Wednesday, October 4, 2023

From Pharrell to Harry Styles: Are Men the Best Thing to Happen to Clean Skincare Brands?


Rihanna, Kylie, Gwyneth, and Kim may be the first names in celebrity-backed beauty brands. But the hottest thing in clean beauty and body care? It may just be men. Specifically, Pharrell and Harry Styles.

It’s been nearly two years since Pharrell Williams launched Humanrace, a sustainable brand with products in the home, footwear, and skincare categories.

The award-winning rapper, 49, launched the brand with three skincare staples developed alongside his dermatologist of 20 years, Elena Jones: a Rice Powder Cleanser, Lotus Enzyme Exfoliant, and Humidifying Cream. This three-minute cleansing routine is made with clean, vegan, cruelty-free ingredients and comes in recycled and recyclable packaging. The company also offers a refill option to reduce waste.

“It’s created to take three minutes morning and night,” Williams said in a press release last year. “Your face is the result of the spirit behind it, it’s important to take care of your skin and to also take time for yourself each day.”


Last November, the brand announced it is adding body care with two new body bars, the Energy Channeling Charcoal Body Bar and Reenergizing Whiteclay Body Bar are both soap-free. Instead, they cleanse with ingredients like rice powder, kaolin clay, and snow mushroom extract. The brand has also launched a Ceramic Body Bar Dish—handcrafted in Arita, Japan.

“We spent so much time in the last year telling people how three minutes is all it really takes—you don’t really need much more than that to give some sort of exclusive attention to your face. Your face helps you to communicate—that’s how you interact with most people, right? Most people interact with their faces, you have a conversation with someone, your face actually gives more context to it. And so, I felt like that message is out there, and it’s going super strong. But then, there’s the rest of your body. We wanted to give you two body bars that did two different things, while not doing what soap does at all. Soap strips all the nutrients and the natural oils that your body produces and the nutrients that you need,” Williams told Harper’s.

Earlier this summer, the brand launched suncare, building on the celebrity suncare trend that Naomi Osaka and Winnie Harlow have helped champion over the last year.

Image courtesy Humanrace

Williams says the idea for the line is in alignment with his personal and planetary wellness philosophies that self-care is the greatest luxury—and that it can be low impact and better for the planet. That’s maybe not a novel concept for women who’ve been marketed to by skincare companies and the beauty industry from childhood. But for men, it’s a new concept—a departure from drugstore body washes and shaving creams.

“My most favorite place to be is on the precipice of what doesn’t exist,” Williams said about Humanrace when it launched last year.

“Imagining what it can be and then working with an amazing team of architects to reverse engineer and build that thing that didn’t exist before.”


Like Williams, singer Harry Styles, 28, is bending gender norms around beauty with the launch of his first beauty brand, Pleasing, last year. The brand says all of its products are vegan, cruelty-free, and “adhere to clean principles.”

The brand launched with nail polish—Styles is a frequent nail painter—as well as skin serum and a “Pleasing Pen”—a rollerball-contained serum for eyes and lips. Like Williams, Styles plans to expand the range. It added mushroom-infused skincare and clothes earlier this year.

Image courtesy Pleasings

“It was an idea I’d kind of had for a while,” Styles told Dazed. “I’d been talking with a couple of people close to me, like Molly (Hawkins, Styles’ creative director). Firstly, I just thought it would be fun but, in actuality, Pleasing is about a couple of things.”

Styles says it started with nail polish because “that was kind of the birth of what it was for,” he says. “Me seeing a colour on a flower or a wallpaper or something and thinking, ‘Oh, I wanna put that on my nails’. It was a fun little project, but during the pandemic, and when we eventually named it Pleasing, it felt like it was so much more than nail polish. I’ve always found that the moments in my life which have brought me the most joy are the small ones, whether it be, you know, the end of the night under the stars or a bite of food, or sitting with your friends thinking, ‘Oh, I’m never gonna forget this’. It’s always those moments that I find have the longest-lasting effect on me, in terms of sparking something wonderful in me. I really think that the essence of Pleasing is finding those little moments of joy and showing them to people.”

Clean beauty 2.0

Los Angeles-based Marlowe, a clean skincare brand designed for men, tapped 23-year-old boxing prodigy Ryan Garcia as both a spokesperson and co-owner. He says the clean, vegan, and sustainable skincare brand “improves my skin and aligns with my belief of being eco-conscious while helping others achieve a confident and fresh appearance.”

And while men have long been underserved in the skincare market—a machismo trope that men are gruff and unpolished (see: Adam Driver for Burberry again)—that’s changing. Garcia fronting a skincare brand is certainly proof.

Image courtesy Marlowe

“Male celebrities want to be part of something beyond being just a celebrity,” Peter Ricci, Mantl CEO, told Glossy. “It’s not just about putting a celebrity on a magazine with a bottle of product next to them. That does not resonate with people; it does not represent a lifestyle where you can see them using it or see it in their bathroom.”

Humanrace and Pleasing may be founded by men, but the products aren’t just for men, though—Williams makes that clear in the Humanrace brand name. And as gender fluidity becomes more mainstream, the ‘men’ and ‘women’ silos are becoming outdated.

For Styles and Williams, it’s always been about breaking barriers with art, and now with business.

“I also think that what this can become is so much more than just products you can buy,” Styles says.

“I think it’s about giving, and giving back. I am blessed to have fans who are so supportive of me, who believe in freedom and who have created this safe space for each other. Pleasing is really for them. That feeling of community is kind of what we would like Pleasing to (reflect),” Styles says.

“You know, we’re human beings,” says Williams. “And while that’s a noun, it’s a noun in a verb form, isn’t it? Being. So that’s where we’re at.”


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