We had the absolute delight of sitting down for a fabulous interview with the one and only Zach Dishinger, the fierce founder of Formula Z® Cosmetics. Honey, let me tell you, Zach is serving up major inspiration with a side of glam and a sprinkle of rainbow magic! From starting his cosmetics empire at the tender age of 15 to becoming a global sensation, Zach’s journey is as fabulous as it gets.
Picture this: Zach, looking absolutely snatched with flawless makeup and hair on point, took us on a wild ride through his colorful college dorm room. The energy and expertise he exudes would make Miranda Priestly herself green with envy! But honey, don’t be fooled by his fierce exterior—Zach is not afraid to get down and dirty in the name of his passion.
During our interview, Zach spilled the tea on his early days as a self-proclaimed kitchen chemist, whipping up mesmerizing creations. Inspired by his love for theater and the transformative power of makeup, Zach knew he had to bring his own voice to the beauty industry. And let’s not forget his dedication to inclusivity and making sure everyone feels fabulous. He even partnered with the Trevor Project to make a difference in the lives of young people.
But wait, there’s more! Zach dished on the importance of strategy, breaking down barriers, and his fierce design inspirations. And brace yourself, because Zach has some fabulous surprises up his sleeve—a podcast and a book, darling! Get ready to soak up his wisdom and sashay towards success.
We are absolutely gagging with excitement for all the fabulousness Zach and Formula Z® have in store. So get your brushes ready, darlings, because the Boss of Gloss is here to slay the beauty game and spread love and acceptance with every shimmering product.
Meet Zach Dishinger, who founded Formula Z Cosmetics at the seasoned age of… 15?! According to Formula Z’s website, it’s an inclusive, cruelty-free brand for all people. For a company founded by a teen to be a success, it has to have quality products and a visionary at the helm. Zach fits the bill and sample size, honey!
When I started the Zoom meeting to talk with him about his business, I was greeted with a, now twenty-something Zach, in full beat and with perfectly quaffed hair. He sat in his colorfully-decorated college dorm room and exuded the energy and expertise of Miranda Priestly if she were a warmer, more open Gen Z content creator.
Essentially, I could tell he was a seasoned veteran who was still willing to get his hands dirty and could easily talk to a cardboard box with conviction. Had this been a different era, he would have certainly been puffing a cigarette attached to a long, telescopic holder. If I learned anything from my chat with Zach, it’s that you have to be the biggest believer in what you’re doing to find success. You can read my conversation with Zach below.
The following interview has been edited for quality and length.
Zach: Thanks for having me, Jesse. Yes, oh my gosh. I can already tell this is gonna be so fun.
Jesse: You’re basically like a child prodigy. You’ve been kind of around the world, I feel like, in terms of your life experience.
Z: Bi-coastal, we can say bi-coastal.
J: No, why would you downplay it? We’re just going to say that you are like a global phenomenon! Global sensation!
Z: Well, I do deal with 11 countries on a daily basis.
J: I know we’re both itching to get there, so let’s just start from the beginning. So, you started this company when you were 15, but before that, you were really just kind of acting like a chemist in your kitchen, right? So, what was the inspiration for starting to do that? And do you remember any of your early creations?
Z: So, like a lot of people, we started in theater, and some of my friends are still in theater.
What I gathered from theater was the art of transformation and what really captivated me was the colors, the pigments, the textures, the design aspect of a show, you know, and then as I started moving more into the broadcasting portion of it, the love for makeup really still followed.
I just kind of developed my own voice and through high school, just being in theater and always loving to express myself. And then also having these unconventional interests in makeup and also being a part of the LGBT community in high school. It comes with its challenges. So for me, as someone who didn’t see myself represented, you know, on the shelves of Sephora or guys wearing makeup really wasn’t a thing in 2017 when I was 15 at the time.
But two years before that, because it takes a while to work on stuff, I didn’t really see myself represented on the shelves. Resources that I had to personally find, you know, [weren’t] readily available to kids or people that need them. So that’s what prompted me to partner with the Trevor project on my first collaboration with them.
Prior to that, it was me stealing my mom’s makeup and mixing it in the kitchen and really just trying to develop the perfect shades and textures. Today I get questions like, why do you wear makeup? And for me, it’s because it makes me feel amazing.
I’m not doing it for you. I’m doing it for me. They’re like, well, I like you better without makeup. I’m like, huh, I don’t. But, you know, it’s to each their own. And some people, you know, makeup is their identity. They have to wear it in order to go outside. You know, makeup means a lot of different things to different people.
I use it as a form of self expression. It makes people feel amazing about themselves. There’s still so much of a love for it, and my love comes from the art of transformation. The artistry aspect of it, but also the humanitarian aspect of it, bonding with our customers and our community and being able to talk to people about the power of makeup.
J: Yeah, I love that. You’ve touched on this already, but when I think about brands and companies that I saw growing up, I don’t think it was a priority for mission driven organizations to be at the forefront, right? It wasn’t like companies needed to have a cause, it was just to sell a product. And so, was that something that you wanted to do from the start? How did you determine exactly what was important to you as you were building up Formula Z?
Z: When people create a brand now…let’s look at the playbook. What are the essential parts of a brand that we need? Okay. We need a philanthropic component. We need a good product. We need that. But for me, when I was just creating it, I didn’t have a playbook. I just did what I could at the time, which was meeting with manufacturers, but also just my mission. It was like, “meet our 15 year old CEO, all about individuality”.
From the start, we were the first cosmetic company or beauty company to partner with the Trevor project. And it was just out of a necessity for me. It wasn’t a business plan sort of thing. And it was actually perfect timing because in 2017 we launched, but then a couple of years later it was 2019 and that was the Stonewall 50th and World Pride.
Our partnership with the Trevor Project and Equality Florida aligned perfectly with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and World Pride. There was an open pitch at this place called Story, it’s like Showfields, a revolving store in New York City and there’s like 300 people outside. I stood in line and made an open pitch to the CEO of Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. For that Stonewall anniversary, we got asked to be in all doors of Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s for a specific “pride for all” display for Stonewall.
Our partnership ended up leading to some great opportunities. We’ve had some great partnerships over the years, but just because that’s who we are as a brand. Hearing it from people as well, hearing that validation, it’s like, okay, we’re on the right track here.
As companies evolve, charities evolve and they become more corporate and they require different things. We all have different ways of activism, and sometimes I feel hopeless, because I can’t, you know, be in the congressional lobby making That’s not me – that’s my friends who are involved in that thing, but I can use my platform for the greater good, because I like talking to people. There’s all different ways, but it was definitely out of necessity and not out of a business plan.
J: Part of your mission is for makeup to be accessible and open for everyone regardless of gender, creed, or wherever they come from. So how do you live out that mission? Let’s say that you meet a straight cis man who has a secret curiosity about wanting to feel more beautiful or handsome or whatever, but he’s still scared to do that because of our climate. How are you breaking down those barriers for the atypical customer?
Z: Yeah, I think first it’s showing that, you know, we’re not one-size-fits-all – that’s funny because a lot of people say beauty is a one-size-fits-all. It fits everyone, right? For me, I think everyone has their own style. I think everyone deserves their own routine. Everyone… it’s a ritual, you know? And there’s certain brands who are like “men’s makeup” – just for men. And, um, for me, it’s more of like a unisexy. That’s been our thing from the beginning. That’s our registered trademark, Unisexy. That’s our thing and transforming beauty. When we were first starting the most similar [company] we could see ourselves being modeled after was Mac, because when you think of them with Viva glam and, you know, all races, all gender, that’s really who I could align with before everyone at Sephora started being “inclusive” or whatever.
Even at the pride parade, they were interviewing me [and I told them] what’s being shown in the media, like, we’re not all that. We look like different people and this is what it looks like. It can be really practical. My business partners are…they look like lumberjacks. They have beards, they’re big guys, you know, and really it’s a conversation about little approachable things that people can implement that are not out of reach. Like I know for my dad, his number one concern is his eye bags.
He’ll always come to me and be like, I need something for my dark circles. And he’s like, what is this? I’m like, this is our eye cream. He’s like, does it work? I’m like, I hope so! And I think guys, especially during meetings, don’t want to look so tired, or you know, the stubble, the five o’clock shadows. It doesn’t always have to be a cosmetic thing.
It can just be something as simple as skincare. You look at the statistics, male grooming, it’s going to be the hottest industry this year, male grooming, because guys are saying, “Hey, wait, that guy’s taking care of himself and he’s making it look cool”. Like I can do that too. Like I don’t have to use the same bar of soap for every single product. You know what I’m saying?
Target’s doing a whole facelift . It looks like a Saks in there now, right? Because of that and Ulta. So it really is trying to hit every demographic.My friend has a brand specifically for Latina and Latino hair. And I was like, so is it just for Latino hair? And she’s like, no, think of Bad Bunny, right? He has Latino music, but his audience is for all people.
There’s a fine line between having an inclusive brand but also not alienating your customer. We really stand by our products and our value. And I think that’s where people connect with me. It’s not so much about the products. It’s more about my openness to try things and to talk to people. And I think that’s a really big part of it too, is who’s behind it.
J: I think that the misconception is that if people want to take care of themselves, or even maybe wear a little bit of makeup, they have to go from like, zero to drag queen, and that’s not the reality, you know? There are little things that I do, but I don’t ever wear full-beat, sometimes, I want to fill in my eyebrows a little bit.
Z: So you have to find what works for you, but it’s all about experimenting and there’s no right way. I’m really about simple hacks and being easy. If there’s a really expensive product out there that I know I can make better and more accessible, you know, that’s what we’ve discovered that we’re good at. We’ve always thought about dupe culture like a bad thing, like, “oh, they’re ripping it off”, but in essence, they’re making it better and overselling.
J: I want to talk about building a brand as a young person who I’m sure is inspiring to a lot of other young people who want to start their own thing or chase their dreams. What do you say to someone about building a brand on social, and what to post?
Z: I think that there’s no right or wrong answer to anything. And you talk to different people and I’ll tell you completely different things. Pre COVID retail was great for me. Right now? Not so great. You just evolve with the times. What I’ve really gathered is that it’s a strategy thing.
Before diving deep into something, [look at it] from a bird’s eye view and see what spaces do you need to fill in order to get this done. I’ve gotten myself into so many projects that I need to get out of and I could have prevented that.
And so now with partners, they don’t want to allocate resources with the sense that it’s like, not going to move the needle. They’re very cautious with where resources are being allocated and it’s difficult for me because I just want everything now, but I would say strategy is number one, number two, no one’s going to work as hard as you on your business.
At the end of the day you have to sit back, meet the right people, learn from them, and especially for me, it was a really big learning opportunity because I’ve been in school, school, school, school. And then for two years, I took off completely to take a gap year. In 2020, I graduated, no prom, no graduation because of COVID. College was all online, so I couldn’t be in the lab. So I took a gap year. That’s when the Partners in Investor came on. Then it turned into two years of operational and legal stuff. And I completely lost passion. I completely hated everything. Like I wanted nothing to do with it. And I turned my life around.
I was like 250 pounds. It was one of those moments that I was like, all right, like, get your shit together. We moved the company to Delaware, so now it’s really hitting the ground running. And it’s really your choice at the end of the day, like you’ve made it this far.
So making those life decisions, as far as what’s going to get you to that point where you want to go. I would say for me, it’s about self-discernment and it’s about knowing what’s good for you and what’s in your own gut as opposed to people thinking what’s good for you.
Life is short. Be nice to everyone, do what you want to do, have a strategy, um, and consult with people without paying them retainers monthly. Really learn from people and really become friends with them. If you start paying someone for their services, it’s a service versus being invested.
J: Let’s shift to something maybe a little more fun. I was perusing the products and I saw a lot of iridescent packaging. I saw a lot of eye-catching packaging which caught my attention. So what was your design inspiration for making sure that your products looked good on the shelf or on the store online?
Z: Yeah. And it’s funny because like when you’re in store, like there’s so much going on. I saw a reel the other day on Instagram where they swabbed the lipstick and put it in a Petri dish. It was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in my life. And so it’s like, everything’s really picked over. It’s messy. Everything’s like ripped, like cleaned out because it’s like the Wild West. You don’t know where to look, right? Your head’s spinning. So it’s like, why would I want to go to this thing as opposed to this thing?
And it’s like packaging plays a part in it, but it’s almost not enough to bring it over the finish line. What I’ve learned, and this goes back into the business space, you can have the best products. I have over a hundred products that I want to do. All patent pending, all original stuff. Like, you can have great products until the cows come home.
But if you don’t have a strategy, no one’s going to buy it, right? Like, if you don’t have eyeballs on your site, like, no one’s going to buy it. At the end of the day, it’s a business. And that’s what a lot of people don’t get. And that’s why 9 out of 10 startups fail. Because people don’t realize that. There’s a bottom line. There’s… You know, there’s people invested in this.
I’ve always really been obsessed with iridescent metallics and holographics. I think just visually, like just prismatic just represents the rainbow. And, you know, just getting to work with really cool suppliers on different things. I’m working with Chanel’s factory in Italy right now, Dior, Too Faced, Fenty in Korea, and I had to find those factories myself. It’s like dog eat dog out here.
My favorite part about it is product development, working with the factories – the formulas. I’ve also learned that this is the most expensive design process, as far as metalization, because you have to laser holographic on everything. We’ve had to experiment with different materials and different processes in order to get where we want sustainability wise, but also to still have that, like, wow factor. My lab was like, Zach, we can’t do your cartons because they’re so like, you know, like there’s like three piece cartons. I’ve learned if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Like, let’s just have normal cartons. And then there’s a certain place to put in your decoration and my decoration inspiration is very bad boy meets mad scientist.
It’s a little bit clinical in there, a little bit of glam, a little bit of rocker punk. When I first launched, it was more of like a Kat Von D grungy tattoo. I had black tubes, you know, cause it was what I could do at the moment.
And then that piece is done. I do that piece, but then it’s on the market. Then people are still buying it. For the next round, how can we make that better? How can we evolve that packaging? How can we make the pricing better? How can we take the feedback? Now there’s an FDA requirement that you have to submit to the FDA before putting on market and testing and this and that. There’s a whole…it’s not just the lip gloss, right?
You have to be skilled in so many different departments. I sketch everything out myself. I have been working with the same guy since 2017. I’m very proud of our designs.
J: Yeah, I mean, well they’re gorgeous.
Z: Thank you!
J: Looking at the website, I was like, oh my gosh.
Z: You want something to look like it’s going to be fun to open, so it has to look good. But your “has to look good” is out of a million “has to look goods”, right? That’s where the strategy comes in as far as the socials, the marketing, you know, the ad spend. There’s no right or wrong. It’s just a question of like, do you want to throw a bunch of money at a venture company? Or like, do you want to bootstrap with the startup?
Like there’s some people…Beauty Blender, like she’s still 100% self-funded. It took her seven years before Beauty Blender took off, now she’s in the Smithsonian.
J: I’m sure all of those things take up so much of your time, right? Like, you’re running a whole company. You’re also in school. What do you do just for yourself? What do you do for fun? What do you do that’s unrelated to all of this to keep yourself grounded?
Z: I, uh, that’s a great question. There’s often not an answer to that question. I don’t ask myself that question. In New York I’ve been getting the nightlife bug out of my system, so that’s been fun. There’s just so many people up here, and this weekend is the Pride Parade, so I’m just trying to make sure that I go to the right places. I liked going to the beach in Florida until I broke my leg, and then I didn’t like going to the beach anymore.
J: What did you do? How did you break your leg?
Z: I broke my right femur on the beach and developed blood clots that traveled up to my lungs in May. Pulmonary embolisms and DBT with the right femur fracture and there’s a whole implant in there and like screws and everything.
J: Wow you really are so futuristic – you’re like turning yourself into a robot.
Z: I’m like bionic! TSA loves me. You live and learn and it makes you stronger.
J: Is there anything that you can say on the record that we can expect from you before we sign off?
Z: Keep your eyes peeled for a podcast and a book called “The Boss of Gloss”. Coming soon to a bookstore and podcast thing near you.
J: That’s so fun. Okay, so what is your podcast going to be about, if I can ask?
Z: Yeah, well, it’s super CIA classified, so you’re gonna have to just contact my lawyers. *laughs* It’s about being your best self. Um, and I know every podcast says that, but really. My book is The Boss of Gloss. It’s a beauty entrepreneur’s guide to success and running your empire.
It’s about beauty, activism, being your best self, and living life to the fullest. And so, I think especially with what’s going on activism wise, I think just bringing people on the podcast, not to get like super political or disgusting or anything, just providing resources to those who need it. I think I’m a talker and like I said earlier, I have friends in the political area that are trying to make progress that way, so I’m going to have those people on my podcast to shed light on what they’re doing so we can collaborate and provide resources.
My book has over 300 tips and tricks, uh, tips of the trade and how-tos. I’m looking forward to it. It’s been in the works for a while and working with the publisher. Fingers crossed.
J: We’re so excited at Drag Star Diva® to see everything that you have coming out soon!
And of course we had to ask about his top three favorite RuPaul girls! His answer (in no particular order): Laganja Estranja, Gia Gunn and Miss PepperMint! That sounds like a roadshow that WOW needs to green light!
So, whether you’re a makeup maven or a budding entrepreneur, take a page from Zach’s book and remember: with a fierce spirit, a strategic mindset, and a whole lot of love, you can conquer the world, one glittery eyeshadow at a time.
Stay fabulous, stay true to yourself, and remember to always slay the day with confidence and a killer lip color.
To learn more about the flawlessness taking place at Formula Z®, visit their website and follow them on Instagram.
Jesse Chambliss is a Dallas-based connoisseur of all things pop music and usually won’t shut up about it. And from time-to-time, we convince him to write for Drag Star Diva®