Moving to Los Angeles has introduced me to the world of extravagant beauty launches. I've been to the homes of Kim Kardashian and Miranda Kerr, a private Lizzo concert, houses refurbished into pop-up brand installations, luxurious beachside luncheons and more. And while celebrity appearances are not uncommon, I've never attended a beauty launch on the set of a TV show — until Monday, that is.
On a bizarrely rainy morning, I drove to Warner Brothers in Burbank, negative Covid-19 test results in hand. I took an on-site rapid test and then joined a diverse group of influencers and editors in one of the lovely green rooms at "The Ellen Show," just a few doors down from guest Anya Taylor-Joy. Ellen DeGeneres would be introducing her new skin-care line, Kind Science, on air, alongside friend and co-founder Victoria Jackson. But first, they gave our group a sneak peek.
Kind Science debuted on Tuesday with a gentle cleanser ($22), a "micro" exfoliant ($28), a firming serum ($48), a hydration cream ($43), an eye cream ($32), a neck cream ($38) and an oil ($38). In a backstage area filled with stocked drink fridges and a ping-pong table, we all examined and touched samples of the products — the hydration cream, I will say, felt incredible on my persistently dry hands — until Jackson, a veteran celebrity makeup artist who led Kind Science's product formulation, came out and gave us her rundown.
The line is inspired by DeGeneres' struggle with increasingly sensitive skin, Jackson explained, noting that she and the comedian first bonded over a love of interior decorating and shopping. The "kind" in the name is meant to reflect the products' kindness to skin (in the form of gentle ingredients), animals (they're leaping-bunny certified, though not quite vegan, due to the presence of honey in some products) and the planet (via recyclable packaging and thoughtful ingredient sourcing). Kind Science also joins a growing cohort of brands and publications disposing of the term "anti-aging."
"We hate the term anti-aging," Jackson told us. "The biggest thing was it had to be age-positive." (She did, however cite clinical trials where 97% of participants saw a visible difference in "wrinkle reduction, elasticity and firmness," so the line is meant to tackle signs of aging.) She walked us through some of the key ingredients, including soothing chamomile in the cleanser, gently polishing volcanic sand in the exfoliator, kangaroo flower and bakuchiol in the serum and snow mushroom in the hydration cream.
When DeGeneres herself came out, it became clear that Jackson was the one obsessing over ingredients throughout their two-year development process: She was unabashedly incapable of remembering or pronouncing the many plant-derived actives.
"As many times as she's said all the names of all the things that are in there, I still can't remember," DeGeneres said, with her signature smirk. "Don't ask me what's in things."
It may have just been a comedic bit — and probably was, because she repeated it when the cameras were rolling — but DeGeneres' aloofness around the details was totally on-brand. What she did seem to care about was liking the products, and making sure they worked for everyone.
"What I'm excited about is the people we gave it to [for trials] didn't know it was me, didn't know anything about it, and the results are just... You can't lie about what's happening to your skin," she said. "I want it to be good for every kind of skin, no matter your age or your gender or whatever."
DeGenres and Jackson wanted to clarify that, although they're in their 60s, the line is for all ages. When someone asked the age range of the clinical trial participants, DeGeneres dryly replied "3-7 years old" without missing a beat. "You should see the difference in [the three-year-old's] skin, it's like a baby." (It was actually 35+.)
After photo ops with DeGeneres and a professional photographer, we took our seats in the audience. In one of the first segments, actual children in that age range came on stage for an adorable Halloween costume bit. During the part of the show dedicated to introducing Kind Science, QVC-style, DeGeneres joked that those children were their test subjects.
Perhaps combining a brand launch and show taping was simply a way for DeGeneres to optimize her time, but it also felt like a way for a new project to overlap with the one that's defined the last two decades of her career, and that's now coming to an end. It could also have been an opportunity for DeGeneres to warm up pre-show. But there's another connection between her TV persona and her new venture: the word "kind," which has long been part of her personal brand. Of course, after allegations arose last year that the star had perpetuated a toxic work environment on the show, that aspect of her brand was threatened.
Some might say her "be kind" motto didn't age well; maybe there's a hope Kind Science will counteract those reputation wrinkles, in addition to her fans' physical ones, while also ensuring that her message of kindness lives on after the final episode airs.