Tired of the stigma and shame associated with acne—something 95% of people will experience at some point in their lives—Julie Schott and Brian Bordainick co-founded Starface in 2019. Schott and Bordainick were inspired to create a new kind of skincare experience—one that normalizes and glamourizes breakouts as opposed to hiding them, changing the conversation around acne with the brand’s inaugural (and now best-selling) Hydro-Stars. A first-of-its kind, star-shaped pimple patch, Hydro-Stars were designed to be worn as a decorative accessory, transforming an experience historically thought of as negative and isolating into moments of confidence, self-expression, and connection.
Over the years, Starface has cultivated a positive and relatable voice, creating a space where growing up and being yourself can be fun. With an organic celebrity following (including wearers like Justin Bieber, Willow Smith, Charli D'Amelio, Bella Hadid, and Dua Lipa) and a constant influx of user generated content, Starface continues to deepen its customers’ relationship with their own skin. It's not uncommon for the brand to hear that people are "excited" for their next breakout or that they wear Hydro-Stars even when they don't have a pimple. The Starface community is also eager to wear their stars in public— whether it's on a first date or a job interview—proving breakouts don’t need to disrupt their everyday lives.
Brand Founder: Julie Schott and Brian Bordainick
Founded: September 5, 2019
2023 Full Year Expected Revenue Range: $50MM to $75MM
Categories: Skincare, Body Care
Distribution Channels: Mass, Grocery, Drugstore, Amazon
Funding Rounds: Venture Capital
Total Funds Raised:
What are some of your key business initiatives for 2023?
Making a positive impact on the acne experience and bringing positivity to more people continues to be the priority for Starface. Accessibility is a key pillar of the brand, as is the vision for Starface to be as easy to find as essentials like toilet paper and gum. That goal has led the brand to successful retail partnerships with Target, Walmart, CVS, Amazon, Shopbop, Superdrug (UK), and Boots (UK). In 2023, Starface will continue to build upon the success of its existing pimple patch assortment and expand its offerings to target a wide range of consumer needs.
Throughout the year, Starface will introduce a new product every month, experimenting with new designs, ingredient stories, and inventive collaborations and brand moments. As one of the first brands to bring “drop culture” to the skincare category, Starface will continue to drive excitement and hype for new products through its unique launch approach (a strategy that often results in large waitlists and fast sell-out rates).
Following many customer requests, Starface will release its first-ever microdart patch in January—a new technology that combines powerful, efficacious ingredients with Starface’s signature, playful branding. The following month, Starface will drop the next iteration of its customer favorite Hydro-Heart patches (a limited edition offering that sold out in just five days when it was released in 2022).
What are you most proud of having accomplished?
Starface continues to change the conversation around acne by introducing industry-first campaigns, viral collaborations, and innovative marketing strategies that push the brand’s mission forward. Recent highlights include:
What has been the biggest surprise since the brand was founded?
When Starface was founded in 2019, the majority of pimple patches on the market were clear, invisible, and designed to be hidden under makeup. It’s so rewarding to see consumers shift their perspective, turning breakouts into a means of self-expression and personal style, rather than a reason to stay home from school or skip an important event. Today, the cultural impact of the brand is clear: It’s almost impossible to scroll through TikTok or Instagram without seeing someone wearing a Hydro-Star, and people are equally as excited to see Starface products on the barista at a local copy shop as they are on Justin Bieber. Encountering Starface out in the world isn’t just validating for the team; it’s validating for their community. After spotting Willow Smith at a local coffee shop, a Starface customer took to Twitter, writing “she was wearing Starface, just like we do.”
What aspect of your brand DNA fuels your competitive advantage?
Connecting with the Starface community in an authentic and relatable way has always been a part of the brand’s DNA. From day one, they developed an uplifting mascot named Big Yellow (a personification of Starface’s yellow Hydro-Star case), that serves as the voice of the brand. All of Starface’s social media accounts are from Big Yellow’s first-person perspective, allowing the brand to interact with its community in a uniquely engaging way—almost like a best friend. This is a clear departure from the approach of many acne and skincare brands that use celebrity faces and “before and after” photos prominently in their marketing. Big Yellow is also part of the inspiration behind the brand’s collaboration with adored cartoon characters like Hello Kitty.
Starface has also found unique success on social media, in part, thanks to its successful track record of being one of the first brands to experiment with emerging platforms before they’ve been proven. As customers find their way to new apps, so does Big Yellow—Starface was one of the earliest brand adopters of TikTok; it joined during a time when there was still skepticism in the value and longevity of the app and has since amassed a loyal following, bypassing legacy brands with 1.7MM followers, 29.1MM likes, and 197.9MM views. Last year, the brand was quick to experiment on BeReal, where they gave followers early access to their Hello Kitty collaboration, a tactic that resulted in 1,000 new followers in 24 hours.
Please share your insight on the future of the beauty industry.
Accessibility and meeting customers where they are has never been more important. As an industry, we are moving further away from the mentality that exclusivity—especially when it comes to where your products are sold—is essential to preserving brand integrity. Every brand is different, but as consumers continue to look for ways to engage online and offline, it’s important to create new methods to expand your reach.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Keep it moving. Progress and experimentation will always come with mistakes, and that’s especially true with fast-paced start-ups. No matter how hard you try, it’s never possible to be perfect or know everything. When something doesn’t work, don’t dwell—learn from it and keep inching your way towards the goal.
Paying it forward, what advice would you give to someone contemplating launching a beauty brand?
Consumers have never had more options when it comes to where they shop, what they buy, and who to listen to. If you’re not coming to them with authenticity and a meaningful perspective, then chances are your message won’t be strong enough to break through the noise. If you start with purpose, the rest will follow.
If you could change one thing in the beauty industry, what would it be?
Starface has always strived to create a space where people feel safe and accepted in their own skin. From day one, the brand made a commitment to show real, unfiltered skin in all of its creative—acne, scars, texture, pimples, and all. Three years in, Starface continues to encourage other brands to follow suit in an effort to destigmatize acne.
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