Subreddits like the skin have provided a safe corner on the internet for skincare enthusiasts and amateur chemists to delve deeper into the science of skincare, without the flashy ads and branding campaigns that are inevitable on Instagram and TikTok. And before Alli Reed was the founder of a beauty brand – which she never imagined she would be – she was a passionate Redditor and former budding scientist (she majored in chemistry at UC Berkeley) for whom skincare has become a hobby.
For Reed, skin care is unique because of “the incredibly interesting intersection between the chemistry of a skin care formula and the biology of a living organ.”
“You can actually have an impact on how your biology works,” she says. And for those who really want to familiarize themselves with how it works, there’s no better place than Reddit. “I was a very active member of these communities before I even thought about formulating my own skincare, let alone selling it,” Reed said of her Reddit journey to the skincare blogger, then to the founder of the brand. As she deepened into skin care, she started to branch out into creating skin care products for herself. Flash forward: the brand she founded, somewhat by accident, Stratia, is 5 years old and on track to earn $ 4 million this year entirely through direct-to-consumer sales.
“I was just [creating products] for fun, because I missed the lab time, ”she said, developing the range. She likened the process to the satisfaction some people get from preparing an elaborate meal. “I had this satisfaction by researching how to make skin care products and then making them and using them on my skin and seeing that they worked,” she said. In May 2016, Reed launched Liquid gold, a light moisturizer that supports the skin barrier. It was the first real product she created – as in, an original formula and one that she did not create by working with existing formulas. It is still the brand’s bestseller, which Reed gave him Blog (The Acid Queen) readers. The product, said Reed, was “based on studies I had read on a specific ratio of ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids. They are ideal for barrier health and mimic and strengthen the skin’s natural moisture barrier. ”
As for why the brand resonated, Reed’s main explanation comes down to the authenticity of its story – as well as starting a brand motivated by what she and her fellow Redditors were looking for. It’s “just radical authenticity, which sounds like a marketing gimmick, but I really mean it: completely believing in the quality of the product and being super transparent with your customers.”
Even though brands want to tap into the Reddit community, at the end of the day, Reed said, there is no substitute for being a part of that community. “It gives you a better understanding of what is important and what is not important, and how consumers would like to be talked to, ”she said. These days, Reed said, brands often ask him how to market on Reddit. “My answer is, ‘Don’t, don’t try.’ Because Reddit, more than any other community I’ve ever seen, hates being marketed. They hate to feel sold. Genuine engagement is so important, ”she said.
She added, “I was a skincare fanatic and really contributed a lot to the community long before I worked on any products.” When Reed first started formulating, “the products I was making were really meant to meet a need expressed by the community,” she said. The brand is now marketed under the name of ‘obsessive looking skin care’.
It wasn’t until 2019, Reed said, that the brand put any money in marketing. Previously, its growth had been entirely word of mouth. That year, the brand hit $ 2 million in sales. “In 2020, Stratia doubled its revenue year on year, and in 2021 it is on track to double its revenue again, ”according to the brand’s public relations team.
Now Stratia is experimenting with social media ads. Reed said the brand is becoming increasingly popular with Gen Z, at least in part because of its affordable prices. Products range from $ 15 to $ 28, which is possible thanks to the brand’s direct-to-consumer model. Reed has been busy creating educational content on the brand’s TikTok. And the skincare influencers on the platform are creating content expressing their approval of the brand’s scientific formulas.
“We’re totally seeded and funded by our cash flow,” Reed said, recalling that when she launched the brand, it was a very small side fuss created from her “very meager savings”. But, “we made a profit in the second month.”