Jamie Kern Lima’s life reads like a modern-day fairy tale. Eight years ago she was a local news anchor in Studio City, California, struggling with finding makeup that would stand up to the new, fancy HD lenses. Fast-forward to 2016 and she’s the founder of an insanely popular makeup company that L’Oréal just bought for a whopping $1.2 billion. And to top it all off, she loves what she does. Yes, Lima became supersuccessful and found her calling in less than a decade, but those eight years were filled with lots of hurdles. Here, we tell her story, highlighting the products (and the TV appearance) that put It Cosmetics on everyone’s radar, and why-for a makeup company that’s aimed at “real women”-some professional makeup artists can’t get enough of the brand’s products.
As a news anchor in 2008, Lima would often get to the office at midnight to prep for her live morning segments, and if you’re going on camera early in the morning under bright lights and in front of unrelenting HD cameras, you need to wear the right kind of makeup-plus the perfect amount-to feel and look your best. “You have to have really great makeup or it doesn’t look so good [on camera]. I have heredity rosacea and sparse eyebrows, so I used to spend most of my paycheck on beauty products, testing everything out there, and trying to find products that didn’t look like makeup [on screen]. But I could never find products that really worked for me,” says Lima.
So Lima set out to create a makeup brand that wasn’t about artistry or how many shades of lipstick it could make, but about solving real problems that women have in finding and applying makeup. “There wasn’t a brand that I really connected with and that I felt really solved beauty problems, whether it’s sparse brows or tightlining,” says Lima. So she decided to take the risk and write a business plan on the flight home from her honeymoon. And Lima’s business plan wasn’t just casual daydreaming-it was a serious plan to assemble a board of plastic surgeons and dermatologists who could help her create effective makeup products that also provided a strong skin-care element. She called the company Innovative Technology Cosmetics.
The first product that got people talking about It Cosmetics was the
. When Lima presented the product on QVC in 2010, it sold out in just minutes. “We call it Bye Bye Under Eye, but it’s not just for undereye,” says Lima. “Some of our customers use it as an all over foundation and some use it to cover up blemishes. It’s really different because it covers everything, so it will literally cover a tattoo.” Lima also developed the concealer to resist creasing or cracking. “When you put a lot of concealers on you’re like, ‘Oh it covers,’ but then all of a sudden you look at your skin and you have wrinkles that you never knew you had.” Lima-and a lot of QVC customers-swear that Bye Bye Under Eye Concealer says “bye-bye” to this issue.
Besides the product, it was also Lima’s presence on QVC that changed the game, both for the shopping network and her brand. Unlike presenters who demonstrate their products on young models, Lima decided to show how her concealer worked on people of all ages, including a 72-year-old woman-and herself. Lima took off all her makeup on air, exposing her rosacea and demonstrating how her products covered it up. “When I go on TV and I take my makeup off it’s for two reasons,” says Lima. “One is to show that our products really work, and the other is because I believe every woman is beautiful, whether she has acne or rosacea. I just want women, whether they have skin issues or if they’ve never connected with a brand, to know that they can be beautiful.”
It was this realness that catapulted It Cosmetics into becoming one of the most-loved beauty brands on QVC. “The secret to success with QVC is a great product with a great story and storyteller behind it,” says Rachel Ungaro, the vice president of fashion and beauty merchandising at QVC. “Jamie shares her personal skin challenges and demonstrates how the products work. Her story, passion for the product, and overall authenticity resonates with consumers.” And authenticity is what It Cosmetics is all about, according to Lima. “It’s really important to have an authentic mission when you create a company,” she says. “We really believe in changing what women see when they look in the mirror. We want women to look in the mirror and see what’s right, not what’s wrong. That’s the heart and soul of what we do.”
By now, It Cosmetics has quite a few “cult products” in their collection. One of them is the
. “It’s one of my favorite foundation products and a staple in my personal makeup bag,” says Carissa Ferreri, a makeup artist who works with Gina Rodriguez. “It leaves my face looking natural but fully covers all my imperfections.” According to Lima, what sets her CC apart from all the others on the market is her strong dedication to creating makeup that not only covers imperfections, but also serves as full-functioning skin care. “A lot of foundations and CC creams start their life as makeup first,” she says. “The CC cream is different in that it starts as an anti-aging moisturizer first, and then we fortified it with physical SPF 50.” The fact it contains physical (i.e. mineral UV blockers), rather than chemical is key-and highlights the true ethos of the brand. “A lot of CC creams have chemical sunscreen. One of the biggest things I learned from working with dermatologists is that I was having so many skin problems because the makeup I was using had chemical sunscreen in it.”
It Cosmetics products aren’t sold at drugstore prices, so it will be interesting to see if L’Oréal will make any changes to that, among other things. (We’re keeping our fingers crossed they don’t touch the formulas.) The CC cream costs $38 and the famous undereye concealer costs $24. Another cult favorite product, the Brow Power, touted as a “universal brow pencil,” will cost you $24, but true It Cosmetics junkies don’t mind shelling out for these higher range price tags. “A lot of the It products are kind of pricey, but definitely worth it,” writes one user on Reddit. “I love the CC cream. Bye Bye Under Eye is an incredible full-coverage concealer. You honestly need the smallest dot to blend out.”
Lima now leads a company that’s worth $1.2 billion. But she stresses that this kind of success doesn’t happen overnight. “I didn’t pay myself for the first three years,” she says. “I ran the business out of my apartment and our first employee, who is still here to this day, was a good friend of mine-a bridesmaid in my wedding. At one point we even had an actress living at our home in exchange for working at the company. All of our money went to research and development, as well as advisory boards. So the first three years were really tough and we heard “no” from just about every one of our most important partners today.”
But Lima never gave up, and eventually she heard “yes” from top companies: QVC, Ulta, Sephora. And now, she doesn’t think creating a makeup company is the hardest thing in the world, as long as you have an authentic vision. “There are so many trends in beauty that it’s easy to get caught up in following them,” says Lima. “One thing that I think is critical is that we’ve always stayed focused on our authentic brand at It Cosmetics, which is providing products that solve women’s problems and really help them feel their most beautiful. So I think staying true to that is why we’ve grown, because you can’t fake authenticity and sometimes brands get distracted by what’s popular in that moment and it switches who they are.”
The secret to It Cosmetics’s prosperity isn’t just great products (although that has a lot to do with it). It was also establishing an enthusiastic fanbase. Launching on QVC was pivotal to Lima’s success because the women who shop on QVC become die-hard fans of whatever products they decide to buy. And when you’re a die-hard fan, you tell all your friends and family. “When women find something that works, they get behind it and spread the word,” says Lima. “[The brand] touches all generations. I’ll be at Starbucks and there will be a daughter who found out from her mom or a mom who found about It from her daughter, and they’ll tell me about how many generations in their family wear It and how it’s solved their skin issues.” And that’s when you know you’ve created a truly impactful beauty brand.
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