The average price of a visit to the dermatologist is $150 if you don't have health insurance. That's a hefty price for some skin advice (unless you have a serious skin concern like persistent acne or a weird mole—if that's the case, definitely seek a dermatologist). Instead many of us look to the Internet to solve our skin woes, which often leads us down some not-so-trustworthy rabbit holes that tell us to rub lemons dipped in sugar across our skin for a natural brightening exfoliant. We've watched our skin turn bright red from irritation as we begged the universe to make one-on-one advice from skincare experts cheap and easy so we can all have healthy, glowing skin, and it finally listened.
We've talked to a lot of brand founders about how they are making their skincare products accessible to all. Most of them tell us they are direct to consumer, which helps them lower their price, but Celeste Hilling, the founder of Skin Authority, takes it one step further. She is the first founder to tell us her brand offers free—yes, I said free—consultations with certified experts in the skincare industry. They're called Skin Coaches and you can talk to them via video chat or email from the comfort of your bedroom. Also, Hilling comes from a tech background, which means she knows a lot about blue light and the damage it can do to the skin.
As a result, many Skin Authority products are formulated to protect us from the hours we spend in front of our screens. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about this brand that prioritizes your skin's health.
On her career background
I have a research and technology background. I started two different software companies which were acquired by Compaq computers, and I ran Compaq’s consumer division worldwide—40 countries, 14,000 people. It was quite the job. No women were doing that so I was super excited about that opportunity. Also, it led me to where I am today because we built devices and software.
A lot of this is blue light wireless technology, which is infrared radiation. The more that we were working on building devices, the more I noticed there were a lot of trends in people who were spending hours in front of screens in terms of everything from skin cancer to aging. I started doing a lot of research and I learned a lot about vitamin D, which is made in the skin. In fact, right now you're seeing all these stories about how most people that have COVID-19 are vitamin D deficient. It's not a surprise because it helps keep your immune system functioning and it's only made in the skin. The more I learned, I was like, “Oh my gosh, skin is just such an important organ.” I learned about how blue light penetrates through the skin, and it's like you sitting under five suns in terms of the light exposure to your body.
Nobody really looked at blue light for the skin. They looked at it for your eyesight and for sleep. Most stories said you don't sleep well if you’re on your device for 50 hours, but also, they talked about eyesight and then blue light glasses came along. Nobody really thought about the fact that that light isn't stopping at your eyes, it's penetrating through everything on your body. So I got super involved in researching and I was looking at all this thinking, why isn't there skincare company that's really learned and looked at all of this?
On Skin Coaches and their Facial Club
There are multiple ways that you can contact a coach. We're always inviting people to contact a coach on social media, but if you go to our website, you'll see the call a coach button. You can schedule a time to video chat if that's how you want to communicate. You can also shoot a chat or an email, however you're comfortable reaching out. What's cool is 90% of those ended up being video chats because the coaches will talk to them and say, “Can I see your skin?” All of our coaches are certified professionals so when they look at your skin, they're trained to know what they're seeing, and they're not just a call center. They usually will ask really great questions and get to what's important to you. And there's not a time limit, it's all about what is right for you. The coaches will also schedule a check-in with you. Say we send you a regimen, the coaches will ask, “Can we unpack it together? Can we go through it and I'll help you apply it all?" It's really about educating and building that one-to-one connection.
We're also getting ready to launch something called Facial Club. We sell our products direct through skinauthority.com or through our coaches but we also sell through thousands of licensed professionals in the United States who all had to shut down during COVID-19. One of the things that just kept coming up was consumers saying, “I always get my facials, but I can't get them.” We run a medical clinic and we do injectables and facials and it's where everything's been developed here in San Diego. I thought, we do all this in the room every day, why don't I figure out how to box up these professional treatments in a way where our coaches actually lead you through that professional treatment they would have done, but they do it with you at home. We're launching that at the end of July and it's $49 and every two months you get an at home facial. The first one is a summer skin celebration, but then the next ones, we have a booty facial, a facial for your back, and facials for your hands because most people don't think about everything on their body.
There's something called Skin Authority Institute, it's what all of our licensed professionals go through. Skin coach certification is pretty intense because you can't just know about the product and you can't just know about the skin so they go through a full aesthetics training. Basically, they're in our clinic, in a treatment room learning every treatment. All of our coaches go through that exact same training. Skin Authority Institute is all online and it's literally like going to skin college.
On sustainability and transparency
We try to use as few boxes as we can use. If we do have to put anything in a box, including the boxes we ship it in, then we want that to be recycled paper. Also any ink that we print on the boxes is soy ink. We also only use printers or manufacturers who use wind power or solar power. That's why most of our vendors are in California, because it's hard to find vendors that do that. All of our tubes are 98% recycled material, and they are also post recyclable. A lot of recycled material can’t be recycled again, ours can, so I always tell people please make sure when you're finished with your Skin Authority product put it in the recycling bin. Then we also go a step further—and I'm really excited about this—SkinSuit Lip is waterless. Skincare uses a lot of water in the manufacturing process. What I really wanted to do is start to move towards a waterless process. It's very hard because moisture is a big part of skincare. We're bringing out waterless cleansers next year, and so we're really moving to try and be even more earth friendly and not just thinking about solely the package but what's in the package, and what does it take to make it.
I try to be really transparent because consumers are smart. I never want to lose credibility with people, so when people talk about organic I say, “we’re as clean as we can be while still being a skincare product." There’s a lot that goes into being transparent with your consumers about what they’re really putting on their skin, and sometimes some synthetic things are better than the organic strain because there’s less of a likelihood of there being bacteria.
A lot of indie brands don’t go through compatibility testing, stability testing, and microbial testing, which is really important when you’re doing things with probiotics and things that have fermentation. If you’re not doing microbial testing, the bacteria growing in that container is crazy. And you look at that and think about how they’re shipping hundreds of units that they haven’t microbial tested. It drives me crazy. We test every batch because when you use organic ingredients, no two batches are the same.
I'm a warrior for our product, SkinSuit because it's like a topical spacesuit for your skin. It's really about putting on something that blocks 99% of pollution, blue light, infrared, and sunlight, but it feels great on your skin and it’s sheer. It doesn't matter how much it protects you, if you don't feel good wearing it, you're not going to wear it.
I wanted to build something that people would really wear and this product feels like silk on your skin. It's an SPF 50 and it’s reef safe, which means it's 100% mineral. It's formulated with zinc oxide and iron oxide. The challenge with oxides, even in mineral makeup, is that as soon as they get exposed to light, the sun, blue light, or to the environment, they break down. That's why they always tell you reapply your sunscreens, or if you're wearing mineral makeup to wear sunscreen over it.
We patented a way to take those minerals and formulate them in a way where it fuses them and they become a coated mineral so it doesn't break down in the sun. What's cool about it is that it gives you a much higher level of absorption of all light. It's an SPF 50, so it absorbs UVA and UVB rays but it also absorbs 99% of all light coming from your devices and screens. It absorbs 99% of all infrared which is the light you can't see that's coming from devices like your wireless keyboard or the clicker on your TV, the remote control for your garage, your air pods in your ears, all of those things they talk to the device by emitting a light stream that goes back to the device and that travels through your body, through your skin and it generates 51% more light than the sun. It's a lot of exposure so you want to just be covering yourself every day.