Glossy Pop Newsletter: TikTok, Gen Z and how the skin barrier went mainstream

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Five years ago, the average person didn’t know what the skin barrier was. Today, the hashtag #skinbarrier has 302.2 million views on TikTok. It’s been a slow build that started around the same time as the pandemic, as people took an increased interest in skin care and wound up damaging their barriers. Now, there are countless videos providing advice on how to heal a damaged skin barrier. 

That increased interest in skin care was apparent to purveyors of skin care. “We noticed it in our business,” said Rachel Roff, founder and CEO of Urban Skin Rx. 

“People were investing in at-home treatments, tools and systems they normally wouldn’t have. And we noticed people weren’t buying for their specific skin needs, but they were buying what went viral on social media,” Roff said. This had some downsides. “Our best-selling Even Tone Cleansing Bar went viral on TikTok and everyone bought it. This resulted in a few bad reviews, as that particular bar has a very strong formula and is not our best-suited cleanser for sensitive or dry skin,” she said. 

“This may be due to people over-sensitizing their skin over the last few years with acids and too many skin-care products,” said Brook Harvey-Taylor, founder and president of Pacifica skin care. “High percentages of BHA and AHA products used daily have a negative effect on most people’s skin barrier.  Sometimes more is not more and keeping your routine simple can be a great break for your skin,” she said. 

As Ron Robinson, cosmetic chemist and founder of skin care brand Beauty Stat, put it, we’ve “created a monster” when it comes to consumers overdoing it with active ingredients and products, in general. His brand, which launched in 2019, has a tight edit of just five products.

Our skin has not changed, at least in terms of biology. “What has changed is that consumers are using more aggressive treatments and higher levels of ingredients, because they have more knowledge and access,” said Jen Smoot, svp of global business development at Bliss. “Combine this with the increasing impact the environment has on our skin, and you could argue that there are a lot more skin barriers out there that need repairing, versus 10 years ago.”

Since the skin care rush of 2020, the tides have since turned in the opposite direction. People are looking for products that maintain skin health long-term, rather than give them glowing skin overnight but strip it in the process. In response, a number of brands have released products and collections aimed at sensitive skin

Certain ingredients have come to play starring roles — like ceramides, though they are not a new ingredient. Ceramides “are now synonymous with skin barrier health. They’re seen by the consumer as the star ingredient in restoring skin barrier function, much in the same way vitamin c is now associated with brightening and hyaluronic acid with hydration,” said Marc Elrick, CEO and founder of BYOMA, a new brand focused on barrier health. On TikTok, the hashtag #ceramides has 104 million views. Urban Skin Rx recently launched its Even Tone Barrier Repair Ceramide Cream, and Pacifica launched an entire collection featuring vegan ceramides. Beauty Stat’s most recent launch was its Universal Microbiome Barrier Balancing Cleanser, which features vegan ceramides. 

Countless other brands have launched products or collections that feature ceramides or use language about supporting and repairing the skin barrier. Some examples include Ole Henriksen’s Strength Trainer Peptide Boost Moisturizer, The Nue Co’s Barrier Culture cleanser and moisturizer, Kate Somerville’s Delikate cleanser, serum and moisturizer, Inn Beauty Project’s new 10 + 10 Moisturizer with 10% Vitamin C + 10% Peptide Complex + Ceramides and Eadem’s Cloud Cushion Plush Moisturizer with Ceramides + Peptides, Dieux’s Instant Angel moisturizer, Supergoop’s Daily Dose Hydra-Ceramide Boost + SPF 40 Sunscreen Oil PA+++ — to name a few. Additionally, Youth to the People and Kiehl’s have both recently launched retinol serums that include ceramides to counteract the ingredient’s notorious skin-sensitizing properties. Brands like Dr. Jart, which has had its Ceramidin collection since 2018, have seen a spike in interest.

“Total Ceramidin Cream Sales in North America from March 2021 to Feb 2022 are up 200% year-over-year,” Dr. Jart told Glossy. I would be remiss not to also mention Cerave, a brand built on the power of ceramides. Its hashtag #cerave has 1.6 billion views on TikTok.

In the simplest terms possible, ceramides can be analogized to the glue that holds our skin together. “Think of your skin barrier like skin cell tiles surrounded by grout that fills in cracks between the cells.  The grout is composed of natural lipids called ceramides, as well as free fatty acids and cholesterol. Conditions where the skin barrier is disrupted have been associated with decreased ceramides,” dermatologist Dr. Josh Zeichner said.

Skinfluencer-turned-brand founder Hyram Yarbro is encouraged by the shift. There is a “mainstream interest in ingredients, functionality, formulation — all of these things that previously were only relevant to people who worked in the skin-care industry, like manufacturers and people at skin-care brands,” he said. Another interesting shift has to do with the age of the people interested. “For a long time, the focus was so much on repairing and reducing the appearance of skin damage in older clientele. Now, we’re seeing so many young people. A lot of my followers I meet in person will be literally 10- or 11-years-old, talking about the skin barrier, reducing sensitivity, exfoliation, retinol. It blows my mind that people at that age already have such a vested interest in skin care.”

That’s in part because of Yarbro and the rise of the derm-influencer. “Readily available [dermatologists] on TikTok and other social media platforms are helping spread the skin barrier message, and fast. That’s why it feels like, almost overnight, ceramides began popping up all over the place, despite the fact that they have always been a core building block of healthy skin,” Smoot said. 

Skinfix has been talking about the skin barrier since its inception in 2014 and has witnessed the benefits of the terminology becoming more known to an everyday customer. To educate customers, the brand has always invested heavily in working with dermatologists. “In our minds, it was when the derms took to TikTok that [the concept caught on]. That’s just the way derms talk about skin: It’s all about the barrier, it’s all about barrier health, and barrier health is at the core of every skin concern,” said Skinfix founder Amy Gordinier.

“Consumers are focusing more on longer-term solutions and the health of their skin rather than quick fixes,” said Smoot, “This is why terms like ‘skin barrier’ have made their way into the average beauty consumer’s vernacular.” The brand recently introduced a new collection, Mighty Biome, which is exclusive to Wal-Mart and includes a moisturizer, cleansing balm and toner-serum hybrid.

We have [also] seen a shift in our own consumer research,” she said. “Eighteen months ago in focus groups, consumers preferred the language ‘helps repair skin’s natural protective layer,’ because they felt it better explained the benefit. But in groups two weeks ago, with both mass and prestige shoppers, the most popular claims included ‘skin barrier’ and ‘barrier repair,’” she said, proving that this fairly dermatological language has gone mainstream. 

“It’s a drastic shift from skin care being largely viewed as something that was a luxury to now. People really understand the importance of preventative care and taking care of their skin, in order to prevent skin issues in the long run,” Yarbro said.

Add to cart

Pat McGrath x Bridgerton

The second season of the hit show debuts today, and with it comes a second iteration of Pat McGrath’s adorable makeup collection. In this collection, you’ll find McGrath’s signature super-pigmented eyeshadow palettes, blushes and bow-adorned lipsticks, the latter of which are sure to be bestsellers. Prices range from $28-$60 for individual products. Shop it here.

Electric Picks x The Sculpt Society by Megan Roup

The fitness instructor to your favorite influencers, Roup, who works with Tinx and  Something Navy, has become an influencer herself — she has 283,000 followers on Instagram. Now, she’s collaborating with influencer-favorite jewelry brand Electric Picks on a capsule collection of jewelry that includes three necklaces and two pairs of earrings ranging in price from $64-$98. Shop it here

Glow Recipe x Mikayla Nogueira

Back in February 2021, Mikayla Nogueira did what she always does: She made a product go viral overnight. At the time, it was Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops. Since then, Glow Recipe has given Nogueira months-early previews of all its launches. Most recently, Glow Recipe worked with Nogueira on its first-ever influencer collaboration. It’s made up of a curated box that includes a full size of the Dew Drops, two of her other Glow Recipe faves, and minis of its Plum Plum Hyaluronic Cream and Mini Avocado Ceramide Recovery Serum, and sells for $48.  Shop it here. 

SheSpoke x Billie Jean King

The first in a new series of collaborations dubbed the “Icon Series,” makeup brand SheSpoke has partnered with tennis legend Billie Jean King. The series will continue with more partnerships with “female trailblazers” who will create custom lipstick collections. SheSpoke will donate a portion of proceeds to an organization of the collaborator’s choice. In King’s case, it’s her foundation the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative. The resulting Rally x BJK collab includes four lipsticks and one gloss for $39 each. Shop it here.

Trend of the week

Rihanna is reinventing maternity fashion. One of her best accessories? A chain around her belly. Fortunately, the belly chain (or, for the more conservative among us, chain belt) works even if you’re not pregnant. Barbie Ferreira just accessorized a blue bikini with one, and jewelry brand Dame Shop Dame is introducing a chain belt in the coming weeks. “The inspiration for our chain belts came from a vintage silver Calvin Klein belt that I inherited from my mother,” said co-founder Ariel Bielsky. “The ’90s and early 2000s are obviously back in a major way — cue the Chanel Spring 2022 RTW show. That means crop tops, styled swimwear, hot pants, mini skirts, cardigans and overall ’90s supermodel energy.”

If you’re in NYC…

Check out Christian Cowan’s first brick-and-mortar boutique at 76 Wooster. The clothing brand partnered with Smashbox cosmetics so shoppers can get a little glam to go with their sequins.

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