Culture Feature

From Rihanna to Pharrell: 5 Celebrity Skincare Brands from 2020

Do we need it? No. Do we want it? Maybe.

Since quarantine, remote working, and social distancing made us retreat into our homes in March, brands promoting "self care" have been on the rise.

The proverbial wisdom has been that, since most people have more time than ever, some of that should, in such apocalyptic times, be dedicated to self care.

Cue: a barrage of celebrity skincare products designed to help people use their time at home to indulge in more elaborate, hopefully more intentional, grooming rituals.

Celebrity ventures into beauty are not new. Every celebrity seems to have a line of lipsticks or perfumes, and everyone in Los Angeles has their own makeup palette. It's obvious that people who make their living off of being beautiful would market that beauty to the rest of us, too.

However, with the makeup landscape shifting to prioritize brands that focus on skincare, celebrities are pivoting too. With the success of skin-first brands like Glossier, whose approach was groundbreaking at the time of its launch for empowering their consumer community rather than marketing their insecurities, the skincare realm has never been more appealing.

However, skincare is a highly saturated market. Despite claims about the supposed uniqueness of every product and brands vying to stand out from the noise, it's an uphill battle to achieve brand recognition and loyalty, let alone widespread success.

Unless you're a celebrity.

While some celebrity brands have passed the test of social media approval, others have left fans feeling skeptical. Many users had more general qualms about the purpose of celebrity skincare brands. After all, these skincare products didn't make them beautiful or successful. Their beauty and success gave them the access to make their products.

But overall, it's been a big year for skin fanatics, though some releases were more satisfying than others.

Rihanna - Fenty Skin

We might never be getting music from Rihanna again. The sooner we accept this, the better.

The 32 year-old business mogul and (former?) musician launched her eponymous beauty label, Fenty Beauty, to much praise in 2017. The star's line quickly garnered cult-like status for its inclusive shade range, which other brands have since tried to imitate. Combining quality and diversity, Fenty Beauty proved that it wasn't just another fleeting celebrity line. It had staying power.

Years later, it is still a make-up lover's staple, so it was to equal excitement that the brand launched its new line this year: Fenty Skin. The four-product launch included a cleanser, a toning serum known as "Fat Water," an SPF moisturizer, and a night cream.

In preparation for its launch, Rihanna enlisted high profile celebrities to join her on a press tour — including her rumored partner A$AP Rocky. The set sold out almost immediately and was met with mostly positive reviews. It combined clean, big-ticket skincare ingredients with recyclable, aesthetically pleasing packaging.

Though some fans raved at the results, others were disappointed at the limited product line up, hoping for more products in the future. Some also expressed concern at the fact that "fragrance" is listed in the ingredients list. A harmful irritant for most skin types, especially sensitive skin, most brands are pivoting away from adding artificial fragrances and skin experts warn against them.

Overall, the line was basic but a little divisive. Most fans are sticking to Fenty Beauty, but new product additions might convince them to try their hand again at achieving Rihanna level skin.

Emrata - Loops Beauty

Undoubtedly, this was the year of face masks. Mostly that meant face coverings for venturing out into the world, but the classic skincare variety were big too. There's little that feels as indulgent as the idea of sitting in wait as a cool sheet mask seeps its moisture into your skin, promising soft skin and some vague hope of a youthful glow.

The reality is usually less glamorous. It's not uncommon to give up on sheet masks whose eye and mouth holes don't match up to your face, that drip down your neck, and that feel super wasteful to throw out after twenty minutes, leaving nothing but a pang of guilt with the face of Greta Thunberg and a sticky essence half dried on your face.

Loops beauty launched earlier this year to solve each and every one of these problems, while looking super good on Instagram. In all ways but aesthetic — with its bright packaging and selfie-ready style — the brand takes a simple approach to sheet masks. Using only four ingredients and drawing from the cult-like skincare secrets of K-beauty, the masks are supposed to provide an easier, less messy masking experience.

They come in two halves, for the top and bottom of your face, making them easy to apply, and the brand also includes lip and eye masks. The most appealing highlight: They're compostable.

Helmed in part by model and activist Emily Ratajkowski, the brand has also made its rounds on social media, from the classic highly sponsored posts with big names, to even a TikTok of Jada and Willow from Will Smith wearing them around the house.

While Loop's partnership with EmRata definitely garnered it some of its fame, the brand benefits from seeing a consumer need and addressing it in a simple but well executed package. The model spokesperson doesn't hurt either.

Alicia Keys - Keys Soulcare

In 2016, Alicia Keys decided to stop wearing makeup. In a letter explaining her decision, Keys wrote that she decided she didn't want "to cover up anymore. Not my face, not my mind, not my soul, not my thoughts, not my dreams, not my struggles, not my emotional growth. Nothing."

Her announcement was met with mixed results. Most supported her decision (though some of the comments about her extreme bravery brought to light questions about why women feel so pressured to wear makeup that, when one does not, it's considered an unfathomable act of courage), and some inevitably slammed her. Others, however, wondered if her stance on makeup meant she was making a statement against the makeup industry itself.

In the months following, Keys clarified that she was "not anti-make up," while people close to her also clarified that she would sometimes wear makeup if she wanted, but she was changing her relationship with it.

What soon became clear was that Alicia Keys has incredible skin. Fans inevitably started asking her to drop her skincare routine, and recently she has delivered in spades by dropping a skincare brand in collaboration with e.l.f. Beauty called "Keys Soulcare."

Inspired by her own approach to beauty, the line is a dermatologist-developed, cruelty free lifestyle brand based on creating self care rituals. In the launch of her recent collection, which includes a moisturizer, candle, and jade roller, Keys spoke on the role of beauty rituals as almost meditative. "When I'm able to create that space for myself I feel more beautiful, more powerful, more possible. That's soulcare," she said.

Of the 2020 lines, Key's seems the most focused on the holistic experience of self care. And with people looking for more grounded ways to structure their lives, Keys offers her own.

Pharrell - Humanrace

There's a half-believed conspiracy theory that a set of Hollywood actors, including Keanu Reeves and Pharrell Williams, are either immortal or time travellers based on their striking resemblance to people in ancient art and their seeming agelessness.

The 47-year-old DJ, designer, and musician has looked about 20 since he was 20. He's been hounded for years by fans asking what his secret is. All he offers is vague advice to moisturize and exfoliate, but that was not enough to appease those trying to imitate his almost impossible youthfulness.

It was only a matter of time before Pharrell monetized his age-defying skin with a skincare range, and so appears his recently released line, Humanrace. As the name implies, the brand is focused on inclusivity, marketed to all skin types, ages, and genders. The packaging itself includes braille lettering to increase accessibility.

The line includes an exfoliating cleanser — only natural, considering his long-repeated insistence on exfoliation — as well as an exfoliating toner and a moisturizer. This line is at the forefront of skincare brands whose marketing isn't solely focused on women. The products have been generally received well by people across a range of demographics — selling out fast and planning a restock.

Millie Bobby Brown — florence by mills

Millie Bobby Brown has experienced more than her fair share of bouts with the internet.

Absurdly and almost inexplicably, the 16-year old Stranger Things star was the subject of a meme trend a few years ago that caused her to leave Twitter; then, the internet had more questions when she posted a video to release her skincare line, "florence by mills."

The line is marketed towards Millie's Gen-Z fanbase, selling skincare basics alongside reusable cotton pads and recyclable packaging. However, while the products themselves seem very standard, Millie's skincare video was strange.

In the Instagram story, Millie Bobby Brown claims to use her products to wash her face. Except...she doesn't? Fans quickly pointed out that it looks like Millie Bobby Brown doesn't actually have any products on her hands, or water on her face, as she "washes" it.

Despite being an acclaimed actress, fans were not fooled. Mostly, they were confused. At first it was unclear why the video went down the way it did and what that meant about the skincare itself. Did it work? Did Millie even know?

Brown released a statement on Instagram, which didn't really explain the video, but said that she was "still learning the best way to share my routines as I get to know this space better."