One in four Americans live with chronic skin diseases, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. 23 year-olds Olamide Olowe and Claudia Teng are among this group, having dealt with conditions like severe eczema and post-barbae folliculitis. That’s why they decided to launch Topicals, a line of affordable skincare products that tackle skin concerns ranging from psoriasis to hyperpigmentation.
“As women of color who’ve always had skin that didn’t look like what we saw in our favorite TV shows and magazines, we grew up thinking there was such a thing as perfect skin and that we had to have it,” say the founders. “When we searched for products, we realized a lot of them weren’t exactly made with us in mind or tested on people who looked like us, so we created a brand that was inclusive, effective, and fun.”
“We realized a lot of [products] weren’t exactly made with us in mind or tested on people who looked like us, so we created a brand that was inclusive, effective, and fun.”
Drawing upon co-founder Claudia Teng’s background in clinical research and dermatology, Topicals was able to create products that have clinically-backed ingredients and are safe to use on all skin tones. The brand’s debut boasts two products: Like Butter, a hydrating mask for dry, distressed, and eczema-prone skin, and Faded, a serum for discoloration and dark spots.
The “Like Butter” whipped hydrating mask is able to effectively target and treat eczema due to its powerhouse list of ingredients. The potent blend of ingredients like camellia sinensis leaf, ginseng root, colloidal oatmeal, and turmeric helps to calm inflamed skin, soothe itchiness, and shorten the wound-healing time.
Similarly, the Faded serum is infused with key ingredients—such as tranexamic acid, kojic acid, and niacinamide—that help to tackle dark spots and discoloration caused by sun damage, scarring, and inflammation.
For Olowe and Teng, it was important that their product decisions were informed by their community. “We started beta testing back in August of 2019 and discovered that most people in our community had multiple skin conditions– many of which were not being addressed by the beauty industry,” says the founders. “Eczema was one of the most common skin conditions among our beta testers with hyperpigmentation coming in second.”
By making the treatment of stigmatized skin conditions feel luxurious and fun, Topicals seeks to transform the way Gen Z’ers feel about their skin. “At Topicals, we take the focus off of having clear skin because who cares, looks fade,” says the founders. “Chronic skin conditions aren’t curable so why not have a little fun? For so long, people with visible skin conditions have been made to feel less than and we’re here to change that. People with visible skin conditions are dynamic and fluid folks who live their lives in color.”
People with visible skin conditions are dynamic and fluid folks who live their lives in color.
Understanding that living with chronic skin conditions can cause shame and embarrassment, Topicals will also be donating 1% of profits to various mental health organizations. Leading up to the launch, Topicals donated over $10,000 to Sad Girls Club, Therapy for Black Girls, and Fearless Femme 100, and are partnering with the JED Foundation at launch.
The forward-thinking, inclusive skincare line has garnered support and investments from a number of high-profile Black women including Netflix CMO Bozoma Saint John, wellness entrepreneur and DJ Hannah Bronfman, and the Emmy-nominated stars of the hit HBO series “Insecure” Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji.