Sitting at a table in Freds restaurant at Barneys in Beverly Hills, Linda Rodin, creator of the cult beauty product Olio Lusso Face Oil, is striking: shiny gray hair pulled back in a chic updo; signature oversized glasses that give off a ‘70s rock star vibe; bright, I-am-in-the-room lipstick; artsy rings stacked on her fingers. She is chic, modern and, at 67 years old, the epitome of the current cultural moment — as seen in recent fashion campaigns, TV shows and films — showcasing women 60-plus as vital, beautiful and in the thick of living rather than winding down.
Rodin was a fashion stylist for more than 30 years before the 2007 launch of her skin care line led to her reinvented life as a successful beauty entrepreneur. The luxurious face oil, which sells for $170 for one ounce, was an Allure Best of Beauty Award winner in 2012 and has spawned a shortlist of other products including body oil, hair oil, soap, lip balm and fragrance. Estée Lauder acquired the Rodin Olio Lusso brand last October — neither side would disclose terms of the deal — but Rodin has stayed very much involved by remaining on as creative director.
Before the face oil trend took off in the U.S., Rodin had tried oils while traveling all over the world. She preferred them to lotions.
“At my age, when I use oil, I feel dewier, more hydrated and it feels silkier. It just feels better. It also gives me an instant glow that I don’t think a lotion does. I’ve never been big on lotions even when I was a kid,” Rodin says.
She notes she’s not an aesthetician or a dermatologist, “But I’ve always gravitated toward little potions so I experimented mixing a few oils together. I like to mix and match and customize things to myself,” says Rodin, who plans to launch a line of bold lipsticks next year. “If I can’t find something I want, I try to do it myself. I created [the face oil] just kind of out of necessity. I make things for me. It’s a selfish endeavor.”
She made the face oil in her apartment and started giving it out to friends. “When you’re in your own little world making your own little stuff at home, you don’t know if anybody but you will like it. I was overwhelmed by how many people loved it. It gave me confidence,” says Rodin.
Already being in the fashion business didn’t hurt. “My day job was going to studios and working with models, hairdressers and makeup artists. I had access to people who could talk about [my face oil] in the beauty world. I knew the right people,” says Rodin. “I gave it to them to just like it and try it. I wasn’t selling it. That’s where the underground part of it, the cult part of it, started. Slowly but steadily people I met would say, ‘Oh, my God. I just heard about you.’ I didn’t realize I was on so many people’s radar.”
Her nephew encouraged her to turn the oil into a business. And the business took off when an editor heard the buzz and featured Rodin in Domino magazine. As the saying goes, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Rodin says she fell into the fashion and beauty business. “I just instinctively followed this path without planning any of it. I do save money, I’m conscientious, I take care of myself very, very well, I enjoy my work, think it’s fun and I work hard,” says Rodin. “But if I’d thought, ‘I’m going to make this one little oil, expand it to 20 products, then a big corporation’s going to come by,’ I never would’ve done it. It’s too overwhelming. I feel very fortunate. It was serendipitous synchronicity. It all just came together somehow.”
Rodin thinks Estée Lauder is smart betting on her company because her baby boomer generation is “a huge demographic.”
“Older people with money to spend have been overlooked,” she says. “But also so many young people find me interesting. I think they like [that] I’m in the fashion business and I’m as old as their grandmother, but I’m cool. I like to dress creatively and originally and I think every age responds to that.”
Older women are having what promises to be more than just a fashion moment. Rodin mentions Joan Didion, 80, in Céline’s ad campaign and Joni Mitchell, 71, for Saint Laurent. There’s also Anjelica Huston, 64, for Gap; Catherine Deneuve, 71, for Louis Vuitton; Charlotte Rampling, 69, for Nars; and Jessica Lange, 66, for Marc Jacobs Beauty.
“Older women can be beautiful. They can sell a product. People can buy Céline sunglasses. They don’t have to buy Céline hot pants,” says Rodin. “You see beautiful old pictures of Cary Grant, nobody’s saying, ‘Well, he’s 80.’ Cary Grant was so gorgeous. It’s always been all right for older men to be seen that way, but now it’s OK for women too. It’s been the perfect storm for me. I don’t think I would’ve been successful if I was 30. I mean everybody looks good at 30.”
She adds, “Any cult needs a cult leader, and I feel like I’ve kind of led the cult of older women. There are others, like Iris Apfel [New York’s grande dame of fashion], but she’s three decades older than me. I have this brigade of people who really appreciate older women.”
“It’s such a gift to be appreciated and taken seriously for something that’s meaningful to people,” Rodin says. “It’s not just about the face oil. It’s just nice to feel good about yourself.”
Rodin Olio Lusso and 8 other cult beauty favorites
Linda Rodin gained fame and fortune wih her Rodin Olio Lusso ($170, oliolusso.com). Here’s some other cult favorites to try.
Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Radiant Touch ($42, sephora.com)
Nars Orgasm Blush ($30, narscosmetics.com)
Urban Decay Naked Palette ($54, sephora.com)
Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler ($20, shuuemura-usa.com)
Seche Vite Top Coat ($9.95, ulta.com)
Mason Pearson ‘Handy Mixture’ Nylon & Boar Bristle Hair Brush ($150, shop.nordstrom.com)
Beautyblender (19.95, sephora.com)
Bioderma Sensibio H2O MiCellar Water ($13.95, beautylish.com)