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  • Starface detracts from the need to appear ‘perfect’
  • Starface detracts from the need to appear ‘perfect’
    Star Face (2019) ©
CASE STUDY

Starface: acne stickers for the social media savvy

Beauty guru Julie Schott’s Starface pimple patches are leading the charge in the skin acceptance movement. Designed to cover up and heal spots, yet remain visible, these cute yellow stars are lighting up social media and tapping Gen Z’s desire to resist ‘perfect’ skin ideals.

Location United States

Scope
Founded by former ELLE beauty director Julie Schott and Brian Bordainick in 2019, Starface is a targeted acne treatment with a twist. Unlike traditional spot patches – clinical translucent stickers designed to be as inconspicuous as possible – this skincare hack doesn’t shy away from attention. Instead, the brand encourages anyone with a breakout to place yellow star-shaped stickers on their spots – a loud, proud reclamation of facial ‘imperfections’. 

Targeting acne – one of the most common skin conditions, affecting 80% of Americans – Starface describes these Hydro-Stars as “hydrocolloid pimple-protectors”. [1][2] They have been “clinically proven to absorb fluid, shield spots from outside bacteria, and prevent skin picking.” [2]Having acne, especially as a teenager, can cause lasting psychological distress. It certainly doesn’t help when you’re faced with treatment products that use language like ‘blemish’ and ‘imperfection’,”  says Schott. “Starface is here to normalize pimples, show acneic skin some love. Ultimately skincare is supposed to make you feel good.” [3]

The Hydro-Stars are designed to be worn for a minimum of six hours – when they turn opaque, they’ve done their job and can be removed. Cruelty free and 100% vegan, the brand encourages positivity throughout the whole process, compelling people to ‘feel cute’. [4] They also warn that the Hydro-Stars ‘may cause an impulse to take 24 of the same Starfaced selfie’. [2] At $22 for 32, packaged in a hard plastic jewellery-style box they’re not cheap, but reviews have been positive so far. One fan, Heidi F. writes: “Love that this is using technology actually backed by science! Packaging is so cute – makes you look forward to getting a blemish. So many more patches for the cost than other pimple patch companies.” [2]

This skincare hack doesn’t shy away from attention
This skincare hack doesn’t shy away from attention
Star Face (2019) ©

Context 
Starface is tapping into a current digital moment whereby people are embracing their insecurities and aren’t afraid to post these ‘flaws’ online. “Gen Z is incredibly open and experimental when it comes to beauty, and embracing your ‘flaws’ has become second nature,” says Tora Northman, associate editor at Hypebae. “It’s the first generation to understand that your unique features are what makes you you, and that's really exciting.” [5] The #freethepimple movement is one that’s “aiming to de-stigmatize acne and empower others to embrace the skin they’re in,” with over 6,000 Instagram posts of people proudly sharing their acne and skincare issues. [6] Justin Bieber declared that ‘pimples are in’ in an Instagram post and actor Lili Reinhart – of Gen Z smash hit show Riverdale – also shared a photo of her cystic acne online. [7] [8] Musician Lil Nas X has made lighthearted references to his pimples and acne and has asked people to stop making fun of his acne on Twitter.

As a generation that has grown up online and using social media – 45% of American teens are online “almost constantly” – the pressures of puberty have only been enhanced, with 29% feeling the pressure to look good. [9][10] But with the rise of perfection fatigue and flawless, curated virtual presences, Starface is among a crop of new brands diverting the narrative of having to appear ‘perfect’. Body positive skincare brand Squish Beauty – launched in August 2019 by model and activist Charli Howard – focuses on celebrating the uniqueness of ‘real bodies,’ rejecting the body shaming and stigmas associated with acne. [11] Its Flower Power acne patches come in pink, blue, and orange and work in the same way at Starface’s, complete with hydrocolloid that’s effective and gentle on sensitive skin. “Spots are not fun but these patches make fun of them,” says Howard. “It isn’t the end of the world and yeah, I’ve got a spot – so what?!” [12]

Starface comes at a time when the skincare market is booming globally. The global skincare product market is projected to reach $183.03 billion by 2025, while skincare sales in the US grew 5% to $1.4 billion in Q1 of 2019. [13] [14] Some 52% of Americans use skincare products everyday and at 17%, the skincare segment of the beauty industry takes the largest share of revenue in the beauty and personal care market in the US (which includes color cosmetics, haircare, bath, fragrance, and more). [15] [16] Skincare is now a big business, and brands in their field must create products that actually work, as well as a brand people can relate to and want to buy into.

Starface patches are both Instagrammable and effective
Starface patches are both Instagrammable and effective
Star Face (2019) ©

Insights & Opportunities
Some 56% of teens can tell whether a brand is for them based on their social media accounts, and 45% of this cohort use Instagram to find new products. [17] [18] Starface is disrupting the current trope of beauty brands being sleek, minimal, and polished – á la The Ordinary – and bringing them something fun, eye-catching, and shareable. By encouraging people to share selfies of themselves wearing the stars mid-breakout, Starface fosters a sense of online solidarity of people owning their flaws. “A lot of social media is heavily retouched and edited, but we're drifting away from this and young people are looking for the content that comes across as more real,” says Northman. “Seeing ‘real customers’ use the product – rather than beautiful models with layers of makeup on – will make it a lot more appealing and will also show that everyone can use it.” [5]

“Teens don’t want beauty jargon. They want straight-talking brands with a point of view on the world,” says Alix Hope, senior creative strategist at brand experience agency, Dalziel & Pow. [19] As a single-product brand, Starface has perfected its formula and created a product that specifically targets a single issue with an effective treatment, so people know exactly what to expect when they use it. "Consumers are craving newness, but their mindset and attitude to purchasing a new product is shifting from just buying a beauty product because it’s Insta-friendly to focusing on proven results and product efficacy," says Theresa Yee, senior beauty editor of trend forecasting company WGSN[20] Starface hits the sweet spot of being extremely Instagrammable and actually effective on the skin. Beauty and bodycare brand Blume is also prioritising self care over perfection, and seeks to “validate puberty”. [21] In response to a survey finding that 52.3% of respondents had been made to feel ashamed about their acne by someone in their life, Blume writes that “the conversations around acne should be uplifting”. [22]

By transforming the discourse around acne from a shameful taboo into something fun and lighthearted, Starface is joining the ranks of many other Gen Z-focused skin and bodycare brands that champion imperfection and diversity, while also being rooted in internet culture. Northman echoes this sentiment: “Consumers can see past the heavily retouched images we're exposed to on the daily, and much more prefer to see something that is real and most importantly, relatable. These brands have a positive way of marketing their products, and will appeal more to the consumer.” [5]

Sources
1.‘Acne: MSD Manual Consumer Version’, MSD
2.‘The Hydrocolloid Pimple Patch: Hydro-Stars™’, Starface
3.‘Introducing Starface – Pimple patches for the Instagram age, Dazed Digital (September 2019)
4.‘These star shaped pimple patches are an acne game changer’, Metro (September 2019)’
5.Interview with Tora Northman, conducted by author
6.‘What to do if you suffer from acne’, Dazed Beauty (December 2018)
7.‘Pimples are cool now, according to Justin Bieber’, HighSnobiety (March 2018)
8.‘Riverdale actor Lili Reinhart shared a cystic acne selfie on Instagram’, Teen Vogue (April 2018)  
9.‘Teens, social media & technology 2018’, Pew Research Center (May 2018)
10.‘Most US teens see anxiety and depression as a major problem among their peers’, Pew Research Center (February 2019)
11.‘Everything you need to know about Charli Howard’s skincare brand, Squish’, Elle (August 2019) 
12.‘Why not have fun with your flaws? Asks Charli Howard’, Vogue (September 2019)
13.‘Skin care products market worth $183.03 billion by 2025 | CAGR: 4.4%’, Grand View Research (March 2019)
14.‘The US cosmetics boom is over’, Vogue Business (August 2019)
15.‘Skin care market in the US’, Statista (January 2019)
16.‘Revenue breakdown of the beauty and personal care market in the United States as of March 2016, by product category’, Statista (April 2016)
17.‘Gen Z: The audience you can’t ignore’, Awesomeness
18.‘Survey reveals Generation Z is driven by digital touchpoints to identify products, but prefers in-store experience’, Euclid Analytics (March 2017)
19.‘How is Gen Z shaping the future face of beauty?’, Dalziel & Pow (October 2017)
20.‘The skin-care industry is thriving — but how long can this boom last?’, Fashionista (January 2019)
21.‘This wellness company just launched a “puberty do-over” campaign in hopes to address self-esteem issues’, Forbes (September 2019) 
22.‘Blume is celebrating skin’ Blume

Featured Experts

Tora Northman

Tora Northman is Associate Editor at HYPEBEAST's women's platform, HYPEBAE. She is involved in creative direction, styling, photography and writing and creating editorials.

Author

Mica Anthony is a freelance content writer with a passion for fashion and all things beauty, who has written for the likes of gal-dem and WAVE Magazine. When she’s not trawling social media for her next fashion look, she’s expanding her Depop empire or discovering an emerging music producer.

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