At a time when Instagram is king, Farsali is making sure that even the most mundane elements of skin care (like lotion) shine online. Positioning itself as a “makeup-enhancing” skin-care line, it’s tapping into the ever-growing pool of cosmetics junkies who turn to social media for inspiration, following in the footsteps of successful internet-born brands like Glossier.
Launched by Sal Ali, a former brand consultant, the line was inspired by Ali’s wife, Farah Dhukai, a popular beauty blogger with 5.9 million followers on Instagram. After watching her elaborate beauty routine, with its separate skin care and makeup steps, and tracking her weekly Sephora purchases, Ali decided to create a line that would bridge those two worlds. Farsali launched in 2014.
“It became very clear to me that there weren’t a lot of skin-care products out there meant to make your makeup look better,” he said.
From Dhukai, who’s been known to use everything from whipped cream to wasabi in her YouTube videos, he also learned a thing or two about what got the online beauty community buzzing most: visually appealing products that photograph well and have unique application processes.
Farsali’s Rose Gold Elixir
Both elements became key to the product development process for Farsali, which debuts new items at a much slower pace than most of its competitors, at only one to two times a year. In total, the brand only has five products right now, selling for $25 to $54. Alongside its own website, select products are sold at retailers including Sephora US, Cult Beauty, Debenhams and Boots.
Even the names of the brand’s products capitalize on social media trends: Its Rose Gold Elixir and Unicorn Essence are the top two best sellers. While the Elixir is merely a dry-oil moisturizer said to reduce fine lines and discoloration, it’s amped up by 24-karat gold flakes and an Insta-worthy application process that involves squeezing droplets of the product onto a makeup sponge (conveniently helping those gold flakes stand out on camera).
Similarly, the brand’s Unicorn Essence — a serum meant to protect skin from environmental toxins and boost makeup’s longevity — is a thick, sparkly pink liquid the brand claims should be applied like a stream of tears down each cheek. It’s a play on unicorn tears, Ali said.
“In the past, skin care was done behind the curtain,” he said. “You’d have a routine that you’d do before bed, and then you’d wake up [and put your makeup on].”
But today, of course, there are endless platforms on which to display those routines, and dissect the routines of others.
Ali and the company’s marketing manager run Farsali’s social accounts, with a focus on Instagram and Facebook. The former, according to Ali, is its “bread and butter,” in terms of reach — with the audience growing a reported 1,200 percent, to 1 million, in 2016 after the launch of the Rose Gold Elixir. It’s now at 1.3 million.
Direct sales from the platform, however, are still hard to track, due to its limited capacity for click-through linking, but it likely played a role in the brand’s early sales. When Sephora first launched Farsali’s Rose Gold Elixir and Unicorn Essence on its website in February of 2017, the Rose Gold Elixir sold out in 24 hours. Both products hit Sephora stores in April and will roll into an undisclosed number of the chain’s international locations this year, to be available in roughly 30 countries.
Influencers testing out Farsali’s Unicorn Essence product
While Ali insists each product’s performance is its most important factor, social media appeal is key, especially as it’s one of the first things larger corporations look to when they hunt for smaller brands to acquire. But a large following is much harder for a skin-care brand to pull off than, say, a ColourPop or Kylie Cosmetics.
“We always ask: How can we tell the story of the product? How do we make it fun so that people are captivated by it?” said Ali.
The brand’s latest launch, its Jelly Beam highlighter, is a jelly-like metallic substance meant to illuminate different areas of the face. Re-posted influencer videos on the brand’s Instagram emphasize those “fun” elements the brand thrives on, namely the product’s gooey texture and the concentrated shimmer it creates on the face before being blended.
Although influencers have taken to Farsali in droves, Ali said that the company, which is self-funded, simply doesn’t have the money to pay them — though it does occasionally gift. Outside of attending some beauty events early on, where influencers were able to test the products, it’s been “a very organic journey,” he said.
However, while he insists that Dhukhai is not part of the business whatsoever (other than inspiring it), her frequent endorsements of its products on her social feeds can’t hurt.