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INTERVIEW: Merit Founder Katherine Power On The Minimalist Luxury Beauty Brand, Five-Minute Makeup, Her Wine Venture With Cameron Diaz, And More

Nicole Barylski

Merit founder Katherine Power. (Photo: Courtesy of Merit)

Lifestyle entrepreneur Katherine Power's quest to streamline her own beauty routine, using a minimalist approach to creating a natural look achievable in just five minutes, led to her establishing a new clean minimalist luxury beauty brand, Merit.

Merit launched with seven essential products, including The Minimalist (Perfecting Complexion Stick), Day Glow (Balmy Highlighter), Flush Balm (Cheek Color), Clean Lash (Lengthening Mascara), Brow 1980 (Volumizing Pomade), Shade Slick (Lip Oil), and Brush No 1 (Blending Brush).

We recently caught up with Power, who is also responsible for Who What Wear, Versed, and Avaline - which she co-founded with Cameron Diaz, about the new line, her daily routine, products she can't live without, the Hamptons, and more.

What led to the founding of Merit?

KP: About four and a half years ago, I posted a short Instagram video from my bathroom doing my makeup in five minutes. This was a normal part of my routine, however, if I'm being honest, I mostly did my makeup in five minutes in the car on my way to work, because I have very little spare time to put into "looking good." I received such an enormous positive response to this video, I started thinking about creating a collection of clean, comfortable products that were everything I needed to look like myself, but better.

Day Glow. (Photo: Courtesy of Merit)

Around that time, I started to feel like I didn't connect with any of the beauty brands on the market. I grew up wearing the legacy luxury and prestige brands that my mother had once introduced to me, always gravitating towards the products that made me look "natural," but after having my son, I wanted to wear cleaner formulas than those brands offered (while I was pregnant, I literally became nauseous when I would use my normal, "non-clean" lip products). As the clean beauty landscape started to grow, I tried a lot of great products, but always felt like they were being marketed towards a younger customer who was looking for newness (and excess) at every turn. I just didn't connect with them emotionally.

By the beginning of 2020, beauty and self-care had reached a fever pitch — it was a saturated market with products coming out every few days, full of ingredients we couldn't pronounce, palettes with 50 colors when we only used two on a night out, ten steps in a skincare routine, and more and more additions to the list of what it takes to be "ready." When everything stopped in March, we all reset, switching to natural hair, nails and lashes, really minimizing our daily routines. It seemed like the perfect time for Merit to emerge, to help streamline our makeup bags.

Could you speak to the products featured in Merit's inaugural collection?

KP: Each product is a dream come true for someone like me; busy, discerning, and demanding of high performance. It's exactly what you need to get ready in five minutes, nothing more. The Minimalist complexion stick is incredibly unique and is the base for the perfect, no-makeup-makeup look. It has a your-skin-but-better finish that stays all day long. I also love our color products, like Flush Balm (the impossible-to-mess-up balmy cheek stain) and Shade Slick, our ultra-moisturizing lip oil. And I can't live without our buildable brow pomade, Brow 1980. We also have an incredible, dewy and natural looking highlighter called Day Glow, free from glitter and off-putting iridescence, and our Clean Lash mascara is sure to be a top seller, with its tubing technology that does not smudge.

Why did you decide upon a minimalist approach to make-up?

KP: I've personally always gravitated towards brands that gave me a no-makeup-makeup look, and I knew there were many women just like me. Early on in the process, I went out to my digital community to see what they were looking for. Their answers validated my theory, with 66 percent of them wishing their makeup routine was cleaner, 85 percent of them wanting to look "natural," but better, and 77 percent wishing more cosmetics brands aligned with their lifestyle.

In 2020, we learned that we don't need much. We got used to our natural hair texture, bare nails, and minimal makeup. This felt like the perfect time to bring Merit out in the world to truly embrace this new found idea that less is more.

What does your daily make-up routine look like?

KP: My daily makeup routine is five-minute makeup made impossibly easy by our seven Merit products. I'm on Zoom calls most of my days, so I want to look polished and ready for those, and comfortable in my skin.

How has it evolved over the years?

The Minimalist Stick in Cacao. (Photo: Courtesy of Merit)

KP: It's continued to get pared back. Routine is really the key, so I focus on excellent skincare products, a quick and polished makeup routine, and self-care through exercise, yoga and time with my family. I have less and less time for things that don't add value or don't offer an enjoyable experience.

What products can you not live without?

KP: I incubate and launch brands to fill a white space that I have experienced — so lots of Versed and Merit for my beauty routine! I particularly love Versed's Press Restart Retinol and the newly launched Sunday Morning Antioxidant Serum. Biba de Sousa, who consulted on the Merit complexion formulas, makes incredible non-acne triggering products — I love her moisturizers. I love OUAI for haircare, Jen Atkin is a genius! I wear the full Merit lineup each and every day. I'm Dune in The Minimalist, then pair it with Shade Slick in Marrakech, Flush Balm in Beverly Hills, Day Glow in Bounce, Brow 1980 in Brown and Clean Lash.

In addition to Merit, you also launched Avaline with Cameron Diaz. Tell us about that venture.

KP: Like Merit, Avaline was born out of a personal need and curiosity. Cameron and I were originally friends that, like many, enjoyed sharing a glass of wine together. We began to examine what was really in that glass of wine and were shocked to find that while we were so careful about what we put into our body in all other areas of our lives, whether it was skincare, whole eating, etc. we weren't aware of what was in our nightly glass of wine. Part of that was an industry problem — over 70 additives don't even need to be disclosed when added to the wine. So with that shared love of wine and passion for increasing transparency and wellness into the things we consume, we launched Avaline.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

KP: Right now, I'm very focused on growing my four brands - Merit, Who What Wear, Versed, and Avaline. I'm able to split my time between all of the brands because I have amazing executive teams that support the vision and execution of each.

Have you ever been to the Hamptons? If so, what does an ideal day look like?

KP: Yes, I love the Hamptons and I wish I lived closer. I spent a lot of time in East Hampton growing up and don't get to go back there nearly as often as I'd like. I love just lounging around by the pool, walking into town to discover new little shops, and going out for delicious meals at my favorite restaurants.

For more information about Merit, visit www.meritbeauty.com.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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