My Washington: A Q&A with Bluemercury's Marla Malcolm Beck

An inside look at the upscale cosmetics store founder and her thoughts on business, travel and D.C.

The founder of luxury cosmetics emporium Bluemercury is expanding the business to 65 stores in 18 states and launching new products in her own skincare line, M-61. Beck talks about building an empire with husband/COO Barry and three kids in tow and her must-have products for the road.

Why did you want to start a cosmetics company?

I’ve always been a beauty junkie. When I started Bluemercury, you could only buy cosmetics at drugstores or department stores. What I really wanted was the friendly neighborhood store, with a staff that was expertly trained in all brands where you could touch and play with the products. I really thought there had to be a better way to shop for beauty products, so I created Bluemercury.

What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome in opening your first store in Georgetown?

Convincing brands that there could be free-standing, expertly serviced beauty shops. We pitched our vision nonstop. Eventually, there were pivotal moments. Trish McEvoy made a bet on us back in 2000, as did Kiehl’s and NARS in 1999. They were the brands that said “yes, we want to be creative and try something new with you.”

What’s it like to run a business with your husband?

It’s a great partnership; we hold primary responsibilities in different areas. We are doing what we love, and we’re doing it together.

How do you balance work and family life?

There really is no such thing as balance. We incorporate our family into our business and our business into our family, and we enjoy ourselves along the way.

What challenges do you face now as the business grows?

We have so many opportunities ahead of us, it's just prioritizing where to go first.

Other than your own, what new line are you most excited about at Bluemercury?

I love R+Co. I call them the Coachella of beauty. Their foaming conditioner is an amazing, innovative product.

What’s next for your own skincare line?

Time saving, 2 in 1 products! We are launching SuperSoothe E Microdermabrasion, a one-minute, vitamin E facial scrub and mask with kaolin clay, aloe, goldenberry and seaweed.

What’s your everyday beauty regimen? While traveling?

I always exfoliate and smooth my skin with M-61 Power Glow Peel, especially when traveling and when I need a quick pick-me-up. I love a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen. A favorite is the Trish McEvoy Beauty Balm Instant Solutions SPF 35. A quick swipe of NARS Bronzer in “Laguna,” followed by Bobbi Brown “Brown” lip color, Trish McEvoy High Volume Mascara, and I am out the door.

What products are the best for when you’re traveling?

I always recommend a sunscreen that goes under makeup, a dry shampoo and a fragrance. Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray is a must, and I am addicted to La Mer’s sunscreen.

What do you love most about D.C.?

That it is multicultural and international. You can walk down the street and hear languages from all over the world being spoken. It really is a friendly neighborhood town in so many ways, which is why opening our first store here was such a fit.

D.C.’s best-kept secret?

Dumbarton Oaks—such beautiful gardens, especially in the spring and summer

You and your husband love to walk. What’s your favorite path?

Barry and I walk together every night to decompress and review the day’s challenges. We usually take a stroll around our neighborhood in Georgetown, but we love to walk the monuments at night whenever we can. There is a path from our office in Georgetown straight down to the Lincoln and the FDR memorials.

Dream location you have yet to visit?

Antarctica is definitely on my list. There's always next year for a trip!

Anne Kim-Dannibale
About the author

Anne serves as the Washington, D.C.,&nb...