This Skincare Line Founder Shares How She Stays Innovative After 35 Years In The Business


Skincare is having a moment. The industry that’s poised to reach $177 billion by 2024 is growing exponentially and shows no signs of slowing down. But in a world where we’re inundated with product after product on social media, we wondered: How is it possible to stand out among millions of other products that promise to tone, tighten, and brighten better than the next? We sat down with Sandie Tillotson, who cofounded skincare company Nu Skin more than three decades ago, to find out.

How did you originally envision your career? Did you always want to work in beauty?

As a young girl, I wanted to be a teacher. I went on to receive a degree in physical science and a teaching certificate from Brigham Young University. I was married with two small children and had been substitute teaching elementary school classes when I was approached by my mother-in-law. She had used a product she loved that helped her lose a lot of weight and asked me to help her sell it through a direct sales channel. It was at this time that I discovered my entrepreneurial spirit, and I experienced tremendous success as a distributor for that company. Unfortunately, the company later filed for bankruptcy, and I was suddenly unemployed.

But I knew the power of direct selling and believed that skin care was a perfect fit for direct sales. At the time, skin care products on the market were loaded with mineral oils and other harmful ingredients and fillers, and our little group of founders set out to create a new line of products with all of the good ingredients and none of the bad. We created a list of innovative ingredients and hired a formulation expert to create products using only beneficial ingredients. Many told us that it would be too expensive and that we would not be successful, but people loved our products, and we’re still going strong nearly 35 years later.

What was the moment you learned the beauty industry was the right fit for you?

I knew we had something special the day we ran out of product bottles. In the early days, our product came from the manufacturer in bulk, and we packaged it ourselves. It was so effective, it became difficult to keep up with the demand. While we waited for our next bottle order to arrive, our customers started bringing their own containers so they could get our fabulous products without delay. They brought whatever they had—baby food jars, plastic packages, whatever worked—and we carefully measured out product into those containers so we could meet their needs. We knew we were onto something exciting.

Your biography mentions that you’ve done a lot of philanthropic work. What have these efforts taught you as a business owner and leader?

I believe that not only are we the happiest in life, but we are also at our best, when we are “motivated by love.” Great things happen when we are focused on helping others rather than making money. Together, my business partners and I embraced this philosophy, and we infused it throughout the company we created. We wanted to help others be successful professionally so that they could use that success to help improve the lives of others around them. Helping others makes the work we do and the success we find that much more fun and rewarding.

One of the things we did early on was establish the Nu Skin Force for Good Foundation – with Nu Skin covering all the operating costs of the Foundation. This was important to us because when someone donates, they know that 100 percent of their donation is going to help improve the lives of children around the world.   

What are some key characteristics in your opinion that make female business owners successful?

I believe we each have our own talents and gifts that we bring to everything we do. It is up to us to discover what our strengths are, and then to use them to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. When I became a mother, I learned how important it was to nurture and care for others. I found that for me, loving others and giving of myself without expecting return – in my home and in my professional interactions – was the best way I could care for others. At the same time, we need to know when to separate emotions from business decisions. Do not take things that happen in business personally, but learn how to separate and handle them without letting it affect you emotionally.

What’s the key to maintaining relevance and encouraging growth after so many years in business?

At Nu Skin, creation and innovation are central to everything we do. We do not rest on yesterday’s successes, but instead look to the future and what we can offer next. In fact, in our last earnings release, we reported our fourth consecutive quarter with revenue growth of 20 percent or more. How many 35-year-old, multi-billion dollar companies can say that? This is a tribute to the great team of people we have – both our employees and teams – who are connected by a common cause of being a force for good in the world and together have created a great environment for both company and individual growth and development.

What makes Nu Skin stand out from its competitors in a crowded space?

While we have developed products that are proven to work and that people love, our real differentiator is our culture of empowering people to improve lives. Over the past 35 years we have built a worldwide sales force who are successfully sharing our products and opportunity through social media. This “force for good” philosophy, coupled with our dedication to helping people to discover their best selves, are what make us unique.

Just yesterday, I received a video message from a woman who through tears shared how grateful she was that she wouldn’t have to work this Christmas and could enjoy the time with her family. Nu Skin not only allows her to set her own schedule, but through her Nu Skin business she has been able to purchase food and gifts to share with others this Christmas. She was thanking me, but I reminded her that she was the one who did this for herself and her family through her sharing and caring for others.  

With an emphasis on all things digital, how has the company structure changed in recent years?

The digital age has made it possible for people to get the word out about our products faster, easier and to more people than ever before. Technology helps our sales leaders be more efficient and successful but doesn’t take the place of a personal connection. People use our products and join our global family because of personal relationships and recommendations based on trust. And at the end of the day, every person wants to know that you care for and are there for them.

Where do you see the beauty industry heading in the future?

As is the case with almost any industry right now, the beauty industry is changing rapidly. Right now, we are seeing a huge demand for in-home beauty devices that deliver spa-like results. Technology is enabling people to understand their unique skin care needs and discover more personalized regimens. Innovation is always on our minds, and we are constantly improving our products and looking for additional products our customers want and need.  As science discovers new ingredients and technology offers us new products to share, we will embrace those innovations and develop new strategies to share with our Nu Skin family.

You’re known for creating a unique global marketing plan. Any tips or insights you can share with our readers who are looking for ways to market their businesses internationally?

Even as we were just starting our business, we had the hope of expanding globally—we even named our new business Nu Skin International to reflect that thinking. The first market we expanded to was Canada, and even with the proximity and similarities to the United States, we needed to work with a different currency and label our products in two languages. Fast forward to today and we have expanded to nearly 50 markets.

Our goal in each new market has been to establish a reputation as a solid corporate citizen and industry leader. We do this by working closely with local government officials and building trust with our sales leaders and customers by keeping our promises. It is this trust that allows us to grow and continue to be successful.

Along the way, we have made mistakes and learned valuable lessons. One of the most important questions we would always ask ourselves, and still do, before expanding into any market is whether we have the cash and other resources necessary to properly support the market. If we don’t, we don’t open the market until we are ready.

How do you stay current and up-to-date on the latest trends in the business world?

I’m both a businesswoman and a person who loves to learn.  As I’m traveling the world, I constantly look at countries, cultures and customers through the lens of a business owner.  Everywhere I go, I search for trends and product ideas that will delight and improve the lives of our customers. I also get invaluable advice from my children, grandchildren and our global family of leaders who keep me in touch with current health, beauty and social media trends. What would we do without our amazing millennials?

It’s Monday morning and your schedule for the day is packed. What are the first things you do to prepare for the day?

My day always begins with a Facial Spa treatment to wake up my skin. It feels incredible! I follow that with a shower where I use my LumiSpa, Liquid Body Bar and, depending on time, some of our other great Nu Skin shower products. After breakfast I take my LifePak and other daily Pharmanex supplements I love. The other day, I counted the number of Nu Skin products I use before I walk out the door every day and got to 40. I guess you could say that I’m a “product of the product!”

What is one skincare product you can’t live without?

When the airlines lost my luggage for three days, I missed everything! But I learned that my health and beauty “must haves,” were Pharmanex LifePak vitamin supplements, Nu Skin 180 Face Wash and our ageLOC Tru Face Essence Ultra moisturizer. Lucky for me, I was attending a Nu Skin event and plenty of people were there who were motivated by love to share their supply with me!

What’s your go-to song to sing in the shower?

I’m not much of a shower singer, but anyone who knows me will tell you I absolutely love music. I listen to and enjoy all genres of great music and have an extensive collection of playlists. One of my favorites is a playlist I’ve been compiling of songs that empower women. When I listen to these songs, I’m inspired to believe in myself and do my very best in everything I do. Here’s the link.

Enjoy, and feel the power you have to change your life and change the world!