In 2012, Westchester resident Jill Scalisi launched Scalisi Skincare, a line of four products with combined SPF and anti-aging properties. Sold locally at Skin N.Y. Westchester in Rye and Devra Bader Skin Care and Beauty Spa in Scarsdale, Scalisi’s line has gained approval and accolades from doctors, models, and everyday consumers alike; all while holding its own niche in the beauty/skincare industry. Recently, it won the 2015 CEW Insiders’ Choice Beauty Award and is now sold on QVC.
But Scalisi wasn’t always a top-player in the skincare industry. Scalisi “grew up on Wall Street,” she says, graduating from Georgetown in 1990 and going directly into investment banking, sales, and trading with JP Morgan Chase, where she worked for 20 years. In 2010, she moved to Lehman Brothers, where she worked in structured credit and financial engineering, with “some of the most brilliant minds on Wall Street.” Selling hedge funds, she always found herself to be challenged mentally.
When Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008, it marked a turning point for Scalisi. “I call it  the really, really bad summer,” Scalisi said. “I lost my job in the most difficult time of the market.”
It got worse when she received a diagnosis from her doctor.
“’Oh, and by the way,’” Scalisi said, as if mimicking him, “’you have skin cancer.’”
Devastated, Scalisi comforted herself by thinking that all things happen for a reason. She just needed to figure out the reason behind this situation. It would become apparent quickly. After going through cancer treatments, Scalisi was told she needed to wear an SPF 30 daily, but found no product that satisfied her and combined sun protection with an anti-aging formula. Her friend suggested she should make a product. If anyone could do it, the friend said, it would be her.
“I thought I was solving the consumer problem of helping to avoid skin cancer,” Scalisi said. But she also realized that “90 percent of what you attribute to the natural aging process comes from the sun.”
Soon enough, Scalisi’s “pity party” turned into three years of research and development with top chemists in the industry. Scalisi Skincare would be a science-based line, and the products would contain no retinol (appealing to pregnant and nursing women), no parabens, and no animal ingredients. And, the products would look and smell beautiful too—something products with similar formulas failed to do.
Scalisi Skincare product line
Scalisi continued to work in investment banking while her products were being launched; she credits the product line to “blood, sweat, and tears.” Launched in March of 2012, Scalisi’s new line contained four products rooted in top science: a daytime moisturizer ($65 for a two- to three-month supply); eye cream (to reduce puffiness, fine lines, and wrinkles); advanced wrinkle cream (a thicker, richer night cream with peptides for anti-aging); and cleanser/exfoliator (with time-release vitamins A, C, and E). The science of the products is based on wound-heal technology, Scalisi says: peptides convince the brain that the wrinkle is a cut, and this produces collagen to fill it. According to studies, the products have been proven to yield a 45 percent reduction of wrinkles in just three weeks.
“The hardest part was getting the texture right for the SPF 30,” Scalisi said. “It’s both an art and science,”
Scalisi consistently uses “we” instead of “I” to refer to her business, in reference to the group of individuals who have worked with her along the way. There were “so many great people” in the business, she said, who provided her with expertise and acted as cheerleaders through the challenges of launching a business. She recalls shaking the white-gloved hands of every factory worker on the day her little purple bottles were first seen going down the assembly line.
“It was one of the best days of my life,” she recalled.
Since its launch, Scalisi Skincare has been featured in New York Life, Vogue, Elle, Allure, NewBeauty, Life and Style, and on the TV show The Doctors.
“Birch Box was our first retailer,” Scalisi said. “We really love our relationship with them, and it’s helpful in getting our product out.”
Since Birch Box recently expanded into Canada, Scalisi’s line will be distributed there as well. She is also looking to acquire investment and strategic partners in the future, perhaps expanding to India and Mexico. Her primary focus, however, is to build US distribution. Scalisi is currently working on getting her products into major US department stores.
Scalisi Skincare also sells online at www.scalisiskincare.com and on Amazon. The line is used at various spas, which Scalisi says is a great way to get customers talking about the product. “With consumers of skincare products, it’s important that they try it first, get to experience it, and then spread the word about it,” she said.
The microemulsion properties of Scalisi’s products are currently going through the trademark process, and Scalisi is always looking for ways and ideas to develop a new product. The newest SPF anti-aging lip balm recently sold out on the website, she said.
Scalisi has faced her fair share of production challenges along the way, including bottles being delivered to New Orleans instead of New York and delivered so big that they didn’t fit on the production line. The “fun parts” make up for this, she said.
“Product development is the coolest part of my job,” Scalisi said. “Actually being able to make the stuff.”
Scalisi, like many entrepreneurs who make it big, never dreamed her line would bring her so much success and praise.
“This was my little thing on the side,” she said.
She especially likes receiving phone calls from individuals who love her products and want to sell them in their stores, or comments from celebrity makeup artists (for example, Jennifer Aniston’s) who can’t get enough of Scalisi Skincare.
“Think about the number of skincare lines that can say the following,” Scalisi said, “doctors (dermatologists, OB/GYNs), aestheticians, spa owners, celebrity makeup artists, and models all approve and love our products.”