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An Interview With Brandon Truaxe, Founder of Deciem

Brandon Truaxe
July 13, 2017 Reviewed by Marta 7 Comments

Brandon Truaxe is a maverick. He launched The Abnormal Beauty Company three years ago — at the age of 35 — with a suite of 10 brands under the umbrella name of Deciem. He had the nerve to challenge and disrupt the beauty industry with unique ideas and principles. Since, the brand has grown rapidly, and it recently attracted the attention of Estee Lauder. The beauty behemoth has now taken a minority stake in the company. I was thrilled to have an opportunity to discuss Deciem’s unique approach to skin and hair care and what will happen next with the company.

The Truth In Aging community loves your products — particularly the NIOD line. You have very unique products that seem to fill white spaces in the beauty market that I didn’t even know existed. How do you do that? What is Deciem’s approach to product ideation and creation?

BT: Ultimately, this is what Deciem is as a business. This process — the creative process of making products — is how we have grown. Ideas are not a problem. The hard part is to decide what not to do. We go through two to three iterations of a product to really push at what will make it new and, more importantly, effective.

Who is involved in the process?

BT: The key was bringing in the right kind of chemist. A knowledgeable chemist is not going to innovate. But a creative chemist will because they will connect all the dots that result in real innovation. I realized from the outset that we are working with active technologies (like medicine) and so we needed bio-chemists and materials chemists. We meet twice a month to discuss our product development — seven chemists, marketing, creative, and me. The products evolve as a result of the interactions of all of us.

How involved are you personally in the product development?

BT: I spend about 30 percent of my time in the lab. That is probably unusual for a CEO. But for me, it is a vital part of my role. I also test all of the products. It’s like if you own a restaurant, you need to try all the food.

Tell us more about the NIOD line. This is where you seem to be really focused on new approaches to anti-aging.

BT: With NIOD, our starting point is always that we have to make something better than anything out there. If we can’t, then we simply won’t do it. As a result, NIOD products are complex and lab-oriented, and we constantly iterate and update the formulas.

With NIOD, you are making demands on the consumer to understand new products and where they fit in their regimen.

BT: Yes, they are complex. But I really believe that there are rewards for the consumer that takes the time to find products that aren’t just fluff, that really work.

I’ve just started testing your superoxide dismutase mist — this seems like a good example of NIOD finding a new niche with something interesting and effective that I didn’t know that I needed.

BT: I’m glad you mentioned this, it is one of my favorite products that I miss when I’m traveling. Superoxide dismutase is an important antioxidant. It is no use to you when ingested, but topically it has impact. It is very hard to find it in products with a decent concentration. Initially, we looked at adding it to our copper products but that didn’t work. So we asked ourselves how we could introduce it to our regimens and get a really good concentration of it. That’s how the mist came about. Again, this is why it is important that we do the manufacturing ourselves — we can take more risks and experiment.

Why did you feel the beauty industry needed a good shake-up, a new approach?

BT: There are four segments in the beauty industry. First, color cosmetics where there is brand trust, loyalty and instant gratification. Second is lifestyle brands such as Aveda or the Body Shop, where there is trust and instant gratification. Third is fragrance, which is an extension of fashion. And finally, skin healthcare, which is completely stagnant with no brand loyalty. The market share of big brands is declining.

It is in that fourth category, skin healthcare, where the most innovation is needed, but the least is happening. If you go into a department store, you’ll see products that have been around for 10 years and haven’t changed. By creating The Abnormal Beauty Company, I was acknowledging the lack of consumer trust in the business. And then I created a platform that could be leveraged to introduce new brands.

But now you have aligned yourselves with a big brand, Estee Lauder. How will that change things?

BT: It’s a minority stake, and I retain complete control. We will be able to open a new manufacturing facility and greatly increase our capacity. We are carefully moving into the US market and will be opening a few stores there. We’ll be able to introduce new brands and products.

People have reacted to the Lauder move by talking about animal testing. Deciem will not to test on animals, even as we enter this new chapter. We will not sell in mainland China. The unnecessary torture of animals is wrong. And Lauder is moving in the right direction with its recent acquistions.

It has always seemed to me that the beauty supply chain is very complex. Unless you are mixing oils at home, formulators will be sourcing from all over and at some point in time, any ingredient may have been tested on animals.

BT: Yes, that’s the problem. Especially if you are buying ingredients from a manufacturer that have been made, say, from several peptides. That’s why we use active technologies and control the process.

What are you thinking about now — what do you think will be new and interesting?

BT: Skin pigmentation — increasing it or decreasing it — has been a challenge. There are high expectations but few results. There is some new testing that is promising with different molecules that are small enough to really deliver. We have solved the penetration issue, but the real issue is where does the active go. Does it get to the right target?

The other area I think there will be breakthroughs is hair follicle health. Preventing hair from going grey is about three years away.

You started in computer science — how does that discipline work its way into your approach to beauty and skincare?

Computer science is structured. We think in binary ways. In skin care, there is a lot of grey fluff. I wanted to start with the reality, with the chemistry and that’s where I am still focused. I couldn’t be happier.

This is a crowded business, but not a competitive one. In the big companies, there are too many layers of decision makers for them to do very much. The competition is the smaller guys, but they tend to outsource their products to third party labs that use a limited set of tried and trusted ingredients. I hope that the independents will start to do it themselves. Then, we’ll see better products and the industry change.

  • July 16, 2017

    by Jaysie

    I'm wondering if Deciem is trying to come up with the "perfect" sunscreen. I.e., not greasy, not cakey, not loaded with silicones & chemicals, and something you can put on your skin as a first step, not last. And, of course, all of this with an effective SPF 50. Way back when, I used a Georgette Klinger sunscreen that was a liquid in a spray bottle and it was wonderful, but I can't attest to how effective it was because it was not available for that long and it didn't have a very high SPF, maybe a 15 or 20. Perhaps the reason for its short run.

  • July 14, 2017

    by Marta

    Hi Claudia, I have written some general guidelines on this subject. Spoiler alert - less is better. You can read this article:

  • July 14, 2017

    by Claudia

    My questions is always which products can be used together and which combination of products interfere with each other. I would appreciate more information on your website about this.

  • July 13, 2017

    by kdl

    would love to see something that prevents grey hair! i'm starting to dye it now because the silvers are running amok.

  • July 13, 2017

    by Brandon Truaxe

    Thank you, Marta, for offering so much support for me and for us. I respect your channel and your audience tremendously. I am really honoured.

    Susan D––Thank you for giving us your trust. I am confident you will love MMHC2. Please note that, while I founded both, I had no control in either Indeed or Euoko, which ultimately led to disagreements that caused me to leave. The protections we have negotiated in this case are from past learnings to allow our team to continue with their love of innovation and not that of commerce.

    Smiles from Toronto :-)


  • July 13, 2017

    by Sonoko

    Love their products (all of them I've tried), their adorable monkey and the company. Thank you Brandon and his team for continuing to provide awesome products, and thank you for this interview, Marta!

  • July 13, 2017

    by Susan D

    I do hope they are both truthful and right about what happens with the Lauder decision and that Lauder's behaviour remains as good as it sounds in their 'partnership speech' from Truaxe. I do hope that Truaxe has found his baby, so to speak, and won't need to make 'the incredibly difficult decision to move on' to as he did with Indeed and Euoko. I'm going to trust this time instead of following my inner skeptic who wants to pull the other end of the rope all the time. Partly as I just made the decision to try MMHC 2.
    Thanks for this article, though, both Marta and Truaxe.

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