It’s the break of dawn. Your eyes are opening, and you’re probably yearning for that first glorious gulp of hot coffee. Yet, as you roll out of bed, lilah b.® founder Cheryl Yannotti Foland, 49, is already in her office in the San Francisco Bay Area, brainstorming her next perfect product. “I arrive at about 7:30 a.m. or so, before my team trickles in,” she says. “I spend the morning working quietly before everyone arrives.” She’s also already been awake for two hours, exercising her body and mind, the former on a Peloton® bike, and the latter on innovative formulas to help women simplify their beauty routines.
Foland ditched the rat race of New York for a more minimalist life in California over a decade ago. Initially, she moved there for a new professional opportunity, with no plans to stay long-term. However, she found the Californian lifestyle to be addictive. “I fell in love with the people, the opportunity to be outdoors all of the time, and the overall healthier life I was living here,” she confesses. “So I never went back!” Since then, she’s adopted this “less is more” mindset in her kitchen, her closet — although she still wears a lot of basic black (“The New Yorker in me!”) — and her beauty regimen.
“I never had the patience for a 10- to 12-product routine,” she explains. “The evolution of the cluttered world of color gave me the inspiration to make things simple again for the modern day beauty consumer.” After working for almost a decade at Arcade Beauty®, a beauty sampling company, she found that she was supporting brands with launch after “frivolous” launch. Yet, despite the oversaturation of the market, Foland observed a gap: “simple, multipurpose products with clean ingredients that work.” After 18 months of development, she debuted lilah b. in 2015 with a core collection of 11 products. Today, the brand still has a small assortment, but a big presence, with a place on the shelves of Sephora®, Nordstrom®, Neiman Marcus®, and more, with products like cheek stains, powder foundations, and more.
For Foland, having a brand is not about trendy ingredients or unnecessarily building up her SKUs. Instead, she’s driven by helping women streamline their routines for a more fulfilling life. Here, she shares how a Tiffany & Co.® designer inspired her smooth, stone-like (and eco-friendly, recyclable) packaging, how each product she creates can be used three to five different ways, and how exercise clears her mind (and balances out her love of bread and cheese).
Spotlyte: What was your first job in the beauty industry?
Cheryl Yannotti Foland: Arcade Marketing, a supplier of sampling solutions to the beauty industry, was my first foray into the beauty space. I spent almost 10 years working with the most incredible founders and CMOs within prestige, mass, and even direct-sell brands to design their strategy around how to launch a product by putting a trial sample into the hands of a consumer. It was an amazing decade, and I fell in love with the industry, inspiring me to launch my own brand.
Spotlyte: Tell us more about why you wanted to create your own brand.
CYF: Living in New York, I always had the latest new shoe and the hottest new handbag, but my maximalist life was also the way I approached everything from a personal care standpoint. [I was] working too many hours a day, [owned] way too much makeup — more than I could’ve ever used in a lifetime — fussed too much with my hair, and only exercised when I could squeeze it in for the sake of cardio, not for the beauty of an overall wellness experience. [When I moved] to California 13 years ago, I simplified everything in my life, including my beauty routine.
My challenge was that there weren’t many simplistic lines out there, and — guess what — there were none that were clean. After my years at Arcade, supporting frequent, frivolous launch upon launch, I created a brand filling a clear white space in the industry — simple, multipurpose products with clean ingredients that work. All of our products have three to five tasks in each, allowing women to streamline their beauty routine with no more than three products in their bag.
Spotlyte: What are your top three lilah b. products that you use daily?
CYF: They change given the season or what my day looks like, but currently, I am using our Marvelous Matte® Crème Foundation with a touch of Divine Duo® Lip & Cheek (go-to shade of the month for me is b. lovely), and lastly, our AglowTM Face Mist for that dewy glow that makes me feel bright and healthy even if it [has been] a long and crazy day!
Spotlyte: Why is clean beauty so important to you?
CYF: As an overall advocate for wellness and self-care, it’s important that we know what we put into and on our bodies. That goes for the food we eat, as well as personal care products. There are so many products out there with harmful or unnecessary ingredients — it’s refreshing to see so many new, clean beauty brands coming to market with clear transparency.
Spotlyte: What's your daily schedule like?
CYF: I wake up between 5 and 5:30 a.m. every morning in hopes that I can hop on the Peloton for an hour, or, if sunrise permits, [go for] a fabulous trail run on the trails behind our home. It helps jumpstart the day ahead. [I enjoy a] fresh mind, clear head. It’s quiet in the office when I arrive at about 7:30 a.m. or so, before my team trickles in. I spend the morning working quietly before everyone arrives, and then I am on and off of calls and in meetings through about 3 or 4 p.m., when I wind down and try to catch up on emails. There is usually a strategic objective I am focused on any given day. I try my best to compartmentalize so that I can be all things to all people across departments and be as effective as I can be.
Spotlyte: What's the inspiration for the products and the packaging?
CYF: Our tagline is “With less, you are more.” I truly believe that with less, you are more. Lighten your load, minimize, and simplify — it’s so refreshing. That is what lilah b. aims to do. We make beauty simple and easy for the modern day woman with clean, high-performance, multipurpose products that truly perform.
When I [created] the lilah b. collection, I was focused on providing not only a fabulous formulation, but a package that women could easily wipe down, would look stunning, and that you can feel proud to pull out of your bag at any time! Living in New York in the ‘90s, fresh out of school, I was always drawn to Elsa Peretti’s designs for Tiffany & Co. Her fluid, organic shapes are soothing and provide a peaceful sensory experience. Her designs were truly the inspiration behind our pebble-like components that have become iconic to the lilah b. brand.
Spotlyte: Do you apply your "less is more" philosophy in other aspects of your life, like with fashion or in your home?
CYF: I try to, across all! In my closet, I stick to classics and still wear a lot of basic black (the New Yorker in me!). Our homes have a minimalistic design as well — I can’t stand clutter. Lastly, I love to spend time in the kitchen — it’s therapeutic, and I love to entertain and make people come together to enjoy good food. My cooking is always simple and healthy — using fewer, incredible quality ingredients that are flavorful naturally.
Spotlyte: What's your diet like?
CYF: My husband and I eat super clean and very healthy. Lots of protein and vegetables, no red meat and little carbs. I try my best to prepare home-cooked meals using the freshest of ingredients when we are both in town and not on the road. A break from my day from 6 to 8 p.m. is key to unwind and eat right while catching up. I don’t normally drink during [the] work week, unless I am entertaining, [but] I enjoy a glass of wine or two on the weekends, particularly while I am cooking.
Spotlyte: Do you have a favorite "splurge" food?
CYF: I can live off of cheese and bread, any day, all day. But my most unhealthy weakness is definitely frites!
Spotlyte: What's your skincare routine like?
Spotlyte: Is there a makeup product you love that you wish you had invented?
CYF: Dior[show] Black Out® Mascara — I’ve been a devoted user for more than 10 years. I would love to recreate a clean version that works just as well.
Spotlyte: What is your stance on injectables?
CYF: As long as you do your research [and] know who is treating you, then you should do what you want to do. It’s quite impressive how subtle treatments can look when done right.
Spotlyte: Have you ever tried an injectable wrinkle reducer?
Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you.
Spotlyte: How do you relax, recharge, and de-stress?
CYF: My husband and I are outdoors on weekends whenever we can be. We are big cyclists, so we spend time catching up on our bikes, riding through the vineyards of Healdsburg, [California], where we have a home. If I need “me time,” I will go for a trail run to de-stress and get the creative thoughts flowing. My healthier lifestyle here in California versus my life in New York has proven that the more I eat healthier and exercise, the happier I am. And then, there’s always a massage.
Spotlyte: Is there a place in the world where you get the most inspiration?
CYF: Our farm in Healdsburg is where I get super inspired — it’s truly my happy place. Whether I am out on a long bike ride with my husband through the tranquil vineyards or making a home-cooked meal with fresh ingredients from the farmers market in town, it’s where I find my most creative ideas.
Spotlyte: Are there other powerful women in beauty that you admire?
CYF: Yes, indeed! Jessica Richards of Shen® Beauty is a rockstar. What a confident, inspiring pioneer and incredible curator of the most innovative and unique brands in the industry — she discovers them before anyone else!
Spotlyte: What does the future look like for the brand?
CYF: We are launching something pretty incredible in January 2020. I haven’t been this excited about a new product ever. We are [also] thrilled to be a part of the clean beauty expansion with our partners at Sephora, and will be launching several new partnerships globally in 2020.
Spotlyte: What is your advice to those aspiring to create their own beauty lines?
CYF: Be sure to gather as much information as you can before making the leap, and surround yourself with those who will support you along the way. There’s no time for nay-sayers.