Skincare is “a thing” right now, ok? There have been countless think pieces about how skincare is self-care, and we’re all obsessed with our serums and actives and “shelfies” and double-cleansing and snail slime. There is a thriving subreddit (SkincareAddiction) where users can post before and after shots and share their routines to compare notes. I know all of this because I too have fallen down this rabbit hole and emerged into a dewy Wonderland where, frankly, the results don’t always match the impact on my wallet. But I digress.
As with anything that becomes too popular, drama tends to follow. And in the world of skincare, the drama exists not with the customers, but with the brands themselves — and their social media accounts. One big story emerged last month from Deciem, the company behind the cult favorite brand The Ordinary, when its founder, Brandon Truaxe, announced he’d decided to cancel the company’s marketing efforts and take over the social media channels himself.
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The idea is to speak as a human to other humans, and inspire a real dialogue directly with consumers, prioritizing a hands-on feel rather than the overly sanitized social media images we’re used to. Which sounds great! Deciem bills itself as “The Abnormal Beauty Company” after all, so a certain maverick approach to marketing makes sense. But things aren’t going super smoothly (sometimes literally, as dude can NOT hold his camera phone steady!). Jezebel recently detailed the brand’s social media kerfuffles, from Truaxe not handling criticism well to sniping at commenters to a lil light racism, and it’s a great read. Though honestly, if you needed a hint as to how this experiment would go down, all you had to do was go to the “founder” page on the company’s website and see the picture that greets you there:
That… doesn’t bode well. But one thing that has also emerged was an instance of The Ordinary seemingly targeting another brand in an ad — in this case, Drunk Elephant — with a joke about how you’d “have to be drunk to overpay for Marula.” Oh, uh, Marula oil is a fancy face oil that The Ordinary sells for a fraction of the price that Drunk Elephant does.
The SkincareAddition subreddit latched on to it, then Allure covered the drama, and eventually Truaxe posted a long-winded apology about it (and donated to Save The Elephants as well). So is everyone getting along now?
NO WAY! SkincareAddiction this week featured a post about social media brand drama, only this week it’s Drunk Elephant that’s the culprit:
To be fair, I haven’t been able to find the original Glossier Instagram post to verify, but from the looks of things, somebody at Drunk Elephant created a fake profile to post negative comments on Glossier’s social media, but then forgot to continue responding under that profile… and instead responded as Drunk Elephant. OOPS.
But perhaps the best part is reading through the rest of the comments on that Reddit post, because the SkincareAddiction readers are a savvy bunch and they know this is happening to them on Reddit too. They share tips on how to spot paid shills and fake accounts, and even trade names they believe are false profiles created to talk up brands. And the thing is, there’s a lot of money at stake for these companies, with American women supposedly spending $8 on their faces per day and 85% of women applying an average of 16 products (including skincare and cosmetics). As the market gets more saturated with competing products, and consumers use websites like CosDNA to research ingredient lists for irritants or refer to blogs for knowledgeable reviews of new products, the pressure is on to woo buyers with the perfect mix of affordable, effective, and appealing new potions.
But there is room for them all, because the thing is, nobody’s skin is the same anyway. There is no single right answer. The Ordinary is the inexpensive brand that makes you feel like a wizard, combining solitary ingredients into your own perfect routine. Glossier is the slightly pricier, and way cooler — frankly, er, glossy — brand that makes you feel like you only better. And Drunk Elephant is like the hippie mom of the bunch, offering all natural concoctions at higher price points to make you feel like your face is becoming one with nature. Then there are all the other brands like Herbivore Botanicals, Tata Harper, Sunday Riley, and more that make you think that if you just spend that next $100 you’ll finally slough off the old you and emerge with a face you can be proud of. On top of all of that, there are the too-numerous-to-list Asian Beauty trends that always offer something exciting and new. Some of it is hype, and some of it is science, and some of it is hope — and if all else fails, there will always be a well-stocked aisle in every drug store offering more options.
All I’m saying is, maybe brands should focus more on their products and spend less time embarrassing themselves on social media. Because honestly? I can embarrass myself there anytime. I’m buying these concoctions partially so my next picture ISN’T an embarrassment.