The year before she graduated from Princeton, Amy Gordinier ’92 submitted a class note to PAW’s pages: “After she graduates, Amy Gordinier wants to go into the cosmetics industry.” Cosmetics were in her blood: Her father, Richard Gordinier ’64, had worked at Clairol, Estee Lauder, and Max Factor, and the younger Gordinier was intrigued.
“It seemed like a good combination of business and creativity,” she says.
Gordinier began working at L’Oreal, an experience she described as being “like an MBA” since she learned all the fundamentals of the business. Later she received an actual MBA from the international business school INSEAD and worked for other corporate cosmetics companies including Coty and Estee Lauder, where she worked under famed perfumer Jo Malone.
It was Malone who planted the seeds for Gordinier’s later decision to start her own business. Gordinier remembers Malone told her she had “what it takes.” “I thought, ‘Oh wow, someone like you can see that in me,’” Gordinier says.
The encouragement stuck and resurfaced years later, when Gordinier moved to Nova Scotia. There she met a woman whose family had been privately making and selling a balm with pharmaceutical-grade ingredients since 1870. The family had collected hundreds of letters over the years from customers saying the formula had soothed psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema, and other conditions when nothing else had worked. Gordinier bought the formula, and in 2012 she founded a company to sell it: Skinfix.
One of her first moves was to bring it to a dermatologist, who encouraged Gordinier to run studies to obtain clinical data on the formula’s effectiveness. In the initial studies, Gordinier found that her new product matched the healing powers of hydrocortisone cream, and even surpassed that steroid by improving the skin barrier — the “brick wall” of the outermost layer of the skin — over time. “Every single skin concern can be directly related to an issue with the skin barrier,” Gordinier says.
Subsequent studies have since been published. “It’s just been part of my ethos from the beginning to lead with science, which is funny because I was a religion major,” she says, laughing. Skinfix is now sold exclusively at Sephora cosmetics stores.
While she says she’s “hypervigilant” about the health of her own skin, she also emphasized that she is “pro-aging.” “I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to get older, and at the end of the day, we’re all going to look older — that’s part of the blessing of being older,” Gordinier says. She encourages people to be “forensic scientists” and listen to their own skin when it comes to finding a skin-care routine that works best for them, adding that less is often more and that people shouldn’t forget about the effects that diet, exercise, sleep, and stress have on the skin.
As her company turns 10 this year, Gordinier says her success metrics are in Skinfix’s ability to be self-sustaining and in the enjoyment of her work. She says the two hats she wears — founder and CEO — are actually quite different: The former includes more emotion, intensity, and stress in seeing her vision to fruition, while the latter requires more calmness and business acumen. “I’m learning to be more of a CEO,” she says.