Dorion Renaud, Founder of Buttah Skin wants to see more diversity and inclusion in the beauty skin … [+]
Dorion Renaud is indicative of the quote by high school basketball coach Tim Notke who once said, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work.”
Renaud first appeared on the scene as a cast member for the original BET “College Hill” reality show, launching his career where he landed roles as a host for NBC’s “Extra,” E’s “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” and starring on the Bounce channel’s sitcom “In the Cut.” Today, he has evolved beyond being a fixture on television into a thriving savvy businessman with his skincare line Buttah Skin which uses high-quality ingredients that nurtures melanin-rich skin tones.
His beauty line, established in October 2018, is sold in multiple retailers and is available in over 600 Ulta Beauty stores nationwide. “Ulta is my number one beauty stop shop. I’ll be stopping by all the stores and doing training and things of that nature,” he exclaims.
Growing up in Beaumont, Texas as a teenager, Renaud did not have an array of face product options that fit the needs of the complexion or texture of his skin.
“Outside of Proactiv or something that you saw on TV, a lot of things didn’t work for me. I’m allergic to benzoyl peroxide, so Proactiv was not a good solution. But that’s all that they were pitching to young people at that time. So I thought that was the only thing available,” he says, reminiscing his adolescent years.
When he matriculated to college, Renaud began suffering from adult acne, which surprised him, “You don’t think that when you’re in college, you’re gonna suffer from having skincare problems and breakouts.”
The filming of “College Hill” exacerbated his skin issues because of the consistent application of makeup he had to wear for the show. He recalls looking at his reflection in the mirror and feeling embarrassed about his skin’s condition. The moment greatly impacted him, and he pledged to make it his goal to share the methods and routines he used to improve the appearance of his visage. As he got older, he immersed himself in learning about skincare and visiting estheticians to understand how to correct his problems.
“I was in New York on a modeling gig. I might have been 19 or 20 years old, and the photographer told me to grab some shea butter on the way to the shoot. I used it, and I started putting it on my face and using it with a gentle cleanser, and I found some vitamin C serum that Ty Hunter, Beyonce‘s stylist at the time, told me was going to clear my skin up, and it was $300. I couldn’t afford it, but I did go and get it,” he says, remembering using this particular treatment for his skin and the results that followed.
He used this method for many years; people would approach him on the streets, and men would slide into his direct messages on social media, admitting to Renaud, “I’m embarrassed about my skin. What can I do? I understood that Black people wanted nourishment for their skin just as much as everybody else. But they often felt underrepresented, like myself walking into department stores or the simple embarrassment of going to a CVS or Walgreens in certain neighborhoods and having to unlock our products from a section in a store. How embarrassing and degrading it is to go to a store for beauty, to want to make yourself feel good, and when you walk in that door, you go to your section and see it being locked up. That’s something every Black person has had to go through in their life, asking for the urban beauty skincare section or hair section, and having them come back with a key.”
Dorion Renaud struggled with his skin as a teenager and young adult that led him to create a … [+]
Renaud’s tolerance for such blatantly intolerant behavior reached a pinnacle that he could no longer endure. He took it upon himself to become a catalyst for effective change and decided to beauty industry space. Renaud used his experience hosting skincare parties and working with magazines such as New Beauty to familiarize himself with establishing an operation. He used a paycheck he earned from work on a sitcom to start laying the foundation for his company.
Fortunately serendipity struck, and a manufacturer reached out directly to him. “I’m going on record for the first time and tell you exactly how it happened. I was a professional socialite; I’d like to think,” he laughs. “I was doing parties here in LA for skincare companies. I was going to spas, bringing some of my celebrity friends, and I modeled for a line over in the UK. Their manufacturer, which happens to be my manufacturer, saw the influence and impact I was bringing to the skincare community, especially [within] the Black space, and he reached out.”
Renaud met with the industrialist and presented his business plan and the brand’s name to his contact. Both men started working at a grassroots level, and their initial run proved successful, sealing their partnership.
“We brought butter to the world,” he says, confessing he initiated the brand with a small amount of capital and resources. He could take advantage of the manufacturer’s infrastructure without raising additional operational funds, which allowed his line to become profitable at a quicker pace. Today, the Buttah Skincare line, established in October 2018, is sold in multiple retailers and is available in over 600 Ulta Beauty stores nationwide.
Buttah Skin provides the necessary nourishment to melanin-rich skin tones using natural ingredients. … [+]
“He saw that I had a niche within reaching people and a voice. He had business knowledge at that time in skincare, and I had the knowledge of my culture. I had the knowledge on what we needed, what we wanted to see in stores, what our campaign should look like, and the feeling of Buttah,” he says.
Yet, Renaud cautions future entrepreneurs that when people contact them for partnerships or potential deals, to remain cognizant of their power and strengths because supposed agreements may be unilateral.
“I had to fight for fairness, even though I had created this, and I still have to fight as a Black man, for fairness in the market space and, unfortunately, within my company. I think it’s very important to share that story because, during Black Lives Matter [protests], Black businesses were praised so much, and the narrative of this Black success was put on a pedestal, and I was so happy to see that. But I also want everybody to remember how hard it is to run a Black company as a Black man, as a Black founder. How hard it is to go into beauty as a Black man when it’s full of white women who turn their necks at you and look at you crazy when you go into these editor meetings and you don’t have any experience in dermatology or medical background in skin. You simply know your community and want to make that better. It has been my proudest accomplishment today, but it has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life,” confesses the 34-year-old of his struggles with owning a Black-owned business.
Founder Dorion Renaud wants the skincare industry to become more inclusive.
“I used my sweat equity, I used the people that I knew, I called upon my celebrity friends for exposure when I launched. I ordered 200 kits, 100 to give away, and hopefully, to sell 100. To now being in retailers and shaping the story of Black beauty, being creative and hands-on with my brand has meant so much,” he says. “Everything that you see from Buttah is me; everything that you feel from Buttah is me.”
Renaud thoroughly executed every detail of his beauty merchandise to reflect the demographic he wanted to serve. He chose a name for his products that originated from his hometown’s culture, where it is considered the ultimate compliment to be “smooth as butter.” He understood that even the spelling of the label had to resonate with his chosen customers so they would recognize he designed the product with them in mind. Also, the packaging would not have a color palette associated with femininity, like pink and yellow, to avoid causing shame in men when they carried those items around because many of their peers would consider it effeminate.
“If you think about the products, they were targeted towards women; they weren’t targeted towards men. If a man had bad skincare, probably, he was embarrassed to carry that in his pouch. He was embarrassed to bring that to high school after he had track practice to clean his skin, so he didn’t break out. I’m telling you that because I was that kid. I was that kid that was embarrassed to use Clearasil because people said it makes you gay to use skincare products. At the bare minimum, Black men were allowed to express themselves about beauty or feeling good about themselves at the barber shop only,” he points out.
As a Black man in America, he believes presentation is paramount and wants other Black men to present themselves correctly by taking care of themselves. “It’s not about what people think about you. It’s what you think about yourself, and when you take that time to put those products on, don’t just do it to improve your skin, do it to improve how you look at yourself in the mirror because we don’t talk about the insecurities that Black men face,” he adds. Renaud shares that he receives many private messages from Black men openly lamenting their skin problems and how it holds them back from certain relationships and pursuing job opportunities because they lack confidence.
“It was important to let people know from the beginning what this product was going to give them, and that is something smooth as butter, products that give you that glow, that give you that radiance, that give you that evenness. We all come from the background; if you’re Black of your grandmother using Vaseline, shea, or cocoa butter, it’s something that we identify with, we love it, and it’s one of the things that nourishes our body and soul,” he explains. “That’s why my motto is Buttah does not just enrich your skin, but it enriches the soul.”
Shea butter is one of the significant ingredients he praises for clearing up his skin. He felt obligated to pay homage to a product that emanated from Africa.
“We get our butter directly from Ghana, and it’s for us because it’s there, it’s what they use [for], and we continue to use today. So I want to keep that tradition in keeping shea butter alive,” elucidates Renaud on incorporating his African heritage in his products.
Using shea butter as a major component, he also integrated the calming element of chamomile lavender. Tea tree oil can help customers with alopecia who may encounter dryness, fight against breakouts, and cleanse the skin.
For his vitamin C serum, he added vitamins D and E. His oil-free moisturizer houses hyaluronic acid that addresses customers’ concerns with oily skin but will give them a dewy glow, bouncy, youthful skin, and prevents fine lines and wrinkles. As a huge proponent of amplifying the message that Black people must use sunscreen all year round to protect their skin from ultraviolet radiation that can lead to certain skin cancers, he also created a mineral sunscreen with an SPF of 30 within his product offering.
“I try to stick with products that I love and that I’m inspired by that have helped me and others in the community. I asked ‘people, what do you love, what do you like to use,’ and we incorporated that heavy into Buttah,” he says, disclosing how he maintains a competitive advantage with his beauty line.
This year, Renaud partnered with celebrities like 2 Chainz to tell their Buttah stories through their lens of beauty. He enlisted the College Park, Georgia hip hop star, who he has known for 15 years, to star in his company’s marketing campaign, the ad ran on television and their social media platforms.
“I thought it was important to show two different types of Black men celebrating self-care and show that it is real kingdom in taking care of yourself. [He’s] also a dad and husband [but] somebody might look at him like he’s a gangster rapper and misjudge him. It was important to show a different side of him and me,” Renaud says. He adds that 2 Chainz is the type of man he would call upon for advice on navigating the business they are in, and he felt the moment of sitting on a boat with his longtime friend was a sign of power. “I was so proud of what he had done with his career and being such a crossover artist in many different places,” he adds.
(l-r) Dorion Renaud with hip hop star 2 Chainz in Buttah Skin marketing campaign.
He hopes that Black men take away from the advertisement that they should be proud of their skin by taking care of it, as well as their mental health, “That’s why we went with the slogan that real kings use Buttah. because we are kings,” he affirms. “I hope the 2 Chainz campaign encourages Black men to go and get products for themselves. I hope it encourages their wives and sisters to buy the products for them.”
When asked how necessary it is to change the narrative that Black men engaging in skincare is not emasculating, Renaud’s Texan drawl crescendos as he dives into a fiery polemical speech. He railed against the societal notions that Black men should not take part in personal care and hygiene. “I want Black men to feel comfortable. I’m tired of Black men feeling uncomfortable and like your self-care routine negates your sexuality. Or your masculinity is determined by how you take care of yourself. Being a man and being a Black man is number one, standing in your truth, standing in your honor, and knowing that you are here with power—number two is protecting Black women. So how can we go and protect Black women and the things they do to make them feel beautiful and encourage them to feel beautiful if we’re not taking self-care seriously ourselves?” he rhetorically asks. “I think it should be passed down to generations and passed on to our brothers and sisters. I don’t want Black men to continue to let the world and let the media make us feel like taking time out of our day does not extend our lives. Taking time out of our day does not help our mental health. Taking the time out of our day to care for our skin before we leave the house does not make us feel better about ourselves. We deserve to feel good about who we are. We deserve to feel good about our looks.”
Renaud empathizes with the emotional toil that his fellow brethren live through in a world where they are constantly harassed by law enforcement, oppressed by racism, and have to fight daily against inequality. He realizes the last thing on the mind of his fellow man is wanting to appear weak in a white supremacist authoritarian culture.
“The last thing we think about sometimes, or the last thing we think about when we get up in the morning headed to whatever job that is, is taking care of our skin so we could feel good about that day. But if we did, maybe the day would go a little better, and if we did it at night, maybe we could sleep better knowing the journeys and battles we have to fight every day. We deserve to have good skincare at the f—king minimum, excuse my language, but it’s true,” he passionately claims.
His devotion to service his customers undoubtedly contributed to the success of Buttah, which is projected to make $10 million in revenue this year. Still, he wants to educate other entrepreneurs who may decide to follow in his footsteps to encourage them adequately prepare themselves when operating a lucrative business.
“Make sure that every founder knows [the amount of] money is coming into their company and what is going out. Make sure you know your numbers; it should never be an estimate. Fight for fairness; fight to know what you are making. I’m still on the front line fighting to be seen as a [respected] Black beauty founder, still fighting for equality when it comes to finances,” he cautions.
Renaud is not the only Black male dispenser of skin care products in the marketplace. However, he does note that his beauty line is the only one that is diverse, gender neutral, and customizable for all skin types, which presents an enormous opportunity for him to corner the market. Yet, he is not satisfied with being the only entrepreneur in this particular beauty sector.
“I don’t have anybody to look to the left or the right for advice. For example, I didn’t have many people that came before me outside of some of the greats like Lisa Price and other beauty founders that gave me some advice. So it did feel like I was on an island all by myself at a point in time, and it still does; we need more diversity and inclusivity. But that’s going to require people being able to have access to more funding. There are brands out there, but when you go into the store, if you don’t have the money to get into that store, if you don’t have the money to go on HSN or QVC to fulfill those orders, then here you are with this great product. It can’t go anywhere because as Black people, we are the last to get investment money,” he remarks on a subject matter repeatedly brought to the forefront in the Black business community.
Buttah will be sold at Saks Fifth Avenue starting November 3.
Dorion Renaud, Founder Of Buttah Skin, Wants Black Men To Feel … – Forbes
Dorion Renaud, Founder of Buttah Skin wants to see more diversity and inclusion in the beauty skin … [+]