, “Oh yeah, in the fifth grade, you were the first girl that wore makeup and you used to come to the slumber parties and do everyone’s makeup.” And I was like, “I did?” But I love hearing that because it was like I’ve always had my fingers in beauty things. So yeah. I’ve been an esthetician for thirty years and I’ve owned Renee Rouleau for twenty-three years next month (August, 2019).
Where I Did My Training
Renée Rouleau: I did my training outside of Boston at an esthetics school. It was close to one of the first in the country or something, and it’s still there. It’s called Catherine Hinds Institute of Esthetics. How I got my start was I worked at a salon, a full service hair salon, and they had a facial room also. One of my coworkers became my mentor, and she taught me everything and then we left the salon and started our own business together. This was in 1991 when I was twenty-one years old. We had that for five years, but then for personal reasons, I wanted to move out of the East coast, so I sold my half of the business. I used that money and started [Renée Rouleau Skincare] in Dallas, and now our company is based in Austin. She used to work with him, so I mean she’s my hero.
The Famous Dermatologist Who Influenced My Skincare Philosophy
Renée Rouleau: As many know, my line is based on nine skin types. My mentor from the salon used to work with Dr. Fitzpatrick, so I was lucky enough to have known him personally. I was really influenced by his philosophy, and basically he’s the one who determined that there are different types of skin. But his focus was more on tone—how much pigment is in your skin. In this day and age, that comes in handy when people do laser [or other professional] treatments, but not really everyday skincare. When you started working hands-on with clients, you quickly realize there’s more to skin than just dry, normal, and oily. So when I started Renée Rouleau, I said, “Let me solve this problem.” I created the line based on nine skin types so people could mix and match from one line and find everything they needed.
I probably started with about twelve [products], so it was really limited, and then I kept adding. The concept of dry, normal and oily, that’s still important because that tells how heavy or how rich a cream needs to be. But what happens if you have somebody that still breaks out, but now they have wrinkles too? They’re forced to go one way or another, and then that’s what clogs your pores and cause problems. Dry, normal, and oily still has its place, but people just have more unique needs. So just the concept of one size fits all, I can’t buy into that.
What Drives Me as a CEO
Renée Rouleau: I’ve turned down a lot of opportunities that people would just say I’m crazy for. But the reality is, I’m not looking to be a household name. I’m not looking to have my name up in lights. I’m still driven and ambitious, but that just doesn’t fuel me. At the end of the day, I’m looking to build a great company. So what fuels me is helping people, whether it’s our customers and helping them with their skin, or building a great team at Renee Rouleau. All our employees, that’s kind of where my investment is. And I feel like I’ve seen way too many companies that are all about growth and never about the people. Other companies have financial goals and of course we have those too, but one of our goals in the next year and a half is to get recognition as the best company to work for. Those are my proudest moments. Not going, “Oh, we had 100 million in revenue or got acquired.” No, its about people.
Caroline Hirons: And would I be right in assuming that the company is yours?
RR: One hundred percent of the company.
CH: And that is why. Because you don’t have shareholders going, “You need to bring profits up.”
RR: Yeah. Exactly.
My Biggest Claim To Fame
Renée Rouleau: My biggest claim to fame is our Anti-Bump Solution. But here’s the crazy thing about it: I don’t really know how it works. And what I mean by that is when I worked at that first salon, we sold a skincare line and they had ampules for acne. And so I’d recommend them for acne, but at the time and even in this day and age, acne [products] are more about pustular acne because you can’t really do anything for cysts other than get a cortisone shot. And so I’d be selling it to my clients and all of a sudden I’d get this feedback, someone said, “Well, I had one of those undergrounders and it seemed to work so much better for those than my regular acne.” I kept hearing it and hearing it, then the company ended up discontinuing it. So I asked if I could buy the formula.
So I bought the formula from them and we’ve since modified it a little bit. But long story short, it’s for cystic blemishes. So the hard, sore, hormonal blemishes you can get at any age.
The Acne Product With a “Five-Minute Kill Rate”
Renée Rouleau: That would be our Rapid Response Detox Masque. We launched it about a year and a half ago. This has been great because it’s considered an acne mask, but it’s hydrating, calming, anti-inflammatory. But then it also has a five minute kill rate for the microbial count on the skin. And so this again is for that person, that adult that still gets breakouts but they don’t want to dry out their skin. So it’s actually a hydrating gel with no synthetic fragrances, no synthetic dyes. It uses what’s called a lima complex, which is manuka and tea tree. It creates an environment in the skin where bacteria can’t thrive and therefore helps with acne.
The Number One Skincare Myth I Wish People Would Stop Believing
Renée Rouleau: Okay so my favorite myth. I’m a believer that everyone should wear makeup every day. So I work a lot in young Hollywood, and I have a lot of people with acne and everyone’s goal is to not have to wear makeup—makeup is kind of the enemy. So I understand when you have acne you hide under it, right? And people want to be free from that, I totally get that. But makeup is your friend. A lot of people always talk about the concept of “letting the skin breathe” even though skin doesn’t have a respiratory system.
So when I first came to Dallas, I noticed that all the older women, the women that were like in their seventies, they had such beautiful texture on their skin. They looked so much younger than their counterparts in Boston. But when you think of Texas, you think of sun damage and weather. Well, this is my anecdotal theory: they all did like the pancake makeup for whatever reason. Women in the south in the U.S. embraced makeup way more than Northern women do. (I had clients in Dallas who, after a facial, they would go into the bathroom and put on a full face of makeup.) Most makeup has titanium dioxide in it, which is what Max Factor had as well back in the day.
So I always tell people, I mean you want to wear makeup, don’t think of makeup as a bad thing. You obviously want to wear makeup that is appropriate for your skin type. I mean if you’re wearing makeup and you’re getting bumps and clogging your pores, then that’s not a good thing. But wear some sort of mineral powder at the very least, ideally some sort of a foundation. But that’s your insurance policy to really protect your skin because most people aren’t applying sunscreen enough.
I hope you enjoyed these highlights! Be sure to watch the full video to see me diagnose Caroline’s skin type and learn which celebrity client of mine recorded a video for her!
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”