Social media has revolutionized the beauty industry, with influencers rising from anonymity to celebrity-like status as the beauty world capitalizes on their following. The pandemic’s renewed focus on skincare and science has given rise to creators who are willing to get into the weeds on all things skincare.
Carmine Montalto has been in the beauty industry for over 25 years, falling in love with beauty on the sales floor. He’s a NYC-based writer, product junkie, and brand guru. The former copywriter at Kiehl’s, Carmine has worked behind the scenes building brands and crafting stories. Now he’s put all his product wisdom to work demystifying skincare with almost 25,000 followers on Instagram under the handle Skincarma, and with a blog under the same name.
I’ve known Montalto for years and have worked with him as a copywriter several times, so I can vouch for his skincare credibility. I recently caught up with him to talk about life as a skinfluencer.
Tell me about how Skincarma came to be?
If you’re wondering why I got into this whole thing to begin with, it goes back to a single moment on a Saturday morning in my apartment nearly four years ago. I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across an account I was following. There was a picture of a pink shelfie; every product was pink! And all of her followers were really into it. And I’m like, what? Half those products aren’t even good for your skin. I thought, I know a lot about this. I need to create a blog. I need to create another space where bloggers aren’t just talking about pretty packaging. They’re talking about what’s inside, whether or not it’s actually beneficial for your skin—and why. In that 5-minute span when I freaked out of my mind, I created Skincarma. That’s how Skincarma was born.
You have a long history in the beauty industry—can you share a bit about your background?
I actually got started in beauty by accident. I had moved to LA at 22 and was working at a department store in the housewares department. The store management asked if I could do them a favor, for a few weeks would I assist in cosmetics? Back then, guys weren’t in cosmetics. I begrudgingly said yes. I worked in cosmetics for two days, went back to HR and asked if I could stay! Cosmetics was so dynamic, with all these passionate and dedicated people. I was a kid, really, and the older counter managers kind of adopted me, they took me under their wings. These women were legends in the store. They taught me everything they knew about skincare. And then, after a year, I was promoted to be the cosmetics manager in a new store and I just loved it. I really did!
Where did your love of beauty come from?
It really was from that experience. I never grew up with any concept of skincare. When I got out to LA, these brilliant women enlightened me. They opened my eyes to this world that I didn’t know existed. They taught me all of that.
Your specialty is skincare, and specifically clinical skincare steeped in science. What is it about this category that draws you to it?
I loved science as a kid! I used to have this blood-typing kit and would run around analyzing the blood types of all my friends. Imagine doing that now?! I had a stethoscope, too, and would listen to my own heart for hours at a time! I took biology, chemistry, and physics in high school, then astronomy in college. And, I was, admittedly, a huge Star Trek fan as a kid (yes, I was a Trekkie). So science has been in my DNA from early on.
What’s your secret for using language to differentiate, educate, and connect with consumers?
Well, I’m a writer first and foremost, with a degree in English. I also taught English for a few years in LA. So I love to write, to craft, as I refer to it. At the beginning of the pandemic, I found it impossible to talk just about skincare in my weekly blog articles on the Skincarma Blog site. So I began to incorporate more personal stuff, to talk about what I was feeling, how I was managing—and even share recipes (and photos!) about the baking I was doing. People seemed to love it! Now, I always start my weekly blog article with personal insights and experiences from the past week. If you’re just there for the skincare, you can jump ahead to the section titled, “The skincare stuff starts here.” I think humor is important, too. There’s a lot of fun in the world of skincare and beauty, and I think it’s more interesting to write about it with a dose of humor.
You’ve largely been a behind-the-scenes guy. What was the impetus to start reviewing products and sharing your skincare knowledge? You touched on this already, but if you have anything else to add.
Honestly, I just saw so much misinformation out there and felt I had something substantive to add. A lot of what I hear and read from even the most diehard skincare users comes straight out of the marketing departments of big beauty brands. That really bothers me. I know, because I worked in skincare marketing for years. Maybe I feel it’s my duty now that I’m on the outside to dispel the myths and correct misinformation when I see it. I’ve noticed it with CBD recently. And of course, there’s the whole concept of anti-aging. So much of it is nonsense. Ask me for an anti-aging product I love and I’ll recommend a good mineral sunscreen!
How do you feel about TikTok? I personally don’t understand it.
If I had more time I would do more with it, but it’s hard to spread myself even thinner than I have. Like I stopped doing anything on Facebook. Everything takes time. TikTok has a different audience, of course. But brands with resources are making good use of it; it has a purpose. The same thing with YouTube. I’d love to do more on my channel. But I also have a full-time copywriting job. A YouTube video takes 2 hours, easy. You have to film it differently, it takes editing. Everything takes time and to really make an impact, you have to constantly refresh content. Really all I ever wanted to do was create the blog. That’s my baby, that’s my focus!
So why is the blog your preferred outlet for content? What are you able to accomplish on the blog that you think other forms of social media don’t allow?
They all have rules and very strict guidelines. And they all have algorithms. You have to play into that game. I’m not paying these platforms, so I’m not as visible as I’d like. On my blog, I can operate how I want. I can push the content that I think is important. All I want to do is communicate about good skincare—and dispel a few myths along while I’m doing it!
Photo: via skincarmanyc.com