Business Briefing: Desert flora inspires SF-based skincare line hault

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 8, 2023
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Brian Diethorn sits in the backyard of his San Francisco home with some of his hault skincare products. Photo: Rick Gerharter<br><br>
Brian Diethorn sits in the backyard of his San Francisco home with some of his hault skincare products. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Over the years San Francisco resident Brian Diethorn has found visits to Joshua Tree National Park straddling the Colorado and Mojave deserts and to Palm Springs in the Coachella Valley to be rejuvenating destinations. His sojourns to the arid landscapes also laid the groundwork for his new men's skincare line hault.

The flora found in the deserts of Southern California inspired the ingredients for the various products Diethorn developed as part of the company's Desert Collection. His Dunes Facial Scrub, for instance, ($38 for 2 oz.) features agave, prickly pear, and aloe.

"For me, the desert is very healing," said Diethorn. "It is a place to go relax, be one with nature and be calm. I also thought about how there are so many ingredients in these plants in the desert that keep them alive with this harsh atmosphere and sunlight all the time."

The question of what is the biological secret behind such plants led Diethorn down the path of wanting to harness the healing effects of the desert not only for one's mental health but also for the care of one's skin.

"I want people to create their calm with skincare," he said. "It should be a relaxing habit and not a daunting routine."

Diethorn, 45, a gay married man, grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and first moved to the West Coast in 2001, spending two years in Seattle. A job offer brought him to the Bay Area in 2003, and he now works at a medical device firm on the Peninsula.

Should his skincare company take off, Diethorn told the Bay Area Reporter during a recent phone interview that he would pivot to working full time on it.

"I had been thinking about this for a couple years pre-pandemic," said Diethorn, who was curious about why products with ingredients he liked were always marketed solely to women. "They have good ingredients that are good for our skin. Why can't we market it to men too? What is the problem here?"

With such questions nagging at him, Diethorn last year teamed up with a chemist he found in New Jersey to begin developing his own skincare products that could be marketed to men. After nearly a year of testing out different formulations, they finally landed on a number of products he was pleased enough with to bring to market.

As for a brand name, Diethorn landed on adding a "u" to "halt" as a nod toward halting the aging process. Plus, halt as a company name didn't seem to have "enough substance" with just the one vowel, he explained.

"I added the 'u' because you are going to halt the aging process," said Diethorn.

His interest in skincare products really took off in college when Diethorn began having issues with acne.

"I started breaking out all of a sudden. I thought, 'What is going on?' It wasn't a little bit, it was a lot," recalled Diethorn, who tried several remedies, including antibiotics, to resolve his skin condition. "It was not a fun experience."

Eventually, his acne cleared up but he was left with a lifelong search for soaps and facial cleansers that wouldn't dry out his skin or leave it greasy.

"It made me pay more attention to the ingredients in all these products and what I was putting on my face," said Diethorn.

It also planted the seed that would lead him to one day decide to create his own skincare line. Debuting to the public on January 13, Diethorn launched hault with five products for sale including a face wash ($38 for 4 oz.), a facial hydration cream ($40 for 2 oz.), and an eye repair cream ($42 for 5 oz.). A main ingredient in the facial care products is hyaluronic acid, which Diethorn said helps to leave one's skin feeling soft and hydrated without a greasy feel.

"I think we have taken into consideration the healing powers of desert plants as well as evidenced-based anti-aging ingredients," he said.

The price point is rather economical compared to other brands on the market.

"I really wanted to appeal to customers who want a really good skincare line that is affordable," said Diethorn. "At some point I might have to look at a price adjustment but I don't think anything significant. I have been working back and forth, trust me, with the lab to get these products with these ingredients at a price point that is functional."

He does want to also offer his own sunscreen products. But they require a fair bit more testing in order to be approved by government regulators than other skincare products, said Diethorn.

"We are right now starting to work on a serum that should be released in the summertime," he said.

So far Diethorn has self-funded his venture. He had lucked out in buying a single-family home in the city's Potrero neighborhood in 2010 and selling it four years later for a significant profit.

"I was able to make a good chunk of money," said Diethorn, who now lives in the Silver Terrace neighborhood with his husband.

He recently returned from Joshua Tree where he helped oversee another photo shoot for hault's marketing and is working on several videos to demonstrate how to use his various products. He is also aiming to grow the company's social media presence as well as line up shops carrying his product in San Francisco's LGBTQ Castro district, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, and several cities in Arizona.

He recently did a pop-up shop at clothing store Faherty in Hayes Valley and plans to do several more there. Hault products are also to be on sale at the temporary visitors center and store opening in the Castro inside the former Levi's Store at 525 Castro Street.

Eventually, Diethorn would like to open his own hault store.

"I would love to have a shop in San Francisco," he said. "I think that would be absolutely amazing. I do need to grow the line, I feel, to get to that point."

More immediately, Diethorn aims to promote the concept of having a daily skincare routine not only for the benefits of cleanliness but also for spiritual renewal.

"Actually, I am trying to create this understanding of skincare in letting it be that calm that gives you a moment to focus on yourself and really think about the care of yourself. I want to encourage others to do that and to make that become a habit," said Diethorn. "There is so much chaos always going around us, whether it is work or politics, I think it is great for mental health and for skin health to merge those two things together to create something to help you really focus on and to keep you calm and reset."

To learn more about hault and to order its products online, visit its website at

Got a tip on LGBTQ business news? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

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