Student, entrepreneur, skincare guru — how does Melissa Arpino handle it all? With confidence. Melissa's fearless attitude makes it easy for her to feel good in her own skin, while helping others improve theirs.
Shortly after graduating high school at the age of 16, Melissa decided to start her own line of products called Stripped Beauty. The brand's philosophy: less is more. Melissa doesn't use any harsh chemicals or toxins in her products, instead offering natural skincare made with minimal ingredients. Melissa brings this same philosophy to other areas of her life, too. For example, she wants a wardrobe that is simple and high-quality, like her skincare line. But what exactly constitutes business casual for a Gen Z entrepreneur? Melissa needs clothes that will stand up to high-stress situations, while also looking fashionable enough to wear out after work with friends — who don't happen to be running a business. Considering this, cotton is Melissa's secret weapon.
"My style is pretty casual," Melissa admitted. "A basic cotton tank or T-shirt can be styled into just about any outfit for me. I can dress it up or dress it down," she explained. "I feel comfortable in it. And feeling good in an outfit instantly makes me confident." Wearing cotton also allows Melissa's wardrobe to go from day to night. She explained: "If I wear cotton during the day, I can count on it not to lose its shape by the end of the night." In addition, there are so many different types of clothing made from cotton that the style choices feel endless.
Life as a young business owner is hard enough, so Melissa keeps her style choices easy. "As an entrepreneur, I need my clothes to be simple and easy to take care of," she said, adding, "Cotton is low maintenance, but offers high quality so I can still feel confident knowing I look good." Just as her skincare customers consider what ingredients go into their personal care products, Melissa can check the labels of her clothes to make sure she's getting authentic cotton. Unlike polyester or nylon, cotton won't stretch, pill, or even smell. "What we put on our body is just as important as what we put in it, which goes for clothing too," she said.
She might like comfortable clothes, but Melissa has gained wisdom from stepping outside her comfort zone in life. In addition to starting her own business, she also started college at 16. "It was very intimidating and nerve-racking trying to make friends in college," she recalled. "I felt I lacked experience and it was harder to relate to my peers." But once she put herself out there, she ended up making lots of friends. "Being younger gave me something to talk about and I got a lot of advice," she said.
Almost done with her bachelor's degree, Melissa has taken a break from school to focus on her business. But she is hanging on to the lessons she gained by starting college early. "I learned not to be afraid to put myself out there and share my ideas with others," Melissa said. That knowledge gave her the boost she needed to start her own business. Now, she said she would tell her younger self to stay true to her opinions. "It’s OK to be yourself. There is always room to improve, but nobody's perfect," she said.
Melissa thinks self-acceptance would also benefit other people her age. As a beauty industry insider, she thinks about the expectations young women put on themselves and admits: "It is easy to get a false idea of beauty from media." In order to feel more confident, she hopes people in her generation will stop comparing themselves to other people online.
Today, Melissa herself is grounded in reality and likes what she sees: "Being comfortable in my own skin allows me to breathe easy knowing that I am the best version of myself," she said. But that doesn't mean she has to be perfect. "Being comfortable in my own skin has also allowed me to love myself more. I can start to appreciate and see the beauty in my flaws." Now that's truly flawless.