September 29, 2022

Scarlett Johansson has had her turn as an ambassador for major beauty brands, and now the “Black Widow” star is giving them competition with the launch of her own clean skin care line, The Outset. Founded on the concept of beginning with the basics and building an effective, universal routine, the brand is a reflection of Johansson’s own uncomplicated approach to beauty.

The Outset, which launched in March and is now available at Sephora, is a curated offering of five products, collectively the result of over five years of development. After learning about the beauty business and experimenting with formulations for several years, Johansson met co-founder Kate Foster, an entrepreneur and former beauty/fashion executive who helped shape The Outset from its early stages.

Including a micellar-based cleanser, vegan collagen serum, squalane-infused daytime moisturizer, niacinamide night cream and vitamin C eye cream, the line targets standard skin care woes like dullness and dryness. With each product in the $32 to $54 price range, The Outset is an accessible, no-frills skin care regimen that could be an easy entry point for those looking to try out a complete skin care routine and don’t know where to start, or for those who want to streamline their current routine.

The skinimalist approach not only has to do with the number of steps but also the quality — if you’re using fewer products, you want them to be as high-performing as possible — which is why Johansson prioritized creating skin care that has effective, dermatologist and clinically tested formulas. Built around a “Consciously Clean” ethos, the line focuses on ingredients that are universally beneficial and safe for all skin types. The products avoid gluten and nut allergens; they’re noncomedogenic (meaning they won’t clog pores), fragrance-free, vegan and cruelty-free; and they’re formulated without over 2,700 ingredients that the brand has flagged as potentially harmful or irritating.

Ticking the boxes of two major industry trends — the clean skin care movement and a beloved celebrity launching a beauty line — The Outset is bound to draw comparisons to the many other brands like it. To see how it measures up, I tested all five products and consulted board-certified dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, who also has experience formulating her own skin care line.

After a month of using exclusively The Outset products, I was impressed that the line delivered on being nonirritating and noncomedogenic. While switching skin care regimens all at once can cause breakouts or other irritations to flare up, there were no visible side effects to the overhaul. If anything, my skin felt even more balanced after continued use of The Outset. Plus, the line looks great on my vanity, and the packaging feels luxe — no loose caps or worry about product leakage. Read more about testing each product in the line below.

$32 at Sephora

The Outset Gentle Micellar Antioxidant Cleanser

This cleanser features the makeup-removing capabilities of micelles (the key component of micellar water), delivered in a gel formula that creates a light lather when massaged onto the face. While it wasn’t able to tackle waterproof mascara, it did effectively remove standard mascara and other makeup. I liked that it left the skin feeling clean and refreshed, thanks to its seven-amino blend and antioxidant-rich ingredients. “Amino acids are the building blocks of peptides, and in this product they seem to benefit hydration and firming,” Ciraldo says.

$46 at Sephora

The Outset Firming Vegan Collagen Serum

This serum adds a boost of hydration, thanks to The Outset’s signature hyaluroset complex, a botanically derived hyaluronic acid alternative, and its active levels of vegan collagen assist with skin plumpness. “Both hyaluronic acid and cassia seed, the plant-derived, main component of the hyaluroset complex, are glycosaminoglycans, naturally occurring substances that are part of skin’s dermal-support matrix,” Ciraldo explains.

Used throughout The Outset’s line, the complex is the star of the show. “You should see textural improvement, with skin feeling and looking smoother and more lustrous,” Ciraldo says, referring to the effects of the hyaluroset complex. “With continued use there may be enough increased hydration so that skin appears firmer.”

$44 at Sephora

The Outset Nourishing Squalane Daily Moisturizer

Suitable as a daytime moisturizer or even an option for those who need only light hydration at night, this product nourishes the skin with squalane, an oil emollient derived from olives.

“[Squalane] is very moisturizing, boosting skin’s barrier function, and not a problem with acne,” Ciraldo says.

The dermatologist also advises that the moisturizer’s other oil-based ingredients (including sunflower, coconut and avocado oils) are not a concern when it comes to acne, and the inclusion of fermented fruit ingredients and vitamin E can “help to brighten the skin and provide an antioxidant boost.” Overall, the moisturizer kept skin soft and hydrated throughout the day, and as someone with combination skin and an oily T-zone, it actually helped with controlling excess shine.

$54 at Sephora

The Outset Restorative Niacinamide Night Cream

“Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) is beneficial for pore appearance, smoothing skin texture and lessening redness and irritation,” Ciraldo says. Since The Outset’s night cream is centered around this ingredient, you can expect these glow-enhancing properties to work overnight. Ciraldo also points out that the niacinamide is joined by a long list of nourishing oils, which contribute to the thick consistency of the cream.

Due to these, you can probably skip layering a face oil over the night cream. I did, and I woke up with sufficiently moisturized skin. Due to the rich texture, though, it felt like some of the product still sat on top of the skin the morning after applying it.

$42 at Sephora

The Outset Smoothing Vitamin C Eye + Expression Lines Cream

One of the things I appreciated about this product is that its name points to the fact that eye creams can often treat other areas of the face that experience similar signs of aging, such as expression lines around the mouth. The Outset’s eye cream targets these by plumping and hydrating with Irish moss and centella asiatica extract. It also claims to brighten these areas with vitamin C, delivered via ascorbyl glucoside.

According to Ciraldo, “Ascorbyl glucoside is touted mainly since it is a highly stable form of vitamin C. Its skin benefits are not well studied in peer-reviewed literature, so it is difficult to put it on a scale to compare its capacity for brightening, skin firming and collagen boosting.”

While L-ascorbic acid may be a more potent form of vitamin C, it is less stable than ascorbyl glucoside, so the latter makes for a longer-lasting active and a viable option for a skin care product like an eye cream. While I didn’t see any noticeable brightening, I did like its rich consistency and the ritual of gently massaging it around the eye area and expression lines.