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The Business of Beauty Haul of Fame: In Sickness and in Wealth

Can Covid-Era Beauty Brands Grow Up?
A person applying hand cream
EvolveTogether launched in 2020 when jewellery designer Cynthia Sakai made a small line of medical masks. (EvolveTogether)

Welcome back to Haul of Fame, the weekly beauty roundup of new products, new ideas and new reasons to fear Gen-Z’s relationship to being pretty. (Tanning beds, guys? Really?)

Included in today’s issue: Aavrani, Coola, Huda Beauty, Iris & Romeo, Lafco, Lancome, Liberty London, Ouai, Philip B, Prequel, Rokael Lizama, Tonymoly, The Wicked Witch of the West and Harry Styles.

But first…

It feels weird to talk about “pandemic beauty brands,” because there was nothing beautiful about a terrifying illness and its lingering after-effects. Still, it’s undeniable that periods of great strife often lead to lasting social and style changes. The Burberry trench coat is named for literal warfare, after all.

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In the case of 2020′s Covid-19 pandemic, we got the usual stuff — sweatpants for the couch, groundbreaking — but also, a strong surge of beauty lines that came out of seemingly nowhere, and created a new lexicon for how we “get pretty” today.

This week marks four years since we all began saying “you’re on mute” and baking sourdough. And two brands founded during the pandemic are launching new stuff, marking bigger building blocks into a “normal,” or at least “post-normal,” environment.

First among them is EvolveTogether, which launched in 2020 when jewellery designer Cynthia Sakai made a small line of medical masks, printed with the coordinates of cities worldwide. One of EvolveTogether’s first celebrity “gets” was Justin Bieber, who was paparazzi’d while wearing a logo-printed mask in California. Rihanna, Gigi Hadid and seemingly the entire Vogue fashion closet followed.

Today, EvolveTogether still sells masks, even though most people at airports and other public places now refuse to wear them. (Please contact me for a private rant on this issue later.) That’s why Sakai has built on the brand’s name recognition and expanded to include hand creams, plant-based deodorants and lip balms. In January, it brought dry coconut powder face wash, meant to mix with a few drops of water from your sink, then launched bar soaps, embossed with the tagline “Doing Good Every Day.” By harnessing the good vibes of altruism — without ditching the rewards of celebrity culture or, you know, money — EvolveTogether has built a ship that can sail beyond one fixed point in time and into our bathrooms and beauty bags on a more permanent basis. In August 2023, Evolvetogether reported $10 million in earnings and a round of new capital coming from True Beauty Ventures, which has invested in startups like Dieux and Vacation.

Then there’s Paume, another pandemic-era line now going much wider. It began with a milky hand sanitiser in a Millennial pink squeeze bottle, an antidote to the super-drying, scary-smelling antiseptics we were constantly spraying on ourselves before leaving the house. Paume was created by Amy Welsman, a Canadian underwear executive for Knix; it reported over $1.5 million in sales last year for its hero product.

This month, Paume is going wider into “hand care” with five products, including a print resin wooden nail brush, hand serum and probiotic hand balm landing at Urban Outfitters. Like Hailey Bieber’s Rhode, it too makes its own carrying case for its sanitiser. Paume’s version is a pebbled leather, ivorybottle-holder with strapr. (How long before Balenciaga makes its own version?)

As wellness skyrockets into a trillion-dollar category, brands created during a health crisis have established real trust with shoppers and social media followers. Of course, their products also have to work to keep that trust … so if you’ve used that waterless coconut face wash, DM us and tell us what it was like.

What Else Is New?

Skincare

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Also related: Congratulations Dr. Shereene Idriss, for launching Dr. Idriss Skincare in Sephora on Mar. 12! Dr. Idriss and her approachable skincare routines took off as work-from-home made Zoom chats a necessity, and a focus on glowing complexions became inevitable.

On Mar. 6, 111 Skin launched an Exfoliating Enzyme Cleanser, which is also in a powder form! It uses shikimic acid, which is often used in antiviral flu medication. Seriously.

Mar. 7 brings us two new drops from Prequel, Skin Utility Balm and Skin Utility Gel. Both formulas serve to protect the ever-fussy skin barrier from stress and moisture loss. That same day, Lancier introduced a Gravity Defying Moisturiser. It would be cool if the label did a tie-in with the upcoming “Wicked” movie.

On Mar. 12, Coola debuted a Clear Skin Oil-Free Moisturiser SPF 30, made specifically to provide sun protection without clogging pores.

Raw Sugar Living introduced a Daily Micro Scrub Salt Polish on Mar. 11 that comes in four scents, including Santal and Caffeine, which sounds like a recipe for influencer paradise. Youth to the People debuted its Superfood Skin Drip Smooth & Glow Barrier Serum, which it’s positioning as a green juice for your complexion.

Hair Care

On Mar. 8, Ouai dropped its new Anti-Frizz Créme. Since it comes on the heels of the brand’s Hair Gloss launch, I’m beginning to think Jen Atkin is more stoked on super sleek hair at the moment. The runways certainly were!

Mar. 11 brought us Philip B.’s Maui Wowie mousse, which retails for a whopping $52 and includes “marine extracts and protein.” Are the ‘marine extracts’ pearls? Because again: $52 for mousse!

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The Ayurvedic line Aavrani launched hair care at Sephora on Mar. 12, with the goal of promoting thicker and healthier hair. TV host and YouTube personality Lilly Singh is its face.

Makeup

Lots of noise on TikTok (and subsequent try-hard “news” stories) about eyeshadow being dead for Gen-Z — but their patron saint, Emma Chamberlain, sure wore a lot of it at the Vanity Fair Oscar party. Her look was by Lilly Keys and involved four different eyeshadows by Lancôme , including one called “Earth Red,” which looked a bit like bloody smoke. Loved it, obviously.

Makeup artist Rokael Lizama unveiled his eponymous beauty line on Mar. 11 with a lipstick, lip oil and lip liner. Lizama’s clients have included Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and Rihanna, which means she’s major but also that her famous friends may not be able to tag the products online. After all, they’ve got their own beauty brands, and all the red tape that comes with those fabulous red lips.

Tonymoly’s Cheek Tone jelly blusher hit stores on Mar. 13. K-beauty fans will be happy because the brand is adorable and effective; Milk Makeup fans will be happy because if they can’t get the brand’s sold-out Cooling Water, this blush is gorgeous, too.

On Mar. 12, Iris & Romeo launched a new Weekend Skin tint called Bronze Glow. On the heels of the Washington Post’s terrifying story about teens loving real tanning beds again, I guess we should be grateful there are some good fake-and-bake options out there.

Lip glosses: Everybody’s doing them. Huda Beauty dropped its own version, Faux Filler Extra Shine lip gloss, on Mar. 13 in seven shades of slick and Kardashian-esque decadence.

Fragrance

On Mar. 11, Lafco unveiled Source & Story candles, which blend fine fragrance with global empowerment of women…? The marketing is a little clunky, but the candle scents have Andean Myrtle, which supports local Quechuan women farmers in the remote valleys of Peru; Timur Pepper, which helps local Nepalese villages; and Geranium Bourbon, which aids in farming education in Madagascar. I love Lafco’s idea that investing in local women will uplift entire communities. I hope next time, they release real numbers on how much cash they’ve invested in those micro-economies, and what it’s helped them gain.

Liberty London will open its new Fragrance Lounge on Mar. 15. They’re expecting fragrance sales to increase 35 percent by “prioritising dwell time.” Basically, they’re making a bigger and more sumptuous shopping area for potential sniffers, and including buzzy brands like Perfumer H and Ex Nihilo, along with the usual (and often beautiful) Coty suspects.

Nail Care

Harry Styles has introduced 32 shades of Pleasing nail polish in individual bottles, which look like the coolest chessboard rooks you’ve ever seen. And if you don’t want to scream for Styles, Lottie London introduced six new press-on nail designs on Mar. 7 that “scream energy and dopamine” instead.

And Finally…

My friends of menopausal age are using hormonal oestrogen cream to curb their hot flashes and vaginal dryness. On Mar. 13, Musely introduced an oestrogen cream (made with a type called estriol) that it says “helps the skin increase collagen production, retain moisture and improve skin elasticity” at any age. Will oestrogen cream become like Ozempic? A prescription-only favourite of the Hollywood set invented for medical use, but used for aesthetic domination? Stay tuned.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Mar. 14, 2024, to amend Rokael Lizama’s pronoun.

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