You would think we’d be immune to the famous-founder story at this point in its saturation. Yet I was still surprised to receive Twentynine Palms, an 11-piece range of gender-neutral skin care, body care, and hair care products from Jared Leto. I had questions. “Twentynine Palms, like the town at the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park?” (Yes.) And, “Is this eye cream actually $97?” (Also yes.)
“I know I’m a student here, but I think that’s the best place to be,” Leto says of his entry into a very crowded space when I interrupt his vacation in Tuscany via FaceTime in late August. Swatting away mosquitoes in a wide-brimmed sun hat, the Oscar-winning actor, Gucci muse, and Thirty Seconds to Mars frontman is sporting a scruffy beard and a loose dressing gown, chiseled chest on view. But it’s his skin that draws the eye: At 50, Leto has the porcelain-smooth complexion of a Renaissance cherub. “I’ve never been really interested in beauty products,” insists Leto, whose initial drop has a lot of them, including a detoxifying kaolin powder clay mask and an impressive exfoliating solution to gently resurface skin. “But I’m interested in the idea of taking care of ourselves in the most natural way possible,” he continues.
Leto is known for going all in on anything he does. (He reportedly gained 67 pounds to channel disturbed Beatles fan Mark Chapman in Chapter 27 before Master Cleansing himself back to his normal weight, and one can only imagine what madness will transpire when he goes Method to play Andy Warhol in an upcoming biopic.) His wellness-oriented way of life is no exception: He is a vegan who abstains from both alcohol and caffeine, and when he discovered the “rugged beauty” of the desert while directing a 2016 documentary series about rock climbing, his interest in the sport snowballed into a full-blown obsession. Leto bought a home in Nevada to further immerse himself in the Mojave Desert, and his new brand’s refillable violet-hued glass, aluminum, and post-consumer recycled plastic bottles nod to its purple skies at twilight. The formulations follow a similar script. “Because of this challenging, unforgiving environment, these ingredients have to be incredibly resilient to survive,” Leto says, relaying the restorative benefits of the line’s desert botanicals. (That aforementioned eye cream is packed with brightening prickly pear extract as well as retinol and ceramides, and, to Leto’s credit, it leaves my eye bags looking smooth and my dark circles minimized.)
Leto’s willingness to learn and his dedication to both clean formulas and clean living is what persuaded Kate Forbes to join Twentynine Palms after years of heading up innovation for Aesop. “If I could adhere to some of Jared’s strict guidelines, I think I’d be much healthier,” laughs Forbes, a veteran product developer with a PhD in chemistry. “He is 100 percent committed to anything that he decides that he wants to do,” confirms Jimmy Chin, the codirector of the Oscar-winning rock climbing documentary Free Solo, who met Leto six years ago.
That commitment will soon take Twentynine Palms beyond beauty, Leto tells me with such enthusiasm he briefly drops his iPhone. He is planning a partnership with High Desert Test Sites, the ambitious Coachella Valley–adjacent artist residency, as well as limited-edition home and design objects in collaboration with a rotating list of multidisciplinary creators. Fragrances that build on earthy aromatics (smoky Japanese vetiver, eucalyptus, myrrh) will come next. It’s a convincing performance in which Leto plays the part of wellness apostle; maybe it’s the beard. “It’s just the beginning,” he suggests.
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