Interview with NTY CBD Skin Care Co-Founder Graham Smith | NTY
At No, Thank You, transparency and inclusivity aren’t just core pillars of our brand DNA, they’re ways of life for our team. Last week you heard from Zain, and this week, we invite you to get to know our other co-founder, Graham Smith, a little bit better!
Tell us a little bit about your background.
Graham: I’m one of those people that most people think doesn’t exist! I was born and raised right here in LA. Topanga, to be super specific. I stayed local for school at USC, then bucked the LA trend and did something completely unrelated to entertainment: I worked in finance for over a decade. Most of that was actually in London where I lived for 12 years before moving back to LA. London is an amazing place to be but a horrible place to live. Sorry to all of my London friends! California is just better 🙂
Finance was a mixed bag for me. I worked with some genuinely amazing people and some truly horrible ones. Unfortunately, it only takes a few of the latter to make the entire experience pretty painful. Then, there was always the elephant in the room. I’m gay. Yes, things got better as the world cared less and as I felt more comfortable showing my true self. But I started working in 2005 – and at that point, the whole industry was very much of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality. So, for most of my career, I always felt like an outsider. For the reasons above, I decided to leave that industry behind and start up NTY with Zain (no doubt one of the most positive things in my life to come from my finance career!)
What inspired you to start a cosmetics line?
Graham: I really classify cosmetics and beauty under self-care, which has always been important to me. I’ll be honest – I have at least a little of that gay vanity gene in me and I do care about how I look. There are countless unhealthy aspects of that in the gay community but that’s a topic of conversation for another time. I suppose for me, it’s about having a base level of self-confidence.
Taking care of your face factors into that. After all, it’s the first thing other people see. I’ve been guilty over the years of spending too much money on products or facials. One of the things that motivated me the most to start this line is that we’re bringing true best-in-class formulas to people at a price that means you don’t have to give up your morning latte.
Why the CBD space?
Graham: One of the greatest things about living in California is its openness to progress. That it was one of the first jurisdictions to legalize marijuana medically, and then recreationally, has led to real progress in our understanding of the many beneficial qualities in other compounds in the cannabis sativa plant. Unfortunately for all of us, so much of that work was stalled for decades because of the legal status and also the stigma attached to cannabis. Today, there are countless studies being performed on the medical benefits of specific compounds in the cannabis plant.
We’re interested in a couple at NTY – most notably the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of not just CBD alone, but other cannabinoids all acting together. Watch my education series on our science page to learn more!
Why the name “No, Thank You”?
Graham: To be plain and simple, it’s our way of saying “f*ck the negativity in the beauty space”. When you really think about it, the industry can be pretty awful. It’s full of products that are either ineffective, overpriced, and some that are just plain bad for your skin. And those are just the physical impacts – try layering on the mental games the industry plays on unsuspecting customers. How many beauty companies out there promote beauty standards that are actually healthy? Some, but not nearly enough. We’re here to cut through the crap and say no, thanks to the BS.
What are some of the common skincare myths you’re looking to debunk?
Graham: The biggest myth we’re trying to debunk isn’t even skincare related. There are TONS of people who still think that because CBD comes from cannabis, it will get you high. There are over 100 cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant and THC is the only one that has real psychoactive properties. That said, there are some really great ways to enjoy THC (thank goodness I live in California) – but those have nothing to do with NTY or CBD skincare.
You’re here to learn about skincare, so let’s talk a few of those myths for a second:
Myth 1: The most important element in a skincare routine is moisturizing. The number of people I meet who layer on 5 different products but don’t wash their face is staggering. There’s no point putting on all of this amazing product unless you clean away the junk. Cleanse and exfoliate – or use a cleanser with gentle exfoliants regularly. If you haven’t checked out our cleanser yet, you totally should! NTY has you covered.
Myth 2: I’m not going to use a unisex product because men and women have different skin needs. There’s some truth to this statement from the perspective that men and women have physical differences in their skin, but it turns out that the most nourishing compounds are good for both. And those are the ones we use.
Myth 3: Unless your bathroom shelf has more than 5 (or 10 or 20 or 30!) products, you’re not really taking care of your skin. So wrong. The “skinamalism” trend is grounded in truth, and we’re here for it. Just do the essentials but do them really well. And that’s the NTY lineup. The only facial products I use personally are our own, with the exception of SPF because we don’t have one…yet!
What was the first product you created for the line?
Graham: One of the first applications for CBD topicals was pain relief, so that’s where we started. That’s the one that really convinced us of CBD’s powerful anti-inflammatory properties. As it turns out, inflammation sucks in pretty much every aspect of your body – inside or out. And anti-inflammatory properties in facial products are really helpful, whether that’s reducing redness or helping minimize the appearance of wrinkles. Then the rest of the line was born!
Favorite products in the line?
Graham: They’re ALL my favorites! But if I have to pick one, it’s our night mask. It’s probably the most misunderstood product in our lineup because most people expect it to be a thick, clay-type mask that you put on for 15 minutes and then rinse off. Ours is a luscious liquid (yes, I’ve watched a lot of Nigella Lawson over the years) that dries on your face to keep the moisture in all night long. So, ask yourself what’s better, a 15 minute or 8 hour mask? Talk about a sleeper hit!
Where do you see the brand going in the future?
Graham: We’re starting with CBD skincare, but the possibilities are really endless. I can see our product evolution including anything related to healthy self-care and wellbeing. Whatever we do, our choices will always be made with efficacy, transparency and honesty in mind.
How does self-care and gratitude play a role in your personal & professional lives?
Graham: Self-care comes in so many areas and I think it’s important to consider the ones that aren’t always the most obvious. At NTY, we’re currently addressing a really crucial aspect – taking care of your physical appearance. I think it’s also important to take care of your whole body. For me, healthy(ish) eating and exercise have always played a significant role in my life. Running a startup makes it difficult to focus on your physical and mental health sometimes, so one thing I try to do is find little moments to unwind. Maybe I’ll take a bath this evening!
Gratitude can prove elusive in startup life. It’s easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed if everything isn’t going completely right. And things going right all the time – let’s be honest – is basically never! I certainly don’t have a perfect solution. I find it’s usually helpful to take some time to put my problems into perspective and feel grateful for all the things in life that are working well.
Lastly, for the fun of it, share a funny story from when you were first building the brand.
Graham: In the very early days of NTY, we sent samples of our products to our friends and family to get their feedback. We took our time to make everything look amazing, from the boxes to the personalized note from me and Zain. We had cards with the full ingredient list for each product, but in the excitement and stress of getting everything together, I guess we never really thought about telling anyone how to use the products or what they’re for. Didn’t cross our minds once! By and large, it wasn’t that big of a deal and it’s usually pretty obvious how to use our product line. We did have one case where a friend of mine applied the relief cream to his face, and later told me, “I think I like this product, but it’s kind of intense!”