Sephora Accelerate Participant And Facial Oil Specialist Katini Skin Heightens Luxury Retail Presence

Katini Skin, a participant in Sephora’s Accelerate program this year, is growing its retail reach with launches at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

The brand, which is carried by Saks Fifth Avenue and Thirteen Lune as well, is grounded in oil-led products, a staple of founder Katini Yamaoka’s mother’s beauty regimen that she was encouraged to use growing up. Katina Skin’s assortment includes $95 Clarity Face Oil, $115 Collagen Facial Oil, $85 Celestial Night Serum, $75 Soleil Day Serum and its new $85 Signature Body Oil. Bestseller Clarity Oil won Byrdie and Cosmopolitan beauty awards in 2022, the year the brand made its debut.

Speaking of face oil, Yamaoka says, “I believe it’s something that anyone can use and incorporate into their already existing skincare routine.”

Black Progress Resources, an organization working to diversify executive ranks, incubated Katini Skin. It also incubated body care brand Cocoa by Cece. Yamaoka is on Black Progress Resources’ board, and the organization helped finance Katini Skin and bring it to market. In addition, the brand has closed a friends and family round and is in the process of pursuing seed round, according to Yamaoka. She declined to share how much funding the brand has secured and the target amount for its seed round.

On top of running Katini Skin, Yamaoka is an alternative R&B and pop singer and songwriter. She weaves cultural influences into her songs such as African drum patterns and lyrical references to Japan. When the pandemic caused the closures of music studies, she concentrated on Katini Skin. She says, “I see creativity, music, beauty, skincare as all healing, so it kind of falls into one big umbrella.”

Yamaoka was born in Japan, raised in Australia, spent time in West Africa and lives in New York. Her mother is Japanese and her father is Ghanaian. When all of her friends were using Clinique and Proactiv, Yamaoka, guided by her mom, favored plant-based face oils. Her mom taught her about the power of plants both in food and skincare. “I was taking mental note of all of these ingredients that are now in the Katini skin line,” she says.

Katini Skin founder Katini Yamaoka Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.

Informed by Yamaoka’s international experiences, Katini Skin’s ingredients include tsubaki from Japan, kakadu plum from Australia and baobab from West Africa. “I really absorbed so much culture and beauty and richness in each place and learned about all these beauty secrets that have stood the test of time that have been there for many, many years and continue to be there in the culture and that continue to work,” she says. “There’s so much beauty and power in natural ingredients that can really help heal our skin from the inside out.”

For Katini Skin, Yamaoka steered clear of packaging she describes as “hippie” or “crunchy.” The brand’s formulas are housed in minimal glass bottles with white labels and tops. “Being an artist myself, I always love to look at things that have thought behind it,” she says. “I wanted to create a luxury brand that can sit on the shelves alongside legacy brands and live there happily.” 

Yamaoka compares being accepted into the Sephora Accelerate program to being invited to the Grammys of beauty. Referring to Sephora, she says, “For a lot of beauty founders, it’s the North Star. It’s always been on my vision board..Of course, I’m ecstatic about the opportunity to launch at Sephora. That’s just something that I can’t wait for, but I’m taking in every step as it comes.”

Katini Skin’s body oil launched late last year. Yamaoka plans to keep the brand’s forthcoming launches in the body/skincare category.

For now, Yamaoka is focused on building Katini’s direct-to-consumer distribution and fostering the brand’s partnerships with Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. In-store events are on the docket.

“With luxury brands, it takes years and years to gain trust with your customer,” says Yamaoka. “With these events, I’m able to educate people on these really unique ingredients that we’ve pulled from around the world and why we do need a facial oil in our skincare routine.”

International expansion is on Katini Skin’s long-term roadmap. “We do have a lot of global ingredients and I want to make sure that we’re available outside the United States,” says Yamaoka. “Going international is definitely something that is on our path.”