Mary Beth Laughton has had one B-plus her entire life. “I was always a good student — very hard-working, very focused, serious, and ambitious,” explains Sephora’s executive vice-president of Omni-Retail. “I remember my parents would say, ‘Mary Beth, it’s okay to get a B every once in a while.’ But it’s just how I’m wired.”
And then there is her athletic prowess. She grew up competing in tennis and softball, and was a champion basketball free thrower all through high school. She aimed that laser focus toward becoming a sportscaster from the time she could hold a basketball.
“Hannah Storm was on the NBA Countdown TV show, and this being the early ’90s, the Chicago Bulls were a big deal back then,” explains Laughton, a Chicago native. “I thought that would be the coolest profession.”
That is, until Career Day in seventh grade. “A woman from Arthur Anderson spoke to our history class about the idea of business, and how it’s about solving problems and growing things — two things I love to do. From that moment on, I wanted to be in business. I didn’t really know what that meant, but it stuck with me.”
She went on to Harvard Business School. Her career began at McKinsey & Company, where, as a business analyst, one of her projects was for an internet start-up, while another was a retail project with a major department store chain.
Ten years at Nike followed, with positions in strategy, merchandising, and e-commerce, then in 2012, she joined Sephora. Since her arrival, the beauty giant’s online sales have tripled.
“The consumer is on her mobile device at every moment, and she expects a seamless experience, no matter where she is,” says Laughton. “It’s a challenge to not only keep up with her, but stay one step ahead of her while also keeping it easy and fun. Her mobile device is the glue between all of those experiences.”
Laughton spoke with the Cut about Sephora’s latest initiative, being okay with having no kitchen skills, and the color that looks good on everyone.
Bath or shower? Shower, but if I have some time to indulge, a bath is always a nice way to relax and read a book. Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme Body and Hair Shower Gel is always in there.
Shampoo/conditioner of choice: Our hair-care team convinced me to try the Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo and Olaplex No. 5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner. Per usual, they know their stuff. The shampoo helps to make my hair stronger, while the conditioner leaves my hair shiny and no frizz or flyaways, which is pretty amazing in San Francisco weather.
Most relied on hairstyling product and/or tool: The Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer has been a game changer. It has cut my drying time in half.
Body lotion of choice:
Kiehl’s Crème de Corps or L’Occitane Almond Smoothing and Beautifying Supple Skin Oil. It smells incredible — I get so many compliments when I wear it!
Scent of choice: I like to change with the seasons, but currently it’s By Kilian Kissing Eau de Parfum.
Favorite scented candle: Jo Malone London Peony & Blush Suede.
What, if anything, is usually on your lips? Charlotte Tilbury’s Matte Revolution Lipstick in Bond Girl.
What shade, if any, is usually on your toes and/or hands? During the holidays I like a deep burgundy nail. Marc Jacobs Beauty Enamored Hi-Shine Nail Polish in Jezebel.
What beauty look do you struggle with achieving? I love the way a smokey eye looks, but it definitely takes a lot of practice!
What beauty look do you just not get? Let’s just say I’m glad a full, healthy brow is back.
What look do you wish more people tried? I always think it could make such a big difference if people were open to wearing lip color. A bold lip can be so gorgeous without a ton of makeup everywhere else. I also don’t think people realize having the right ingredients in their skin-care routine will help their makeup go on better and look better.
What was your first beauty product obsession? Blush was my first obsession. I loved how it made me feel, but looking back I think I used too much and didn’t realize it.
Purse (or tote or daily carryall) brand and style: Fendi Shopper in gray.
Work shoe of choice: Stuart Weitzman pumps.
Casual shoe of choice: Nike Cortez.
Rain boot of choice: Hunter Huntress.
Workout shoe of choice: Nike Zoom Pegasus.
What do you have too many of? Coats. My husband can’t believe I always think I need more.
What is your classic uniform? Black pants, black or burgundy blouse or sweater with detail, heels, and earrings.
What is your classic weekend uniform? Workout leggings (I just discovered the brand Alo and love them) and a sporty jacket or sweatshirt.
What was your first fashion obsession? I remember brown leather jackets were in style when I was growing up in the ’80s. I wanted one so badly but remember thinking I didn’t get one until way too late.
What do you splurge on? The occasional designer purse; I justify it by telling myself I will get a lot of use out of them.
Bed linens of choice: Frette.
Towel brand of choice: Coyuchi.
Toilet paper roll go over or under? Despite others in my house, it’s always over.
Favorite sweet: Peanut M&Ms.
Childhood cereal: Chex.
Grown-up breakfast: Avocado toast with egg.
Any random childhood claims to fame? I won the Future Problem Solvers state competition in middle school. I’m a nerd at heart.
Favorite outdoor activity: Hiking in nature.
Last great book you read? Daring Greatly by Brene Browne.
Last great film you saw: A Star Is Born.
Cold cure: Ginger Fireball from the Juice Press.
Headache cure: Advil and a lot of water.
Favorite smell? Fresh laundry.
Least favorite smell? The California wildfires, knowing that others are at risk, running or fighting the flames.
What do you think Pantone’s color of 2019 should have been?
I’m loving wine-colored things right now. I just think it’s a beautiful color and maybe because we’re getting into the holiday season. I think it’s a color that looks good on everyone. I find it rich but also comforting.
Most used item in your kitchen, appliance or otherwise:
None. I don’t cook at all and I’ve learned to not feel guilty about it.
What item stresses you out if you’re running low on it? Blueberries. I try to eat them everyday.
What would you still like to invent? Suntan lotion in a pill (that works).
Where are you usually when the best ideas come to you?
During my runs, when I let my mind run free.
What are you working on mastering? Doing “just enough” (as defined by me) across different parts of my life to make the whole picture work.
Comfort music: Ed Sheeran — I’ve been to four of his concerts.
Most recently binged TV show: Homeland.
What beauty trends are you currently loving? I love how consumers are starting to think about beauty more holistically. In terms of wellness, they’re focusing on healthy things that they can ingest that not only have an impact on how they look, but also how they feel. It’s not just about pretty makeup but also how you feel inside, which then shows up on the outside.
Yes, this is cruel, but what is your favorite product in your domain? Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream. She wasn’t joking with that name; it really does make your skin glow.
What do you foresee as the top beauty trends in 2019? We are constantly seeing new innovation in product sustainability and ingredient formulation, which is an exciting area for beauty. In response to client demand for more transparency and help with product options, we launched “Clean at Sephora” our product selection formulated without certain ingredients. We launched with over 2,000 products and 50 brands — which will be growing rapidly next year.
If you won the Power Ball tomorrow, what are the first five things you would do? (After, of course, donating the majority of it to your top charities …) Treat my family to a nice vacation, go on a shopping spree (focused on clothes, accessories and beauty), reevaluate how I’d want to spend my time, talk with my family about our future plans and dreams, and figure out an investment strategy.