The Beauty Company Giving the Industry a Masterclass in Creative Marketing

Growing up as a person of color, discovering beauty products that resonated with me was far from a walk in the park. From finding the right shade in a range to connecting with a brand that actually honored my needs, there was a lot to consider as an Asian beauty consumer. However, in recent years, I found solace in the rise of BIPOC-owned brands making waves within the beauty industry and across diverse communities.

Some brands sell great products, others are experts at selling an aspirational lifestyle. Then comes the anomaly, a skincare brand that exceeds at both. Gen Z’s favorite skincare brand Topicals, is on everyone’s lips right now—figuratively and literally.

Co-founded in 2020 by Olamide Olowe, the Black-owned skincare company focuses on science-backed products that combat chronic skin conditions such as eczema, scarring, and hyperpigmentation while uplifting diverse voices. As a 2023 FUTURE50 brand—Olowe being the youngest Black woman ever to raise more than $2 million in venture funding—Topicals continues to push the boundaries with its inclusive community, innovative yet attainable products, and one-of-a-kind marketing strategies.

Last December, Topicals launched their latest product Slick Salve Lip Balm. Described by the brand as a barrier-building lip treatment that is “slicker than your average,” I was instantly captivated by the high-gloss finish and nourishing properties like hyaluronic acid. True to form, the launch was promoted with a cheeky short film directed by Thuan Tran. “Who you know making movies to sell lip balm?” Topicals founders Olowe quipped in the comments of the film. This passing remark prompted a deeper reflection on which brands truly prioritize their consumers to the extent of crafting engaging narratives just to sell a product. Well, a brand that knows how to sell beauty is to sell a connection, where skin concerns are understood, considered, and addressed through tongue-in-cheek marketing that makes even the most mundane task like spot-treating scars feel less daunting. Topicals isn’t only adamant about selling their products, but by selling the end result—a feeling. Through its creative strategies, the brand reinforces the idea that its consumers can live their dream lifestyle, even with chronic skin conditions.

Topicals’ impact transcends mere hyperpigmentation treatments and lip balm. From the aesthetic visuals to the diverse casting to the unapologetic humor, the brand employs celebs and creators alike to push its narrative: Topicals is for everyone. Topicals moves authentically within an industry that typically has a crabs-in-a-bucket mentality, especially where Black and brown companies are concerned. It’s a no-brainer that they know how to acknowledge their audiences’ desires. And if you’re unable to snag your own Topicals product—the trending lip salve created for chronic dry lips is constantly selling out—the brand has you covered. Following an outcry from consumers after Slick Salve rapidly sold out, the Topicals team took to their social media to spotlight other similar Black-owned lip products while they continue to restock.

“They care about other people, they care about causes that are bigger than themselves, care about diversity and inclusion, care about classism, but each one of them have their own identity,” Olowe tells ModernRetail.

But in the dead of December holiday break, my Instagram feed became awash with images of everyone sporting pink under-eye patches. These weren’t showcased against a serene backdrop of a self-care day; instead, they were flaunted as the latest must-have accessory to tote during boozy nights out with friends in the club in Ghana. Cooling hydrogel patches with niacinamide and caffeine working their magic in the middle of a party? Only Topicals. Offering brands an unofficial masterclass in marketing, the brand had embarked on a brand trip to Accra, Ghana. In tow was a group of Black influencers to celebrate Detty December, a cultural spectacle usually observed from mid-December through the New Year, where people across the diaspora gather for the ultimate celebration of music and holiday festivities. Attendees included New York-based stylist Sierra Rena, and Love Island stars Dami Hope and Indiyah Polack, to name a few. Instantly intrigued (and overcome with FOMO), I found myself reaching for my Sephora app to add some products to my cart.

“Where else have you seen people wearing under-eye patches in the club at 4 am?! There aren’t enough words in the English dictionary to describe how much I love my Topicals products,” Asha Abdul-Mujeeb, a former marketer and avid Topicals user, tells “The girls that get it, get it.”

Many brands oftentimes miss the mark when it comes to brand trips. It’s as easy as inviting the wrong guests, forcing robust social marketing deliverables, tone-deaf displays, or treating attendees based on their status or follower count. However, the Ghana experience sent the internet buzzing for not only curating an all-Black guest list, but subtly strengthening brand awareness in a way that skipped the fluff and honed in individualism and community service. Topicals kept the luxury of any brand trip and went beyond just merchandise room drops; they illuminated what really matters: spreading awareness with a sense of purpose. The crew enjoyed their travels, but also gave back to the African community along the way.

For the Black community, the unique opportunity to visit the motherland “could only be the brainchild of a young black woman,” Abdul-Mujeeb shares in a viral Tik Tok. She goes on to explain that many teams in the corporate world would shut down an idea like this. “It’s me, I’m the demographic. I know what the people like. You just can’t see it, but it’s okay because someone else did.”

Topicals Faded Under Eye Brightening & Clearing Eye Masks 6pk

Faded Under Eye Brightening & Clearing Eye Masks 6pk

Topicals Faded Under Eye Brightening & Clearing Eye Masks 6pk

And she’s not the only one who’s been moved. In addition to the trip being well-received on social media, Topicals didn’t have one theme for the cast, which spoke volumes to how they view their own audience. There are no quotas to fill or criteria to check—if you have skin, Topicals is speaking to you. The creators who attended ranged from various fields, follower counts, and countries. This wasn’t only reserved for U.S. creators, but UK creators like Uche Natori had the opportunity to document ample content for their audiences from the trip of a lifetime. The influence came from all over the world.

“What separated this trip from other beauty brands was…well, it being all-Black,” says Elyse Fox, CEO of Sad Girls Club and trip attendee. She notes that not everyone was the typical influencer with over ten thousand followers that other brands usually prioritize on a trip as luxe as it was. In fact, the lucky twelve were flown out first class and treated equally across the board. No hierarchy treatment here!

The brand used this opportunity to allow their long-lasting relationships with creators like Fox to connect to their roots. By creating an environment that embraces Blackness, not enforcing strict schedules, and making everyone feel seen, the trip gave attendees even more opportunities to resonate with the brand. Plus, the authentic moments of the trip ended up being the most viral-worthy. It was something that left the viewers at home wanting more.

“Brands, you gotta step it up,” Fox says. She expresses that many brands profit from the Black community’s trends, lingo, and music, but don’t necessarily pour back into the culture. “When you invest in the people creating the culture, who are the voice and the backbone, you can do no wrong. So brands, please step it up because we’re going to be watching and critiquing.”

This is what setting the beauty standard for authenticity and inclusivity looks like. Topicals’ cadence and exploration with Black influencers in Ghana reflects the dynamic evolution of influencer marketing. Now, brands shoulder the responsibility to prioritize key practices, including comprehending the influencers and their audience and fostering transparency. The Topicals team has taken bold leaps in their recent endeavors, which has ultimately rewarded them with one of the strongest communities I’ve ever seen—and I’m glad to be a part of it.


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