In 2020, the idea of self-care was 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, a 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," the brand's cofounder 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.”
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 pimples, 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 might only exacerbate 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 10 years of this dewy, perfect, cool girl who like doesn’t really have to wear makeup with poreless skin."
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. "If 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 launched its second product, Space Wash ($11).
“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 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 of Starface's Space Wash below.
Pros + Cons
- Oil free
- Cruelty free
- No added fragrance
- Can be drying if you don't have oily skin
The Starface Space Wash is a great option for people with oily, sensitive, and acne prone skin. And the best part? It's super affordable.
Starface Space Wash
Best for: Oily, acne prone skin
Uses: Heals damaged skin, removes makeup, fights acne-causing bacteria
Star rating: 5/5
Potential allergens: None
Active ingredients: Willow bark extract, holy basil leaf
About the brand: Starface was cofounded by former beauty editor Julie Schott. The brand specializes in acne fighting products and adorable pimple patches.
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 is 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 marketed as a “clean” formula (though there are no actual parameters around what is and is not “clean”, and this term is widely and often misused.) The brand says that it 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 see 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 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.”
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.
My skin felt 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 $11 for 4.2 ounces, I was shocked. That’s significantly less expensive than any full-size cleanser you’ll find at 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.
Peach & Lily Power Calm Hydrating Gel Cleanser: This gentle, hydrating cleanser ($28), is formulated with skin-soothing ingredients like cica, camellia, and chamomile extracts. The cleanser is perfect for calming acne breakouts and inflammation.
EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser: If you have ultra-sensitive skin and are looking for a gentle, pH-balanced option, this is a great choice priced at $24.
The Starface Space Wash is a super fun face wash that not only looks cute on your vanity, but is actually really effective at cleansing without stripping the skin, in my experience. And at it's incredibly affordable price point, it's a no brainer to add to your cart.
Goyal A, Sharma A, Kaur J, et al. Bioactive-based cosmeceuticals: an update on emerging trends. Molecules. 2022;27(3):828. doi:10.3390/molecules27030828