When I was a teenager, the last thing on my mind was taking on any additional responsibilities whatsoever, especially if they would take me away from my active social life. Then there’s Zach Dishinger, the 17-year-old CEO and founder of Formula Z Cosmetics, a beauty brand that delivers a strong message of self-love and acceptance along with its vegan and cruelty-free products. This impressive young entrepreneur juggles high school while running his company and acting as the face of the brand in addition to being an LGBTQ activist. He even created an exclusive shade called Alcone Red, a gorgeous, universally flattering red liquid lipstick, to celebrate the launch of Formula Z at Alcone Company. In this interview, Zach fills us in on his journey from makeup lover and budding artist to Gen Z beauty boss and rising star.
Where are you from?
I’m born and raised in South Florida and am currently a senior in high school.
When did you first fall in love with makeup and why?
I grew up in the theater. The stage was my second home. As I got older, my love for acting soon turned into a passion for makeup. I felt a surge of confidence when getting ready for a show. With each swipe of my mascara wand, I felt more radiant and self-assured. I soon realized what I loved most about the theater was the art of transformation. When I put on makeup, being bullied for my sexual orientation and judged for my unconventional interests didn’t matter anymore. Makeup was a part of me, and I decided to stay true to myself.
How and when did you approach your parents about starting your own cosmetics brand?
I remember wearing MAC concealer in 5th grade! When I was 11 or 12, I’d take my mom’s bronzers and lipsticks. She’d find me in the kitchen attempting to make cosmetics, mixing bronzers and lipsticks to create the perfect shades and textures. Playing with makeup was just the norm in my house–I would come down to the dinner table wearing full lashes, makeup and more. I knew makeup was my calling. At 15 years old, after a ton of research and development, I launched Formula Z Cosmetics.
I feel lucky to have such an amazing support system. We may not agree on everything all the time, but that’s to be expected in a family business. Because of my parents’ acceptance, we are able to empower others through Formula Z. We encourage others to stay true to who they are, step out of their comfort zone and be unconditionally accepting.
How has running a business changed your life as a teenager?
The key thing for me is to focus on school and work, being especially productive in downtime or when I’m not in class. Lunchtime at school is also conference call time for me, and when school gets out, my day is just starting up! Taking time for yourself is really important, especially if your mind is always running! I plan on attending college and am going through the college application process right now.
What do you want people to know about your mission both as a beauty entrepreneur and an activist?
Formula Z is an all-inclusive, unisexy beauty brand founded on the belief that makeup is for EVERYONE. As a Gen Z-led brand that’s transforming the industry, we are committed to making purposeful products for every sector of the market regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, or gender. No perfect people allowed.
To me, it’s not wrong for a guy to wear makeup. That’s my norm. Other people just have to deal with it. The more accepting you are of yourself, the easier it is to deal with the noise around you. It’s not that the noise goes away; there probably are people in high school who say stuff about me. I just don’t notice it. I’m focused on where I need to be.
You’re a self-described theater kid (which is right up our alley). What are your favorite roles or productions that you’ve been in and why?
My favorite roles were Miss Hannigan from Annie and Edna from Hairspray because of the elaborate costume, makeup, and character transformations.
What are some of your other passions?
I love to play the piano, drums, and sing! I also love designing, sketching, wig-making, anything and everything artistic!
Who are your role models in the industry?
I look up to Emily Weiss from Glossier, Marc Jacobs, and Pat McGrath. They all have a determined work ethic, incredible creativity, and a crystal-clear vision.
You radiate so much confidence that it makes us wonder: is there anything that makes you nervous?
Nothing. Just kidding! Yes, of course. But that’s part of the Formula Z ethos–none of us are perfect and we all have bad days or insecure moments. We’re all just doing the best we can and I find that once you accept that, life becomes much more joyful. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Have you thought about how you’ll juggle college and your business? It’s not that far away.
Yes, this is a hot topic in our house. Education is exceedingly important to me and my family. I’m looking at special programs that will allow me to focus on Formula Z while learning key business skills and strategies.
What’s coming next for Formula Z Cosmetics?
I feel proud that my brand is part of a cultural revolution, committed to being a catalyst in the fight for equality and equal representation. I want to make sure that everyone feels like they belong. Too many makeup brands give off the “you’re not pretty enough” vibes… it’s time to change that! You don’t have to look like anyone else, you can look like you. YOU are your own pretty!
The future of beauty is that it can be a force for good. I’m gay, and through Formula Z, I have a platform to be an equality advocate speaking for those who can’t, specifically for other LGBTQ and disenfranchised youth around the world. So, in addition to my advocacy, also stay tuned for new packaging and products. I can’t share what’s in the pipeline, but I promise you’ll see some amazing innovations and exciting newness.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’m going to keep creating products and pioneering ideas that feel authentic to me and what I believe in.
What advice do you have for other young people who want to start their own business or brand?
Such a good question! For those getting involved in beauty or consumer products, do the most competitive research that you can to make sure that your products are evergreen and not just a short-lived trend. As for choosing your partners, be sure to also research their capabilities and make sure their vibe is your vibe. And that they work as hard as you do. Anyone can sell you their services, but you need to build relationships, not just partnerships.
Thank you, Zach, for such sage advice and for sharing your story with all of us. We look forward to watching your star rise in the industry along with the continued success of Formula Z Cosmetics.
All photos courtesy of Zach Dishinger and Formula Z Cosmetics.