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Why Is There Food In My Skincare?

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Brown chapter.

It seems that, lately, an intriguing alliance has formed between food and skincare. This is especially true in the case of Hailey Bieber‘s skincare line, Rhode Skin, which recently hinted at making its foray into the makeup world.

With the launch of Rhode’s tinted peptide lip treatment in shades such as espresso, toast, and raspberry jelly, fans are left wondering what this shift signifies for the marketing strategies of skincare lines in the future. The peptides, which traditionally bore Rhode’s signature greyish hue and were not tinted, now have adopted colors like purple, brown, and pink.

This trend extends beyond Rhode, with other brands combining edible ingredients with cosmetics. Kylie Cosmetics’ latest gloss drip features images of Kylie Jenner savouring a frozen popsicle with strawberries, hinting at the product’s vivid color palette.

Still, other brands continue to adhere to their traditional naming conventions, using descriptive language to characterise their products’ color palettes without necessarily stepping into their “food era.” Take, for instance, Milk Makeup Cosmetics, a vegan and cruelty-free brand renowned for its viral Lip + Cheek Cream Blush Stick ($24), which employs terms like “coral shimmer” and “deep plum” to depict the shades of its best-selling product.

A quick glance at Rhode’s instagram now leaves little room for doubt – their feed is inundated with images of donuts, jelly, coffee, and toast. It’s worth noting that their previous product launch was a barrier restore cream named “glazing milk,” with a campaign featuring Bieber immersed in milk.

Undoubtedly, there’s a sensual element that links food and pleasure. Jean-Paul Sartre famously claimed that eating is not merely a biological necessity but also an existential act. When we eat, we engage our senses, particularly taste and smell. The sensual experience of food, the pleasure it provides, and the desires it elicits are all part of the rich tapestry of human life.

But Bieber’s creative direction is not turning heads because of its sensual content – at least, not exclusively. Instead, Rhode’s campaigns have people talking because they border on a culinary aesthetic designed to whet our appetites.

Fans were quick to point out, though, that Rhode’s upcoming peptide lip treatments would be scent-free. This came as a disappointment to those who were accustomed to the brand’s scented products, like the beloved “salted caramel” or “birthday cake” scented peptide lip treatments. Customers had grown so fond of them, they often expressed a desire to want to eat them. In fact, some fans regarded the peptide lip treatement’s taste and fragrance as even more appealing than the product’s overall quality.

So, why is Rhode investing heavily in extensive campaigns using food imagery that primarily revolve around color and visuals if they’re decided to forego focusing on scent?

Bieber recently celebrated Rhode’s partnership with Krispy Kreme in New York City and shared her insights during an appearance on Good Morning America. The GMA panel probed Bieber about her thoughts on setting trends that spread like wildfire, particularly referencing to the viral “Strawberry Girl” makeup trend. This trend took off when Bieber donned faux freckles and a red lip in one of her well-known Get-Ready-With-Me TikTok videos. “I love the connection between food and skincare. It’s light and fun,” said Bieber. In other words: it’s not that deep.

But Bieber might be on to something. The Rhode Skin founder is currently demonstrating that her knack for effortlessly going viral is just one aspect of her entrepreneurial spirit. Furthermore, she may have pioneered a marketing strategy with the potential to set Rhode apart: arousing customers’ appetites.

By emphasizing the idea of “craving” products through her campaigns and creative direction on various social media platforms, Bieber taps into a deeper level of consumer desire. This approach transcends the functional aspect of skincare and makeup and delves into the emotional and psychological aspects of beauty, suggesting that Rhode’s products are not just tools for enhancement but also sources of joy, comfort, and self-expression.

The traditional approach to selling beauty products often focuses on promoting the idea of achieving perfection or adhering to certain beauty standards. While this strategy has its merits, it can sometimes feel detached from customers’ everyday life and desires. Bieber’s approach seems to be more relatable and emotionally resonant.

On the other hand, Rhode’s new direction seems too extreme and removed from its initial aesthetic. Bieber once praised her brand for its minimalistic look and “less is more” ethos. While brands should have room to evolve alongside their founders and audience, a complete rebranding can distance Rhode from establishing a solid identity in the industry.

While Rhode initially focused on wellness and the “clean girl aesthetic,” it now seems almost synonymous with sugary products, blurring the lines between beauty and indulgence. Furthermore, this marketing pivot has left consumers somewhat perplexed, as it was not in line with what they originally anticipated when embracing Bieber’s vision of clean, glowing skin.

So, is Rhode a skincare or makeup brand? Will it continue down the path of vibrant, whimsical beauty products, or will it revert to its roots of clean, minimalist skincare? It appears that the brand is in the process of determining its identity in real time.

Breaking through the oversaturated market of celebrity brands, especially in skincare and makeup, is challenging. Bieber’s process in setting herself apart is commendable, but is Rhode here to stay? Only time will tell.

Cecilia Sarantopoulos is the chapter leader and editor-in-chief of Her Campus at Brown University. She oversees the chapter's published content, social media presence, and brand deals. Beyond Her Campus, Cecilia is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature (focusing on English & French) and Theatre Arts. Her written work on culture and style has been featured in prestigious publications, such as Marie Claire Greece and Huffington Post Greece. Cecilia is also a classically trained ballerina and a published poet. In her free time, she stays updated with media trends and the current digital landscape, with a soft spot for all things Disney. Enjoying a warm cup of tea, engaging in water sports, and watching a classic rom-com round out her list of beloved pastimes.