Known for her tell-it-like-it-is approach to skin care, Palermino opened up about her brand's ethos, the state of the "clean" beauty industry, and her signature move, the "moisture sandwich."

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portrait of dieux ceo charlotte palermin
Credit: Courtesy of Dieux / Steven Simione

Charlotte Palermino has always been a champion for transparency, especially in the beauty space. In fact, it's part of the reason why she was set on creating her brand, Dieux. "I was tired of how I was being marketed to," Palermino tells MarthaStewart.com. "More and more brands were focused on trends and not science. On top of that, companies started to throw in fear-based advertising for good measure."

Palermino wanted to give beauty lovers a clean slate; she envisioned a brand with an ethos rooted in clear communication and information and manufacturing transparency. To bring Dieux to life, she partnered with Marta Freedman, who serves as co-founder and creative director, and Joyce de Lemos, a cosmetic chemist and former formulator for mass skin care brands like Vichy, La Roche-Posay, and Skinceuticals; de Lemos serves as co-founder and head of product.

dieux Forever eye mask
Credit: Courtesy of Dieux

You've probably seen Dieux on your Instagram feed. The brand launched last year with its now-cult product, the Forever Eye Mask ($25, dieuxskin.com), a reusable silicone patch that works with the eye creams you already own and lasts, well, forever. Dieux's website notes that the teal slivers' logo will begin to fade at the one-year mark with daily use—how's that for transparency? But it goes deeper, says Palermino. "I don't like using language that is intentionally misleading," she adds. "For example, sustainability. It's important not to use language like 'zero waste,' because you have a product. Sure, you may be buying carbon to offset it, but you're still making waste."

Transparency in the beauty industry, she says, is complicated, and often differs from brand to brand. For Palermino, however, it comes down to leveling with consumers—she never pretends to know it all. Creating Dieux, researching new ingredients, meeting challenges and cultural demands surrounding sustainability, and dissecting all of those confusing marketing claims have taught Palermino just how much work there is to be done, especially when it comes to accountability. "We are a small brand," she explains. "Our goal is to push and do more with every launch."

dieux skin deliverance trinity serum
Credit: Courtesy of Dieux

Dieux's latest (and arguably greatest) is the Deliverance Soothing Trinity Serum ($69, dieuxskin.com). It's made with ingredients like niacinamide, white lily extract, and white tea, but what sets this serum apart from the rest is its three-pronged cannabinoid complex, which consists of CBD, CBG, and CBN. Together, they reduce inflammation and soothe irritation. "Serums are meant to deliver actives," Palermino says. "When Joyce was describing the best way to deliver cannabinoids it was clear it had to be something that absorbed and played well with other ingredients—a serum best achieved this."

Palermino is acutely aware that CBD is the beauty buzzword of the day and age, and hopes to banish any misconceptions around its use in skin care. "We want to treat this ingredient less like a trend and more like the promising ingredient it is: It's an incredible skin soother that is stable through encapsulation," she explains. Paired with the formula's other hero ingredients, the cannabinoid complex becomes a powerful antioxidant that delivers smooth, clear skin. It's no wonder that it sold out fast (sign up for the waitlist to avoid missing the next launch).

Her 168,000 Instagram followers also know they can trust her with their skin, and that's likely because she doesn't claim that her products, or any formula for that matter, will work for everyone. Many also credit her for introducing them to the "moisture sandwich," (a term she doesn't claim to have coined, but instead believes she learned on Reddit). The method involves layering products to reduce water loss, and leads to an enviable glow. "I learned in esthetician school that you should start with hydration and work your way to richer textures," she says. "For me, someone with very dry skin, this translated to starting with face sprays, then adding water-based serums and moisturizers, and ending with something very occlusive, like Vaseline, to deal with New York winters."

She adds that she's experienced perioral dermatitis and rosacea, and that replenishing skin and keeping it hydrated is her top priority. She prefers gentler resurfacing ingredients, like niacinamide and peptides, to retinol (though she does enjoy retinol) and slathers on sunscreens with new filters found outside the United States. "Not everyone knows this, but the FDA has been sitting on more advanced and elegant sunscreen filters that are found in Australia, Brazil, and Asia," she notes.

Her definition of beauty has also changed over the years—and now she focuses on feeling good. "Beauty to me is awareness, understanding, and feeling like I'm taken care of," she reflects. "I used to freak out over a rash (something my skin is prone to), imperfections, and the beginning of wrinkles. I'm only 34. I'm not even halfway through this life and I can't be afraid of the thing I should be doing, which is living." As for the best piece of beauty advice she's ever received? It's all about simplicity and—you guessed it—moisture. "Less is more," she says. "And dampen your face slightly before you moisturize."

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