If you could only bring a handful of beauty products to a desert island, what would they be? That answer is what DIBS was founded on. The acronym stands for “desert island beauty status” and the brand truly lives up to its name by focusing on user-friendly makeup that’s clean and ethical without sacrificing color payoff, texture or efficacy.
Take their latest launch, DIBS GlowTour After Dark Contour & Glow Duo, for example. The stick format features a shimmering blush at one end and a contour at the other. Designed to blend effortlessly, it’s spiked with hydrating shea butter, plumping sodium hyaluronate and antioxidant-loaded vitamin E to nourish skin. It’s available in four shades: Aura, a PH Glow / Dewy Highlighter; Venus, a Raspberry Glow / Rich Cocoa Brown Contour; Starlit; a Peachy Coral Glow / Medium Cool Beige Brown Contour; and limited-edition Weekdays, a Cool Pink Glow / Warm Neutral Brown Contour.
“When I wanted that shimmery looking blush, I used to take the Status Stick and then I would take the OG Duet blush, and mix them on the back of my hand and blend them together,” says Courtney Shields, DIBS Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer. “Then I thought, why don’t we just do that in a blush? It was this idea to create something that I was already creating it in my own life, but I wanted to package it for people. But I knew if we were going to do that, then it needs to be balanced out in the bronzer side. They still had to be super creamy, not drying at all. They’re cooler tones, and it’s a bit more matte to balance out the shimmer that you get on the other side. Jeff always talks about wanting this glossy balm for the face, and Aura is so pretty, it’s so universal.”
Jeff Lee, DIBS Co-Founder and CEO, adds that Aura is practically a custom hue “because the color changes depending on your own pH,” he says. “It’s one of the top two most requested items already. On its first day since we announced it, it got a 10,000-person waitlist.”
Essentially, their smash hit, Desert Island Duo, got a sultry makeover, adding shimmer to the OG. But DIBS didn’t just throw in a new finish to the original. To nail the formula, they completely started from scratch. Due to the nature of the shimmery creams and infusion of mica, GlowTour After Dark Contour & Glow Duo required a different pigment load from Desert Island Duo. They also used different actives in the skin-loving ingredients. Every product is the result of plenty of back and forth with the cosmetic chemists and formulators to find the sweet spot. “It’s such a fun, collaborative process, but it was a labor of love,” Shields says.
As an OG influencer who has been in the beauty world for a decade, being a content creator enabled Shields to try practically every beauty product out there. She had formed strong relationships with brands and companies over the years, which eventually led to a collaboration with Tula, marking the first time she was able to put her name on a product. “I wanted it to feel organic and right because I knew that at some point in my life, I was going do something like this, so I wanted to get the experience of it inside and out—it was important to me to get in the nitty gritty of it,” she says.
That gave Shields the product making bug. Colleagues introduced her to Lee and the two instantly hit it off. It took a year to launch DIBS and now they’ve been up and running for two years. “Jeff was the perfect person for the job,” Shields says. “He’s definitely a product first CEO, I’m a business first chief creative, and the rest is history. Now we’re here, and my goal has always been to create something that far supersedes me. I want DIBS to be—and I think it already is—just a brand rather than a creator-influencer brand.”
Lee is a corporate lawyer by training and dedicated his formative years to working on Wall Street, but he also has spent years as a beauty pageant consultant and coach. “Through that I became familiar with makeup and how it can be used to help women achieve their best,” he says. “I love beauty and love the way that people can transform themselves very quickly or in some cases with a flick of a wrist.”
Their unique perspectives and experiences in the beauty industry has shaped their philosophy, which shines through in DIBS. “We’re in a very interesting phase in society’s relationship to beauty,” Lee says. “It’s become a very loaded word. We’re not afraid to say that we are a beauty company; we sell makeup for people who want to look better and who want to feel better. One of the things that’s been challenging for everyone, especially younger people who are bombarded with a new set of pressures, is how do you look at beauty and not have it be a feeling of oppression? It starts from understanding that the pursuit of beauty is innate to us. We’re biologically hardwired to it. In the archaeological record, makeup is one of the oldest things that was found in ancient Egypt; it is one of the first things that humans created for men and women. Are you making it accessible, inspiring to people and not intimidating? That’s the magic of what we do with DIBS in many ways.”
Shields and Lee hit it off because they shared a vision to create a solution-oriented makeup brand. “Courtney had very clear, identifiable problems that customers face, like how do you pair a blush and a bronzer? How do you make face and body makeup in a format that isn’t messy? The very specificity of what we’re addressing was key and that convinced me that she had what it took to be a great partner, and we’ve discovered each other’s strengths along the way.”
Every single DIBS launch is carefully considered, since they have multiple uses. Another way they set themselves apart is by offering clean formulations without sacrificing anything else. “So many brands were divided,” Shields says. “If you had a brand that was clean, a lot of them weren’t exciting. It wasn’t super pretty. I didn’t feel like I was experiencing it with all my senses, which is what I love to do with beauty. I didn’t feel like anyone had married the two concepts of being clean and easy to use, you can’t mess up uncomplicated color combinations, that you can travel with. You don’t need a master class to use these things. For me, that was what was missing.”
DIBS GlowTour After Dark Contour & Glow Duo is a cinch to apply. Shields recommends a simple visual to nail the process. She imagines a Neapolitan ice cream: Start with the darkest color, the bronzer, at the bottom, drawing a stripe from the bottom of the ear across the face. Next comes the middle hue, the blush, and finally the lightest on top, the highlighter. Then, blend them all together. Either your fingers or a brush will get the job done, but they recommend their Duo Brush 15. “It is a game changer because it is like a magic wand,” Shields says. “We wanted to give you everything in one in one swoop.” The dual-ended brush has one side for cream and the other for powder, so the two don’t mix for optimum application, which is why it remains one of their top sellers.
Another differentiator for the brand is their geographical positioning. “We’ve been a 50-state brand since launch,” Lee says. “We’re proudly Austin headquartered and our events where we touch our customers happen between the coasts in many ways—Indiana, Nashville, Cleveland, Phoenix. We’re always being told ‘wow, you’re the first brand of any that’s done an activation and met the customers here.’ Being in all 50 states and territories outside of the continental US has been key to our DNA, and also hearing from customers across the country what they want.”
Making those connections is what DIBS is all about. “To be honest, at the risk of sounding cheesy, DIBS is infused with a lot of heart,” Shields says. “Everything that we do is layered with a lot of intention. We launched on my dad’s birthday; my dad passed away five years ago. There’s lots of things like that, that are behind the scenes that people maybe don’t know about, but they add a lot of heart and magic to the brand.”