How Smith + Cult's Dineh Mohajer Transformed the Cosmetics Industry and Keeps Her Cool

By Farrah Shaikh |
Smith & Cult, Dineh Mohajer, Enterprising Women

© Smith & Cult

What started out as a side project while in premed ended up transforming the cosmetic industry.

Dineh Mohajer created Hard Candy, the nail polish that every teenage girl wore in the 90’s, at the age of 21. Before Hard Candy nail polish colors weren't exactly fun. The standard Revlon red did the trick but a bright blue or sparkly green was no where to be found. While in premed, Dineh would procrastinate doing homework by mixing nail polish colors together as a distraction from hydrocarbon chains. People began to notice the colors she was wearing and stop to ask where she bought it. She mixed together a few custom creations and sold the bottles to Los Angeles-based Fred Segal. The polishes were so popular, she couldn’t keep up with demand. She would work all night mixing colors, bring Fred Segal 150 bottles in the morning only to receive a call an hour later asking for more. Neiman Marcus soon took notice and pushed her polishes into full distribution. Features in Vogue and Elle escalated sales so much that three years later the brand was bought by LVMH.

After Hard Candy, she took three years off and then launched beauty brand Goldie as part of Limited Brands which, again, after 3 years made $35 million. After such successful sales, Mohajer wanted to create a brand that was inspired her addiction to beauty. Smith + Cult, which has a vibrant line of lip and nail products, has a dichotomous theme woven through out its packaging and branding, with a sleek gold finish topped with cap’s with intentional surface dents. The brand’s nail lacquer is an 8-free formula, meaning that it is free from harsh chemicals like dibutyl, phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde and the lip line is vegan and gluten and paraben free.

Mohajer has her hands in every aspect of the company as the head of creative, from design and formulation to marketing. We asked the beauty maven how she finds balance in her life.

What’s your personal style?
While I have a closet stuffed with both designer and vintage dresses, my day-to-day personal style usually boils down to: black, black, and some more black. Retail therapy actually releases far more endorphins than therapy therapy. Currently, my M + A leather accordion bag, Ulla Johnson black silk spaghetti strap dress and vintage old-world riding boots are my go-to pieces when I want to look and feel pulled together. Otherwise, I live in sweats at the office, which is very accessibly two rooms away from my bedroom.

What beauty products do you swear by?
I definitely have my basic must-have everyday makeup that are essentials for me: Serge Lutens lip pencil, By Terry bronze powder, By Terry waterproof eye pencil and Cle de Peau concealer. As far as skincare goes, I feel like I’ve experimented with every product out there, but all the trial and error has led to this precise skincare regimen: In the AM, La Prairie Essential Exfoliator, Kate Somerville Purify Clarifying Cleanser, SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum, 20% glycolic acid cream (from my dermatologist), Vitamin c topical cream (also from my dermatologist), SkinMedica’s Dermal Repair Cream and their Illuminating eye cream. Lastly, La Roche Posay’s Anthelios Tinted Crème with SPF. At night, I add replace the glycolic acid cream with a prescription blend of .1 % Retinoids to the mix. It is intense but these miracle workers battle to keep my skin youthful and healthy.

Any must-have budget beauty buys?
I have been using Cetaphil since what feels like the beginning of time. My dermatologist recommended it as a really effective hydrator for my sometimes dry skin. It’s also gentle enough to pair with my other beauty products.

What is your cocktail of choice at the moment?
I don’t really drink so for me it would be a tie between a smoothie from Earth Bar or a smoothie made by husband in our Vitamix. He sneaks in weird healthy ingredients like Maca, which is great because I just want to ingest macaroni and cheese all day.

What is a typical food day?
Well, I have two types of typical food days. The first, which is infinitely more fun, is all about eating with stress-induced reckless abandon, Salt. Carbs. Cheese. Fried. Probably pasta. Heart attack inducing, artery clogging goodness, nothing fits me - you get the idea. The second type of food day, which is actually somewhat healthy, is pretty boring. It’s mostly consists of smoothies, vegetable based soups, salads and maybe some takeout in the mix. I vacillate between both extremes.

When the stress seems overwhelming, how do you calm down and relax?
Therapeutic deep tissue massage is incredible. And I get a lot of rest and sleep. I love laying in bed, watching tv, drinking tea or hot water with lemon. My doctor told me to do yoga, but ;I still haven’t taken their advice. Also, to get rid of that excess frustration, I get in a good cry. I read somewhere that there are natural painkillers in ears, whether that is true or not, sometimes you just need a good cry.  


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