While skin-care brand Cetaphil has long leaned into the dermatologist-as-experts for its marketing, the mass brand is taking a different approach this year by working with a different set of experts: makeup artists.
Starting in April 2023, Cetaphil began working with Makeup artist Alexx Mayo as the exclusive skin-care sponsor of Lizzo’s tour. Cetaphil then partnered with Hung Vanngo for Cara Delavigne’s makeup look at the 2023 Met Gala. For the latest use of an MUA, Cetaphil tapped Rihanna’s makeup artist Priscilla Ono for its back-to-school campaign running from late July into August. Ono describes her artistry as “beauty with an irreverent edge,” to make someone feel beautiful while making their aesthetic differences stand out, she said. Ono boasts 895,000 Instagram followers and over 128,000 TikTok followers.
“The fact that notable people, like celebrities, are in and out of lots of different makeup and in different environments, and using Cetaphil as their first step, makes our consumer super comfortable for that to be theirs,” said Katherine Rouse, marketing director for Cetaphil.
Cetaphil, owned by privately-held Galderma, does not release sales figures, but Galderma published its fiscal year 2022 results in March, citing that its “dermatological skincare” category grew sales year-over-year by 30.7%. The growth was owed to consumer demand, new launches, channel expansion and a particularly robust e-commerce performance.
The results of these partnerships so far are proving fruitful. Mayo created social media content that incorporated Cetaphil into Lizzo’s tour looks, resulting in content that achieved 8x Cetaphil’s engagement rate benchmark. Vanngo’s video of applying Cetaphil to Cara Delavigne for the Met Gala received nearly 1 million views on his Instagram channel and also performed exceptionally well on Cetaphil’s Instagram, resulting in an engagement rate of 22% above the brand’s benchmark.
“There’s an intimate interaction that [customers] feel like they’re seeing and receiving, versus a derm who may not have that celebrity right there to do that kind of interaction with,” said Rouse. “Makeup artists are telling you stories about the skin of celebrities, and dermatologists aren’t going to do that.”
The growth of social media, particularly TikTok, has also shed light on who gets to be considered an expert. As Gen Z and younger millennials hunger for product knowledge and information, makeup artists are experiencing a renewed appreciation for their work. As early as 2017, makeup artists were regarded as a new kind of influencer, but in 2023 their work now has the prestige of “expertise.” Cetaphil’s team conducted consumer research and found that a large portion of 18- to 24-year-olds already considered makeup artists and celebrities as skin-care experts, said Rouse. For brands, it’s also a side-door opportunity to reach celebrities more organically, as they have more repeat exposure to members of their glam team. Alexx Mayo introduced Lizzo to Cetaphil, and she later posted an unpaid Oct. 2022 TikTok praising a Cetaphil cleanser. It received over 650,000 likes on TikTok.
“Before social media, there were brand deals with makeup artists, but they were typically only the heavy hitters,” said Ono. “Now, brands realize there are a lot of makeup artists out there who act as micro-influencers. They may not have a huge following, but they are good artists and represent brands well.”
Ono said she first discovered Cetaphil early in her career when she assisted a more senior makeup artist who suggested it. Because the product is good for sensitive skin and offers no-fuss cleansers and moisturizers, it is universally appropriate for prepping all clients. Ono also suggests Cetaphil to the makeup artist students she teaches, saying that the less than $10 price is also a strong selling point. But it wasn’t until this year’s Met Gala that the Cetaphil team knew of Ono’s patronage. A red carpet interview asked Ono about her favorite drugstore products.
Cetaphil has always done some back-to-school campaigns, Rouse said, but this is the first time the brand has worked with a makeup artist, offered giveaways and hosted an in-person event. Back-to-school summer is when people often think about resetting their routines, similar to the New Year, New You concept. Cetaphil hosted a 1950s-style retro-beauty pop-up in L.A. on July 20 to kick off the back-to-school campaign, with retailers stocking products in August. While at the event, Ono demonstrated an easy 30-minute makeup tutorial, including how to prep skin with Cetaphil face wash and moisturizing lotion.
“Clients are so much savvier when it comes to products, and they want to see professional results, even when it comes to their own makeup and skin-care regimens,” said Ono. “I always receive texts from them asking me to list every product I used because they want to replicate [a look] on their own time when they don’t have a makeup artist. … Ultimately, the makeup will look great if their skin looks great.”