If you find yourself smiling whenever you use an Ole Henriksen skincare product, it's because there is joy infused into each formula — along with high levels of active ingredients like vitamin C and AHA acids.
"I'm like a little kid and jump for joy whenever we work with the lab for sampling," Henriksen tells InStyle.
After a stint as a professional dancer, the Danish skincare expert started his career in the beauty industry by opening his first spa in Hollywood in the '70s. He quickly racked up a loyal A-list following, which led to opening over 300 spa locations worldwide, writing best-selling books, and ultimately, a wildly successful namesake skincare brand sold at Sephora. He also gained the reputation as the most energy, positive person in the beauty industry.
Henriksen is known for his signature #OleGlow, a phrase he can thank client Laura Dern for coining in the '90s. "She was in the spa the day before the Oscars, and I remember her looking in the mirror and saying, 'Oh my god, I got the Ole glow!," says Henriksen. "That phrase started registering in the back of my mind. I saw her last year at the Golden Globes and she once again jumped out and said, 'I got the Ole Glow!'"
He is one of the early pioneers of harnessing the power of vitamin C in skincare products, namely his cult-favorite Truth Serum, and continues to create innovative glow-boosting formulas that inevitable go viral on Instagram and TikTok. They combine tried-and-true ingredients with new botanical discoveries, like bakuchoil in the Glow Cycle Retin-ALT Power Serum, or draws inspiration from other industries, like makeup, with the Banana Bright Eye Creme.
Ahead of Henriken's 70th birthday, InStyle caught up with the most positive man in the beauty industry to chat about the evolution of his namesake brand, the connection between positivity and good skin, and what he hopes to see in the future.
You're known for being one of the most joyful people in the beauty industry. What role does positivity have in maintaining good skin?
I often say with a positive attitude you can conquer the world. You decide how you want to embrace each and every day — and yourself. I'm grateful for every day of my life and I greet myself in the mirror every morning with a smile. I splash a lot of cold water on my face. I always look at the opportunities that lie ahead every day when I wake up because I'm the captain of my own ship. That's the beauty of being in a business that's a part of wellness. There's no doubt that when you feel positive about life and love your fellow human beings, you are much more apt to take the best care of yourself.
Positivity and the Ole Glow are very much attached to the brand. This is an inner glow, a celebration of life and all things beautiful. It's also about embracing yourself and loving the person you are. The outer glow is indeed the skin, that's luminous like sunshine. Skin that glows is skin that looks healthy at every age, even the beauty of expression lines as you get older.
Your career in skincare started with your spas. How did you know it was the right time to make your own products?
At one point, I had over 300 locations across the world and was also indoctrinating aestheticians into the face and body treatments. The spa in Hollywood was the one that brought in all of the celebrities, and I became known as the skincare guru to the stars. It was a huge honor, however, everyone always got treated like a star. With that said, I did bring them the products I made in my kitchen. I also began appearing on a lot of TV shows in the US, but the real turning point was when I was given the opportunity to write my first book, Ole Henriksen's Seven-Day Skin-Care Program. The program included seven days of using products made at home that would elevate people's skin to new levels of perfection. It became a best seller, I appeared on Oprah, and it created a demand for Ole products. I began formulating them with a chemist and started a mail order business. The products were also stocked in hip boutiques like Fred Segal, and department stores like Harvey Nichols in London and Henri Bendel in New York. I also began traveling as an ambassador for the brand — which I still do today — because I like to connect with clients and train ambassadors in the stores.
What inspires the new products you create today?
That spa heritage is embedded in the brand. We still have the spa here in Hollywood, and it's been remodeled and better than ever. In my partnership for 11 years with LVMH under the Kendo umbrella, success and potential is important whenever they purchase a brand, but so is staying true to the DNA of that brand.
When we rebranded and created the product franchises (Truth, Banana Bright, Balance, Transform, and Transform Plus), we specifically looked at the consumer's concerns and these collections based off of them to make the shopping experience easier. Then, we elevate products in these franchises without bastardizing them. One example is the Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum. We added PHA acids and the banana powder-inspired pigments to it so you get exfoliation throughout the day, plus hydration with the hyaluronic acid.
Inspiration also comes from places, like with the Lemonade Smoothing Scrub, which launched this year and is already a best seller at Sephora. Every year I'm on the island of Capri in Italy. I like to dive on the rocks into the ocean, and I'm always enamored by the lemons on the island. We have the walnut complexion scrub, and I thought, maybe we could combine physical and chemical exfoliants in a new scrub. So, we have the sugar crystals in there, chamomile, holy basil, licorice, and the AHA acids with the lemon zest and rind.
So many of your products go viral on social media and ultimately become best sellers. What's your take on skincare trends?
What is so fascinating at my age is the evolution of our world, period. What I love about life is that continued progression; you have to go with the change, embrace it, and learn. I'm very aware of what's going on, but it's important for our brand is to continue to bring innovation to the table in order to progress, like how we've been incorporating active botanicals like bakuchiol to our formulas. It's nice when we can create our own trends, I don't think about the products as trends.
I love the variety of brands out there and the diversity within these brands. You have to have the passion and drive to work hard, but also be authentic. You can't go out there and be a copycat in skincare if you want to take it to that next level. Another thing is with success, don't let ego get in your way because it's not pretty when people have a attitude.
As someone who's been in the beauty industry since the '70s, what do you hope to see in the future?
As I look back at what skincare was and is now, it's like day and night. It's like what we've seen with the evolution of the beauty industry across the board. As we know, global warming impacts all of us, now and tomorrow. We all have a great responsibility to do our very best to turn it around, including the beauty industry. This includes products that don't pollute, can be broken down. For instance, some of our latest skincare kits are smaller in size, have less paper there's no plastic wrap involved. We also need a little less of this [holds phone to face]. We need to be more in the moment and notice things around us. Otherwise, I want all of my fellow human beings to celebrate life and themselves and just be happy.
VIDEO: "Slugging" Is TikTok's Favorite Cheap Skincare Hack for Ridiculously Soft Skin
Ole Henriksen’s Best-Selling Skincare Products
Banana Bright Eye Crème
Inspired by banana powder, a makeup artist's secret for color-correcting the under eye area, this eye cream instantly brightens dark circles and smooths skin thanks to pigments, making it a great for makeup prep. But that's not the only reason why it went viral when it launched in 2017. The lightweight cream also contains vitamin C to illuminate the eye area over time.
To shop: $39; olehenriksen.com
Cold Plunge Pore Mask
You're probably seen Ole Henriksen's aqua blue face mask on Instagram. A few years ago, it was one of the most photographed masks, with skinfluencers and celebrities including Diplo among its legions of fans. Here's what makes it so special (aside from its IG-worthy color): the cooling formula includes a mix of purifying clay, oil-absorbing botanicals, exfoliating AHA and BHA acids, and plant-derived antioxidants to nourish skin. Together, these ingredients clear away oil and buildup to minimize the appearance of pores without causing dryness.
To shop: $38; olehenriksen.com
One of Henrikson's most famous products, this vitamin C and collagen serum works to brighten, firm, and provide skin with all-day hydration. The orange and green tea extracts give the quick-absorbing, silky serum its refreshing citrus scent.
To shop: $50; olehenriksen.com
PHAT Glow Facial
Think of this brightening, smoothing, and pore-refining mask as a one-step facial. A blend of PHA acids (gentle chemical exfoliants) are the hero ingredient of the massage-activated formula, while Nordic birch sap nourishes and pink bentonite clay clarifies skin.
To shop: $50; olehenriksen.com
Glow2OH Dark Spot Toner
Powered by AHA acids and witch hazel, this toner targets dark spots and uneven texture. Pour some on a reusable cotton round and sweep it across your face post-cleansing. Follow up with your go-to moisturizer.
To shop: $29; olehenriksen.com
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Beauty Boss profiles the brains behind the brands making waves in the beauty industry. From the ideas that first inspire brands to how best-selling hair, makeup, and skincare products are made, find out how these leaders get it done.
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