You know those occasions where you see something so cringeworthy that you cover your eyes because you can’t actually quite believe you’re seeing it? I debated about whether even talking about this, but then felt that the brands being discussed deserved to be defended, and are too classy to do so publicly, and I did just talk about this on Monday, and potentially contributed to this reaction from Glossier so…
Last night Glossier ran a thread on their Instastories with Jordana Mattioli, an esthetician from New York, along with one of their employees, by the looks of it, maybe one of their interns. Perhaps she’s just blessed to look 18, I don’t know.
(Edit: A commenter tells me that this young woman is in charge of their social media and has 15 years experience. To that I would say ‘I apologise. You look great. I used the term intern to describe your youth, not experience’ and ‘if you have that much experience this perhaps shouldn’t have happened’.)
It starts off simple enough: ‘We’re going to talk about acids and exfoliation.’
Then it becomes about comparing the Solution to other ‘popular acids’ and the visual, auditory and PR nightmare sets in…
The first example they give is P50 1970 Formula which they refer to as the original one. We refer to it as 1970 in the industry, and the ‘original’ means just ‘P50’, but never mind. In this clip they say that P50 (1970) has ‘lactic acid in it, the AHA, which the Solution does as well..’ and then ‘and it also has salicylic but we don’t know the percentage, where I like that Glossier tells you the percentage of .5.’
OK so Glossier state that there is a 10% mix of acid in the Solution, 0.5% of which is salicylic, 9.5% of which is a mix of lactic, glycolic and PHA (gluconolactone). But they don’t disclose the breakdown of those acids. So why make a point of saying Glossier declare the salicylic, but evade that fact that they don’t disclose how the rest is split up? Also: I’ve got to give it to you Glossier, you’ve got some kahunas going after P50.
Then we move to Paula’s Choice, another brave move. If you come for Paula Begoun and Beautypedia you better be wearing your big girl pants. They are extremely transparent on their formulas and walk the walk. This is where it becomes all sorts of disingenuous, and you have to remember that the Glossier account is attempting to talk to their customer, who by their own admission (or thinking) ‘doesn’t care about ingredients’ . (I highly disagree with this comment by the way, but it’s not my company, so who cares.)
Beautypedia gave, in my view, a very fair review to the Solution, which you can find here.
This Instagram story states: “Paula’s, super, super popular..’ ‘Paula’s is great, it uses BHA, it doesn’t have PHA OR AHA in the formula, where the Glossier has ALL THREE!’ ‘And price-wise it’s a little more expensive..’
Ok this is just wrong. The Paula’s Choice in question is the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant. It doesn’t contain AHA or PHA because it is a dedicated BHA lotion designed to be used specifically for the treatment of blackheads and breakouts. It’s a single acid. Sometimes less is more. It’s a great product.
Then we move on to Pixi. One that they included I’m sure for numerous reasons: firstly, it’s one of the most established acids on the market, this being its 19th year in production. Secondly, it’s one of the best-selling acids in the industry and thirdly, it’s more affordable that the Solution. Again, this is a single acid formula, something twisted to be a negative by Glossier in the story thus:
‘Pixi Glow, also popular…’ ‘Pixi Glow is ‘just’ an AHA. And it’s 5%. Where this is 10.’ ‘We’re 10% ok so…’ ‘This is mild. More mild.’
Too right it’s milder. Compared to the Solution, that’s a massive positive.
They then give a brief description of how liquid exfoliants work, which is fine, and strip test the PH of the Solution. I have these strip tests and an electrical one but I stopped referring to them because they are not accurate enough. There is a big difference between a PH of 3 and a PH of 4, and while the strips will give you an idea, you won’t get it as accurate as you would in a lab. The formula is also dependent on the amount of ‘free acid’ in the formula, it’s not just about the PH, but that’s for another blog post.
- Single acid formulas perform a specific function and are needed. They’re not ‘less than’ because they haven’t thrown everything in it and hoped for the best. More on the specifics here: Cheat Sheet/Types of acids
- P50 comes in 4 variations, 5 if you live in the US. Biologique Recherche made 5 versions because one size does not fit all. They take acids very, very seriously. If you’ve ever tried to order one online you’ll know what I mean.
- Paula’s Choice offer 12 – yes TWELVE variations of acids. All extremely specific to skin conditions, because they know that if you put a strong % of glycolic on a sensitive/rosacea skin it will scream back at you. They’ve done their research, they have years of experience and clinical testing under their belt.
- Pixi offer three variations of Glow Tonic. The original bottle, pads and a 20% peel version, that contains 20% glycolic, lactic, salicylic and retinyl palmitate.
Formula is king. Every brand has the right to keep their formula private. If they didn’t they’d get ripped off by everyone. You see the inci list as a legal requirement, but they do not have to tell you how it breaks down. And there’s no reason why they should.
However: if you are going to cherry pick the %’s that you do talk about, and then compare them to other products on the market in a negative fashion, people will inevitably ask you to elaborate. Don’t open the door to questions that you are not prepared, and potentially not qualified, to answer.
I like Glossier. This is hopefully just a blip in their communication department. I don’t know what is going on but this is bad, bad judgement and in extremely poor taste. It’s something you might see from a young, offended person that is not confident in themselves. It’s not something you expect from a multi-million dollar brand.
You don’t make yourself bigger by tearing others down. It especially doesn’t work, as in this case, if the products that you are comparing yourself to are well-established, much-loved and proven. Can you imagine Lauder, Dr Dennis Gross, Josh Rosebrook, May Lindstrom or First Aid Beauty (just picking a random cross-spectrum) going onto Insta Stories and comparing their products to their competition in such a way? Never.
You’re an exciting, innovative, quickly growing, young brand Glossier. But it’s time to grow up.
*I don’t know Jordana Mattioli but I mean her absolutely no harm and mention her purely because she is in the post.
*I trained in Biologique Recherche in Paris around 2001 but have had zero dealings with them since.
*I work with Pixi on a consulting basis and have a great relationship with the brand, and obviously, my Double Cleanse.
*I have never worked with Paula’s Choice but I’ve met Paula and she will kick your arse.