Benefit's Global Brow Expert Marches to the Beat of His Own Drum | Savoir Flair
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Benefit's Global Brow Expert Marches to the Beat of His Own Drum
article BENEFIT COSMETICS
by Grace Gordon 9-minute read February 28, 2024

After 17 years at Benefit Cosmetics, Jared Bailey is the industry's leading expert on brows.

article JARED BAILEY | BENEFIT COSMETICS

The night before I departed on an almost 24-hour voyage to New Orleans with Benefit Cosmetics to attend Mardi Gras, I got a new iPhone. In hindsight, it may not have been my brightest idea. First, it took hours to transfer everything over from my old phone, and second, it had a silencing feature that made me worried that my alarm function wouldn’t work. So, like any technologically-equipped millennial, I Googled, “Will my alarm still work on silent mode + iPhone 15.” After being reassured by the results, I went to bed, alarm set for 6am.

I woke up the next morning thanks to some very loud pigeons on my balcony who simply wouldn’t shut up. I checked my phone. 6:58. My alarm had, in fact, not gone off. The car was arriving at 7:10 to pick me up and take me to the airport. I have never gotten ready so fast in my entire life. I whirled through my apartment like a tornado, grabbed last-minute items, ran a brush through my hair, shimmied into my travel outfit, and knelt on top of my hastily packed suitcase to zip it up. But I did one last thing before I exited my apartment at 7:10 on the dot. I scrambled to the bathroom and filled in my eyebrows. It was the only speck of makeup on my entire face.

And I didn’t really think much about it afterward. Truth be told, eyebrows are the one thing I will always do before I leave the house. I have naturally blonde brows, so if I don’t fill them in, they don’t exist. Sans visible eyebrows, I look like a sickly Victorian child.

Nearly a day later, I arrived in New Orleans, and suddenly, the only thing I was thinking about was eyebrows. Benefit Cosmetics is the number one brow brand in the world, a fact I was reminded of at every turn. From the beautiful hotel room stocked to the brim with eyebrow products and the Brow Suite, where I got the best brow lamination of my life, to the unveiling of Benefit’s new Precisely, My Brow products, brows were top of mind at all moments.

It made me curious about why brows are now such a prominent, nay, necessary makeup product. Rewind 20 years, and I never filled in my brows, brushed them, waxed them, laminated them, or touched them in any way except by accident. Sometimes, I look back at pictures of myself as a teenager, and I cringe. Girl, what were you thinking? I’m sure a lot of us have been there. From the overplucked rounded brow of the 90s to the way too dark, severely arched brows of the early aughts, brow trends have been doing too much. It wasn’t until much later that I started tending to my brows regularly and discovered how much they transformed my face. Suddenly, I had features!

As I reflected on my own history with brows and society’s stunning obsession with them, I knew there was only one person who had all of the answers to my questions: Jared Bailey, Benefit’s Global Brow Expert. What a job title! In the brow game, he is THE guy. The expert. The guru. The Pied Piper of Eyebrows. Where he goes, we follow. So, I put my ponderings to him. Why are brows such a huge thing now? “Eyebrows are no longer a trend,” Bailey explained. “It is a fundamental part of any beauty routine just like skincare, just like your SPF. People now understand the importance that eyebrows bring to your overall look, because, at the end of the day, whether it’s a creative brow or it’s dramatic, it’s thick, it’s thin, it’s polka dots, it doesn’t matter. Brows break up the planes of your face. They bring structure and balance to your face and eyes. Whether you’re a creative makeup wearer or a natural makeup wearer, everybody wants that kind of balance.” In other words, brows have transcended trends. “They’ve become the fundamental building block of beauty,” Bailey said.

BENEFIT COSMETICS

Returning to New Orleans for the launch of Precisely, My Brow Detailer and Precisely, My Brow Wax represents a homecoming of sorts for Bailey. Once a journalist in New Orleans, he relocated to Chicago after Hurricane Katrina destroyed huge swaths of the city. Searching for a fresh start, he ended up bartending, which is where he met a fabulous regular named Robin, who eventually invited him to work with her at the Benefit store. “Every day I’d walk into that store, and I was like, ‘I’m going to go have fun today, and when I’m not having fun, I’ll just quit.’ This is going to sound cheesy, but I’ve never not had fun here. Somehow, a job that was part-time, turned into a 17-year career.”

While Bailey admits that he knew nothing about makeup, much less brows, when he started working at Benefit, he continued to excel at the craft. “A year after I started, I wanted to go to aesthetician school because I was surrounded by all of these brow experts waxing eyebrows. I was like, ‘That looks fun!’ I loved it. It’s literally like sculpting someone’s face.” From there, Bailey became store manager, was tasked with building out their training program, and eventually developed the rules and regulations on how we do our services from beginning to end. “Then, I deployed it and was doing it all over the world,” he shared. “As we opened up new boutiques in different countries, I was going to those countries to help them and teach them a little bit about Benefit.” 

On his tour of the world with Benefit launching new stores, he naturally fell into the role of speaking to the press about the brand and brows. His background as a journalist made it easy for him to relay the storytelling behind the products. And it also came in handy when it came to the technical writing aspect of working with the lab and writing the rules in that realm. So in 2013, when Benefit decided to create a massive 45-piece brow collection, Bailey was in the perfect position to assume the role of Global Brow Expert. “Benefit gave me such a well-rounded experience of eyebrows from sales, to education, and to development, into innovation,” Bailey explained. “I work really closely with our innovation team as well that do all of our products. And I work with our creative team. I shoot all of our brow products on our PDP pages. That’s all my work. I’m behind the camera.”

BENEFIT COSMETICS

Now, as you may or may not have heard, Benefit press trips for their product launches are legendary. Naturally, for such a key moment for the brand, they had to do it big, which is where New Orleans and Mardi Gras came into play. “For this, we were releasing a product that was not on the market yet: a pencil tip so small is unique. No one’s cracked the code on how to develop it. When we finally solved it, we knew we wanted to go somewhere to celebrate in a big way. We played around with several different places in the world. We’re in 56 countries, and we have many places to choose from. When it came down to it, there’s no celebration in the US quite like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. We wanted to go somewhere where the celebration was as big and as unique as the products we were launching.” 

This decision played a pivotal role in the key visuals for the launch, which centered on drummers. “We wanted to bring the story of the products to life,” Bailey shared. “There’s a lot of precision in music, so we knew we wanted to play around with music and drums. Drums also keep the beat, and when you do your makeup, it’s called ‘beating your face,’ so that fell into place too.” New Orleans, a soulful city spilling over with music, provided the talent, and along the way, a very smart person on Benefit’s creative team realized that drumsticks and the shape of the Precisely, My Brow range were a perfect match. 

Sure enough, on the day of the launch in New Orleans, Benefit’s invited guests were treated to a thrilling drum line. It wasn’t until Bailey asked us to check out their drumsticks that it all clicked into place; the drummers were using sticks shaped like the Precisely, My Brow products. This “aha!” moment is but one of a thousand reasons that Benefit excels at product communication.

BENEFIT COSMETICS

In a growing market, Benefit leads the boom. While number one in the world status didn’t happen overnight, Benefit was not only the earliest to identify brows as the key feature of makeup routines worldwide, but they did better than anyone else.  It was a stroke of business genius, therefore, that LVMH made the decision to take a majority stake in Benefit in 1999. With the LVMH investment came the ability to expand, both with product ranges and with communication strategy. The latter has its own challenges. How do you talk to people in different markets around the globe who all have their own unique approaches to brow styles and their own preferences? With Benefit, the answer to that question comes naturally. “Brows have been part of Benefit since they opened their first boutique. They were so ahead of their time. Because Jean and Jane were both former models, they understood a lot about makeup and the way your face reads on camera. They knew from the very beginning that brows were something that everyone needed, but no one was out there servicing this need yet. That’s when they started their Brow Bar,” Bailey said.

What Benefit Cosmetics founders Jean and Jane Ford originally started as The Face Place, soon transformed into Benefit with a few strokes of ingenuity. First, The Face Place got into Bergdorf Goodman’s. The luxury department store had one request, however. They had to change the name, because Bergdorf’s was the destination, and they didn’t want to host a brand that might challenge that positioning.  On a celebratory trip to Italy, Jean and Jane contemplated the new name, but nothing was sparking for them. On the flight home, they realized that they had been using the term “bene,” the Italian word for “good,” ubiquitously throughout the trip. Everything was “bene.” “What if we added “fit” to it, as in Benefit, or, looked at sideways, ‘good fit,’” Bailey shared. And thus, Benefit Cosmetics was born. After 17 years at Benefit Cosmetics, it’s clear that Jared Bailey is a good fit.

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