beauty

"Don’t expect any miracles": What a dermatologist really thinks of celebrity skincare brands.

There are a lot of things 2022 didn't need. Another celebrity skincare line is one of these things.

They're everywhere. Can't escape 'em. And every time you see a new one pop up on Instagram you think to yourself: Really?

Two of the latest celebrities to jump on the skincare brand bandwagon are Kim Kardashian and Hailey Bieber.

Watch: Just on ingredients and such, check out some of the gross things hidden in your skincare products. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

Kim's new brand SKKN BY KIM is set to launch worldwide on June 21. And in true Kardashian style, it's already causing controversy.

Consisting of nine skincare products, the SKKN BY KIM collection features a cleanser, toner, exfoliator, hyaluronic acid serum, vitamin C8 serum, an eye cream, face cream, oil drops and a night oil.

In a recent Instagram post, Kim said her range was "developed to support the skin’s natural renewal abilities."

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"Each product is clean, cruelty-free, vegan, and thoughtfully formulated without gluten, sulfates, phenoxyethanol, BHT, and PEGs," she adds.

The packaging is all refillable and looks very aesthetically pleasing/sleek/like little bottles of concrete (classic Kim!) and each product in the line is reportedly priced between AUD $59 and AUD $131. 

Now, as you probably already know, Kim's younger sister Kylie Jenner also has a skincare brand - called Kylie Skin - which is a lot more affordable. So it's interesting that SKKN has a more expensive price point - it seems to be pitching itself as a more high-end brand. 

But products and price-point aside, it's the selection of her skincare brand's name, SKKN, that's getting people talking.

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As pointed out by Instagram account, Diet Prada, skin expert Cyndie Lunsford founded a brand called SKKN+ back in 2017. She has since filed a cease and desist letter after Kim tried to trademark the name.

“I have painstakingly built my successful small business with my own sweat equity, hard work and research. It’s clear that I established my brand first,” Lunsford told Forbes.

“As a young black woman, my mission with SKKN+ is to provide quality skincare and curated full body experiences to enhance each client’s self-care regimen. The (+) represents a hands-on transformative aesthetic experience that elevates the body, mind, and spirit.”

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But... there’s more.

There's also an American model by the name of Lori Harvey who has a skincare band named... SKN by LH. While Harvey hasn't yet addressed the situation, people were quick to point out the name and its similarities, with Kim's brand launching eight months after SKN by LH.

One Twitter user wrote, “Kim naming her skincare brand SKKN when Lori Harvey's skincare brand name is SKN doesn't sit right with me. Seems like they're stealing from a Black woman for the thousandth time.”

And it's not the first time Kim's caused controversy with her brand names. 

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You may or may not remember that the original name of her popular shapewear line was actually 'Kimono' - which she tried to trademark. 

After being accused of cultural appropriation, she then renamed the brand 'SKIMS'.

Aside from the controversies, there's also the one very obvious question running through everyone's minds when they think of Kardashian's skincare brand, and celebrity skincare lines in general: Do you think she actually uses it?

According to Kardashian's Instagram, she does! She really does. She posted a video with renowned esthetician, Joanna Czech, who performed a facial using these products on her skin. Along with using some really high end skin devices... including a LYMA laser (a starter kit that costs around $3,500) and an in-clinic 'galvanic micro-current treatment' that you definitely don't have at home.

Interesting.

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Then we have Hailey Bieber's brand Rhode

The range officially launched in the US on June 15 (no word as yet on international shipping to Australia).

Similarly to Kim's packaging, Rhode products have a very sleek, shelfie-worthy look. 

The line is currently made up of three products: a hydrating serum, a barrier cream and a lip treatment. 

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Keeping in mind she'll probably release more products (this sounds like it's her 'first drop'), it's a very simple, minimalist range that focuses on hydration and the skin barrier.

Chatting with Bustle on how her skincare range is different to other celebrity skincare ranges, she said: "I know that people are so tired of celebrity brands and I’m like, honestly, I get that. I think that I’m trying to do something very different."

While her products are significantly cheaper than some other celebrity skincare brands (they retail at $30USD - which is around $42 Australian dollars), it's hard to say that it looks like anything particularly groundbreaking. 

Along with sleek packaging, if you take a look at Rhode's website or Instagram, it has an unmistakable 'clean girl' aesthetic. Think that 'no makeup makeup' look of perfectly glowing skin, slicked back hair and brushed up brows. 

In fact, it's almost entirely made up of images of Bieber herself. There's a clear absence of 'real' skin texture- pimples, pores, acne flare-ups, marks, bumps... 

All you see at present is perfect, polished, effortless Hailey Bieber skin.

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Over the last few years, beauty brands have realised that the 'off duty model' look is not relatable. It's not real life. These days, people want formulas and marketing that supports and acknowledges all skin types, tones and textures.

With Rhode, it feels like it's missed this shift.

While Bieber has been open about her struggles with acne, it's hard to ignore the fact that celebrities have access to some of the best experts, skincare devices and treatments in the world. 

As with Kardashian, Bieber's skin doesn't look like this because of her skincare range. Far from it.

Ultimately, the thing with celebrity beauty brands like Rhode and SKKN By Kim, is that the market is already crowded. It's hard enough trying to navigate what products are legit and the ones that aren't worth it, and celebrity skincare brands seem to just add to this confusion.

So, how does one separate the utter BS from the stuff that's actually worth our money?

Well, we went ahead and asked an expert for her opinion on celebrity skincare lines - 'cause if there's anyone who knows about skin things, it's a dermatologist.

"So far, celebrity skin care brands do not add anything to the existing skincare market. We don’t see new cosmeceutical ingredients or scientific innovation," said dermatologist Dr Katherine Armour from Bespoke Skin Technology

"You are mostly paying for a tiny piece of the relevant celebrity’s 'brand'," said Dr Armour. "What we tend to see is use of existing well-established ingredients (like niacinamide, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid), often in very low concentrations. Or, you are paying big money for something that has no active ingredients at all."

How annoying.

Listen: Speaking of active ingredients... do you know how to use them? Not really? Get this episode of You Beauty in your ear holes and find out what happens when you use too many actives (hint: it's not great). Post continues below.

So, are they all the same? Or are some better than others? 

To break it all down, we've rounded up some of the latest celebrity skincare brands on the market and asked Dr Armour to tell us everything we probably don't know.

JLo Beauty.

One of the latest contenders in the celebrity skincare line-up is Jennifer Lopez's newly launched JLo Beauty. 

While we don't yet know a whole lot about the products in the range, what we do know is that there's been a helluva lot of awkward backlash surrounding J-Lo's recent denial of having injectables and fillers during the launch of her new brand.

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In case you missed this entire thing:

"I haven't ever had Botox to this day... I'm not that person. I don't have anything against people doing that; it's just not my thing. I'm more about a natural approach to skincare… but I want [my products] to work," Lopez told Daily Mail.

"I want the hyaluronic acid in there. I want the things that are going to help, because I don’t want to have to go to the needles at some point. I’m not saying one day I won’t, but I haven't yet."

So, do her products actually work like she said they do? Or is she trying to pull a fast one on us?

"JLo Beauty is now available for pre-order, and promises us our very own 'J-Lo glow'," said Dr Armour. "I'm sorry, but, at 51 years of age, J-Lo’s divine, indisputable glow is due to her blessed genetics and perhaps one or two visits to a cosmetic dermatologist’s office over the years. 

"The JLo Beauty packaging looks stunning and would glam up any bathroom. The products are very basic in terms of ingredients. But, they are reasonably priced," said Dr Armour.

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Looking at the ingredients (or lack thereof), it's fair to say that you shouldn't expect any dramatic results using JLo Beauty skincare products. "I think with this line, we’re buying glamorous presentation, rather than results. But, if you’re okay with that - go for it!"

GOOP Beauty.

"Gwyneth Paltrow tends to polarise. But, love her or hate her (I’m pretty neutral TBH!), she has done an amazing job in marketing GOOP skincare. However, this is another example of 'nothing new to see here'," said Dr Armour. 

Give us the goss here, Dr A! Is it worth our pennies?

"GOOPGENES All-In-One Nourishing Face Cream is a plain moisturiser, containing nothing innovative, but carrying a price tag of $152 here in Australia. It is a lovely plain moisturiser, that no doubt feels divine on the skin," said Dr Armour. 

"But, it claims to improve 'firmness and elasticity'…after just four weeks. Sorry, Gwyneth, that's just not possible with the lack of collagen-stimulating ingredients in the formula." 

Gwenny! WTF. This is almost as bad as that time you tried to sell us a bag for watermelons. Almost.

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According to Dr Armour, the GOOPGLOW Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator is also very pricey for what it is, and can actually cause some real havoc to those with sensitive skin.

"Glycolic acid is a great chemical exfoliator, leading to smoothing and brightening. However, GOOP combines both chemical and physical exfoliators in this product. This one is definitely not for those with sensitive skin, as the chemical and physical exfoliant combo will irritate," said Dr Armour.

Wa-wa-wait. We're not done here, you guys.

"The GOOPGLOW 20% Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Glow Serum is a potent combo for brightening. If you are tolerant to vitamin C, it could be for you. But, again, this product is expensive for what it is. Twenty per cent vitamin C is likely to irritate those with sensitive skin. I'd recommend starting with a much lower concentration or even avoiding vitamin C if your skin is reactive."

Kylie Skin.

What's a celebrity skincare round-up without Kylie Skin? The range is available in Mecca stores around Australia, but are the prods actually worth your cash?

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Probably not.

"This is an affordable range with cute packaging," said Dr Armour. "Again, there is nothing new here in terms of ingredients. I think that $40 is too much to spend for 50ml of a very basic facial moisturiser (aptly named, 'Face Moisturiser')." 

Indeed.

"But, these products don’t contain synthetic fragrance, which is a plus if you have sensitive skin. You’re buying a little piece of Kylie. And, if that makes you happy, go for it."

Important: Dr Armour recommends completely steering clear of any sunscreen formulations from a celebrity skincare brand. "Remember that moisturisers or foundation with sunscreen are a useful adjunct, but not a replacement for a standard substantive sunscreen," she said.

"These products with added SPF are regulated as cosmetics. So, they are not subject to the same rigorous testing standards that stand-alone sunscreens must meet."

Fenty Skin.

What about Rihanna's Fenty Skin brand? Is it any good?

"Rihanna is the face behind this brand, and I think that it’s a great offering for younger skin. Her products are aimed at those who don’t need a lot of hydration," explained Dr Armour. "So, for most of us over 35s, it won’t be appropriate."

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Why? Because mature skin needs the hardcore stuff - the active ingredients that pack a real punch when it comes to protecting and repairing your skin (AHAs, BHAs and such).

In saying that, Dr Armour said Fenty Skin has chosen useful antioxidants such as niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and lots of Australian botanicals for its formulations - which are some good, hard-working ingredients that can benefit any skin type.

"What I really love is that Fenty Skin has created recyclable packaging and offers refills for some of its products. Very earth conscious! If I was in the under 30 age bracket, I’d be trying this range."

Honest.

Heard of it? For those who haven't, Honest is Jessica Alba's wellness brand, which includes a sizeable skincare offering characterised by clean ingredients.

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So, what's the overall verdict?

"I actually quite like this brand," said Dr Armour. "While there is nothing clever or innovative here in terms of ingredients used, she creates scientifically evidenced products that are cruelty-free and very reasonably priced."

Yay! Gold star for you, Alba.

MDNA.

For the ultimate celebrity skincare, Madonna's MDNA skin is where it's all at. The stuff is exy AF. There is a serum that is... $335.

*Squints at price in confusion*.

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Must be full of some pretty freakin' magical ingredients, no?

"'The Serum' contains ingredients which are not expensive to work with (hyaluronic acid and resveratrol) and those that just don’t work (apple stem cells). The website also states that this serum contains 'various vitamins', yet there is no full ingredient list for any of the products," said Dr Armour. 

How shady is that? (Rhetorical question).

"The lack of disclosure of the full ingredients list is unusual in skincare today. It’s really important for consumers to know exactly what is in a product. This allows individuals with contact allergies to fragrance or preservatives to avoid products they’ll react to.... I think I'll save my funds."

Same, Dr A. Same.

Instead of splashing out on celebrity skincare brands that will reap little or no results, Dr Armour said, "In my opinion, your money is better spent on established brands with effective ingredients, such as Avene, QV Skincare, Cetaphil, Bioderma and La Roche-Posay – these are great skincare ranges, backed by science, and at an accessible price."

Affordable and effective? What a dream.

"If you have the finances to buy cosmeceutical grade skincare, discuss your skincare needs with your dermal therapist, cosmetic physician or dermatologist. Or, consider an online algorithm such as Script Skincare, which can advise you on which products to choose given your skin’s needs."

However, if these celebrity brands work for you and you love them and don't mind forking out the extra cash - you do you, friend.

"With celebrity skincare, you are buying a little slice of their brand. If that makes you feel good, enjoy! But, in terms of results, don’t expect any miracles."

What's your view on celebrity skincare? Would you try it? Share with us in the comment section below.

Feature image: @rhode; @kimkardashian