In The PathTM, we spotlight different women making a difference in the fashion, beauty, wellness, medical aesthetics, and more industries. Here, Huda Kattan shares her road to success.
To say that life is busy for Huda Kattan is an understatement. She’s the founder and CEO of her eponymous family-run beauty empire, engages over 38 million Instagram® and 3.4 million YouTube® followers daily, stars in a web-based reality series Huda BossTM, and is mom to young daughter Nour. She’s also been named one of TIME’s® “Most Influential People on the Internet,” and included in Forbes’s® “America’s Richest Self-Made Women” list. Yet, despite her overwhelming success, Kattan’s breakthrough into the beauty arena was more circuitous than clear cut.
After a short-lived career in finance, Kattan pulled a 180 and dove head-first into makeup artistry. In 2010, she launched a beauty blog, and three years later launched her first product: a series of false lashes. Kim Kardashian became a fan and the rest is pretty much history. Today, Kattan runs Huda BeautyTM from its headquarters in Dubai, where she oversees everything from new hires to product development and content creation. We chatted with Kattan about what inspires her, the biggest challenges of the job, and the cosmetic procedures she will happily discuss any day.
Spotlyte: What is it that people don’t know about your journey to success?
Huda Kattan: Most people don’t realize how long it took before we could pay ourselves! People saw me as a mega-influencer and associated that with instant wealth and success. But, since I refused to take payment for product reviews and endorsements, I wasn’t necessarily generating the same instant income as other beauty bloggers and influencers at the time.
What we generated organically through shophudabeauty.com and retail sales was being put back into the company to fuel growth. I always kept my long-term goal in mind, and I felt like if I were to do sponsored posts for an instant monetary return, I would jeopardize my authenticity and cap my own growth. Looking at Huda Beauty now, I feel like it really paid off. It was really hard to refuse money at the time, but we stayed positive and focused on our long-term goals.
Spotlyte: How has your role changed as the company has grown?
HK: My role has changed so much. With every person we hire, a tiny bit of my workload is taken away, and that frees up more of my time to focus on the bigger picture and long-term goals of the company. For Huda Beauty, I have really honed my focus to be primarily on product development and content creation. I am now also able to work more diligently towards new business ventures, like our upcoming skincare brand and HB Angels℠ [a group that lends seed money, mentoring, and advice to aspiring entrepreneurs].
Spotlyte: What inspires you when you’re developing products and content?
HK: So many things inspire me — from the slime that my daughter creates with shaving cream to the textiles in my wardrobe. There have been times where I have handed materials from my office over to my product development team and said, “Let’s make this into a palette.” They look at me like I’m crazy, but they always make it happen! I am constantly pushing the boundaries with countless sources of inspiration.
Spotlyte: What is your biggest business challenge?
HK: We have so many small challenges every day, and that’s what keeps us on our toes. The biggest business challenge in the beginning was getting people to take us seriously as a brand. It took a while for Sephora® to get back to us when the brand was starting out. Eventually, we made it into the room to give the pitch of our lives, but it wasn’t easy to get there!
The biggest challenge now would have to be the complex process of scaling our business. It is so important for us to find the right people, in the right places, that have the Huda Beauty magic. No matter how big the company gets, I will always be adamant about interviewing everyone that works for us. Obviously, that is challenging for everyone, considering how busy I am, but the culture fit is really important to me, and I can sense it when I interview people. We’re at a point where we are asking people to move from around the world to help build our brand. It’s crazy to think that we’re not a small beauty brand in Dubai anymore, and this comes with so much responsibility and [so many] challenges.
Spotlyte: You’ve been vocal about working long days. What are your time management secrets?
HK: I have to give credit to my amazing assistant when it comes to time management in the office. She keeps me in line and makes sure that I prioritize urgent needs with my team every day.
Spotlyte: How do you keep your energy up while working long hours?
HK: I have scheduled workouts midday that really keep my blood flowing. Sitting all day is so bad for you, so moving around is super important for me and my energy. I also take daily vitamins and drink a lot of nourishing teas. Another energy-booster for me is music. We always have high-energy music playing in the office, and it helps fuel the pace and mood.
Spotlyte: Tell me about running a family business. What is it like working with your sisters and husband every day?
HK: It is definitely challenging at times, but it also has many benefits. It’s beneficial because there is so much trust and loyalty, which is amazing. The disadvantage is that the boundaries aren’t always respected, which can make it difficult.
If you are working with family, it is really important to be able to compartmentalize things between being family and being co-workers. I can be tough on my family, and I am tougher on them than anyone else — because I have high expectations and a lot of love for them. We all find it really hard to switch off on weekends, since we’re all admittedly workaholics. Now, we have a rule in our family where we don’t talk about anything work-related on Fridays.
Spotlyte: What do you hope to teach your daughter about beauty?
HK: I want Nour to think differently, dream big, and embrace her individuality and weirdness. It’s no secret that she watches YouTube tutorials and makeup hacks, it’s only natural being my daughter. But, I always remind her that beauty is more about what’s inside than what’s on the outside. I hope she will feel comfortable, confident, and happy in her own skin.
Spotlyte: And what do you want to teach her about business?
HK: Nour already pretends to be a part of various teams internally, from product development to public relations, which we think is incredible. She honestly considers Huda Beauty to be just as much her business as it is mine. She is still so young, though, so we haven’t really gone into depth about anything business-related with her. We want her to always know that she can do anything she wants to do.
Spotlyte: What is your favorite part of your job?
HK: I get the most excited by working with my team on super innovative formulas, products, and campaigns. I absolutely love traveling to labs and collaborating with our scientists. I mean, who wouldn’t love that?
Spotlyte: You’re a busy business founder, mom, and influencer — when you have time to decompress, what are your favorite methods of self-care?
HK: I love a good bubble bath with no phone in sight — that’s the ultimate relaxation for me. I also like to schedule in daily boxing or yoga classes in the middle of my day to really zone out and reset. Exercise is super healthy for the mind and body, and I’ve gotten really into it lately. It allows me to free my mind and release any negative energy.
I also like to take moments to just let go. The other morning, I took five minutes to dance around my office and rap like a fool because it felt so good. It keeps the mood light and my creativity flowing, which is really important for me to do in order to decompress.
Spotlyte: When do you feel your most beautiful?
HK: When I’m with my daughter, Nour. I know it may sound weird and unexpected, but she makes everything better for me!
Spotlyte: Do you have any beauty rituals you learned from your mother?
HK: My mother has always been a firm believer in DIYs, and it’s because of her that I decided to create a DIY section on the blog. A lot of Middle Eastern women use ingredients from around the home because it’s what their mothers and grandmothers did for so many years. Once of my favorite DIY ingredients is cinnamon. It is one of the main ingredients in lip plumpers. To create your own lip plumper on the go, add a couple drops of cinnamon oil to your favorite lip gloss.
For something a little more intense, you can try mixing cinnamon powder with a moisturizer like Vaseline®, olive oil, honey, or any balm, and applying it to your lips for one minute. Remove it with a damp towel, and you’ll start to notice a tingling sensation and the appearance of fuller-looking lips.
Spotlyte: Is there ever a day you don’t feel like applying makeup?
HK: There are definitely days I go without any makeup. I normally arrive at the office with no makeup on, and sometimes, I even walk in wearing undereye masks that I do in the car on the way to work. If I show up without makeup, normally I’m just wearing my morning serums and moisturizer. If I’m filming or creating content that day, I do my full-glam look in my office and leave my makeup that way until the end of the day. Honestly, I’m either full-glam or bare-faced, there isn’t really a middle ground for me.
Spotlyte: Do you see a dermatologist and/or plastic surgeon for cosmetic treatments?
HK: I typically go to Dr. Marta here in Dubai and I [see] plastic surgeon Dr. Marc Mani in California.
Spotlyte: What is your stance on injectables?
HK: I do get fillers and injectable wrinkle reducers, and I am very much of the “do as you want” philosophy. I encourage those who want fillers to do as much research as possible before getting any procedures done — that is why I’ve been so open about my experience on my blog. The [licensed provider] you choose is truly so important. Make sure you go to a trusted [provider] that knows exactly what you want.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet; they should not be used more frequently than every three months. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.]
Spotlyte: Can you share your daily beauty routine?
HK: My day-to-day beauty routine consists of a shower in the morning, followed by my morning skincare routine. I typically apply my makeup in the office. Then when I go home, I remove my makeup and do my nighttime skincare routine before bed.
Spotlyte: What are three products from your line that you can’t live without?
HK: Huda Beauty #FauxFilter® Foundation: My ride or die foundation is our #FauxFilter in Brown Sugar. It has changed my skin.
Huda Beauty Lip Contour Pencil: My go-to shade is TrendsetterTM. I couldn’t leave the house without it.
Huda Beauty Liquid Matte Lipstick: I wear the Trendsetter shade all day, every day.
Spotlyte: What about must-have products from other beauty lines?
HK: For hair, OUAI® Dry Shampoo Foam. I don’t know what I’d do without dry shampoo in between washing my hair; it helps it to appear fresh, clean, gives me volume, and helps keep my style in place.
For makeup, BenefitTM Ka-BrowTM. This is a must-have for me. Shade numbers three and four are my absolute go-to. I use the Ka-Brow every single day.
For skin, SkinCeuticals® C E Ferulic® Serum. This is one of my all-time favorite products. It’s incredible for skin brightening, fine lines, and wrinkles.
For tools, Tweezerman® tweezers. [Editor’s note: Kattan has collaborated with the brand.] These are my lifeline. I was — and still am — a naturally hairy woman. This is one of the first beauty tools I ever purchased for that reason. While they work amazing as tweezers, they make applying false lashes that much easier as well. [I also love] the MDNA® Beauty Roller. A jade roller also works well, but the MDNA face roller is incredible. Beauty rollers help boost blood circulation, can reduce swelling and puffiness, and help your skincare and makeup products absorb into your skin more efficiently through facial massage.
[Editor’s note: If you take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before using a facial roller.]
Spotlyte: What is your ultimate goal for Huda Beauty?
HK: We really want to change the face of beauty! I see the future of the beauty industry as a super inclusive space with no rules, just inspiration and support, and we are here for that. It’s our goal to create this space for everyone, and I think we’re well on our way. My hope is that beauty will never be the same because of Huda Beauty.
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