How Beautycounter’s New CCO is Using Amazon Learnings to Scale the Brand

Beautycounter's new CCO is bringing Amazon learnings to scale the DTC skincare brand.

Kara Trousdale was the woman to know during the pandemic — she managed the consumables supply chain business at Amazon at the height of COVID, meaning she had the keys to the kingdom when it came to paper towels, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and all those humble essentials that were in such short supply. She very diplomatically described it as “a wild ride.”

Kara Trousdale, Chief Commercial Officer, Beautycounter
Kara Trousdale, Chief Commercial Officer, Beautycounter

“I definitely learned a lot,” Trousdale said in an interview with Retail Touchpoints. “I hadn’t done supply chain before I had that job, so that was a crash course.”

After eight years at Amazon — during which time she not only managed the pandemic-stressed toilet paper business but also helped launch the ecommerce giant’s professional and luxury beauty segment and served as Chief Marketing Officer for Amazon Fashion — Trousdale has taken on a new challenge. In March 2022, she joined DTC clean beauty brand Beautycounter as Chief Commercial Officer.

Since it was launched in 2013, Beautycounter has been on a tear. Its clean beauty principles have found an eager following among consumers, and in April 2021 The Carlyle Group, one of the largest private-equity funds in the world, acquired a majority stake in the brand in a transaction that valued the company at $1 billion.


The brand and its founder Gregg Renfrew have also become known for their advocacy work, pushing for policy change at the state and federal levels to better protect consumers. To date, Beautycounter’s efforts have resulted in the passage of more than 10 pieces of legislation, with nine more in the works.

As beauty and skincare spending ramps back up after a pandemic slump, Beautycounter is primed and ready for action. The brand has built an omnichannel selling network that includes:

  • Its DTC website;
  • Retail stores, including one in LA that features a livestreaming studio in the back; and
  • Tens of thousands of “brand advocates” that sell the brand through their own social and personal networks.

“I ended up at Beautycounter because I was looking for a company that was at a turning point, where it had seen a lot of success but still had a lot of opportunity to grow,” said Trousdale. “[Beautycounter is a place] where I felt I could use my Amazon skill set of scaling businesses to help take it to the next level.”

Trousdale sat down with Retail Touchpoints to discuss how she plans to do that:

Retail TouchPoints: Can you give us a peek into where the business is going from here?

Kara Trousdale: Beautycounter has always been the pioneer of clean and it still is because of our holistic approach to clean. That means not just clean, safe ingredients — we have a comprehensive list of 1,800 ingredients that we exclude from our products, and we test our ingredients against 23 health and environmental endpoints to make sure that our products are safe to use. But we also have a robust responsible sourcing program, and we’re focused on sustainability. So for example we have a goal that all of our packaging will be either recyclable, refillable or compostable by 2025, and we’re about 60% of the way there now.

The other thing about Beautycounter is we have really strict performance standards for our products. I actually started using Beautycounter as a customer in 2017, and the reason was because it performed and it was safe. Those are two things that I don’t think are ever going to go away — consumers aren’t going to wake up and say they want lower-performing or less-safe products. So my job, as I view it, is to continue to make sure that those core customer needs are met, that we continue to raise the bar in those areas and that we make sure that the brand is where customers expect to shop it.

Our mission is to get safer products in the hands of everyone, and we do that through not only our own brand, but through the advocacy work that our founder Gregg Renfrow started. The U.S. has not passed any major law around beauty and personal care products since 1938. That means there’s no real set of standards or requirements in the beauty and personal care products space. So, for example, the FDA doesn’t require basic safety testing before a product goes into the market. Our hope is that by setting the example of how you can make safe, high-performing products we are also helping to raise the bar in the industry. It’s a big reason why I joined, and certainly a really important part of the brand.

RTP: Where are you selling today, and what kind of expansion plans do you have?

Trousdale: We have a direct-sales model right now that includes our own retail stores and a handful of other retail partnerships. But that’s something we’re evaluating right now — where do our customers want to find us?

Also, anyone can sign up to be a “brand advocate” through our website. There’s a small fee, but it doesn’t require you to build teams, it doesn’t require you to purchase product — you are selling Beautycounter product that customers then purchase on our website. It works very similarly to an affiliate model where advocates get compensated for recommending or selling a product online.

Our existing direct-sales model has been really effective to grow the brand, and I think it will continue to be a huge part of the business because of how safe our products are, the sustainability, the responsible sourcing, our advocacy work — these are all things that really matter to customers, but also require a bit of education. It’s more difficult to communicate in a retail shop. Our direct-selling model has been so impactful because of that person-to-person education. I think that could be communicated in an in-store experience, but it’s about, how do we get creative, and how does that store experience evolve to communicate those value propositions to customers?

Customers are demanding a lot more — it’s not just about beautiful packaging, it’s not just about performance. It’s about what the brand stands for, what are its values and does that resonate with me? That’s a lot to communicate if you don’t have someone to interact with and tell you about it. Part of my work is also figuring out how we get that message across to customers in different channels.

RTP: What do you plan to bring from your time at Amazon to Beautycounter, practical or philosophical?

Trousdale: From a philosophical standpoint — well, it’s also practical — you start with the customer and work backwards. That’s the tried-and-true Amazon approach and I think it works across a number of businesses; it certainly works here at Beautycounter. From a more tangible, practical standpoint, I learned at Amazon how to run a business efficiently, how to instill best-in-class processes and operational excellence, and Beautycounter is ready for some of those things to really scale the business.

RTP: Have you seen a change in the way consumers are shopping beauty over the last couple of years?

Trousdale: Customers are so much more educated now and it takes multiple touch points before they purchase a brand. I think you see less [consumer] investment in just going into a store and buying a brand they’ve never heard of. Instead, they’ve seen it on social media, they’ve heard about it from a friend or they’ve heard about it from someone else in their broader circle. Brands have to be, really, everywhere. The one thing that hasn’t changed is people still trust person-to-person recommendations from people they look up to or trust, whether it’s a family member, a friend or an influencer.

We’re set up really well for that at Beautycounter because of our direct-selling model. The folks that sell Beautycounter truly are brand advocates, and growing our brand advocate base [is a priority] because that is probably one of the most powerful word-of-mouth channels and it’s already well-established here.

RTP: How are you preparing for the holiday season this year given the challenges of the last few years?

Trousdale: There was certainly an extra layer of planning, an extra layer of due diligence that’s already baked in and gone into effect. The other thing is just realizing that we’re seeing consumers be a bit pickier with how they spend their dollars. I think there’s still an appetite to spend and there’s appetite for really good products. It’s just making sure that we communicate our value proposition in a really effective way to customers.

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