A major buzzword in the modern beauty industry is “authenticity.” It is difficult to market to millennials because they’re savvy and skeptical, and know more than the experts, and won’t be seduced by flim-flam, so we’re told. To impress such discerning consumers, it’s crucial that brands appear “real”, though yes, it does seem ironic that the concept of truth has been co-opted as a marketing tool. Still, four-year-old Toronto-based beauty brand Deciem has centred its identity around the concept of extreme transparency, going so far as to subtitle itself the “Abnormal Beauty Company”, to emphasize that it really is doing something differently. The natural question is, what, exactly?
“I came to the beauty industry from a place of anger,” says Deciem founder Brandon Truaxe. “As part of my degree in computer science, I spent a term in the lab of a big beauty brand in New York. In software, everything is black and white, ones and zeros. But in beauty, it’s grey. Chemists actually accept that a product doesn’t need to work—it’s all about the texture, the colour…” But surely that luxurious, pampering feeling is important in beauty? Truaxe says it matters in makeup, fragrance, and body products, but skin care just needs to work. Efficacy, in this case, is the product’s only relevant aspect.
Deciem comprises nine collections, including NIOD and Hylamide, both skin care, Stemm, for hair, and The Ordinary, which offers high concentrations of ingredients at low costs—think $10 for a retinol serum that might cost $70 from a cosmeceutical brand. All are developed in Toronto by an in-house team of chemists, and use ingredients backed by legitimate science, no alternative facts required. Fundamental innovation is uncommon in the beauty industry, says Truaxe. “There’s a new iPhone every year, whereas the ingredients in most products on the drugstore shelves have stayed the same for 15 to 20 years.”
The brand’s scientific approach and honesty are the reasons Cosmeticproof.com blogger Jayne Lim respects it. “If you look at the way the brand answers questions about ingredients on its social media, it is completely transparent,” says the Vancouverite, who has degrees in cell biology and computer science. “I love that it uses technical ingredients like multimolecular weight hyaluronic acid along with plant-based actives. It appeals to both the hyper-educated skin-care client and the client that just wants something effective. Considering the quality and lack of fillers, they could be charging quite a bit more but choose not to.”
Lim is a local champion for the brand, but until recently, Deciem has enjoyed more success abroad than at home. Its Hand Chemistry anti-aging hand cream was an instant bestseller when it launched in the UK, and fans include influential blogger Caroline Hirons and The Guardian’s beauty editor, author, and product expert Sali Hughes. Deciem also has stores in Seoul, Sydney, and Melbourne. Lim believes that the technical nature of his products might play a part in this tentative reception. “Deciem needs a little bit of explanation because it is just so different to any other skin-care company,” she says.
Yet having proved itself internationally, Deciem has now started its big push into Canada. Five standalone stores have opened in Toronto since 2016, and two are planned for Vancouver by summer. Expect small spaces, sub-1,000 square feet, with a clean, industrial aesthetic (glossy beauty halls, they ain’t), housing the full range of Deciem’s products.
Four products to try:
Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age, $38, at hylamide.com.
Designed to rehydrate skin at multiple levels, this concentrate helps to reduce the look of fine lines.
The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid, $9.80, at theordinary.com.
This formulation has two different forms of retinoid actives for anti-aging without irritation.
Hand Chemistry, $20, at chemistrybrand.com.
According to Truaxe, Hand Chemistry was one of the first anti-aging products for hands. While most hand creams focus simply on moisturizing, Hand Chemistry also targets firmness, elasticity, texture, and brightness.
NIOD Photography Fluid Opacity 12%, $30, at niod.com.
The key to better selfies lies in this product which cancels out colour irregularities. It is used as a primer, instead of foundation, or mixed with foundation.
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