What does it take to sell a skincare brand in this moment of maximum saturation? Is it a celebrity face or an aspiring girl-next-door type? Stylish packaging or tried-and-true ingredients? An avatar with sex appeal or a TikTok talking head?
You could say Hailey Bieber's first skincare line, Rhode, aims to achieve all of the above. anyone within reach of an Instagram ad knows that these are boom times for celebrity brands, and a group of people who may have once sought plum beauty contracts have now decided to create full-fledged product lines. On a recent afternoon in a Brooklyn hotel suite, it was easy to see why Bieber is her own best spokeswoman. The model was unusually radiant in a wisp of a sand-colored dress by 16Arlington, her skin catching the light reflecting off the East River nine floors below. I'm reminded of Rhode's pre-release homepage image, which shows the model cheekily posing in a glazed donut - the kind of glassy complexion the Internet is talking about.
"I think in your skincare journey, you tend to want to look like something delicious," Bieber said of current pop culture reference points for idealized skin. "A lot of people say look like a shiny dolphin or mochi; look like a glazed doughnut, and I think it's like a mindset," she clarified. "I want to look biteable and delicious. You know when you open a new bottle of Krispy Kreme?" She inadvertently found herself - fresh out of the box - falling into the beauty industry's misconceptions. "It's just, like, gorgeous, perfect, untouched glaze. It doesn't even have cracks." I nod as Exhibit A smiles back at me in human form. "I just want to look like I've been drenched before I go to bed at night. That's my vibe."
The obsession with dewy skin has reached cruising heights. We no longer equate a plain nose with good manners. Just as one looks for better-than-optimal moisturizers around gallon-sized Nalgenes, it also works with serums and creams that quench from the outside in. Rhode takes its place in this well-watered landscape with a trio of daily products designed to deliver cocooning moisture from the gym to the plane to the bathroom cabinet - -which Bieber happens to share with her pop star husband, Justin.
"I'm always looking for peptide uplighting fluid," Bieber said when asked about the family MVP. "Literally, morning, noon and night." (At $29 per bottle, it's easier to get a generous application.) The lightweight gel serum can be used as a skincare backup: hyaluronic acid and glycerin for hydration, niacinamide to brighten skin tone, peptides to help smooth fine lines, and a little nourishing marula oil. "I don't think it takes much time to maintain healthy skin. I think it just takes dedication to keep up with it," says Bieber, adding that the liquid is her secret to invisible beaches. "The salt water is so dry that sometimes just reapplying sunscreen isn't moisturizing enough for me. I'll do a layer underneath." Barrier Repair
is another easygoing formula - a moisturizer for people whose name suggests skin terminology has arrived for the skin-savvy masses. This one combines shea butter (rich in fatty acids), acai berry (an antioxidant punch) and squalene (a calming lipid naturally produced in the skin). Continuing this theme is Peptide Lip Treatment, a pillow-like, reflective formula in three versions: Fragrance Free, Salted Caramel and Watermelon Slice for lip gloss nostalgia.
Bieber uses her middle name, Rod, in part as a nod to the matriarchal line. "My skin care goes all the way back to when I was a kid - getting out of the shower or the tub and my mom just wouldn't let me out of the shower until she had me wet from head to toe," Bieber says with a laugh. "It was like a baby glazed donut." Or a donut hole. Rhodes is her mother's middle name, along with a great-grandmother's; the model reports that Bieber's Nana has also been "obsessed" with the cream. (Plus, the store has a pun: "Rhodes regular, along with Rhodes, on the road with Rhodes.") Knowing that a child's name could one day inspire a brand increases the stakes for parents, I venture. That's the key to capitalizing on family traditions, Bieber admits. "I wanted to eventually pass on both of our middle names to our kids," she says.
Obvious authenticity is another X-factor of successful startups, and Bieber - despite all her rules about interview subjects, given her protective stance on the media - feels in sync with her new project. She traces her interest in everyday life back to her ballet background. When talking about the New York studio Steps on Broadway, she recalls taking classes there as a teenager with the late, legendary Willy Burmann. "All the ladies of the New York City Ballet would take classes. I used to be shocked: It was like Wendy Whelan," Bieber says respectfully. Rhode's tagline is "Everything is fine"-a hint of what's to come. What kind of product development is in store. Bieber rattles off her longtime favorites: Elta MD's tinted mineral sunscreen, One Love Organics Botanical B makeup remover, Tata Harper and Vintner's Daughter face oils, and Olio e Osso blush.
A few minutes later, I found out that she listed a few other favorites in a short Vanity Fair video. When asked when she's happiest, Bieber's answer is simple: "When I come home at night and snuggle up to my dog and husband like I always do." She is equally decisive about what she considers her deepest pain: "the Internet." But now, as the Rhodes journey begins on that electronic interstate, she is buckled in.