In 2020, the idea of self-care has been commodified as something you too can achieve with the newest products, most expensive skincare regimen, and the right lighting. What started as the notion of something we do for ourselves alone in our downtime is now a performance for our audience of followers. Self-care is a selfie in a face mask, a photo of a new hand cream on a sink, golden hour light bouncing off a cheekbone coated in the most expensive new products, tagged in the caption below. Self-care is a serious, aspirational, expensive business.
And then less than a year ago, a new skincare brand called Starface landed on earth, to show us what it was like for a brand to, god forbid, have a little fun.
“If you think about how it feels when you see Hello Kitty or Pikachu, we would hope that you feel the same way when you see Big Yellow, the Starface that you see on the Hydro-Stars case," Starface co-founder Julie Schott explains. “We set out to create this character and build a world around it that people can engage with in a really non-threatening way.”
Nine months ago, Starface was the newest offering in a skincare market that is already over saturated. But people responded, and Starface grew. Fast.
The OG yellow stars gave way to new ways to accessorize your zits, like the multi-color party pack, holographic Cyber Stars, and Glow In The Dark stars. Starface invited people struggling with pimples to embrace their skin however it looked, and accessorize their blemishes with a star instead of covering them up with makeup, which oftentimes only exacerbates the issue.
Starface was born out of a need from Schott, who was open about her struggles with acne throughout her high profile career in beauty, from Assistant Beauty Editor at the iconic and now defunct xoJane.com to Beauty Director at ELLE.
“At xoJane I used to write almost exclusively about my acne because that was when it was the most top of mind for me," says Schott. "Especially at that age, being in your early 20s at your first job, you have this insecurity that’s clouding your thinking, so I was kind of obsessed. My skin continued to frustrate me and be a source of insecurity throughout my career, and I felt a little exhausted. I was sick of having to uphold this standard that had been put forward over the last five to ten years of this dewy, perfect, cool girl who like doesn’t really have to wear makeup with poreless skin.
Anyone who has ever struggled with their appearance will tell you, it takes a toll, mentally. Schott was exhausted.
“I was like, ‘I don’t think I’m ever gonna look that way, and I don’t know if I want to obsess over that anymore," she says. “You’re writing about beauty and self-care all the time and thinking ‘I’m supposed to have the answers for this.’ People are constantly asking me how to help themselves, but they might be looking at me and thinking ‘Well what do you know? You’ve got all these pimples.’”
The timing of Starface couldn’t have been better. Between the fun and approachable branding, shifting conversation around acne, and the fact that the product actually does what it promises, Starface changed the face of skincare. Or at least put a star on it.
Skincare, cleansers, and star stickers aside, I was most interested in how one goes from the magazine world to launching their own, successful brand in the already overcrowded skincare world? What would she tell someone looking to do the same?
“I would say align yourself with people who have a different perspective than you do, a different skillset than you do," Schott says. "I know everyone thinks that it would be fun to work with your best friend or your partner, but that doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve learned and grown a lot from this partnership with Brian, who’s the cofounder of Starface. Some of the strongest partnerships are made up of people who are really different. I learn the most from people who are nothing like me. Sometimes Brian will point something out, and I thought it was so inherent that I wouldn’t have even explained it.”
And what about the most important thing to know when looking to start a business?
“I didn’t know anything about starting a business when I set out to do it," she says. “I left my job and I didn’t know how I was going to go about it, I just knew that I wanted to.
“Starting a business when you don’t know how is similar to writing what you know," Schott explains. "f you’re speaking to an authentic need, or from your experience, it’s going to work, you’re going to be passionate about it. I think what doesn’t work is identifying a 'white space' in something that is not true to your experience, passion or background.”
After the success of the launch and growth of the collection, Starface just launched its second product, Space Wash.
“It just made sense,” Schott told me. “If you think about it, the most entry level, bare bones skincare person still washes their face with something, even if it’s like a bar of soap.”
As someone with a history of sensitive skin, she explained that for those struggling with acne, something as innocuous as a cleanser can actually be the first step in making a breakout worse.
“For that person with acne-prone skin that could be experiencing breakouts and blocked pores, your cleanser might be one of those products where you’re like, ‘wait, this broke me out worse,'" she says. "And you’re always sort of wondering, ‘If I try this, is my skin going to go crazy and then I’m on a month of trying to fix it?’”
I was curious as to how a brand like Starface would approach a cleanser, so I got my hands on it as soon as I could. Read my full review below.
About My Skin
I’ve got pretty durable, non-reactive skin (on my face at least. My body? That’s another article.) In terms of skin type, I fall into the normal category, bordering on oily. Products rarely dry me out or worse, break me out, so I’m a good test subject when it comes to new products.
To me, most of the time, a cleanser is a cleanser. Unlike a serum or moisturizer, cleanser a category that I’m not loyal to at all. Once I finish whatever I’m using, I’ll switch it out for something new and forget about the old.
That said, I really, really like Spacewash. It’s a crystal clear, medium-body gel that works up into a rich, satisfying foam. It’s technically unscented in that it contains no added fragrance, but it does contain the faintest scent, something fresh and green, if you’re really looking for it. That said, even when it’s on my face, I can’t smell it.
As is the expectation of any skincare product, the Space Wash formula is considered a “clean” formula (though the FDA has no actual parameters around what is and is not “clean”, and this term is widely and often misused.) Space wash has been formulated to be approved as a clean product by all of the strictest standards of all retailers worldwide, including Sephora, Target, and Credo, and is considered clean by Byrdie’s strict beauty standards.
“We kind of bury the lead about clean formulas and clean ingredients,” Schott explains “We think it’s a base level question of, why would you put banned ingredients in your formulas? But we formulate according to Credo standards because they’re the strictest, so it’s free from 2,500 banned ingredients that oftentimes you do often seen in acne focused products specifically. The goal is to make something that’s clean, non-comedogenic, free from irritants, but also has additives that do speak to the needs of someone who does have breakouts. We took out everything unnecessary so it’s just the ingredients that are working for your skin. We wanted to create something for that person whose skin is so reactive that needs something that both is really effective and gives you that clean feeling after, but also doesn’t have any irritants in it.”
My skin feels clean but not stripped after use. Some cleansers leave skin feeling tight or dry, but this left me feeling cleansed without being stripped of my skin’s natural moisture.
The brand sent this to me so I had to look up the price, and when I saw that this cleanser will only run you $16 for 4.2 ounces, I was shocked. That’s significantly less expensive than any full-size cleanser you’ll find on Sephora (save for The Ordinary.)
At such an accessible price point, this cleanser is completely worth the spend. It feels like a luxury face wash at a fraction of what you’d pay for the same experience from other brands. This is a product I like so much, I’d buy it two at a time.
Of all of the other cleansers at my disposal at the moment (there are eight in my shower, no questions please), I would say it’s probably closest to the Curology cleanser in that it’s gentle, effective, and unscented. I like the Curology cleanser a lot because it’s no bullshit. It’s also very affordable, but unfortunately the price points can’t really be compared because you can only get the Curology cleanser in a set, you can’t purchase it on its own. I will say Starface feels like a more luxurious experience.
The interesting thing about Starface, to me, is that Julie took something she’d struggled with for years and created a solve that not only worked from a product benefit standpoint, but refocused the conversation around skincare from an emotional standpoint. The point of the Starface pimple patches is not simply to get rid of pimples, but to embrace them while they’re there. Instead of striving for a perfect complexion, you can enjoy and celebrate the skin that you have, no matter how it looks. People carry Big Yellow around in their bag because it makes them happy. People put stars on their pimples and post selfies, showing off their blemishes. People wear Starface and smile.