RCMA Makeup, which stands for Research Council of Makeup Artists, was founded in 1962 by renowned makeup artist Vincent J-R Kehoe because professional product options were limited. He created the brand to provide makeup artists with the tools they needed for their craft with a mission to innovate new products that worked and held up to the scrutiny of film, TV, red carpet, and stage.
Kehoe believed if you made good-quality products, professionals would always use them. His instinct proved correct 57 years later—the brand remains a go-to among professionals like John, Jordan Liberty, and Mario Dedivanovic. These are the products the pros really use.
While the brand has had a loyal following among the professional community for almost six decades, RCMA remains one of the most under-the-radar beauty brands, with a cult following in the industry. The business remains family-run, with Christian Kehoe and his brother now the third generation in charge. The products are sold on the brand’s website and through 85 retailer partners in 10 countries—some retailers have been carrying the brand since the 1970s.
When asked what the secret sauce is for RCMA’s longevity, J-R Kehoe said, “I think it is because we don’t have any gimmicks. We make quality products that work. We don’t have to rush to market any product just to try and get in on whatever the latest trend is. We take our time and make sure the products we put out there have gone through rigorous testing with both the professionals and consumers. Basically, we make tools for working makeup artists. As long as you continue to make the tools they need, you will never be out of business.”
As a brand that has remained independent, resources are limited and its focus has always been on the quality of the product and the professional performance, not on branding and packaging. The brand’s hero product, No-Color Powder and Translucent Powder, has been sold in “spice jar packaging.” Christian said, “The pros never cared (how the product was packaged) because it was what was in the container that mattered. The spice jar allowed us to give a lot of product and keep the price low. “
The brand felt the time was right to repackage to appeal to consumers’ desire for professional products. “As we continue to develop new products for the professionals, we want to give them a more crossover appeal, for what we like to call the ‘Pro-sumers,'” Christian said about the new look. “Social media and YouTube the way it is, people have more access to the makeup artists that are working on their favorite celebrities. The consumer wants to know what they really use on them to give them that flawless red-carpet look.”
Professionals want high-quality products that perform and are consistent, but RCMA products also are vegan, cruelty-free, and made in stringent small-batch conditions to ensure careful color matching from run to run.
Makeup artist Jordan Liberty, describing the brand, said, “RCMA isn’t makeup, it’s insurance. I need my looks to hold up sometimes for 10 hours on set—and reliability counts! In a revolving-door industry of ‘new and improved’ foundation formulas, RCMA is still a benchmark to which all others are compared.”
In the age of billion-dollar valuations, RCMA is content with organic growth and running the business on their own terms. Christian Kehoe says, “Our family has always been very close. A lot of people find it hard to work with family, but for us it’s the opposite, we love working together. We know that we can count on one another 100%. Truth is, I am sure we could be a much bigger company if we brought in other investors but we would lose what makes us special. It becomes about the bottom line and money, not the quality of the products or the makeup artists. We don’t need to be a billion-dollar company, we are happy being smaller and doing the things the way we like to and not how some big corporate office wants us to.”
Photo: via RCMA