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What happens when two Glossier alums launch a brand together? Skincare innovation. Rebecca Zhou worked at Glossier as the head of digital product. Annie Kreighbaum began at the company as executive editorial director of Into The Gloss and later became the vice president of brand development. After leaving the cult-favorite beauty brand, the two remained friends and began doing consulting work together.
During one of their nightly conversations, Zhou asked Kreighbaum for advice on treating her body acne issues. However, Kreighbaum couldn't rattle off any recommendations. Noticing the glaring white space in the body care market, Zhou and Kreighbaum decided they'd address it together. Their brand Soft Services is the first company dedicated to making targeted solutions for skin concerns ranging from keratosis pilaris to crepey skin.
"We were thinking about why no one brand has dived in and taken this on as their thing," Kreighbaum tells me. "Our theory is that it's because there are still so many taboos around the human body and the things that we are tackling with Soft Services like body acne, ingrown hairs, and fungal issues."
For Zhou and Kreighbaum, it was important that their brand address these skincare concerns thoughtfully and intentionally. "We want them to go from having a body issue that they're stressed about to feeling empowered, and that's through products and breaking down cultural taboos," Zhou says.
Keratosis Pilaris Products
The brand's initial lineup includes three exfoliating products that address conditions like keratosis pilaris—which can cause rough patches on your arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks. "40% of adult Americans have keratosis pilaris," Kreighbaum explains. "So, we felt like keratosis pilaris and exfoliating products made sense. And then down the line, we're going to dig in and get very specialized."
The Buffing Bar Microcrystal Exfoliant ($28) offers moderate-to-intense physical exfoliation that removes dead skin and excess keratin, leaving behind soft skin. You should use it on clean, wet skin. While in the shower, you can buff the bar in small, circular motions on areas like your heels and elbows. This has been my favorite product to use out of the three. I have rough knees and elbows and this has made them feel smoother than they ever have been. To further speak to the bar's efficacy, my brother—who is not into skincare whatsoever—said his skin felt amazing after using it.
Made with lactic acid and urea, the Smoothing Solution Calming Gel Exfoliant ($34) dissolves the build-up of dead skin cells to soothe and smooth your skin. The brand recommends applying a thin layer on areas of your body that are uneven in texture or color. I applied this product to my legs after each shower. While my skin looks and feels smooth, my final thoughts on the gel exfoliant are still developing as I feel I need to use this product a bit longer to recognize a true difference.
The Carea Cream Daily Toning Lotion ($40) moisturizes and mildly exfoliates your skin thanks to its blend of urea, squalane, and colloidal oatmeal. When used regularly, it reduces bumpy texture, persistent dryness, and dead skin build-up. As someone with dry skin, I require intensely moisturizing lotions. Each time I slathered this one on, my skin felt deeply hydrated. However, I did experience a bit of pilling if I applied too much.
Body Acne Products
The brand's latest launch tackles body acne and boasts two products: the Clearing Clay and Clearing Mist. "Even though the Clearing Clay and Clearing Mist are both OTC drug products, we develop all of our products with a focus on ingredients and efficacy," Kreighbaum says. "Acne on our bodies is not one-to-one with facial acne. On your body, your skin is covered in clothing, hair, and in constant contact with other surfaces. This creates friction and makes for a darker, more humid environment for bacteria and other microbes to get out of whack and create all sorts of skin irritation. We researched all of the ingredients the FDA approves to treat acne and zeroed in on ones that won't exacerbate—and could even help with—discoloration and fungal breakouts."
This medicated soft paste treats acne and offers oil-absorbing, soothing, and exfoliating properties. Sulfur is the star ingredient in the Clearing Clay and is present at 10% (the maximum strength to treat acne). "Sulfur is widely used to treat all sorts of skin flare-ups and even dandruff, especially when combined with salicylic acid, which is in the Clearing Mist," Kreighbaum notes. "Another reason we love it for the body is that it doesn't have the bleaching effect benzoyl peroxide—which is also great for deep, stubborn acne—has on our sheets and towels. We used to buy sulfur bars of soap on Amazon, but they were full of ingredients that we were trying to avoid, so the Clearing Clay was our way of getting sulfur safely into our routine as a daily in-shower treatment, a deeper-penetrating mask, or targeted spot treatment for inflamed, persistent spots."
The Clearing Mist ($26) is crafted specifically to treat body breakouts induced by sweat, bacteria, and irritation from tight clothing, especially athletic wear. The formula's zinc PCA (2%) regulates sebum, niacinamide (5%) targets hyperpigmentation, and salicylic acid (1%) treats acne.
The Formula Philosophy
Soft Services won't be the skincare brand to experiment with trendy ingredients. When it comes to their formulas, Zhou and Kreighbaum are sticking with research-backed ingredients.
"There's just not enough research and proof to back up the efficacy of a lot of these newer ingredients," Kreighbaum says. "But then, you see, there are ingredients that are super safe and backed up by a ton of scientific peer-reviewed research."
A prime example of this is the brand's use of urea. While it's not the "sexiest" ingredient (it's derived from urine), it's proven to be an effective moisturizer and exfoliant. "We want to get people from point A to point B in the quickest way possible," Kreighbaum notes. "And that's through efficacious ingredients, even if they're not trendy or don't have beautiful names. We just really want to be sure that these products work."
Building The Mass Index
Kreighbaum and Zhou's mission to provide solutions and break down cultural taboos about skin conditions extends past product development. The brand also created a digital content hub called Mass Index.
"It happened organically," Zhou says. "As we started developing these products, we started collecting an internal database of skin issues, ingredients that work, and how conditions manifest on different skin tones. Then, we realized that because it was so helpful for us, it will be helpful for customers, and we decided to make it public-facing."
Zhou says the Mass Index platform exists to be an informative, shame-free space for users to learn about skin conditions. The resource addresses under-answered body skincare questions, offers expert-approved articles, and provides a gallery of user-submitted photos of their skin conditions.
"You shouldn't feel like something is wrong or that you have to open up an incognito tab on your computer," Zhou says. "When you go on the Mass Index, you can learn about keratosis pilaris or tinea versicolor in an environment that feels enjoyable. It's been really fun to create it in that way."
The Future of Soft Services
Now that Soft Services has launched, Kreighbaum and Zhou are excited for their products to get into customers' hands. "I'm excited to start getting feedback after people have used the products for a couple of weeks," Kreighbaum says. "You have to use them consistently to see results. It was cool to see our tester group's feedback and photos around two weeks in. Many of them said they'd tried everything for their bikini line, ingrown hairs, etc., and now it is finally taken care of."
What can we expect next for the brand? Kreighbaum teased a few forthcoming plans. "Down the pipeline, we're definitely covering body acne," she says. "We're also investing in packaging innovation from a sustainability standpoint."