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The Business of Beauty Haul of Fame: When TikTok Fails Drive Sales

A masterclass from Topicals and more.
A model with heavy makeup
Pat McGrath's Margiela couture look was complete with a super-smooth and shiny coating that made model's faces look like porcelain casts. (Pat McGrath)

Welcome back to Haul of Fame, the weekly beauty roundup of new products, new ideas and at least one excuse to throw everything into the sea.

Included in today’s issue: Aerin, Antica Farmasista, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Armani Beauty, Grown Alchemist, DevaCurl, Drake, Estée Lauder, Hermes, Iconic London, Kate Somerville, Memo Paris, Nazuk, Nails by Mei, Noble Panacea, Lottie London, Pacifica, RŌZ Hair, Solawave, and adult ADHD.

But first …

Sometimes getting it wrong is the best thing that can happen to a brand.

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Witness the fervour surrounding Pat McGrath’s “glass skin” at the much-gaped Margiela couture show on Jan. 25. McGrath transformed models like Hannah Motler and Colette Kanza (in her runway debut!) with a super-smooth and shiny coating that made their faces look like porcelain casts. The effect was jarring and eerie; it was also a viral sensation that sparked 9.3 million TikTok views on McGrath’s page alone.

The plasticine skin appeared to peel off like a mask after wear. It wasn’t pretty or easy; instead, it was art, and the makeup community went wild — which might be a great sign for Fashion Month, and more big beauty moments on runways beyond a celebrity trend.

As for the play-and-peel Margiela look, makeup sleuths on Reddit played “Clue,” except instead of murder weapons, they were trying to find skin sprays. Popular theories: It was Kryolan Liquid Glass, a stage makeup spritz that’s often used on The Nutcracker’s dancing snowflakes. Or maybe it was Skin Illustrator Clear gloss, as seen on Jude Law’s android in the movie “AI.” What about Undetectable Sealer spray gloss from Bluebird FX, which is rumoured to be in the “Barbie” movie? Elsewhere, makeup artist Erin Parsons tried to create her own version of the look and even used the middle school sleepover staple Freeman’s Cucumber Mask with an airbrusher.

Were any of these theories correct? Nope. McGrath is launching her own glass skin situation today at 3pm EST and the whole thing will be livestreamed. But even though these guesses were wrong — and called out by the makeup artist herself within hours of posting —it hasn’t stopped the products from selling out, and from Parsons herself from scoring over 4 million TikTok views overnight.

A same-same-but-different effect is happening on Topicals’ TikTok account, where founder Olamide Olowe made a video addressing criticism over the brand’s Slick Salve lip balm. The super-shiny gloss launched in late December, but many complained the formula was sticky and thicker than expected. Olowe faced her detractors head-on — like, literally, her TikTok frame is basically a headshot — and explained they’d developed the formula specifically for high-needs skin, like eczema-prone skin, which demands extra protection. The video was well-received, and the Topicals product totally sold out. (The brand made a separate video about that too, plugging other Black-owned beauty lines to buy in the meantime, which was extremely cool.)

In both McGrath and Olowe’s cases, the narrative went a little off the rails. A cool-headed founder using humour and grace instead of defensive tactics got the story back on track, and sales eventually followed. Hopefully, the algorithm does, too, because snark and sneering are deeply boring online … and now we have numbers to prove it.

WHAT ELSE IS NEW

Mental Health

Obsessed with Lottie London’s Twisted Heart duo lipstick and gloss, which launched on Jan. 29. The double-ended product was designed as a fidget toy to help those with ADHD and sensory needs. Lots of brands support mental health initiatives (hello, Rare Beauty) but this is the first time I’ve seen a mainstream product intentionally designed for the neuroatypical community. (Although I’ve been using Simi Haze’s magnetic lipstick tubes as click toys for years.) This strategy could unlock a new revenue stream for other brands, especially if they design products in partnership with mental health experts. Hopefully, they’ll ensure the actual makeup formula is perfect. Otherwise, it’s just a toy and not a tool.

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HAIR CARE

We’re going big. On Jan. 25, Mara Roszak launched her new Rōz Hair Root Lift spray. It’s designed to give major volume and hold to blowouts, and it’s been tested — like everything Roszak does — on her number one client, Emma Stone. (It also smells divine.) DevaCurl is also launching their Curl Heights collection at Ulta Beauty, so go “boing!” or go home? Sorry.

On Jan. 29, Nazuk Beauty introduced its Usma Extract eyebrow mask and Usma Hair Flourish soap. Created with usma grass from China, the products are based on ancient Uyghur herbal remedies for hair loss.

SKINCARE

On Jan. 29, Pacifica dropped its Future Youth Super Cream and Gravity Rebound face mask. Kombucha is listed as an active ingredient.

Are we done with our collagen obsession? We are not, says Kate Somerville, who debuted the KateCeuticals SuperCell Rejuvenating serum on Jan. 30.

Two new additions in the don’t-add-water space: Grown Alchemist introduced a Meltaway Gel-Milk cleanser on Jan. 29 that can be used with or without H20. Meanwhile, Noble Panacea continues their beauty-in-a-pod model with their Exceptional Overnight Chronobiology peel, which reports shoppers will see a “100 percent reduction of pigmentation and 81 percent reduction in scarring or the appearance of scars.”

On Jan. 30, Uma Oils relaunched their website as an “Ayurvedic learning platform” with tutorials and explainers from founder Shrankhla Holecek about the wellness practice. On the one hand, this seems tricky, because no one brand owns ancient wisdom. On the other, it is useful to have an ayurvedic cheat sheet as the practice seeps further into the modern beauty world.

Solawave’s new Skin Therapy and Activating Serum dropped on Jan. 31. It was created to “deeply hydrate and optimise the performance of LED light therapy, galvanic current and microcurrent technologies,” which links to the trend we’re seeing of topical skincare designed to enhance medical-grade treatments.

FRAGRANCE

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the new face of Armani Beauty’s Acqua de Gio. He said he loves “that elusive combination of masculinity and sensitivity - an almost magical connection to nature and to the rejuvenating power of the sea.” Okay?

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Elsewhere in hot-guys-with-scents, Drake released his first-ever fragrance oil on Jan. 31: Better World Fragrance House Caraby Musk Oil. And Ken — the doll, not Ryan Gosling, unfortunately — is now a cologne at Urban Outfitters with notes of sandalwood and sea salt, because his job is still Beach.

Meanwhile in the land of femme fragrance, effort seems to equal desire. Aerin’s new Mediterranean Honeysuckle Tiaré scent, launched on Feb. 1, is made with tiaré, a French Polynesian botanical that’s traditionally harvested by soaking flowers in oil for 15 days. Meanwhile, the new Memo Paris Cappadocia scent (also a Feb. 1 launch) is made with “saffron picked by groups, then placed in their aprons or baskets and taken home in baskets and takes place from sunrise to sunset for 20 to 25 days.” This seems like a strange flex for a luxury perfume, so maybe now would be a good time to ask the brand copywriters to blink twice if they’re okay.

Hermes H24 Herbes Vives launched Feb. 1 with notes of sorrel, hemp and parsley. It recalls Loewe’s tomato leaves franchise and its dupe, Antica Farmacista’s tomato vine range. Maybe true luxury right now is smelling like a salad?

NAILS

On Jan. 30, Manicurist Paris launched its Space Odyssey Collection, including a jade shade that’s mirrored in Dashing Diva’s latest all-green manicure set for Ulta. I guess it’s always Saint Patrick’s Day somewhere.

Those looking for more colour options might want to zoom through Nails By Mei’s new drop for Heaven Marc Jacobs, though; it includes a rainbow press-on manicure for all your rave baby needs. I’m in love with it, obviously.

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