Scarlett Johanssen and Gwen Stefani, two effortlessly beautiful, blonde queens who have both had their foot on my neck for years, have both entered the celebrity beauty game. Scarlett Johanssen is a true A-lister. An unimpeachable goddess of the silver screen with one of Hollywood’s most classy, sexy, and eclectic dating histories. Gwen’s a beauty trailblazer who’s been serving lewks since the ‘90s, including feathered pink hair, blue hair, and whatever this is. There is no denying that Gwen’s a beauty pioneer with some of the most creative and beautiful makeup looks in herstory. But the first question we must ask when a celebrity starts a beauty or skincare line — why? What is the backstory, their raison-d’etre that compelled them to dip their toe into the overcrowded celebeauty field? And how do I, the pop culture-obsessed beauty freak that I am, know that their products are the real deal and not just a fast cash grab?
There’s only way to find out. I tried both Scarlett and Gwen’s beauty lines — here are my honest reviews.
The Outset by Scarlett Johanssen
Lest we forget, Scarlett is a tried and true entrepreneuse. Real ones remember when back in 2017, Scarlett and her impossibly-hot French ex-husband Romain Duriac opened a (now-closed) chic popcorn store called Yummy Pop (!) in Paris! When this multi-faceted, A-List icon announced she was starting a skin care line? I was absolutely Babashook.
Th Outset’s origin story is as such: “After representing luxury beauty brands in their campaigns for many years, I felt like I finally had the confidence to take a seat at the table and have an active voice in a brand’s direction. I wanted to create and represent a brand that felt true to me, something real and intimate that others could see themselves in, too.”
And I’m f*cking sold. ScarJo is embodying the self-confident celebrity entrepreneurial motivation that gets me off. Served up with a side of slightly complaining a little bit about feeling disenfranchised by her multi-million dollar, nearly 20-year contract with L’oreal Paris (!). It’s serving petty, but glamorous.
But what could ScarJo possibly know about skin? Sure she has perfect skin that I would literally kill for, but that’s almost a turnoff for me when it comes to trusting her skincare guidance. Like, she’s probably never had a pimple in her life! How could she understand the unique needs of those of us (me) that have angry, hormonal skin that always seems to be mad at them (me)!?
Which is why I was surprised to learn from Scarlett’s recent Vogue interview that she has — gasp — “problem skin” and struggles with breakouts and dryness. The Outset is her attempt to create a hyper-clean, streamlined, simple skincare routine that could work for as many people as possible without any risk of irritation. It’s formulated to the strictest guidelines of clean beauty (over 2,700 ingredients are eliminated! 2X the industry average!), and it’s thoroughly vetted to be safe for sensitive skin, and non-comedogenic. I feel safe and nurtured already. The website claims it’s the “white tee of skincare,” and I get it. The products are designed to work well together, but also work well with other skincare. It all feels simple and no-frills in the best way.
Outset’s brand identity feels calming and classy, a gentle and peaceful wave of white and blue tones and gorgeous typography. Their website has both a cause page and a manifesto page! Step your game up Cerave — Scarlett did not come to play!
Onto the products. The components were stunning — they felt luxurious, expensive and glamorous. The heavy bottles are all made with thick, frosted glass and luscious pumps, and they all feel like they could easily double as a weapon. In a good way. Having them in my bathroom made me feel like a rich, effortlessly beautiful French woman who only needs three simple, yet insanely expensive products to stay looking perfect. The best news is they aren’t for wealthy French ladies — every product is under $50!
The formulas are unscented — the chic, allergen-friendly choice, of course. I’d expect no less.
Everything is formulated with The Outset’s proprietary “botanical alternative to hyaluronic acid” — something called Hyaluroset™ Complex. We love a trademark.
The Outset Review
Gentle Micellar Antioxidant Cleanser: This is a silky, light, and refreshing sulfate-free cleanser packed with hydrating, soothing, and protective ingredients. Even though it’s a foaming cleanser, it didn’t leave my face feeling dry or tight. It’s exactly the kind of cleaner I love to use in the morning, but I’m not sure I’d trust it to single handedly take off a day of sunscreen and makeup. That being said, she’s stunning and I will absolutely be using her to the last drop.
Squalane Daily Moisturizer: This is a lovely, lightweight-yet-nourishing product formulated with a bunch of interesting ingredients, like edelweiss extract and red rice extract, not to mention the very moisturizing squalane. It feels like it’d be the perfect daily moisturizer for someone with dryer skin, but it didn’t feel heavy whatsoever on my oily sardine skin.
Firming Vegan Collagen Prep Serum: This is delicious, formulated with plumping, hydrating, soothing, dark-spot reducing, firming ingredients like Mexican arnica flower extract and black quinoa extract. It sank in beautifully without feeling tacky or like something was sitting on top of my skin, even when I layered the serum under the moisturizer!
Smoothing Vitamin C Eye + Expression Lines: This eye cream —which Scarlett says is her skincare-obsessed hubby Colin Jost’s favorite! — was lovely. I am not an eye cream girl personally (I suspect they all give me milia?) but you best believe I will be forcing my fellow comedy-writer boyfriend to use this in honor of C-Jost.
Restorative Niacinamide Night Cream: Delicious. On the nights that I’m too tired to do my full hormonal acne skincare routine, I could see myself slathering this on and calling it a night — especially since it’s loaded with niacinamide, my number one favorite multi-tasking skincare ingredient.
In short — The Outset is the Scarlett Johanssen of skincare lines. It’s impossibly chic, intimidatingly beautiful, and luxurious yet simple. And I really, really love it. I plan to incorporate all the products into my current skincare routine, particularly on the days when it feels like my skin needs to embrace simplicity and Scarlett-ish-ness.
Who It’s For: Someone with sensitive skin that’s ready to throw away all their skincare and start fresh with a beautifully simple routine that looks super chic on their shelves.
GXVE by Gwen Stefani
There is no denying that Gwen’s a beauty pioneer with some of the most creative and beautiful makeup looks in herstory. Gwen was boundary breaking, and beauty-wise, she set the bar so high. Yes, Gwen has been 100% accurately called out for her repeated habit of culturally appropriating Latin, Indian, and Japanese cultures throughout her career — for which she has never apologized — but she is now living a relatively unproblematic life as a weirdly ageless part-time judge on The Voice and 1/2 of a stunty relationship with Blake Shelton.
Obviously Gwen is a legendary celebrity entrepreneuse. Her apparel and accessories line L.A.M.B. launched in 2003 and was beloved by tabloid it-girls like Paris Hilton et al. Gwen spun L.A.M.B. into fragrance, watches, shoes and more — very ahead of her time in the celebrity mogul branding game — but operations scaled down around the time Gwen had kids and I think now it only exists as an eyewear line.
So why did Gwen decide to create a celebeauty line now, after all these years? In an interview with Bustle, Gwen said she had no hesitations about bringing GXVE into the fold. ““Makeup gives people power and it makes people feel a certain way,” she says. “I’ve always been a beauty girl before anything else. I know it sounds like just makeup, but it’s more than that.”
Although I do appreciate that Gwen does her own makeup for every single concert she’s ever done, I’m not 100% sure I actually believe it.
My first issue is obviously the fact that I have literally no idea how to pronounce the brand name, GXVE. It looks like one of Elon Musk and Grimes’ baby names. Technically, it’s pronounced “GIVE,” which just makes me mad. Please don’t put random, confusing Xs into words!
The packaging itself is kind of a bland and vague amalgamation of Gwen’s brand. Everything’s emblazoned with that olde english font that was emblazoned on her iconic collab with Le Sportsac. Clearly, the product range itself is inspired by Gwen’s current makeup look. Somewhere around 2016-2017, Gwen embraced a signature beauty look that she wears consistently: super-blonde hair, neutral eye shadow, beautiful brows, a cat eye and more often than not, and her signature very intense red lip.
The line’s hero product is indeed the lipstick — and in a move I find bewildering, the brand currently only sells three different formulations of the EXACT SAME INTENSE RED SHADE. It’s such a baller move to come out of the gate with three lip products in the exact same, nearly-impossible-to-pull-off lip shade and be like “enjoy, b*tches.”
All three lipsticks (which are again, exactly the same shade — sorry I can’t get over it) are a blue-red that feels very classic Gwen, but in reality, is a color I find very hard to pull off in everyday life. This kind of red is a high stakes shade that requires upkeep and careful reapplication throughout the night — and in a post-pandemic world? I do not have the time.
First red flag: the brand has no lip liner product. The only way I can ever get close to pulling off an intense red lipstick without looking like Joaquin Phoenix in The Joker is with carefully-applied lip liner. Gwen, a red lipstick baddie, should have 100 percent known better than to make three different red lipstick sand not offer a lip liner. I had to pull out a crusty old MAC lip liner in Brick — SMH, Gwen!
GXVE by Gwen Stefani Review
Anaheim Shine Satin Finish: This glided easily onto my lips and had a nice shiny finish. I wore it at a high intensity meal (rotisserie chicken) and, you better believe it got all over my face by the end of my chicken frenzy.
Original Me High-Performance: This matte lipstick was my favorite by far — I absolutely love a bullet lipstick with a matte finish. It reminds me of my all-time fave beloved Pat McGrath Mattetrance lipsticks. It went on easily and stayed relatively in place for hours.
I’m Still Here High-Performance Matte Liquid Lipstick: Intense. Remember the Kylie Cosmetics ‘15 Lip Kits and their stuck-on-your-lips for dear life formulas? This reminded me of that. It takes a second to dry down, and once it’s on, holy shit it’s hard to get off. It took some very aggressively vigorous rubbing with a micellar soaked cotton pad to get it off.
All three lip products are intensely scented, with an identical, sickeningly sweet, vanilla cupcake smell that immediately gave me flashbacks to my beloved middle school lip product of choice, Smackers Lip Frosting. I kind of loved it, but it might not be for everyone.
The brand has two separate eyebrow products. I love a celeb that takes eyebrows seriously! (Rihanna only has one eyebrow product, just saying.) The Hella On Point Ultra Fine Brow Pencil was lovely — a far superior version of my ride-or-die $10 NYX Micro Brow Pencil. The component itself was luxe and heavy, and the product itself went on smoothly and pigmented. Big fan, but at $24 (more than even the Anastasia Brow Wiz!), it’s a bit pricey for a brow pencil.
The Most Def Instant Definition Sculpting Eyebrow Pencil had a very interesting, dolphin fin-shaped pencil tip that I found hard to control. Since I have Eugene Levy-level thicc brows, I typically only need very fine strokes for my eyebrows, which I struggled to make with this product. Maybe it’s better for someone with larger areas of their brows to fill in?
The Line It Up 24hr Waterproof Gel Eyeliner was superb. True to its name, the product is a high pigment, smudgeproof pencil that glides on like butter and stayed put for hours. I applied it with an eyeliner brush and gave myself a slightly smudgy cat eye that lasted all night. It’s definitely new go-to for a quick flick.
The line also includes four separate neutral eyeshadow quads. The eyeshadow formula was fine — not that pigmented, nor particularly blendable. While I’m a neutral eyeshadow lover, I just didn’t love these quads. In a world where SO many brands have filled the need for neutral eye palettes, I see no need to purchase four separate, bulky quads that I literally have no room for in my overstuffed makeup drawer.
Who It’s For: Overachievers who want to attempt the impossible task of wearing high-pigment, high-intensity red lipstick in a post-pandemic world.
Cult of Celebeauty is a beauty column from writer Caroline Goldfarb, who reviews the latest, buzziest, and weirdest celebrity-helmed beauty lines.
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I Tried Scarlett Johansson & Gwen Stefani’s Beauty Lines — These Are My Honest Thoughts