Five Minutes with Aila Morin of MERIT Beauty

Words by
Aila Morin of MERIT Beauty

28th February 2023

As it launches into the UK, SPHERE meets Aila Morin the co-creator of MERIT, a responsible beauty brand created to be the antidote to the oversaturated world of beauty.

Since their launch in the US in 2021 Merit's minimalist approach to sheer, easy to use, skin-nourishing make-up has won it multiple awards and a fan-base including Cameron Diaz and Nicole Richie. Its best-selling product the Minimalist Stick had waiting lists of 10,000, in the US, but is available now in the UK, no waiting required!

Aila Morin
Ailm Morin of Merit Beauty

My personal style signature is… minimalist clothing with luxe details – I love a classic denim and knit pairing, but with an elevated shoe and bag (preferably Khaite or The Row). I always wear fragrance, jewellery, and a lip colour no matter what. Signature Lip in Slip is my go-to when I’m out, and I wear Shade Slick in Taupe when I’m WFH.

Amber Minimalist Stick
Amber Minimalist Stick, by MERIT

MERIT was created to make getting ready easier... We’re very restrained when it comes to product launches, and only bring something to market if we feel that it’s truly essential and best-in-class when it comes to both ingredients and efficacy. That’s why we only have ten products in our assortment (we launched with seven in 2021, and have only introduced three more in two years): we think about what our customers will actually use and avoid getting caught up in creating newness for the sake of newness.

MERIT Slick Taupe Lip Tint
Slick Taupe Lip Tint from MERIT Beauty

There’s a lot of conversation about what “clean” really means in the States…since we don’t have the same level of regulation around cosmetic and skincare ingredients that there is in the UK. That’s why we’re specific about what it means for us - namely that All our products are vegan and certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny.

We’ve worked with renowned facialist Biba De Sousa since prior to launching the brand to remove 73 "clean" but potentially triggering ingredients (like coconut oil) from our formulas, to ensure they're safe for sensitive and acne-prone skin.  We keep our ingredient lists as short as possible, prioritising using skin-caring ingredients that deliver visible benefits both instantly and over time. We also ensure our products meet the requirements for the Clean at Sephora program and EU compliance.

Minimalist Stick in Amber, by MERIT
Minimalist Stick in Amber, by MERIT

The key products I recommend everyone buy are theGreat Skin Serum - Truly my holy grail product. We worked on Great Skin for over five years behind the scenes, and the end result is a serum that hydrates, brightens, and plumps. I have very sensitive skin, and Great Skin’s non-comedogenic and non-reactive formula adds glow and supports my skin barrier. It sold out faster than we ever could’ve imagined when it launched in the fall, and it’s amazing to see that our customers love it as much as I do.

The Minimalist - While we don’t have a hero product in the way many brands do, The Minimalist is perhaps what we’re best known for. It’s a concealer and kind of a foundation, but is still really lightweight. It has a skin-like finish that is the antithesis to the cakey, flakey look we all fear – I just apply it on my eyelids and around my nose and mouth, then buff it out with Brush No. 1.

Bronze Balm - Another one of our more recent product introductions, but this is probably my most favourite. I’ve always struggled with bronzers and contours because they ended up looking too orange or too grey – never natural enough for my taste. Bronze Balm, by contrast, is super buildable, applies smoothly, and has neutral undertones. We also custom tooled a slim oval shape, so it’s so easy to add depth to your face that looks just like a real shadow.

Brush No. 1 - I used to always apply makeup with my fingers, because sponges caused breakouts and brushes were irritating. Brush No. 1 was designed to change all of that – vegan, made with a recycled aluminium handle, and softer than a kitten’s paw. I use it for everything in my routine, and have been washing them weekly since prior to launch and they’re still in great shape.

Bronze Balm, by MERIT
The Bronze Balm by MERIT comes in 15 shades

It’s exciting that prioritising skin health has become so central to the larger beauty conversation…. until recently, it felt like you needed to choose between protecting your skin or wearing makeup that could make you look and feel your best. That also means, however, that there’s a lot of vague terminology and confusing ingredient information out there. We focus on creating products that will be safe for all skin types .

Bronze Balm by MERIT comes in an easy to apply roll-on stick
Bronze Balm by MERIT comes in as easy to apply roll-on stick

At MERIT, I lead marketing, creative, digital, product development and customer experience everything you touch and feel… My role, holistically, is to create products and campaigns that resonate and provide value to our consumer, while building a legacy brand and healthy business.

I graduated school with a Bachelor of Arts, and like pretty much everyone else I knew with a similar degree, promptly thought I’d go to law school... I took what I thought was a temporary marketing job to earn some money prior to returning to school and fell in love with brand building, so I allowed my plans to change and have been doing it since. I have always loved developing challenger brands – both at Mejuri and now MERIT – that go against conventional wisdom around how things are done.

Lipstick shades by MERIT
The eight shades of everyday lip gloss offered by MERIT

I really prioritise my time with the people I love.. work can be all encompassing mentally so when I’m home and off, I’m likely either out for dinner or sitting on a friend’s couch just catching up... I’m also big on finding time for things that make me feel good – pilates, red light therapy, talk therapy – that’s what keeps me sane and centred through the demands of running a business.

Great Skin Serum
Great Skin Serum is designed to leave skin plumped, hydrated, and prepped for makeup.

My most treasured possession is… my dog Scout, but I would never call him a possession!

Because I travel about 50% of the time a solid morning routine I can do anywhere is key to feeling grounded... I always do red light in the morning (either visiting a bed or using the Dr. Dennis Gross mask at home), drink whatever supplement I’m on at the moment (right now it’s Armra Collostrum and bone broth), and try to get in some movement. I’ve spent the past month in Los Angeles, so these days it’s a walk in the sun and coffee before work.

The next question on my mind is… how is the business performing now, and looking at five to ten years from now, and how is the beauty industry changing. I’m always looking outwardly at how habits are changing, but also at my routine and my friends’ routines – where are the gaps? What could be better? What ingredients am I liking or disliking? Great branding comes from a lot of self-reflection, and that’s what helps us to stay in tune with what our audience wants in the future.

Merit Beauty