Meet Jillian Wright, Celebrity Esthetician Turned Co-Founder of The Indie Beauty Media Group

Jillian Wright

If you consider yourself an indie beauty lover, there’s a high probability that you have Jillian Wright to thank. The co-founder of The Indie Beauty Media Group has made it her mission to help smaller, independent brands make it into the spotlight.

This career path wasn’t always the one that she was on: after working as a celebrity esthetician for 18 years, Jillian Wright decided to trade performing facials daily (fact: she’s done over 12,000 in her career!) to waxing poetic about indie beauty brands, all in the hopes to bring more awareness to the underdogs. The switch came from a place near and dear to her heart: her own line. She found it difficult to capitalize on opportunities to promote her small, eponymous skincare company, and realized that many other independent brands she loved — and stocked her shelves with for years — had the same trouble.

That’s when she ditched the spa, hoping to figure out a way to give these indie brands a place to reach new audiences. She linked up with entrepreneur (and former spa client) Nader Naeymi-Rad to make that dream a reality, and in 2015, she debuted the first Indie Beauty Expo® in New York City’s Altman Building with 80 brands.

Of course, after all this time spent in the industry — in the treatment room, the showroom, and the boardroom — she has some excellent advice. Keep reading to learn about how she spearheaded the Indie Beauty Expo, her extensive skincare regimen, and her medical aesthetics routine — along with her favorite facial treatments she can’t live without.

Spotlyte:  Did you face any challenges when making the career shift from esthetician to entrepreneur?

Jillian Wright: I went from working in my facial treatment room with the same routine every day, to servicing an entire global industry of indie beauty entrepreneurs, having conversations about beauty entrepreneurship  around the world with press, retailers and people genuinely interested in independent beauty. It was a challenge to get IBE up and running. I had never looked at a spreadsheet before, I had no idea how to create a business model or long term plan. As a creative individual, these “left-brained” tasks were difficult for me to take on. Luckily, my partner and co-founder Nader had experience with these things and was able to fill in the gaps of my vision.

Spotlyte: What was your goal with Indie Beauty Expo?

JW: Our simple mission with IBE was to showcase great independent brands in a way that honored the hard work and innovative spirit their founders brought to the table. After all the feedback we received following our first show, it became clear that independent brands were going to play a big role in the future of beauty and wellness; but there were a ton of unmet needs that needed to be addressed. We began to systematically build a platform to help independent innovators succeed.  

First, we extended IBE to two days so there was more time for attendees to interact with exhibitors, and expanded IBE to other cities like Los Angeles and Dallas (and soon, London and Berlin!) giving more local brands, buyers, press and shoppers a chance to engage at IBE. Next, we launched Beauty Independent®, our digital publication, to provide a voice to all the great entrepreneurial stories out there that weren’t being heard.

Following that, we launched BeautyX®, our educational and networking summits. We saw so many brand founders stumble because they didn’t have reliable resources to help them navigate key business questions and issues.  Finally, with our Retail + Buyer Relation function, we now actively help buyers find the right brands and then help those brands onboard with the retailer.

Spotlyte:  What’s your top piece of career advice?

JW: Focus on what you are good at and accept the help of people who can fulfill the other parts that will push the business forward. Also, position yourself as leader and mentor not just within your company, but to those in your community.  

Spotlyte: Tell us about your beauty routine — let’s start with skincare.

JW: I follow an AM and PM routine religiously. I never wake up in the morning or go to bed without washing my face.

Spotlyte: What’s your morning skincare routine?

JW: I use so many different cleansers but they are all nourishing and hydrating and will not strip my skin of it’s natural lipid barrier.  Right now, I have RestorSeaTM Reviving Cleanser ($65) and Honua® Paʻakai Cleansing Cream ($24) but I am really loving the Cleansing Balm ($85) from Cosmetics 27.  It’s a French line with the main ingredient of Tiger Grass or Centella Asiatica. I skip toner during the day.  

For eye cream, I love Restorsea ($85), Beauty by Earth® ($22), and Herbal Dynamics Beauty® ($24).  But, my very special eye cream comes from Switzerland, with sea buckthorn from the Himalayas called Sea Buck ($278). It is one of the most effective eye creams I have ever used.

I go for serums that are heavier in the Winter, but in the Summer, I like a lighter texter.  I love the Skin Authority® Vitamin C Serum ($99) combined with the brand’s Vitamin D ($59). My moisturizer varies as well.  Today I chose Age Defying Moisturizer ($61) by Skin Authority with SPF 18 but sometimes I’ll use Emma Hardie® Amazing Face Age Support ($65).  If I use this, I layer Zatik® Mineral Sunscreen ($24) over it and my skin glistens! It’s also reef-safe.

Spotlyte: What’s your evening skincare routine?

JW: I wash with the above mentioned cleansers. Then, I use a lactic acid toner to remove any residual makeup and dirt.  I include my neck and chest as lactic acid is great for smoothing the skin. AHA’s make your skin sun sensitive so I only use them at night. Plus sleeping helps to rejuvenate and produce healthy skin cells. I apply my Sea Buck Eye Cream again as well. I will use either Sunia K.TM Prickly Pear Oil ($197) or Le Prunier® Plum Oil ($72). Both are very soothing to the skin and helps minimize redness and inflammation. Sunia K smells a bit nutty, like hazelnut and Le Prunier smells like marzipan. Both are single note oils and organic. I also love CircCell Créme E.R. ($150) at night because it is super luxurious and quenches my dehydrated skin.

Spotlyte: Okay, what about makeup and hair care?

JW: Of course, I use so many different brands, but I find myself  continuing to circle back to: Au Naturale®, Saint Cosmetics, W3ll People®, and Sappho New Paradigm.  I do love (non-indie) Bobbi Brown® eyeshadow, in Champagne ($27) every once in a while, too! I love Arrojo® haircare products. I wash my hair every 48 to 60 hours. But for that perfect blonde, I see Katie Minalga at Arrojo on Varick Street.

Spotlyte:  What’s your diet like?

JW: I  try to mostly eat healthy, whole foods knowing what you eat often reflects onto the outside. But of course, I enjoy FritosTM every once in a while!

Spotlyte: What else do you do regularly to help you feel your best?

JW: I absolutely love taking Pure BarreSM classes and try to go two or three times a week. If I lived in a perfect world, I would go 5 days a week and live in athleisure wear. I treat myself to massages and pedicures twice monthly. I have found taking ingestible collagen makes a big difference in how my hair, skin and nails look and feel. Vital Proteins® is amazing and so is Le Sirene®. They are both great mixed either in tea, coffee or a smoothie. When I’m tired or need a brain boost, I mix Brain and Power Moon DustTM from Moon Juice® in my coffee.

Spotlyte: I would love for you to speak about your aesthetics routine.

JW: I don’t mind getting older. I had my time in the ‘90s and took advantage of all the fun and excitement youth had to offer. Truth be told, I actually feel better now than I ever have. I have learned how to take great care of myself, honor my limitations, and celebrate a way of life that keeps me super healthy and energetic. But, my two saving graces for last 30 years are: I rarely went in the sun (and if I did, I wore a hat, sunglasses and SPF every day, even in the wintertime), and I had a job that kept me in a dark room all day. This saved my skin.

Spotlyte: Do you get facials?

JW: Unsurprisingly, I believe in the power of regular facials. While I was the one giving them, I rarely had time for them myself. Now, I have two estheticians I swear by and go to as often as I can. Ellie at Element Natural Healing Arts in Brooklyn specializes in Chinese gua sha and Japanese shin bi facial massage. It’s contouring,  stimulating, and circulates blood and oxygen throughout the skin which has antibacterial effects, but also helps with lifting and toning. I absolutely crave her facials — she is a master!

My other go-to girl is Samantha Roberts. When I retired, I passed along my entire clientele to her.  I’ve known her for 16 years and worked with her for more than eight of those years.  She does everything from LED light treatments to antioxidant infusion therapy to killer extractions.  Most of all, she is kind and I completely trust her.

[Editor’s Note: Gua Sha could cause bruising and may not be appropriate for patients on blood thinners and/or with clotting disorders. You should consult a doctor before trying this technique.]

Spotlyte: Have you tried cosmetic injectables?

JW: [Injectable wrinkle reducers] helps with my elevens between the eyes — the glabellar muscles. I do this 2-3 times a year. But, I don’t [get injectable wrinkle reducers] on my forehead, [or fillers in my] nasolabial folds. What I do is very subtle, rather than changing the way I look.

[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers are temporary medical treatments designed to help smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face. There are risks and possible side effects to this treatment, so consult with a licensed provider to see if it’s right for you. Injectable wrinkle reducers should be administered no sooner than every three months and injectable fillers last up to two years. Have more questions about cosmetic injectables? Chat with a trained aesthetic specialist now.]