We all know about pimple patches, the way to dry out and partially conceal the unwelcome guests on our face—but have you ever thought of dressing them up with something cute and flashy while helping them heal? “It’s kind of like the 8 Mile thing of pointing out what someone is about the say about you before they can say it,” says Julie Schott, co-founder of Starface, the newest and brightest pimple patches on the market. “You can be like yeah, there’s a star on my face, I have a pimple. I know that and I’m fine.” A link between 8 Mile and acne is only one of the many insightful (and funny) parallels and anecdotes that Schott and her co-founder Brian Bordainick shared with us during our chat about the recent launch of their skincare brand.
Starface launched with their Hydro-Stars™ pimple patches, which contains a pack of 32 hydrocolloid patches that are exactly what you think; bright yellow stars you can stick on your face that absorb fluids from your breakouts. Covering your pimples with a patch doesn’t only dry them out, but it protects them from your urge to pick and keeps bacteria out. Wear the patch for at least 6 hours, and when it turns opaque, it’s time to take it off. You don’t need to hide away while nursing your breakouts anymore—the whole point is to accessorize your imperfections and look cute as hell while doing it.
Starface is Leaping Bunny Certified, vegan, cruelty-free, pregnant and nursing safe (more on that later) and they’re doing their part to reduce waste; once you’re done your pack of Hydro-Stars™, you can order a whole new set of patches (for only $18 instead of $22) and Starface will send you a refill in a sterile pack. No need for all that packaging all over again.
We spoke to the co-founders about their winding career arcs, the private shame of skin picking, their "newborn baby brand," and their personal approaches to beauty and self-care.
Join us tonight at 7PM EST for a live Starface drop with Supergreater Taylor Roberts. She'll be demoing and dropping their Moisture on Mars moisturizer and giving away the brand's iconic pimple patches.
On their career backgrounds:
Julie: I went to art school in New York, in Brooklyn, and I always wanted to work at a print magazine because that was the era for that. I was dead set on it. I got an internship at Elle Accessories, which doesn’t exist anymore, and just stayed in the system as long as I could. I was like, I’m not leaving any of these buildings, you have to give me a job because I’m obsessed with this. This was pre-Instagram, so beauty wasn’t such a cultural touch point or a conversational piece the way that it certainly is now. So as beauty became more popular, more mainstream and shareable, it continued to grow and be more of a priority at these various publications. My first job writing about beauty was at xoJane, which was very community, open forum, first-person. I talked about my acne for the first time on the internet there, and people followed along and we all helped each other out and it was very cool, I loved it. Then I moved on to Elle and stayed at Elle for the rest of my career.
I did a few years in print, a few years in digital, kind of learned both sides, and then two years ago I decided to leave and move to L.A. with the intention of making Starface, which took a ton of trial and error and took longer than I ever could have imagined. But thanks to meeting Brian, it accelerated.
Brian: My background is a bit all over the place, I started my career as a school teacher post-Katrina in New Orleans, I did that for a number of years. And then I ended up working for the mayor of New Orleans for a little bit, and then I wound up starting a startup company in a totally different space. I ran that for about 4 years and then became the head of innovation at Hudson’s Bay Company, which owns Saks, formerly Lord and Taylor, and a couple of European retailers.
I was sort of itching to get back into business because I wasn’t a very good large corporate guy, and that’s when I met Julie and she started talking about attacking the acne space. It was something that was really exciting and that I wanted to sink my teeth into. I didn’t know as much about beauty, but I was fortunate because I lived with a beauty editor (his girlfriend Rachel Strugatz, beauty editor at Business of Fashion) and got to learn a tremendous amount from Julie and my girlfriend. It was just a really cool experience to marry business start ups and their domain of expertise in the skincare space.
Julie Schott by Tom Newton for Into The Gloss
On first having the idea to tackle the acne space:
Julie: I first started thinking about patches probably like 4 or 5 years ago, what they could be, because they weren’t really a category yet. They were something that you would bring back from Japan and a few companies were making them in the U.S. and that was it. It made me think a lot about the genesis of sheet masks, and how, growing up sheet masks weren’t really a thing people played with, and now they’re a CVS checkout aisle item. I really saw that happening for pimple patches and that’s exactly what has happened and it continues to grow. But at the same time, we’re not a pimple patch brand, this is our entryway into a larger universe.
At this point I had been a beauty editor for like 5 years so I had this access that I never would have been able to afford, like these insane dermatologists, amazing treatments and every product, but my skin was still my skin. Which means, acneic, unpredictable, breakout prone, and at that age I was really self conscious about it because I was supposed to be an expert and I thought, who’s going to trust me? I have acne, do my recommendations even mean anything? But the truth about acne is that sometimes it’s out of your hands. Even when you graduate to prescription medications, sometimes you’re still just waiting on something to it. And for me it was like, why is this thing that 90% of people have stigmatized at all? It’s so common and we’re so used to seeing it in real life, why is it so compulsively covered in public images?
This year you could see it in films like Eighth Grade and Ladybird, but back then you just didn’t see it at all. It’s not dangerous, it’s not contagious, it’s not an indication of a larger issue for the most part. I was just like, why do we have to feel bad about this? And I do understand, especially when you’re younger, that there’s mood fluctuations and your body is changing and it’s sometimes hard to adjust, but if you can just be reassured that you’re not dirty, you’re not doing something wrong, you’re not sick—it’s okay.
On their brand ethos:
Julie: When you put makeup on a breakout, you’re almost accentuating it and it starts to look like a Crunch bar. For me, I stopped putting makeup on it because makeup is just going to congest it further, but also it’s hard in the workplace to show up with acne and feel as though like, does my boss or my coworkers think I’m not trying, or do they think I’m too young? There’s a lot of insecurity that floods your mind when you have a breakout, but I continue to experience it for various hormonal reasons. People get it through their 30s and their 40s, I’ve talked to people who never had it and then their pregnancy triggered it.
The way we think about what we’re making is it’s effective, proven, gentle, and safe, but also a way of taking care of yourself when you’re experiencing it. Again, we grew up sandblasting acne away with something aggressive, but we’re always learning new ways to treat our skin and there’s always trends that play into that as well. None of what I grew up with or tried in my early career really fit into our idea of what we’re doing, and it did become really important to be as inclusive as possible. So the pregnancy factor was super important because when you’re going through that you can’t use any of your regular products, you can’t use your glycolics or your benzoyl peroxides, doctors tell you not to use them because they don’t know what the effects of some of the ingredients might be. And that’s so enerving because seriously, some of these pregnancy breakouts can be insane. The same goes for us getting Leaping Bunny Certified, it was super important to be vegan.
On embracing your "imperfections" with a bright yellow star:
Julie: It’s kind of like the 8 Mile thing of pointing out what someone is about the say about you before they can say it. You can be like yeah, there’s a star on my face, I have a pimple. I know that and I’m fine.
I’m definitely somebody, like many people, who will look into a magnifying mirror and think I’m fixing something, walk away and 30 minutes later there’s a volcano on my face that wasn’t there before. Skin picking is so common and I’m trying to break those habits. It’s really upsetting for people who deal with it privately, and it’s interesting because we’re learning more and more that all these private, shameful things are so prevalent, so it does make you feel better and less alone to know you’re not the only one and it’s common. It’s a very human tick.
I’m a hair puller, I have trichotillomania and I’ve had it since I was about 8 years old. It used to devastate me and I thought I was such a freak. If you look at my bat mitzvah picture I have penciled on eyebrows with my mom’s eyeliner. I was wearing a Topshop dress with tissue paper in my dress and penciled on eyebrows. (laughs)
On the biggest challenges you face when starting a beauty brand:
Brian: There’s not one thing that I would point to, but I think it’s more of a general sort of attitude that sort of permeates how you approach life and then manifests itself in business. There’s a sort of constant struggle of nothing quite working right when you want it to and this process of having to constantly tweak and work with other people to get it where you want it to go. That feeling of it not quite being there is always present, so my one piece of advice would be to have a good attitude while you’re going through that process because it’s a feeling that never goes away. It’s a constant state of wanting to make something that’s not right, right. You can only control how you treat other people, how you view it yourself, and I think that’s really important.
Julie: If you’re doing to do it you have to really want to do it. Do it if it’s giving you purpose and making you feel good, and even if it’s just a hobby, if it’s giving you purpose and meaning then you’re fine. I had so many DMs from female founder friends the day of our launch being like, “get ready, seriously, it’s going to be really hard.” And these are women that, looking from the outside, you’re thinking "this woman is killing it." I don’t want to disrespect anyone who is raising a human child, but it is a little bit like having a newborn. People are like, “congratulations you have a newborn!”, and you’re like, “this thing doesn’t sleep through the night and I’m tired.” To get it to grow into an adult that gives back to you and enhances your life, it’s a long process and you have to treat it right.
On their personal highlights since launching Starface:
Julie: This is corny but, whenever we get messages that say “you made me feel better, it really worked, I wish I had this growing up, I’m getting this for my niece,” those kinds of things just make me feel like that’s what we’re here for. This is the purpose.
Brian: I would agree with that statement completely and say, watching the community come together. I mean, we had good indicators before launch that there was this tribe out there of people who wanted to view acne in a different way, and I think now that the product is out there, it’s been really awesome to watch that community grow at a faster rate than I think we initially anticipated.
On the amount of prototypes it took to get the final product:
Julie: We have so many shit stars. (laughs) There were so many iterations of this thing, and we had so many different issues, whether it was a design issue or an aesthetic issue. A major one was that, different faces have different shapes, and some people’s faces have more curves. I have a good chin to test things on because it’s super round, so if it can’t grip to my chin and stay overnight without budging in the slightest then it’s thrown out. You can’t have any lift off, and people think it’s just decorative, but the star’s arms are meant to grip contours, sort of like a bottle cap.
Brian: It took a year (to formulate the final prototype), at least.(laughs)
Julie: Before Brian I was grasping at straws, cold calling people, and it took Brian to put systems in place that I didn’t have. I’m just a person with ideas that need to be organized, because I’ll throw product ideas into our slack channel and Brian will be like, “this isn’t Willy Wonka’s factory.”
On their personal beauty routines:
Brian: It’s interesting because I live with a beauty editor. My girlfriend’s a great filter for a lot of stuff, we’re pretty discerning about what makes it into our bathroom. We use a really basic drugstore face wash, I have terrible skin, I have rosacea and dermatitis. If I do a hot yoga class I’ll get red, If I get hot I get red, caffeine, alcohol too. For me it’s about trying my best to not irritate my skin while going through things that I know bring me joy and happiness. We have Cetaphil, that’s one of our go-to’s, and I also have a prescription sulfur-based face wash that I’ll use if I’m flaring up. For moisturizer we use Tatcha.
Julie: I actually don’t use moisturizer. I have oily skin and i don’t need any extra moisture. I like oils a lot, which I was scared to use for a while because you think, I’m breakout prone so I shouldn’t use oils. But they actually really agree with acneic skin sometimes. I like Biossance, they’re really good. At night I like the Moon Juice Beauty Shroom Plumping Jelly Serum, I just pat it into my face, and I like all the Supergoop sunscreens.
I’m not a wash my face in the morning person unless I’m going to put a little makeup on, because the natural nighttime skin stuff is still doing it’s thing. Then I always wear sunscreen, I like Supergoop Spray Sunscreen so I don’t have to touch my face. I used to be big on glycolics, I would just go crazy, but I was overdoing it. I was doing it every night because it gives you a really satisfying reflective surface, but it can thin your skin out. Now I do it once a week or once every few weeks.
I get a facial every 3 months or so and my facialist told me my skin was getting really thin, but the last time I saw her she said it was getting thicker. I have this facialist I really like in L.A. named Jacqueline (@master.aesthetician), and this is very L.A. but she’s very intuitive. She’ll text me and be like, “are you in love?” out of nowhere. (laughs) She has good energy and I like her a lot. I also like to go to Skin Camp, they’re a walk in facial place and they’re gentle, you can trust them not to do anything harsh. I don’t like the kinds of facials where you’re going to look worse before you look better.