Olamide Olowe is 24, and Topicals, the skin-care company she co-founded in 2020, is not even the first she’s launched. Prior to founding Topicals, Olowe co-founded SheaGIRL (an offshoot of SheaMoisture) while she was in college. The brand was acquired by Unilever when the conglomerate purchased its parent company, Sundial Brands.
Most modern beauty brands stick to marketing promises around glowier, clearer or younger skin, but Olowe recognized that, for many, dealing with actual skin issues is the top priority.
“There are so many skin conditions that exist outside of acne or wrinkles,” she said. “I saw these other categories that no one was paying attention to. We’re starting to celebrate acne and aging, but why haven’t we done that for the countless other conditions that exist?” Olowe is confident that there’s a strong market for helping people dealing with skin conditions that are less common and embracing them in the process. After all, she said, one in four people in the U.S. has a chronic skin condition.
There’s also the issue of accessibility. Skin conditions can be hard to treat for anyone, not to mention the fact that, according to Olowe, “Forty seven percent of dermatologists and dermatology residents say that their medical school training didn’t prepare them to treat skin of color.”
For Gen Z, a generation that relishes in unpolished imperfection, embracing flaws is not only normal, but even cool. As Olowe put it, “Gen Z is unafraid to be our most authentic selves.” For Topicals, that means the brand plans to go beyond the lines that typically define the beauty category. “We are going to be doing things that people have typically thought of as taboo,” she said. “We’re going to do things that you maybe didn’t even think were beauty.”
She added, ”I think we can change this notion that serving niche demos or othered demos is small and can not [lead to] financial success.”
Topicals’ two products, a serum for hyperpigmentation and a moisturizing mask for eczema, sold out at Sephora within 48 hours of launching in March. The brand is part of Sephora’s prestigious Accelerate program this year, a program that works to set brands up for success in store. That’s not to mention that Olowe is the youngest Black woman to raise over $2 million ($2.6 million, in fact), with investors including Issa Rae.
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