Makeup brands have finally started to consider all skin colors and undertones with foundation options, concealer colors and model choices. There is finally representation for coverage and products that we use to mask our blemishes, but is there representation in beauty, more specifically in skin care and social media for those who don’t choose to cover their blemishes? For those who are still working towards having their best skin? 

As a Micro Skinfluencer, I’ve followed a ton of beauty influencers and skin finatics and I’ve noticed common themes, the pressure of unrealistic beauty standards such as glass skin, poreless noses, completely symmetrical features, airbrushed skin tone, blemish free skin have made it so people are uncomfortable sharing there progress and their perfectly normal, healthy skin. 

The truth is, hormones get imbalanced, we get stressed, allergic reactions happen, skin conditions exist, and Co-Founders of Topicals, Olamide and Claudia created a space for all real skin types, while making flare-ups more fun. 

Topicals was founded by two young women of color who have a passion for vulnerability and acceptance in the skincare and mental health spaces, both growing up with plenty of experience with different skin topicals and treatments. Olamide has post-barbae folliculitis which is a severe acne-like reaction to shaving and Claudia has struggled with severe eczema for years. Olamide and Claudia were connected by a mutual friend and through their similar experiences and driven personalities, this dynamic duo created a much needed skin duo. 

I’ve had the pleasure of receiving the Topicals DUO, a little box full of cute, fun pastel colored packaging and little stickers that take me back to diary decor. The last time I was this excited for skin care I was 13 and received my first colorful three-step set. The DUO includes Topicals’ two products that are a new standard, medicated botanicals. The ingredient lists include herbals that are scientifically-proven via third-party and peer-reviewed clinical studies. These formulas are a safe alternative to piling up harsh chemicals, concoctions and scrubs hoping for results. 

I applied Like Butter, and it is actually like butter. I applied the mask after cleansing, in circular upward motions as it seeped into my skin, let it sit as I tuned into my nightly 30 minutes of Netflix, and after rinsing it brought the dull parts of my skin back to life. My sensitive bumpy areas around my mouth and under my eyes were noticeably smoother the next morning, and these immediate results made me eager to try the second product, a clearing and brightening gel, Faded. 

Faded balances the skin tone, visibly reduces the appearance of blemishes, and most importantly, it didn’t damage my skin with unwanted bleaching or dryness as it worked at my stubborn blemishes.This unscented formula has a smooth consistency and is easy to apply after washing and toning. After about one week of very minor skin purging, which included a few tiny risen white heads in the morning that disappeared rather quickly on their own, the post acne scars along my jawline and chin are healing and blending in with my actual skin texture and tone. I can imagine that within a month of continuing to use this duo my skin will reach its goals. This combo has helped me fight acne, eczema and break down my dark marks, my skin routine went from six products to three. 

So, how did two young women create two products that despite the many existent brands, have been missing in skin care? I had the chance to chat with Olamide and Claudia about all things Topicals and skin. 

EBONY: How did you two meet to found Topicals

Olamide: I worked at Shea Moisture during Undergrad and built a brand with my business partner Rechelle Dennis for young women of color called Shea Girl. After the company got acquired, I knew that I wanted to build another brand. So I started working on the idea of Topicals in August 2018, right after I finished college. I quickly realized that I wanted to have someone on board that knew more about science than I did. 

I was talking to my friend who I met at a Harvard Business School Undergrad program, he said “ I went to school with this girl named Claudia, she’s like my best friend you two should connect.”

It’s just so funny because I just sent Claudia an email screenshot of us being introduced, and just how serious we thought we were. Now we live together and we see each other with no makeup on. Since we met in January 2019 it’s funny to see how in one year it’s completely changed for us. 

EBONY: How have your personal battles with skin contributed to how Topical was founded?

Claudia: Olamide and I both grew up with chronic skin conditions. I had really severe eczema growing up and I was in and out of the doctor’s office and just remember being very embarrassed to go to sleepovers because I knew that I’d have to use my topical steroids while I was there and I didn’t want people asking me if my rash was contagious and Olamide grew up with a myriad of things including post-barbae folliculitis, which is basically super severe ingrown hairs and because of that causes really bad hyperpigmentation and acne. So we connected through a mutual friend and really bonded over this shared experience of feeling alienated and isolated from the beauty community and just in general because of our skin conditions. We wanted to change that, we wanted to make it so that people who are growing up and more specifically women of color who feel isolated because of their skin conditions but also because of their skin color, or skin type, so that they don’t have to feel so alienated from the beauty community. We started Topicals to transform the way people feel about skin and to normalize inclusion and conversations around skin conditions. 

EBONY: What was the process like for making the formula for Faded and Like Butter?

Claudia: We’ve been really fortunate that we’ve been able to put together a really great scientific advisory board. My background is in clinical research and I’ve been working in dermatology and clinical research since high school, so for the last 10 years. I have a good understanding of upcoming research, how to access information and findings that have been locked in what we call the “ivory tower of academia for dermatology”.  Our scientific advisory board includes the head of pediatric dermatology from Stanford who has been really helpful in helping us formulate products. 

We identified pain points in our community’s routines by talking to them about what skin conditions they had and what was causing them trouble. The most common responses that we got from our community early on were hyperpigmentation and eczema. Those were the two that we started with, and for women of color those two often follow one another. We took research from dermatology journals, we consulted our dermatology board on what ingredients they thought worked best for people’s skin and came up with this unique combination of plant extracts. We call our formulas “medicated botanicals” because we use plant extracts that have been used for a long time in traditional Chinese medicine but more research has proved its efficacy. We combined them in new innovative ways to create products that work more comprehensively and gently for your skin conditions. 

EBONY: How did you both come up with this adorable packaging? 

Olamide: Claudia is the mastermind here. It’s so funny because Claudia and I kind of bicker about certain things, and the brand is one of those things. Claudia came up with the idea for packaging. 

Our packaging is so different from typical clinical skincare brands. We chose bright colors and fun logos because we wanted science-backed skincare to seem approachable to Gen-Z. We want our packaging to be something fun that you would be proud to pull out of your bag.

EBONY: What are your thoughts on society and social media’s pressure to have flawless skin and how that relates to mental health? 

Claudia: I think we can all relate to not wanting to go out or cancelling plans, and having our mental health be really impacted by our skin. Whether this was a breakout you had  when you were a teenager or it’s an ongoing skin condition that you’ve just always had. Most people can relate to that, and looking at skin care ads and seeing perfectly airbrushed and poreless faces, even if we tell ourselves “Oh, that’s been photoshopped” it still affects the way that we feel about ourselves. We’ve always known there was a huge connection between skin health and mental health. People who have skin conditions, which varies from acne to rosacea to eczema, are 2 to 6 times more likely to experience anxiety or depression and a lot of that is because of this embarrassment and shame that is attached to not having “perfect skin”. With Topicals, it was a no brainer to advocate to bring more awareness to that fact, and put our money where our mouth is. We commit ourselves to having that conversation. 

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