Consumers can sometimes be in for a nasty surprise when it comes to skincare as products meant to promote a healthy appearance can be filled with toxin-laden preservatives, while others can cause a severe reaction for those with allergic or sensitive skin.
Two Fairfield County women have launched a product line with a difference. Starling Skincare is aimed specifically at those with allergic and sensitive skin who are looking for healthier and cleaner skincare options.
“I have a nut allergy, I’m gluten-free and about seven years ago I found myself with a severe case of contact dermatitis,” said co-founder Lisa Larson-Murphy. “It was mortifying. I looked like I had third-degree burns on my face.”
Unable to find an alternative over-the-counter product in the marketplace, Larson-Murphy began researching skincare — which she said was an eye-opening experience: “The more you look at some of the ingredients, the more you realize what a crazy world it is,” she said.
Along the way she mentioned her idea about building a better skincare line to Nathalie Yavonditte, whom she met several years before when they both worked in footwear development and sales at Victoria’s Secret. Though not suffering from allergies like Larson-Murphy, Yavonditte said she has a number of skin sensitivities and can be prone to certain chemical irritants.
Signing on as co-founder, Yavonditte began working with Larson-Murphy to develop a long-lasting lip balm “that really hasn’t changed since day one,” according to Larson-Murphy.
Having spent about two years developing their product line, “We did a lot of testing on ourselves and our extended families,” Yavonditte laughed. The pair officially launched Starling Skincare on Nov. 29 as an online-only venture, at least so far.
Starling’s skincare products are free from nuts, gluten, soy, dairy, fragrance, shea butter, dyes, sulfates, propylene glycol, BPAs (an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics and resins) and many other irritants. While limited to balms and deodorants, the pair plans to add more products, which are created in “production studios” in Larson-Murphy’s Stamford and Yavonditte’s Greenwich homes, in the new year, including a vegan line.
The Starling duo will also work with customers with complicated allergy needs to create customized versions of their products. “We don’t actually create the product until we receive the order,” Larson-Murphy noted, adding that turnaround time is usually one to two business days.
Offering products in small batches ensures each item is the freshest it can be, she continued. “We really want to be able to manage the quality of what we’re doing as closely as we can.”
Sales have been surprisingly good. “We were really excited when we saw we were getting customers who weren’t just family or friends,” Yavonditte laughed. The pair hired a publicist and advertises on such platforms as Facebook.
While the direct-to-consumer model is currently a centerpiece of Starling’s business model, Larson-Murphy said they’d like to form “one or two really strong retail partnerships and call it a day.” The idea, she said, is not to become a massive company: “That way you spend your entire day writing invoices and tracking shipments, which can be a challenging and ultimately inefficient way to build your business.”
Larson-Murphy also was quick to note that Starling isn’t limiting itself when it comes to customers. “We’re targeting people with allergies,” she said, “but we want to appeal to anyone who’s looking for cleaner products.”