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Scarlett Johansson on Having Acne in Her 20s: 'I Look at Photos and I'm Like, 'I Remember That Pimple''

Scarlett Johansson portrait provided by The Outset credit: Anairam
Scarlett Johansson portrait provided by The Outset credit: Anairam


Like many of us, Scarlett Johansson is rediscovering the joys of lipstick after two years of mask-wearing.

"We've all been in COVID for such a long time, and then like now reemerging. I've started wearing lipstick again, which is so exciting," she tells PEOPLE. "If my skin looks good, I feel like all I need is lipstick and I'm good to go."

Good skin wasn't so easy to come by for Johnasson, 37, who struggled with acne just as her career was taking off.

"I still look back at photos of me on the red carpet in my twenties, and I'm like, 'I remember that pimple,'" she says.

Her breakouts were particularly stressful when she was shooting a movie. "It was terrible," she recalls. "I would cover my acne before I even got in the makeup chair just so that I didn't feel so exposed. It really does affect how you feel about yourself and you just want to scrub it away."

She tried "every kind of acne peel and mask and resurfacing polish" only to realize that those products were too harsh for her sensitive skin and keeping it simple with a three-step routine of cleansing, toning and moisturizing was the key to maintaining a clear complexion.

That routine eventually inspired The Outset, a "clean, effective and simple" collection of products she co-created with beauty executive Kate Foster in March. With seven months under her beauty entrepreneur belt and the debut of the brand's sixth product (a gentle face scrub), the actress, producer, mom of two (daughter Rose, 8, and son Cosmo, 13 months) and half of a power couple (she's married to Saturday Night Live's Colin Jost) talks to PEOPLE about loving the start-up life, joining social media and managing her many roles.

Was it challenging to launch a brand during the pandemic? 

Shout out to FedEx! Kate and I would send products back and forth. And any person that we did see, it was like, "Do you want to try this?" My husband's like, 'I'm using a night cream?' I was like, 'Just try it! It's going to look great.'

RELATED: Scarlett Johansson Says Colin Jost Is the First Partner She's Had Who Uses Eye Cream

What makes The Outset different from other celebrity skin-care lines? 

I always anticipate that there's going to be some level of skepticism because I've experienced it in my movie life too. But I feel confident about our products — they're just so reliable. The transparency of what's in the line and what it's doing sets it apart. We call it the white tee shirt of skincare because it pairs well with other stuff.

The Outset product
The Outset product


The line is very pared back — just five products. What made you add the Exfoliating Caffeine Micro Polish to the lineup?

We always talked about an exfoliating step, but we wanted to be mindful about how we introduced it so it didn't feel like something that stood out from the rest of the products. But I love a polish. This one is like a cup of coffee for your skin — it wakes it up. Whenever my skin is looking dull, I use it in the shower and it smooths, brightens and clears it up.

After staying away from social media for years, you've been popping up on The Outset's accounts!

TikTok is different from Instagram because it's just so silly and playful. It's been surprisingly enjoyable. Instagram is still a little bit intimidating because it's very curated. I'm like "Once it's there, and then it has to fit with these other pieces, and is it going to look right?" But I realize, okay, I can just be myself, that is what people respond to.

Scarlett Johansson instagram
Scarlett Johansson instagram

Scarlett Johansson/Instagram

Do you still like getting glammed up for the red carpet? 

It's been such a long time since I was on the red carpet. There was COVID, then I was pregnant and not going anywhere. But yeah, I love hair makeup. I've always loved that part of it.

When we were doing all the press for Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit, we went to the Golden Globes, and I loved that hair and makeup look. It was really fresh, because it was all about the skin. I had on this beautiful Vera Wang dress, and it was such a pretty face.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 05: Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost arrives at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 05: Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost arrives at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards attends the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 05, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Steve Granitz/WireImage

RELATED: Colin Jost Trolls Wife Scarlett Johansson's New Skincare Line: 'Best Way to Contact You?'

How are you juggling everything on your plate right now?

There is no balance. Everything always feels like you have all these balls in the air. In order for me to not feel like the bottom's going to fall out, I've learned that I have to have people help me. You have to build a strong team because you cannot do it by yourself. It's impossible to do without a village.

What do you do to relax? 

My version of a relaxing treatment is a deep, painful massage. When they say, "how does it feel? Do you like the pressure?" I want to be like, "You're not doing anything." But I'm just like, "It's great. I love it."

You're low-maintenance with your skin. What are you high-maintenance about?

You should ask Colin! I'm very organized. I tend to organize other people's belongings, which my daughter and my husband have told me multiple times to stop doing. They're not fans of it. My daughter's like, "Why does my room look different?" I'm like, "I thought you might want to have your notebooks over here. And then I put a pen next to them in case he wanted to record your thoughts." She was like, "stop touching my stuff!" Now, I just try to organize my things. And the fridge. [Editor's Note: Her cofounder Kate says she organizes The Outset offices as well.]

What's next for the brand? Storage solutions, maybe? 

Ha! Sky's the limit!