Lisa De Santis
Though there certainly are celebrities out there who simply slap their names onto products and let their marketing teams do the rest, there are a select few brands out there that have done the work to create truly efficacious products—and in nearly every case, that’s meant partnering with a skin-care professional. Certain celeb founders have chosen to work with renowned estheticians and dermatologists who see real people in their practices, which means they have a better sense of understanding of what the everyday consumer wants and needs from their products.
It’s actually quite genius to merge the worlds of science and celebrities because one has the knowledge and experience to formulate truly incredible products while the other has the reach to get those products into the hands of millions. And what’s one without the other? A skin-care expert might launch a line, but it’s not going to get nearly as far as say, Brad Pitt’s line would; and an A-lister’s products can only go so far before someone calls B.S. With these two pieces of the puzzle in place, celeb brands have the power—and the legitimacy—to compete with the best of the best.
Getting into the celeb skin-care machine
Getting involved with celebrity skin-care brands isn’t always easy. On one hand, a partnership can get a skin care professional the recognition and notoriety that comes with hitching their wagon to a star, but on the other, these brands are often written off from the jump because it’s often assumed that they’re no more than a money grab. In a way, these experts have to work even harder to come up with efficacious products that can stand up to any backlash that may come their way. Although it can be a bit of a gamble, for someone who already works with celebrities and has products or treatments that could help a way bigger market than their Beverly Hills spa is able to, teaming up with a celebrity client can be just the ticket.
For Joanna Czech, an esthetician and longtime friend and facialist for Kim Kardashian, it was a no-brainer to get in on the ground floor with SKKN by Kim (launched in 2022). “I was honored that she asked me,” says Czech, who has her own eponymous skincare range. “She could have worked with anyone in the world.” This organic partnership stemmed from Kardashian’s appreciation for the work that Czech does after experiencing her own positive skin results with the celebrity esthetician. “There is nothing more gratifying than a happy client,” she says.
Similarly, Cindy Crawford’s brand, Meaningful Beauty (launched in 2004), was born during a mesotherapy session with Jean-Louis Sebagh, MD, a cosmetic doctor and skin-care specialist in France. “Cindy asked me if it was possible to ‘bottle the cocktail,’ as she wanted to continue with treatments in the U.S,” he says. That was all it took for the two of them to start working together on formulations for the line. “Cindy and I were similar as we both agreed that quality and accessibility were paramount.”
The origin story behind Naomi Watts’ new brand Stripes, a skin-care line for women going through menopause (launched in 2022), follows the same trajectory. “I was very, very touched by Naomi’s [Watts] story,” says Sarv Zand, MD, a dermatologist in Mill Valley, CA, who is the medical advisor for Stripes. As someone who struggled with infertility, Dr. Zand related to Naomi, “I got to hear about her journey in fertility, and how that kind of segued in her journey in menopause.” And it’s worthwhile to note that this partnership was not a snap decision and came about after the brand spoke with 14 other celebrity derms before going with Dr. Zand.
Though the exact reason why certain skin pros have chosen involved in the celebrity skin-care machine varies from person to person, there’s a common thread that unites them: They believe in the founder and their mission, and want to help them make it better.
The benefit of having a pro on board
In a way, bringing pros on board shows that (some) celebs and their camps have a sense of reality, knowing that even though they have access to the best treatments and skin care products does not an expert make. Like I see my therapist every week, yet that doesn’t qualify me to give anyone life advice. In all seriousness, though, a celebrity’s familiarity with top treatments and products can certainly help inform a brand’s positioning, but add in an actual skin-care expert with years of experience and the result is better products and a more credible brand as a whole.
When Tiffany Libby, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Rhode Island, was initially approached to get involved with Ciara’s OAM Skincare (which stands for On a Mission,” and launched in 2022), she was skeptical. “It seemed there were so many celebrity skin-care lines coming out at that time, and [I was worried] that the skin-care community was growing fatigued and doubtful about the sincerity of skin-care launches,” she says. But she changed her mind when she discovered that the brand was doing something different.
OAM’s hero ingredient, vitamin C, has been notoriously difficult to stabilize, but formulators have found a way to ensure that all three forms of the actives included in the products are stable and effective. The skin-care lab behind the brand “has published data on their proprietary vitamin C complex, demonstrating stability and clinical efficacy in improving fine lines and smoothness of the skin,” says Dr. Libby, who currently serves on the brand’s board. In addition to the potent antioxidant, OAM’s products also include a slew of other proven anti-aging ingredients like peptides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, ceramides; other antioxidants like CoQ10 and resveratrol; and botanicals like bearberry leaf and snow mushroom extract.
Elena Jones, MD, the chief dermatologist for Pharell’s skin-care line, Humanrace (launched in 2020), first met the singer 25 years ago when he went to her for advice on his own skin, “That’s where I taught him the importance of having a routine, keeping to simple steps, and focusing on quality ingredients,” she says. “He always pushes the team to make something better than it currently is; he’s really pushed us to be creative in certain areas, think outside of the box, and develop something special.” And those are the principles that Humanrace was built on, which you can see in its streamlined products and kits that do the legwork for you–giving you a simple, straightforward routine, derm-approved routine in one place. The brand focuses on accessibility, with an under-$60 price point, refillable packaging, and formulas that are designed for all genders and skin tones.
When Brad Pitt launched his skin-care line, Le Domaine, in 2022, it left much of the beauty industry wondering why, exactly, we should be buying $352 serums from Benjamin Button. But though it’s technically Pitt’s name on the products, it’s actually Nicolas Levy, MD, PHD, a professor in medical genetics and co-founder of ProGeLife, who’s behind the formulations. And who better to work for an anti-aging skin-care line than someone who’s spent their life studying genetics?
“We used our expertise in rare aging disorders and the biology behind them to formulate active ingredients from plants and to demonstrate their effectiveness on the signs of skin aging,” says Pr. Levy. That’s where the brand’s patented ingredient, ProGR3, comes in. Through Pr. Levy’s research of progeria, a rare disease that causes children to age rapidly, ProGR3 was developed. “We have proven ProGR3’s efficacy on the toxicity of progerin, a toxic protein involved in 7 of 9 aging processes,” adds Pr. Levy. In Le Domaine’s products, the anti-aging ingredient is paired with the antioxidant-rich pulp of grapes from Famille Perrin Estates in France.
All’s to say, in working with pros, celebrities have found a way to translate their own passion for beauty with legitimate science, and their products are better for it.
Filling gaps in the market
Even with the overabundance of skin care—celebrity and otherwise—there are still gaps in the market that need filling. “As a dermatologist who caters to melanin-rich skin needs specifically, the creation of this brand was a necessary launch that will benefit the Black and brown community tremendously,” says Naana Boakye, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, about John Legend’s newly launched Loved01. The brand was born from Legend’s desire to create an affordable and accessible skin-care line. Cost is a driving factor, and the brand’s goal is to provide luxury ingredients and formulations at reasonable prices ($15 and under) so that there are no barriers to who is able to have a spa-worthy, effective skincare experience. And it’s not just about selling products: It’s about educating an underserved community about skin care, and health, too. The Loved01 website offers a directory of Black dermatologists so that BIPOC people are able to find a practitioner who looks like them and is familiar with the needs of melanin-rich skin.
The same goes for Stripes, which is on a mission to destigmatize the experience of menopause. “It is so empowering to women who are in perimenopause, who have dealt with hormonal issues or fertility issues,” says Dr. Zand, who credits Watts with helping mature women feel beautiful. “I thought it was incredibly inspiring for a beautiful woman celebrity to stand up and say words that people feel shy about or maybe even shameful about, and to normalize it and even empower women.”
So, next time you see a famous face launching a line, we don’t blame you if your first thought is still, “another one?” But, now you know that it may actually have something legit to offer that’s bigger than just the celebrity’s name slapped on the bottle.
Shop celeb skin care with the pro stamp of approval
OAM Vitamin C Serum — $62.00
“It is lightweight and not oily like many vitamin C serums, and it glides and absorbs beautifully into my skin, says Dr. Libby. We can agree. This serum plays perfectly under makeup, but is just as good on its own, too. For a match made in heaven, pair the free radical fighter with your daily SPF.
SKKN Nighttime Oil — $95.00
Czech couldn’t pick just one product from SKKN as her favorite—she says she uses the cleanser, eye cream, moisturizer, and nighttime oil daily. But we narrowed it down for her, because this oil is one of our go-to’s. With fourteen botanical oils and extracts, our skin drinks this right up, allowing us to wake up with smoother, dewier skin. Pro tip: apply the oil on top of moisturizer to lock in all the moisturizing goodness.
Meaningful Beauty Crème de Sérum — $64.00
We love any product that lets us skip a step. “This is a wonderful product combining the anti-aging potency of a serum with the hydrating and moisturizing power of a cream,” explains Dr. Sebagh. Peptides, hyaluronic acid, and collagen create the anti-aging trifecta.
Humanrace Routine Kit — $110.00
Dr. Jones compared picking a favorite product to picking a favorite child, so naturally she found a loophole that allowed her to include multiple. (No judgment here!) This kit consists of the Rice Powder Cleanser, the Humidifying Face Cream, and Humidifying Body Cream, which she says “lets you really get the full benefits of the skincare line.” If you’re just getting into using skin care, this is a great place to start—this trio is simple, yet effective.
Le Domaine The Cream — $242.00
“It is very nice to use and I really see its effectiveness on the skin and the face,” says Pr. Levy. The effectiveness is thanks to the high concentration of GSM10 and ProGR3, which you can find in the other formulations throughout the line, too. We love the decadently rich texture– the chic design of the jar doesn’t hurt either.
Loved01 The Face and Body Oil — $15.00
We tend to neglect our skin from the next down, but this one-and-done formula makes lathering our limbs less of a chore. “It contains our hero ingredients, rosehip oil and sea buckthorn oil, but it is also infused with sunflower seed oil, vitamin E and C,” explains Dr. Boakye, “It is a great oil to incorporate into your night time routine and help you feel pampere
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