“At 25 I felt like I had lived my whole life. I felt that exhaustion”

Written by Morgan Fargo

From persistent acne since puberty to the first product she ever formulated, the Trinny London founder shares all.

Trinny Woodall. Whether you remember her as the former style columnist in a national newspaper or as one half of the Trinny & Susannah power duo, there’s a high chance her name has permeated your consciousness at some point. 

For me, it was curling up on the sofa with my mum, watching her race around various parts of the country, often with a dress or oversized belt in tow, on fashion makeover show What Not To Wear. I relished her frenetic, honest energy. As a knowingly precocious child, who prayed each night to wake up shy and retiring, she was a reminder that it’s OK to take up space and make noise. 

Now, years after my initial introduction to Trinny Woodall, she sits down with Stylist on a spring morning to recount her journey to brand founder and global community builder, and explains why Trinny London has always been for people of every generation.

You’ve been fascinated by make-up and skincare for years, often sharing advice and information with your followers. What made you decide to create your own brand, Trinny London?

What’s interesting is that when I started Trinny London, I did contemplate doing skincare first. My obsession with skincare happened before make-up because I developed very bad acne when I reached puberty – and it stayed until I was 30. If you have bad skin, you try everything, and in my teens and 20s, I did try everything. Half of the salary from my first job went on trying to fix my skin. 

I first discovered the Clinique three-step (cleanse, exfoliate, moisturise) in New York in 1979 and at that time it felt like a computer in how technical it was – there were steps to the routine. From that moment I was hooked.  

Then, every year for about 10 years, I focused on one range. That was really what skincare was like at that time – you bought into one whole range. Over the decades since, I’ve been witness to the evolution of skincare and the same with make-up. 

So, after those initial 10 years of experimentation, I started to read the back of products and the INCI (ingredient) list and learned how impactful that was to separate marketing speak from what it would actually be able to do to my skin. 

I launched Trinny London make-up first probably because of all the makeover shows I did when I left England, the ones that were most relevant for me were the ones where I travelled the world and met women of every different skin tone, age and body shape who loved or disliked themselves. And, for those women, make-up was the first thing they saw before they saw clothing or hair. So I thought, let’s start with make-up. 

The mission of Trinny London is to change how women feel about themselves and make-up is something with which they can easily see that change. 

And why did that initial focus on make-up (albeit with skincare benefits) shift into developing standalone skincare?

It all started with the first product I formulated – BFF Cream [a tinted moisturiser that contains SPF]. I wanted to create a product that would give women a glow because the women I was trying to reach, women between the ages of 35 and 90, had grown up in a matte world and I wanted to introduce them to the idea of glow. I also wanted to get women to wear SPF and I wanted them to understand that it was necessary for the winter and summer, inside or outside. It quickly became one of our bestselling products.

At that time, I was already working on the formulations for the rest of the BFF family – De-Stress and Rebalance – and I really felt that I was able to dig into the chemistry and get into the lab and think about the key things I wanted to create. 

I received a clinical report on the ingredient neurophroline and it talked a lot about being able to reduce the levels of cortisol on your skin. I have a lot of adrenal stress, I produce a lot of cortisol and I know that when I’m tired and stressed, I look wisened. And I thought, oh my god, if this can work on eliminating the cortisol on your epidermis it can work on your skin as a skincare product but it can be the last thing you put on because cortisol accumulates around the microbiome on the very top layers of the skin. And it worked! That’s when I started developing skincare. 

Trinny London is hosting its first pop up in Soho, London, open until 12 May. The event will feature immersive spaces to test, try and shop the product, expert conversations with Trinny and friends and personalised skincare routines.

You faced pushback from a potential investor who recommended focusing Trinny London on millennials. Years later, Trinny London has customers of all ages. What would you say to that now?

I think there is a far bigger gap in the market for women over the age of 35 – mostly because she’s still being targeted by brands with 20-year-old models touting various anti-ageing benefits – I hate the word anti-ageing. I wanted to change the language for those women.

For me, I want to wake up and have products that give energy and life to my face. So you feel full of energy and life. That market gets that. 

But what’s interesting is that when I look back and think that being 25 and 35 is very young, I forget that at 25 I felt like I had lived my whole life. I had done so much and been through so much and I felt that exhaustion. I remember at 30 feeling that same exhaustion with my life. That messaging is very relevant for the feelings of somebody in any generation. 

I think what that investor didn’t understand when he said “you have to target the millennial”, is that it’s not really about age, it’s about an attitude and how you feel about yourself. 

Immerse yourself in all things Trinny London at the brand’s first-ever pop-up, Trinny London Land, open in Soho until 12 May. Find out more information here. 

Main image: courtesy of brand

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