Skin positivity is a tricky space to navigate, especially from a brand perspective. You want to acknowledge the trauma (yes, trauma) and impact that skin conditions have without being shame-y or negative. You need to uplift these conditions without being patronizing or fake, and of course, a brand is a business: It needs to sell product. No one has nailed this balance like Topicals.
“Funner flare-ups” has become the unofficial slogan of the skin care brand, which launched in August with two products: Faded, a serum to fade acne scars and hyperpigmentation, and Like Butter, a soothing mask for eczema-prone skin. In addition to the impeccable branding and skin-condition-centric formulas, the brand stands out for its mission to make skin conditions, well, fun.
Today, the brand takes this idea even further with its “Good Skin” campaign, which recognizes how harmful beauty standards have been, and not only normalizes but celebrates skin in any condition. The video looks like something you’d see from any other cool-girl brand—think thumping base and pops of colorful makeup on glowing skin—except each model has visible skin conditions like acne and eczema. “You make skin look good, not the other way around,” reads the text at the end of the video.
While the video sends a powerful message that, yes, all skin is good skin, it also begs the deeper question: What does “good skin” even mean? Olamide Olowe, Topicals cofounder, tells Glamour that she grew up with the idea of “good hair,” and later began questioning what it means when also applied to skin. “You can’t put a morality on skin care, just like you can’t put a morality on hair—I don’t think it makes sense to use that language,” she says. “So we wanted to showcase women with visible skin conditions in a way that was fun.”
This sense of fun is what sets Topicals apart from other brands, which can often come across as pandering, condescending, or tone-deaf. Olowe said when thinking about the brand’s messaging, she wanted to move away from the clinical before and afters that most people with skin issues are used to without veering into the forced “I love myself” positivity.
“I think that we are pioneering this type of beauty movement which is skin neutrality,” says Olowe, mirroring the push that is also happening within the body image space. “We say internally ‘it be like that’—sometimes you love your skin, sometimes you don’t. It’s okay to have feelings on both sides of the spectrum, and I think our campaign shows that.”