Neon beauty is having a moment. Recently, singer Selena Gomez took to Instagram to show off her neon coral make-up, which faded out from the inner corners of her eyes and was masterfully executed by Los Angeles-based make-up artist Jenna Nicole. To complete the look, the pop star wore a set of lime-green nails and a bronze tan.
Cut to Off-White’s AW21 show, and, once again, neon took centre stage. Using specially crafted crayons in neoprene orange and Yves Klein blue, which picked out the main colours of creative director Virgil Abloh’s latest collection, make-up artist Morgane Martini offered a masterclass in how to work a graphic-neon eye in an off-beat, modern way.
“The name of the show was Laboratory of Fun, which instantly led me to colourful make-up ideas, and Virgil wanted a strong eye,” Martini tells Vogue. “Neon is like bringing a flashlight to your face and, in this case, to your eyes. It was important that these looks reflected a kind of self-expression that could suit anyone, no matter the gender or age.”
Here, Martini shares her top tips for creating the perfect neon eye with a cool, modern twist.
1. Less is more
“My number one tip would be to use neon sparingly. There’s no need to go crazy here. I didn’t want anything that would take over from the actual looks. I just wanted it to be a little detail, a little splash of colour — a bit on the inner corner of the eye or a small eyeliner will give a strong impact and I love that.”
2. Go graphic
“The idea for those graphic elements came from the collection. They brought a touch of modern and cool. lt didn’t feel like make-up, it was more an accessory for the eye.
“To create the look, I used tape and went over it with a pencil. It’s not that difficult at all — you just have to place the tape correctly. It has an instant modern and creative feel, and the ability to be both bold and subtle. It’s nice to change things up and explore other ways to enhance features.”
3. Avoid the lash line
“Make sure it doesn’t get into the lash line and lashes. You can use a thin cotton swab dipped in micellar water to clean any mistakes after application.”
4. Keep colours to a minimum
“Neon is such a bold statement in itself that you have to be shy about applying it. You don’t want to look like you’re going to [California festival] Coachella. I used colours that I saw in the collection that felt complementary, without taking over everything.
“For the graphic line, we kept it monochromatic. Other looks have a mix of blue and orange, but, for example, the look I did on Joan Smalls had the blue, but with a warmer orange, not as bright. I kept it minimal — sometimes, things are more powerful when they’re simple. Whereas the more you use, it can become gimmicky and you lose impact.”
5. Leave everything else natural
“We wanted the make-up to be genderless, so that’s why I wanted to keep it clean, simple and paired with fresh skin. I didn’t even put blush, contour or any mascara on the models — it was really as pared back as we could get it.”
Selena Gomez and her Rare Beauty line kicked off the spring by launching its gorgeous new eyeshadow palette. Now, the beauty line is upping its primer game with its new Always an Optimist Pore Diffusing Primer—and celebrating the launch with a stunning In My Prime campaign shot by beauty influencer and photographer Alissa Ashley.
Gomez handpicked Ashley to capture her subjects “in their prime.” In the video above, Ashley and Gomez discuss their career journeys and what they envision for the campaign.
Welcome to Artist Spotlight #54 series on my blog.
“I had this idea for a campaign, and it was going to be called In My Prime, and I wanted it to be a photography series of basically people showcasing who they are in their prime, whether they’re just wearing the primer and nothing else or they do a full face of glam from the eyeshadow palettes,” Gomez told Ashley. “I just wanted it to be about being in your prime and how you feel more than how you look. I thought your photography was incredible, and I thought this would be a right fit, that we would get to do this together, and I want you to have full creative control, which is the best part because I kind of can step back and see what you do.”
Ashley told Gomez that photography had been a longtime passion of hers: “I’ve always liked photography, and my aunt bought my first camera off of eBay from this random guy. But I really, really liked it. And then somehow, some way, I got into makeup. I think it was maybe because I watched my mom do it, and I liked that a lot and then I went to college a little bit, but then I was like, ‘okay, this isn’t really feeling fulfilling,’ and I knew I wanted to do more makeup stuff and then people would ask me to do YouTube videos. [And I was like,] okay, I guess I’ll do that too so I did that and then I don’t know, I feel like it just happened so quickly.” Ashley’s career took off, and at this point, Ashley has 1.1 million Instagram followers and over 2.08 million YouTube subscribers.
Ashley added that in 2019, “I reached a point in my influencer, YouTube career where I feel comfortable and now I want to feed more of my photography passion.” Initially, Ashley was known for her self-portraits, but “I wanted to take pictures of other people.…I get more enjoyment out of that these days because it’s different. It’s weird. Being in front of the camera, it’s natural now, but being behind is just so much more fun.”
Ashley’s In My Prime campaign, with its first look images debuting on ELLE.com, is a first for Rare Beauty. “We’ve never done anything like this, so it’s going to be really exciting, and I think that it’ll be an opportunity for a bunch of other people to see you and to see the work you’re doing, and I think that it’s going to be a blast,” Gomez told Ashley.
Ashley, with full creative control over the shoot, photographed two subjects for the campaign, Chloé Vero and Deli Lèvon, wearing the primer. (Photos above).
Ashley spoke ELLE.com about why she tapped Vero and Lèvon for the shoot. “I was drawn to the campaign concept at first,” she said. “I love celebrating the idea of ‘in my prime’—when you’re in your in flow, feeling your best. It’s the way I feel when I am behind the camera. It’s my passion and Selena recognized that! I wanted to work with Chloé because her story, as a model who’s also a talented bass player, is so unique. And I came across Deli Lèvon on Instagram! His personality shines through his images; I wanted to use this campaign to get to know him better.”
Rare Beauty’s Pore Diffusing Primer is a light-weight gel, made with hyaluronic acid and a botanical blend of lotus, gardenia, and white water lily, that helps soothe, calm, and nourish skin of all types. It’s the product to start makeup application with and gives skin a matte texture, blurs pores’ appearances, and helps keeps your makeup on longer. It’s one of Rare Beauty’s biggest makeup essentials and available at Sephora, Sephora’s JCPenney locations, and on Rare Beauty’s site.
In November 2015, Kylie Jenner launched three lip kits. The kits, consisting of a lip pencil and liquid lipstick available in a pinky nude, a beige neutral and a deep brown, sold out almost immediately.
Jenner’s wasn’t the first celebrity beauty brand to launch. In 2009, Australian model Miranda Kerr founded Kora Organics, while actor Drew Barrymore launched Flower Cosmetics in 2013. But Jenner’s was the first to leverage the reach, engagement and influence of its founder in the social media era. Nearly six years later, the lip kits have evolved into a full makeup and skincare brand and in 2019, she sold 51 percent of her business (at a valuation of $1.2 billion) to Coty for $600 million.
Cardi B has teased a forthcoming makeup range, as has YouTuber James Charles, while Hailey Bieber, Gwen Stefani and Ariana Grande all reportedly filed trademarks for beauty products. Welcome to the golden age of the celebrity beauty brand.
It used to be that celebrities were the faces of beauty brands, starring in campaigns, endorsing the products in interviews and wearing the makeup on red carpets. But being the face is no longer enough—celebrities want ownership, becoming major players in the industry in their own right. And with the growth of the global beauty market over the last few years—the industry was valued at $532 billion in 2019—it’s not surprising.
“Celebrities are increasingly aware of the quick financial gains to be made, with the opportunity to monetize a loyal online fanbase and use their social media page as a marketing platform,” says Gabriella Beckwith, beauty consultant at market research firm Euromonitor.
But for everyone chasing a Fenty success story, fame and following alone won’t ensure sales. As the market becomes increasingly crowded, brands will have to rely on that notoriously slippery concept of authenticity to gain the trust and business of their target audience.
The power of authenticity
Today, beauty consumers have never been more educated about what they are putting on their face or more demanding about the quality. It’s why it matters that Pharrell Williams collaborated with his longtime dermatologist, Dr Elena Jones, for his skincare brand Humanrace. It’s why Halsey prefaced the announcement of her makeup brand About-Face in January by establishing her credibility. “Many of you know I’ve done my own makeup for a long time,” she wrote on Twitter. It’s also why actress Millie Bobby Brown drew criticism after posting a skincare tutorial in which she seemingly didn’t actually apply any of the products to her face. Brown issued an apology a few days later, writing, “I’m still learning the best way to share my routines as I get to know this space better—I’m not an expert.”
Eyebrows were also raised when Jennifer Lopez recently said that her age-defying skin was the mainly the result of years of olive oil use—despite selling a new line of skincare products (her multitasking serum costs $118). Followers were skeptical of these claims, with some even suggesting the singer had had Botox, to which Lopez responded: “For the 500 millionth time. I have never done Botox or any injectables or surgery!”
At the other end of the spectrum, Victoria Beckham established her credentials as a serious player by partnering with industry favorite Dr Augustinus Bader for her first skincare launch. “We tend to think of celebrity brands as inauthentic partnerships—traditionally, that is often what they were,” says Sarah Creal, co-founder and CEO of Victoria Beckham Beauty. “Celebrities can no longer slap their name on something and not have their communities realize that’s what’s happening. Those who are in it for the short term or inauthentically won’t last—consumers are savvy.”
A long-time beauty executive, Creal met Beckham at Estée Lauder, with whom the designer launched a capsule cosmetics collection, and was drawn to her passion and vision. While she says there is “no doubt” the former Spice Girl is a celebrity, they don’t consider Victoria Beckham Beauty a celebrity brand, but rather a bona fide indie startup. “Having Victoria as a partner obviously shines a light on the brand that we wouldn’t have otherwise, but we still have to stand up to the scrutiny and credibility that any new beauty brand would need to.”
The importance of quality over influence
Celebrities undeniably wield great influence over their following, but if they want to convince consumers to buy their products, this credibility and, most importantly, gold-standard quality, is non-negotiable. “People aren’t just buying into the face—they equally expect the product to work as hard as any other brand they’d engage with,” says Victoria Buchanan, senior futures analyst at strategic foresight consultancy The Future Laboratory.
The audience agrees. “[I think some] products by celebrities are bad quality because it is believed that people will buy them regardless,” says Marion, a 17-year-old gen-Z consumer from Toronto. “But the product itself should be more important than the celebrity or advertising.” It’s quality that she cites as the reason for buying the few products from celebrity brands that she’s purchased—a Rare Beauty highlighter with good reviews, a Fenty concealer because of its range of shades.
While a celebrity might make consumers aware of a brand (they’ll pay close attention if it’s someone they’re a fan of), it’s rare that they would buy a beauty product because of the name alone. On the whole, they remain wary of products, particularly when it comes to skincare, do their own research, and always listen to expert advice.
Like all trends, the celebrity beauty bubble will eventually burst. The sharp decline of celebrity fragrances following its 2011 peak shows what can happen when consumers move on from a category. Nothing lasts forever and we’ve already seen a gradual shift towards hair brands, such as Tracee Ellis Ross’s Pattern, Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s Anomaly, and sexual wellness products via Cara Delevingne and Dakota Johnson.
When that moment comes, those brands left standing will be the ones that have established their authenticity and credibility, played to the strengths of their creators’ personal ethos and identity, and, above all, proved their quality. As noisy and loud as your social media presence might be, in the end, nothing talks like results.
I’ll be honest: I’m highly skeptical when it comes to beauty brands founded by celebrities. But Selena Gomez has proven me wrong with her brand, Rare Beauty, and it’s now dropping a new spring collection.
The line features four brand-new Rare Beauty products: Stay Vulnerable Melting Blush, Stay Vulnerable Glossy Lip Balm, Stay Vulnerable Liquid Eye Shadow, and the Stay Vulnerable All-Over Eye Shadow Brush. With the exception of the brush, all of the products have the exact five-shade range with names that pretty much speak for themselves: Nearly Apricot, Nearly Rose, Nearly Neutral, Nearly Mauve, and Nearly Berry. In short: This collection is a makeup minimalist’s ultimate fantasy.
And thanks to the brand, Allure editors got to try the line before anyone else to give us the early reviews. Below, see a breakdown of the products, how they perform, and whether or not they’re worth backtracking on your New Year’s resolution to buy less stuff. Spoiler alert: They probably are.
Stay Vulnerable Melting Blush, $21
“I was biased the second I opened the retro-looking compact, but I have to hand it to this blush formula: Using the word “melting” in the name was a very intentional choice because that’s exactly what these blushes do upon touch. And that texture (combined with tons of pigment) is exactly what makes it so easy to apply either with fingers or a makeup brush.”
Thorne’s on the exact same page, even though cream blush isn’t exactly her thing. “I’ve recently gotten into cream blushes, but unfortunately some formulas are a bit too sheer for my brown skin,” she says. “These blushes didn’t come to play any games. They leave a healthy dose of pigment on the checks. I love how creamy and blendable they are.”
Stay Vulnerable Glossy Lip Balm, $18
Rare’s new lip products are a little mystical because you truly can’t limit them to one category. They have the nourishing quality and balmy consistency of a lip mask but they shine like a gloss — plus, they have just enough pigment to qualify as a lip tint. “Because they’re so simple and comfortable, I know they’re quickly going to become one of my go-to products for last-minute, Zoom-meeting makeup. The best part’, as Thorne will tell you, “is that anyone can wear any of these shades and get the same slight color and high shine.”
“The neutral and berry shades spoke to my soul the most, but I really liked the neutral shade because, despite the sheerness, its gorgeous caramel hue looked lovely on my lips with some brown liner,” Thorne says.
Stay Vulnerable Liquid Eye Shadow and All-Over Eye Shadow Brush, $20 and $15
Neither editors are frequent users of liquid eye shadows, but this formula is so easy to use it has convinced them to change their view. “The eye shadows are basically identical in shade to the blushes and glosses, but these are far thicker, creamier, and pigmented (as they should be). You get full-color payoff in one or two swipes; from there, you can let it dry down or blend it out to a subtle, sheer finish.”
And that’s where the All-Over Eye Shadow Brush comes in. It’s got a fluffy, tapered tip so application requires only two steps: Swipe some shadow all over the lid then wipe the brush lightly back and forth until it’s all blended out.
What’s left to say about the year 2020 that hasn’t already been said? These past 12 months may have tested humanity and the planet and every institution on it in ways most of us could never have fathomed — but even in the bad, weird, living nightmare times, the beauty industry did not quit.
Despite the odds, the economic downturns, the flailing retail structure, the unstable political climate, the sheer number of times the word “unprecedented” was uttered, beauty charged on. After all, there were game-changing formulas, groundbreaking technology and conversation-shifting campaigns to bring to market.
And so, as we look back at 2020 (and slowly but surely claw our way out of it), industry experts — ranging from dermatologists to Insta-famous makeup artists to beauty editors — identified some of the most noteworthy beauty launches of the year.
It was a big year for celebrity beauty, and a handful of star-backed brands had an impressive showing on this list, with multiple experts highlighting their superiority or buzz-worthiness amidst a sea of so many other celebrity lines. Skin care also reigned supreme, particularly as so many of us spent a record-breaking amount of time at home, staring at our own faces during Zoom calls. And perhaps most promisingly, brands that emphasized inclusivity — by serving marginalized and too-often underserved communities, by bringing all genders into the beauty conversation, by broadening the definition of what “good” skin can look like — were a welcome addition to 2020.
“Biden Beauty is an initiative that was near and dear to my heart because Very Good Light was behind it. It was a small idea that became a reality and was really amazing to see it thrive. We wanted to support the 2020 elections — arguably the most important of our lifetimes — and engage Gen Z and the beauty community to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. To do this, we [sold] a beauty sponge by the name of the Biden Beat from a beauty brand called Biden Beauty. We ended up selling one sponge every 60 seconds and it was probably the most meaningful initiative I’ve been a part of.” —David Yi, Founder and CEO, Very Good Light
“We don’t include men enough in conversations on skin care. Although Humanrace was created for all genders, [it’s] exciting to have a man at the forefront of the push to normalize skin care beyond just facial hair grooming. I love that the brand is guided by the expert input of his dermatologist with carefully selected science backed ingredients and prioritizes exfoliation and hydration as part of its simple three step routine.” —Dr. Adeline Kikam, Board-certified Dermatologist and Founder, @BrownSkinDerm
“[I] particularly [like] the Humidifying Cream. I wasn’t expecting to be floored by this product, but it’s honestly one of the best moisturizers I’ve ever used. I think we’re all a little burnt out when it comes to celebrity beauty launches — especially this year — but it seems like Pharrell actually put a lot of time and care into this one. He was thoughtful with his collection, from adding braille to the packaging to working with the brilliant Dr. Elena Jones to create simple and clean, but effective formulations, and I definitely appreciate it.” —Kayla Greaves, Senior Beauty Editor, InStyle
“Many men are not as passionate about skin care as they should be. And [Pharrell] is Benjamin Button! He’s pushing 50 and looks arguably 20-30 years younger. It’s about time he shares his secret to the fountain of youth.” —Ron Robinson, cosmetic chemist and Founder, BeautyStat
“Humanrace was a late entry this year, but made a lot of noise upon release. Although it’s a small launch it has the potential to attract a whole new audience to the skincare industry. It’s exciting to see.” — Saleam T. Singleton, men’s beauty advocate and contributing writer for Byrdie and AskMen
“I think Pharrell Williams’ Humanrace debut was incredibly successful and highly anticipated. The man is practically a vampire and for years we’ve been dying to know (beyond the fact he has melanin on his side) how he continues to look like he’s in his 20s. Not only is it a simple system of just three products, but it’s also eco-friendly. Wins all around!” —Julee Wilson, Beauty Director, Cosmopolitan
TATCHA THE SERUM STICK
“I’m already a loyal fan of the entire dewy skin collection, but the stick is like Chapstick for the face and perfect for the random seasonal dry spots. I also use it as a highlighter in makeup applications when I’m looking for a shine without any pearl. Being a hands-free application and a multitasking product, it feels like a true hero of the year.” — Shayna Goldberg, makeup artist and consultant at The Wall Group
KOSAS REVEALER CONCEALER
“This concealer-meets-eye-cream has enough coverage to work on the toughest spots, but is flexible enough that the 16 shades work for every one of my clients all wrapped up in a dreamy formula.” —Tony Tulve, freelance makeup artist
“Patrick Starrr’s One/Size truly brought some new, better and different to the market. Yes, it was makeup, but it was gender-neutral makeup and represented a new breed of founder at Sephora. Patrick is unabashedly himself and wants others to be as well, which is so needed in an industry that’s striving to be inclusive but not quite there.” —Priya Rao, Executive Editor, Glossy and host, “Glossy Beauty” and “Unfair” podcasts
“It seemed like the world stopped when Rihanna came out with her skin-care line. Everyone either had already tried it, wanted to try it or was watching YouTube videos of people trying and reviewing it. It’s so revolutionary for the simple fact that it’s Rihanna, a well-known Black woman, showing that you can [create a] business that feels true to you.” —Ali, beauty model, creator and makeup artist at @SweetMutuals
“I haven’t tried any of the products myself, but many of the reviews I’ve seen have been more lukewarm than I would have expected. Much of the trepidation from the online skin-care community came from the use of fragrance in the Fenty Skin products. This product launch ignited a wide-ranging debate about the function of fragrance in skin care and whether the fears surrounding it are warranted. While most consumers probably have no idea about the debate around fragrance, I think there are a few lessons to be learned here: First, skin-care hobbyists can be extremely discerning, and not even someone as universally adored as Rihanna may not be immune to their criticism. Second, for the many celebrity skin-care launches that followed it (we’ve already seen entries from Pharrell and Jennifer Lopez this year), we can expect even more criticism as these people are seen as outsiders with little experience by the industry.” — Dr. Angelo Landriscina, board-certified ermatologist in New York City, @DermAngelo
“Fenty Skin broke barriers when it came to promoting sun protection for darker skin tones. The brand messaging is very inclusive, showing that skin care is for everyone.” —Tiara Willis, esthetician and influencer, @MakeupforWomenofColor
“Fenty Skin was for sure the most talked-about, most debated, most anticipated launch of the year, mainly because of innovation (Fat Water and the idea of the toner essence), effectively speaking to young, Black consumers about the importance of SPF and because of ingredient discussions on witch hazel and fragrance.” —Dr. Ranella Hirsch, Board-certified dermatologist in Boston
“[Selena Gomez] entered the already crowded celebrity-with-a-beauty-brand space, but gave it purpose in 2020. It’s so refreshing to have a brand centered around giving back to the community Gomez herself is part of with the Rare Impact Fund. Everyone at Elle has been obsessed with the products to the point where we won’t shut up about them. To more inclusive and transparent brands with a mental health impact in 2021!” —Chloe Hall, Beauty Director, Elle.com
“Rare Beauty was the most exciting launch for me, mostly because it felt genuine. Celebrity brands will always make headlines, but not all launches are up to snuff. But the team managed to carve out a unique space for themselves while creating a great lineup of staple products. It was a cohesive launch with purpose. I respect the brand for creating the Rare Impact Fund, which promises to donate $100M over the course of 10 years, starting with 1% from Rare’s first year of sales. As someone who’s often pitched new brands and products on a daily basis, it’s important for me to see that this celebrity-faced brand has a long-term vision.” —Kirbie Johnson, content creator and Co-host, “Gloss Angeles” podcast
“When Selena launched Rare Beauty, it was clear that she really took her time to build this brand. The product formulations are innovative (that Lip Soufflé is so good!), the packaging is gorgeous and most impressive was Rare Beauty’s commitment to being a mission-driven brand. While I’m hoping fewer celebrities feel the need to launch their own beauty brands in the future, I do hope that those who do take note from Selena.” —Sara Tan, beauty editor and Co-host, “Gloss Angeles” podcast
SUPREME X PAT MCGRATH LIPSTICK
“This was Supreme’s first foray into makeup in its 26-year history, and the Pat McGrath Labs brand was the perfect co-conspirator. Streetwear is supposed to be about breaking the rules and foraging new paths; McGrath has done both her entire career. I think there are a lot of lessons the beauty world can learn from the streetwear space from both a marketing and storytelling perspective, and visa versa. So much so, I once wrote about it earlier this year. I’m interested to see how else these worlds may dance together.” —Darian Harvin, Beauty Reporter, Beauty IRL
TATCHA THE LIQUID SILK CANVAS PRIMER
“I’m always looking for products that can retain longevity and stretch makeup to new boundaries through intense color payoff or innovative formulas. Tatcha’s launch of Liquid Silk Canvas Primer in the spring of 2020 was the [brand’s] first bridge product integrating innovative skin-care ingredients into makeup. This product became the makeup magnet of the year locking down whatever you put on top of it.” —Daniel Martin, makeup artist and global director of artistry and education at Tatcha
MAKEUP BY MARIO
I had to personally add it to this list, how could I not? One of the most world-renowned and looked-up-to makeup artists came out with his own makeup brand exclusively at Sephora in 2020. The brand’s mission statement is:
“Created by Master Makeup Artist Mario Dedivanovic, MAKEUP BY MARIO features pro formulas and tools in the most universal shades and easy-to-use textures. Infused with Mario’s philosophies and techniques, each product is crafted to provide an effortless makeup experience and inspired artistry.”
The rise of the celebrity beauty brand is alive and well in 2020, just in case there were any doubts. The latest example comes courtesy of Selena Gomez, in the form of color cosmetics brand Rare Beauty, which made its official debut on September 3rd. Welcome to Artist Spotlight #17 series on my blog.
Touted as a “mission-driven brand,” Rare Beauty will donate 1% of all sales, “as well as funds raised from partners” to the Rare Impact Fund, which “aims to increase access to mental health resources,” according to a press release from the brand. It has an initial goal of raising $100 million over the next decade to “help address the gaps in mental health services for underserved communities, which will make it one of the largest known funds in support of mental health from a corporate entity.”
In a statement, Gomez said: “These products aren’t about being someone else, it’s about being who you are, whether that’s rocking a full face of bold makeup or barely any makeup at all. Makeup is something to enjoy, it’s not something you need. I want every person to feel beautiful exactly as they are.”
Rare Beauty’s rather robust initial product offering includes a touch-up kit with refillable powder and blotting papers, a matte liquid eyeliner, eight shades of tinted lip balm, 12 shades of matte lip color, eight liquid highlighters, eight liquid blush shades, eight shades of a dual-ended brow pencil and gel, three tools, an illumining primer, a multi-tasking face mist and 48 shades each of both foundation and liquid concealer.
According to the brand, Gomez has had a hands-on approach to developing Rare Beauty, including product testing, design and mission. At launch, it will be available at Sephora in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Sephora inside JC Penney and at RareBeauty.com. There are plans for additional international expansion in place for 2021.