4.5.6. CEO and Co-founder Noelly Michoux reflects on the beauty industry and her skincare brand inclusive approach to beauty standards.
Her journey has taken her from her birth place Douala in Cameroon to Normandy, Paris, Brussels, New York and London, just to name a few. Noelly Michoux’s kaleidoscopic lifestyle where different races, cultures and backgrounds interconnect daily, has triggered in her the desire to create a science and innovation driven skincare brand for people with melanin-rich skin to better cater to their specific needs.
Focusing on phototypes IV, V and VI of the Fitzpatrick skin type, hence the name of the brand, 4.5.6. brings customisation at the heart of its processes and product formulas to deliver personalised skincare for darker skin tones, disrupting the beauty industry standards. On this road less travelled, CEO and co-founder Noelly sat down to share her thoughts on her venture so far.
Starting 4.5.6 was the most exciting and daunting experience I have ever had. The mix of excitement and fear of embarking on a new journey, starting over again, challenging myself to be an example of what is possible with hard work and self belief, making a difference for my family, myself, my community were all the reasons I put myself out there. I never really had a comfort zone as I had switched careers many times over, but becoming an entrepreneur felt like stepping in the unknown!
Leaving a corporate structure for a situation with total lack of a steady and predictable income, the scepticism about entrepreneurship as a career choice first and my ability to pull it off second, the stress and anxiety are also part of the journey. I approached it with openness and acceptance!
I was open to challenges, change, criticism, rejection etc.. Recognising that these are part of the journey made it easier for me to bounce back in harsh times.
I accepted that I did not know how to do everything and that I did not have to. I chose to believe that whatever I did not know was figureoutable and that there is always someone out there who knows and who is willing to help and you just have to find them. I accepted failure as an opportunity to do better, to rethink, reconsider and find new ways to achieve my goals.
As a brand in the beauty industry you learn that you are replaceable and you learn it fast. And creating a brand for underserved communities will not make you less replaceable. So there is no time to be complacent, because the bar is set higher in our field everyday so I need to keep on alert and keep striving for excellence
The industry has played a huge role in shaping beauty ideals and standards in the past decades, and that is a tremendous power and influence that now has to be used to make those ideals more inclusive.
We manufacture under the toughest Cosmetic regulation in the world.The French and EU Cosmetics law requires pre-market safety assessments of products and this means products will not be permitted onto the market unless they pass all the regulatory tests required by law. If you meet the EU requirements, You pass the regulatory requirements from other countries with flying colours. ( well …except China that required testing on animal which is forbidden in the EU and quite antiquated)
When it comes to responding to customers’ demand and expectations from a place of credibility and authenticity?
We always start with our consumers and we put them at the centre of everything we do. We are not trying to follow the many changing trends in the industry. There is so much offer for Caucasian consumers that skincare has become more about who is hype, trendy and less about the human skin. With melanin rich skin, there is not much out there so we need to cover the basics and we are keeping people at the heart of our entire value chain, their physiology, their skin needs and that keeps us focused on creating innovative formulas that, yes, solve skin problems, but also help the each one skin become resilient, healthy and give wellness results that build people’s confidence.
Right now, self care for me is about working on work-life integration rather than work life balance where work and life co-exist and are separate. That has proven tough to do lately. I want to integrate work and life instead and bring them closer together because my partner and I are both entrepreneurs. We are partners in business, in raising our kids, building our lives and our work is a huge part of our lives, and I often struggle with work life balance, because often work overlaps into life and that creates guilt.
Now and especially with Covid where we often work from home, I feel that the best self care is integrating work and life and looking at all I need to do in a day as a whole. And that means, if I need and want to pause work in the middle of the day to be with my kids, then I’ll plan for that, enjoy them, play, have dinner time or put them to bed. Then I’ll do that which soothes and fulfills the mother in me . But that also means I’ll have to work later to catch up, then that is what I do. Same goes for that power walk in the forest, or just doing something that feels good to me. This way I have a life with time for work, family, care, joy, play and it does not have to be compartmentalised and this makes me happier.
Some of my favourite beauty products include the cucumber water foundation by Be+radiance! This combined with my 4.5.6 routine, my face now lives a silicone free life and my pores are not mad at that ! Another favourite of mine is the probiotic Body milk by Gallinée ! My dry skin loves this!
As a mum of young children and an entrepreneur, balancing motherhood and running a beauty startup is all about work-like integration. But, I also have the help of my nanny, my in-laws and we always make it a point to have some quality time with the kids. It is not about the quantity but the quality with kids. My kids appreciate when I take 30 minutes to really be with them rather than a whole hour where I am texting or taking phone calls as well. I am very honest with my kids and tell them that parents have to work so we can afford the blessings we get in life and they understand that. I am also so lucky to have a super dad as a partner and when I just can’t be the mum, he always brilliantly fills in for the both of us!
I don’t have a particular beauty icon! But there are women who inspire me and Michelle Obama is the living example that our circumstances do not define who we become. That it is not about the cards you are dealt with, it is about what you do with them and you can go from the South Side of Chicago all the way to the White house and being first lady to the most powerful nation on earth! That blows my mind and really inspires me to be the example of what is possible with resilience and self belief.
The pandemic was pretty positive for me. It forced me to appreciate life more, to be thankful for what I have, where I am in life and to enjoy life more because anything can happen in a blink of an eye! We live in such a bubble in the West and we often feel like nothing, that nothing can burst it, we become complacent and complain all the time, and we stop appreciating the little things that make life so special.
I got the Covid and even if it was a pretty mild version, it made me realise that I could have been one of the healthy people in their 30’s that succumbed to this virus. I thanked my body for being strong and this is something that I had never done before! I realised that this was happening to all of us regardless of the things that usually set us apart in society-
I hope this pandemic has taught us how interconnected we are as a species. Pandemics happen in other parts of the world and we in the west often feel unconcerned about the pain experienced in other parts of the world. There will be other pandemics and other major health crises, and I hope our society now understands that together we predict, prevent, detect, assess and treat this kind of situation better and that nobody is safe until everyone is safe.