At this moment in time, it’s almost easier to name a celebrity who doesn’t have their own skincare or makeup brand—or one percolating on the back burner. From Stranger Thing’s Millie Bobby Brown to mega stars like J.Lo and Ariana Grande, selling a range of serums and moisturizers seems to be just as important in Hollywood as having an agent and a publicist.
But the buzziest of all the skincare launches this year had to be the double header debut of Hailey Bieber’s Rhode on June 16, followed swiftly by the introduction of Kim Kardashian’s SKKN BY KIM on June 21. While there seems to be no beef between the two stars—considering they both posted pics of the other’s PR boxes on IG—it hasn’t stopped their followers from pitting the two skincare collections against each other. After all, it’s not often that two Instagram mavens (Hailey has 46.2M followers to Kim’s 326M followers) release similar projects and build the social media profile of their mega-brands just days apart. As of press, @SKKN, whose first IG post was on June 1, has 5.5M followers while @rhode is trailing behind with 533K, having posted for the first time just a week after Kardashian.
But here’s the thing: the branding and messaging between the two brands couldn’t be more different, not to mention they’re targeting two totally different consumers. What makes SKKN so different from Rhode? And how did these brands really position themselves in the market? Let’s get into it.
Rhode by Hailey Bieber
Let’s start with Hailey, who we’ll point out currently doesn’t have any product available on the Rhode site, since it’s all sold out, even after a recent site restock. The model (and wife of Justin Bieber) began her skincare obsession in her teen years, but it was really only during the pandemic that she considered turning that passion into a marketable product of her own, having previously been a spokesmodel for BareMinerals. Hailey’s poreless complexion has always been somewhat of an internet obsession, where followers would note how amazing her skin looked or how she truly nailed the no-makeup makeup aesthetic.
A simple IG selfie Hailey posted in December 2020 featuring under-eye patches and a face mask racked up over 1 million likes and comments like “skin queen” and “details please.” This sort of post made her love for skincare public, going deeper than just a recommendation for a great lip liner or bronzer. But it wasn’t until 2021 that fans realized she was going to launch a brand of her own. The first hint was when she filed a trademark for ‘Rhode’ in February 2021 for beauty products; later that year she went on Demi Lovato’s podcast, 4D with Demi Lovato, where she confirmed that she was starting a company in the beauty industry. Naturally, Hailey used her very own YouTube channel to officially announce the launch of Rhode in November 2021.
From there, easter eggs about what the Rhode lineup would entail were all over Hailey’s IG. She captioned a post ‘glazed 🍩🍩 skin all 2022. Tell a friend,’ a nod to her now-famous Peptide Glazing Fluid that claims to give skin the glow of a fresh-out-the-fryer donut. BTW, that skin perfect selfie has 2.5 million likes.
Hailey then landed a cover of the beauty magazine, Allure, to disclose even more details on Rhode. She shared that her goal was to create an affordable, attainable range (with everything under $30), tapping into resources from some experts: skinfluencer Hyram Yarbro, celeb hairstylist and Ouai founder Jen Atkin, Dieux skin founder and TikTokker Charlotte Palermino and none other than Kim Kardashian. The main takeaway from Hailey’s Allure interview was that she was interested in creating products that focused around one thing: hydration.
After hitting IG with the very first Rhode post, the line was launched to the public in June 2022 with just three carefully researched products: The Peptide Glazing Fluid, Barrier Restore Cream and Peptide Lip Treatment (available in three flavors). The vegan, cruelty-free and gluten-free products are meant to give a dewy look, creating the ideal base for recreating Hailey’s no-makeup makeup selfies. To coincide with an event launch party (that was co-sponsored by Instagram, no less), Hailey launched a smoothie at L.A. healthy grocery destination, Erewhon. When her skincare swiftly sold out, Los Angelenos could order the pink strawberry swirl smoothie that was practically made for going viral, despite its $17 price tag.
SKKN by Kim Kardashian
Longtime Kardashian fans will know that this isn’t Kim’s first foray into skincare. She initially launched KKW Beauty in 2017, though it was often compared to Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics and had few hit products outside of some perfumes created in collab with her sisters. When Kim announced that she would be shuttering KKW in July 2021, many speculated that it was because she’d be dropping West from her name amid her ongoing divorce from Kanye West. However, she made it clear that she wasn’t exiting the beauty game in any way: “We will be shutting down the KKWBeauty.com site so that we can come back to you under a completely new brand with new formulas that are more modern, innovative and packaged in an elevated and sustainable new look,” she wrote in a now-deleted post.
A little over a year later, in June 2022 she unveiled those plans via Insta, of course. SKKN BY KIM was developed as a nine-step routine that’s intended to be purchased in its entirety and used just as Kim uses it. She wrote in her launch caption, which has over 1.7 million likes: “I’ve been so privileged to learn about skin and skin care over the years from the world’s top dermatologists and estheticians, and every bottle from my new line is filled with the knowledge I’ve accumulated along the way.”
To develop each of the formulas, Kim worked with celebrity aesthetician and facialist Joanna Czech. The two put in a lot of work to test and create the formulas, with Joanna telling The New York Times that they went through 23 trials of a product—not just three.
That resulted in the SKKN lineup: Cleanser, Toner, Exfoliator, Face Cream, Eye Cream, Hyaluronic Acid Serum, Vitamin C8 Serum, Night Oil and Oil Drops. And yes, those are the actual names of the products. Kim insists that she uses the entire range from start to finish, and that sticking to each of the nine steps really matters. The only thing is, the entire SKKN range will set you back $673 (or $575, if you catch it on sale).
The minimalist names match the minimalist design of the packaging, which looks very much like Kim’s ultra-modern house that’s often the backdrop of her reality show. SKKN’s neutral-hued tubes and ball-like vessels have come under fire for greenwashing, since each vessel is refillable but acts more like a covering for an otherwise very standard plastic bottle. As Dieux skincare founder Charlotte Palermino pointed out on TikTok, just because you’re putting plastic in another container doesn’t actually reduce the amount of plastic you’re using or carbon footprint you’re leaving behind.
Rhode vs. SKKN
With two totally different price points and conflicting messaging, Rhode and SKKN feel like worlds apart. Hailey’s line can understandably be seen as more approachable and accessible, not to mention authentic to the public brand she’s built. While SKKN’s feels infinitely more luxe and ever so slightly out of reach.
“First and foremost, you can tell it’s her baby,” points out TikTokker @jasmineinnyc about Hailey’s line. “It’s her first business she’s done and she’s done a lot to promote it. She’s mentioned how she’s been working on it for years, perfecting ingredients, she’s talked about skincare for years leading up to the launch. I think people know she’s passionate about skincare.” The TikTokker goes on to point out that consumers might feel a bit fatigued after hearing one of the Kardashian sisters has launched yet another business venture, SKKN included.
You don’t need an expert to confirm that it’s a steep investment to drop three-figures on Kim’s product range, which hasn’t been formulated by dermatologists. Many commenters on social media echo that they’d rather shell out for trusted brands like Skinceuticals over any sort of celebrity-founded skincare product.
Aside from the vampire facial that she went viral for, Kim isn’t really regarded as a skincare expert in any way; she’s more known for her dedication to full glam, making contour part of the makeup vernacular and being at the center of frequent plastic surgery conspiracies. However, there are individuals on social media who have been vocal fans of SKKN, including the ever-influential Mikayla Nogueira—who did receive the product line via the brand’s PR box but gave the range a glowing review in a three–part TikTok series.
The price and the positioning of SKKN does prime the range for deep analysis, especially from experts. Doctor & Cosmetic Formulator @drvanitarattan rips the range apart, telling her followers that Cetaphil (which retails for $15 for 20 fl oz.) is a great dupe for the 4.2 fl oz SKKN Cleanser, that the Toner is technically an exfoliator due to the ingredient list and calling out that the Moisturizer is very, very basic and totally not worth the price tag.
But overall, the SKKN vs. Rhode debate brings to light a very pertinent question: Should people be investing in celeb-founded skincare brands? And should they trust these stars with their precious complexions? If you ask us, we’re going to leave things to the experts.