Kosas Founder Sheena Zadeh Went from her Kitchen to Taking Over Gondolas and Influencing a Multigenerational Audience

And we bet you're infected with the beauty bug as well.
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The second quarter of 2024 has seen an onslaught of new brands making their way into the local market, and Kosas is one of the brightest beauty brands to make its foray into Sephora Malaysia. For us beauty geeks, we’ve been waiting with bated breath for its arrival. Not only is it a favourite amongst celebrities—from Hailey Bieber to Gwyneth Paltrow—it’s also a beloved brand for beauty content creators everywhere. Last year, it took home the Indie Brand of the Year award at the Beauty Inc. Awards.

Less than a decade into the game (the brand launched in 2015), Kosas already has multiple hits: the viral Revealer Concealer, the effortless BB Burst that gives you a luminous glow, and the Cloud Set Setting Powder that’s perfect even if you have dry skin. And that’s just from the complexion category. Kosas also excels in the brow vertical, so don’t sleep on those as well, especially the Air Brow Tinted, a coloured brow gel that will replace all your brow products (pencils, powder, and gel) at once. Trust us, it’s been tested on the sparsest brows in the office, and it works.

But what is the brand about? That’s what we were aiming to learn when we got the opportunity to speak to its founder, Sheena Zadeh, a Californian native of Iranian descent. Practically born into the world of beauty—her mother used to man makeup counters—she found herself toying around the idea of creating lipsticks that are ‘your lips but better’ after struggling to find colours that make her olive skin tone pop. Making the best use of her biology degree, and pairing it with her passion for fine artistry, she found the sweet spot. “In a portrait painting class, I was fascinated by all the colours that went into making flesh tones look alive, and I thought what if we applied that theory to makeup? It was there that I started to mix our very first lipsticks,” Zadeh said.

On top of that, she’s always insistent on a particular style of formulating, which is why Kosas is proudly clean and boasts skin-improving ingredients—and they are clinically proven, too. While other skincare-leaning makeup brands may have forsaken performance, Zadeh instead pushed the envelope and made sure that both are equally represented in her makeup line. That’s how she’s captured lightning in a bottle.

Ahead, we speak to Sheena Zadeh for an interview on her relationship with beauty, her favourite product to go into production with, plus the must-haves and tips to get the best from the Kosas line.

What was your first memory when it comes to beauty?

I’ve loved makeup my entire life. My mom worked behind the makeup counter, and she’d bring home a lot of makeup when I was growing up. The product that got me hooked was Givenchy’s Prisme Libre Pressed Powder. I was eleven years old and I just remember thinking it was the most magical and beautiful thing I had ever seen. 

You knew that you were going to start Kosas a decade before its inception. What made you pull the trigger?  

It was when my daughter, Electra, was born. I was overwhelmed with all the things I wanted to teach her, a big one being that she should go after what she wanted and follow her dreams. I realised she wouldn’t believe me unless I followed my own advice. I started Kosas when she was eight months old.

You started your brand from the kitchen. What would you say to that person whipping a lipstick at the counter right now? 

I would tell her that the creation of a brand doesn’t have to be a linear and perfect process. It can be messy and sometimes the answers actually come from the mess. Don’t attach yourself to what it’s supposed to look like, just stay curious and let it unfold.

Back then, you found inspiration through painting sessions. What do you do for inspiration now? 

One of my favourite places to get colour inspiration is nature. Nature mixes colours in ways you might never think of doing, but it always works every time. It doesn’t follow precise and specific rules but it looks beautiful, often in the most unexpected way.

What was one of your favourite products to go into production with?

It was the Revealer Concealer. It was such a new and novel way to create a complexion product. When I first tried it, I immediately knew that we had nailed a really special formula. I was excited to go into production because, selfishly, I wanted to be able to use it as soon as possible.

In your role as a mother, how are you introducing the world of beauty to your daughter?

The thing I love most about beauty is taking that time with yourself in the mirror. For me, beauty is all about expressing your favourite version of yourself. I think it’s important to first get to know who you are and fall in love with yourself—it’s through that love that you create your beauty routine. Then you’re really coming from a place of care, love, and admiration for yourself, not coming from a place of needing to fix something.

My daughter has watched me get ready over the years and now she has her own routine in the morning that makes her feel good and confident. It’s so great to see because it took me forever to learn that!

For those of us who are new to the brand, what are the top three Kosas must-haves? 

The Revealer Concealer, the BB Burst, and our Cloud Set Setting Powder.

The climate in Malaysia is very humid and it can go from super-hot to rain in a snap. What are some of your tips for us to get the best out of Kosas?

Apply a thin layer of BB Burst with your fingers like a tinted moisturiser. The texture is really refreshing—like a drink of water for your skin—and it has a natural, hydrated finish which won’t compete with the humidity. Once it melts in, swipe on Revealer Concealer where you want more coverage and set with Cloud Set powder to remove shine, but not the glow. I like to finish with a swipe of Wet Stick for a sheer wash of colour and a hint of shine.

What do you think the future holds in beauty? 

Consumers will continue to demand their makeup do more for them so the lines between makeup and skincare will be more blurred through innovation. We’ll keep pushing the standards of makeup performance and effective ingredients with clinically proven skincare benefits.