By Johanna Ferreira
Like most makeup artists, Dillon Peña understands that the base to a flawless look is smooth, healthy skin. It’s no wonder he set out to launch his own clean beauty skin care brand — Leland Francis. But this handmade, cruelty-free vegan skincare isn’t your average small-batch beauty brand. It’s full of luxe essentials, designed for self-care and total indulgence.
“I never really set out to start a “brand.” My original intention was to fill a void of products that I needed for myself and my makeup kit,” Peña tells thirteen lune.
“As a makeup artist by trade, I started to realize a trend beginning with the models and actresses in my chair. They suddenly began actively looking at ingredients in the products that were used on set, asking questions and wondering about the products and ingredients I was using on their skin."
Peña who has always been a lover of using natural creams and oils on his own skin, wanted to create a gender-neutral face oil that not only worked on all skin types but that also worked well under makeup. What started with the Luxe Face Oil has now expanded to everything from serums, moisturizers, balms, a cleansing gel, the Black Rose Bar, and even candles. His beauty philosophy is “less is more.”
“I also believe that prepping your skin with the correct skincare is the only essential base for any amazing makeup application. We need to embrace and love our natural beauty and say sayonara to the unachievable beauty standards that bombard us in the media,” he says. “The newest generation are keenly aware of what images are computer enhanced or served to them via altered photo apps and really have just begun to shun those standards.”
Get to Know – Dillon Peña
Where are you from originally? Where do you live now?
Originally from Canute, a small farming town of about 500 people in Western Oklahoma. I currently live in Los Angeles, CA.
What were some of your first memories of beauty growing up? What were your early beauty influences?
Growing up on a farm in Oklahoma with only an antenna and three channels for TV, my early influences were the women in my family, but most specifically my grandmothers. My grandma Peña, who was Mexican, had this long, dark — almost black — ankle length hair that she would roll, twist and pin to create a style that resembled a crown on her head. She never wore makeup but religiously used a rose lotion and cold cream at night and a cup of hot tea full of sugar every morning. When she cut her hair, I remember my grandfather crying; “Oh, Maria!” I knew that a woman’s appearance enhanced her power.
My grandmother McRee, on the other hand, was always more adventurous. She allowed me to explore color cosmetics and curl her hair. In fact, she had one lipstick that was green in appearance but would turn red upon application — it was very cool. She visited the beauty salon every other week for a roller set and perm. Her house always had the latest Avon sample lipsticks and a powder foundation.
What does self-care look like in your life?
To me, beauty, health, and wellness are interwoven. It is unlikely if one aspect is out of balance that the others will be in good standing. Thus, my focus is always on balance. Balance in diet, exercise, having fun, and just enjoying life — stopping to smell the flowers in my garden. One of my most important rituals to sooth my mind is to soak in a bath infused with the body serum to relax before a big day.
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
I’m inspired by the beauty landscape we see today. Years ago, when I started out working under Bobbi Brown, we were one of the only brands with a focus on creating foundation shades for people of all skin tones. Today we see many brands with a variety of finishes in every shade range, most importantly powders. I love that the industry has embraced and even celebrated this individuality. Skincare and accurate shade preparation is an incredibly individual experience — where one size never fits all. I think we are just at the tip of this movement.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
When looking back on those first few years of Leland Francis, the biggest challenge was knowing what to do next. I was never an “entrepreneur” or someone who was surrounded by business plan/MBA types. I was passionate about natural skin care and knew that my professional makeup kit was missing some key, essential items. Simply figuring out where to start felt like a huge obstacle. Then as the prototypes started coming in, I was hesitant at first to show people what I was developing for fear of disappointment. But those fears quickly subsided when I saw the enthusiasm when I introduced my first product the Luxe Face Oil.
What has been the biggest win thus far?
Twenty-Nine Botanical Serum won Hello Giggles Best Serum Award in 2020.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?
I’d like to see Indie and self-funded brands owned by minorities front and center.