New Brand Tower28 Gives Consumers With Sensitive Skin The Cool Cosmetics They’ve Been Missing
For Tower28, being sensitive is cool.
The new beauty brand from Amy Liu, a veteran marketer with stops at Smashbox, Kate Somerville and Josie Maran on her resume, is making it OK—even exciting—to acknowledge and address the red, inflamed, itchy, dry and allergy-prone skin that impacts more than half of American women. Launching on its website today, and at Riley Rose and Credo in mid-June, Tower28 attempts to combine Glossier’s stylishness and Winky Lux’s playfulness in accessible products containing clean, non-comedogenic formulas approved by the National Eczema Association without fragrance and essential oils.
“We are in an era where there is a beauty brand for everyone. If you are into diversity, there’s Fenty. If you are into gender inclusivity, there’s Milk. But I feel there’s been very little progress in the sensitive-skin world,” says Liu. “If you look at clean and cool brands, there’s RMS, Ilia or Kosås. They’re pretty expensive and, then, if you have sensitive skin, there are a number of skincare products from brands that look medicinal. There wasn’t a product out there for the growing population of people that have sensitive skin that was clean, at a masstige price point, cool and not dressed in a medicinal approach.”
Tower28’s focus on sensitive-skin products is rooted in Liu’s personal struggles with eczema. During over 16 years in the beauty industry, she frequently avoided a lot of the products she was promoting. “I couldn’t count on my skin. I didn’t know what it was going to look like, and I was selling the latest skin-perfecting foundation or lotion,” says Liu. However, she never considered creating products tailored to her needs until she had children. Liu explains, “I have three kids, two of them are girls, and they have my skin type. They have sensitive skin. I thought, as they get older, what is out there for them?”
“There wasn’t a product out there for the growing population of people that have sensitive skin that was clean, at a masstige price point, cool and not dressed in a medicinal approach.”
Tower28 may pack future gondolas with scores of products Liu’s kids will covet, but it’s coming out of the gate with three: $18 SuperDew Shimmer-Free Highlight Balm, $14 ShineOn Lip Jelly and $28 SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray. Liu decided to establish the brand with a color cosmetics bent because, compared to a skincare segment loaded with brands touting sensitive-skin claims, she figures the color cosmetics category is fairly open territory for sensitive-skin offerings. In addition, as a sufferer of sensitive skin herself, Liu sought to develop products she pined for such as highlighters because available options didn’t suit her skin. To perfect them, she turned to a high-performance cosmetic chemist as well as a green chemist.
“It’s about product that’s not a sacrifice: You’re not sacrificing on performance, aesthetics or cost. I want to make a healthy choice an easy one,” says Liu. She describes ShineOn Lip Jelly as a “modern-day Juicy Tube” excising ingredients (fragrance, for instance) rendering the Lancôme product unpalatable for consumers with sensitive skin. Discussing SuperDew Shimmer-Free Highlight Balm, Liu continues, “I have dry skin, but I’ve always wanted that glowy, glassy skin that you get when you’ve just worked out. It gives you that highlight and, if you have flaky patches, it helps you lay them down before you put on other makeup.”
The SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray is Tower28’s nod to skincare. Its hero ingredient is hypochlorous acid or HOCI, a chemical naturally produced by human white blood cells to fight infections. “I’ve had eczema my entire life. Not to say I haven’t had eczema since I started using this product, but it never gets worse. When it presents itself, I spray it, and it goes away,” details Liu. “I literally was a person taking oral steroids and using topical steroids. I’ve tried every diet under the sun. I’ve tried acupuncture, acupressure and Chinese medicine. This has by far helped my skin the most.”
“It’s about product that’s not a sacrifice: You’re not sacrificing on performance, aesthetics or cost. I want to make a healthy choice an easy one.”
Originally, Liu toyed with naming her brand Trybe. She was attracted to the notion of women supporting women, especially in the beauty industry, which she calls “the sorority of my adult life.” She ran into difficulty trademarking Trybe, though. As she was dealing with the trademarking conundrum, a friend texted her to meet at Tower 28, a lifeguard tower in Santa Monica, Calif., near Venice. The idea of the lifeguard tower as a spot to meet friends and a symbol of safety, and the varied crowds that gather on the beaches in Santa Monica and Venice appealed to her.
“I grew up an hour east of LA, and we very much subscribed to the beach aesthetic of blonde hair and blue eyes. As an Asian American, I didn’t see myself in it, but, when I go to the beach, it’s quite diverse. I see all different kinds of people,” says Liu. “It was important to me to show the version of Westside of Los Angeles that I know. It’s a diverse place and a place where an active lifestyle is part of the regular routine. People don’t drink green juice because people are looking at them. It’s just what they do.”
Tower28’s imagery is infused with sunny Southern California vibes. The brand’s clear product components highlight its ingredient transparency, and orange and purple hues in its packaging bring levity to beauty store shelves that Liu mentions tend to be stuffed at the moment with black and white items. She says, “There was an opportunity to give people products that are fun and like candy. Clean beauty has gotten so serious.”
To get Tower28 off the ground, Liu tapped her personal and professional network to raise $500,000. Aimed at gen Z and millennial customers, the brand is targeting microinfluencers to spread the word about its products initially. It’s inviting them to participate in the SOS challenge posting selfies prior to applying SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray and after trying it for seven days to display results. Liu emphasizes, “At the end of the day, good product wins.”