How Sales Of Sand & Sky’s Australian Pink Clay Mask Soared

Australia is a hotbed for a certain sort of design-forward, clean beauty brand that seems to be ubiquitous yet still retains cult status. Think Aesop, The Beauty Chef and Frank Body. One of the more recent Down Under companies of this ilk storming the beauty segment is pink clay specialist Sand & Sky. Launched less than two years ago by twin sisters Sarah and Emily Hamilton, the millennial-savvy mask maker rapidly became an Instagram sensation and scored partnerships with an enviable collection of retailers around the world, including Sephora, Selfridges, Douglas, Cult Beauty, ASOS, Birchbox, Harvey Nichols and Revolve.

Sand & Sky’s meteoric rise was fueled by a single product, its Porefining Face Mask. The first 60,000 units of the mask sold out within three months, according to the brand. In April of last year, Sand & Sky added Flash Perfection Exfoliating Treatment to its offering, a face scrub that promptly amassed an 11,000-person waiting list. To understand how Sand & Sky achieved this a success in such a short period in a market with no shortage of stylish skincare, Beauty Independent spoke to co-founder Sarah Hamilton about the creation of her company’s superstar SKU.

Launch date: April 2017

Sales growth: 65% from 2017 to 2018

Total number of retailers: 30 in the U.S. 

Sand & Sky co-founders Sarah and Emily Hamilton
Sand & Sky co-founders Sarah and Emily Hamilton

Development timeline: From May 2016 to April 2017

Hiccups along the way to success: Sand & Sky is among many beauty ventures for the Hamilton sisters. In 2011, they launched Bellabox, a beauty subscription service and online store that’s attracted $7 million from investors. In 2014, Emily Hamilton founded beauty brand incubator Supernova. Sand & Sky is in the incubator’s portfolio as are detox tea brand SkinnyMint, portable gym authority BodyBoss, and coconut haircare brand Coco & Eve. Through their various enterprises, the Hamiltons have confronted untold challenges. “Challenges manifest in so many ways, from selling too much to not selling enough, issues with suppliers that don’t appreciate the urgency of what needs to be done, etc.,” says Sarah Hamilton. “When you are building a brand this quickly, it’s really important to hire amazing talented people that share your vision and sense of teamwork who you can trust. Our team has been crucial to our success and makes coming to work every day a dream.”

Retail strategy: Sand & Sky’s deft use of social media, in particular Instagram, to drive sales has lessened the importance of retail to the brand compared to traditional brick-and-mortar staples. However, retail remains a critical distribution component. “We believe that retail gives beauty brands added credibility in the eyes of the consumer and that it isn’t enough to only be successful on social media,” says Hamilton. “While we continue to pursue a strategy where the large majority of our sales come from our website, we encourage our retailers to open up a new audience for Sand & Sky. We pursued retailers without any success when we first launched and, then, two months later, 90% of our retail partners approached us. We are always humbled by those who reach out, and I definitely remember squealing when the first one did.” In 2019, Sand & Sky aims to further expand physical retail globally. Over the last few months, it’s rolled out to Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Product assortment: Sand & Sky launched with Porefining Mask and unveiled Flash Perfection Exfoliating Treatment a year later, but Hamilton reveals there’s no intention to keep the range small going forward. “The big secret is that we decided long ago not to become a limited SKU brand,” she says. “We have lots in development, and 2019 will be an even bigger year for us as we show the best of what Australia has to offer.”

Critical press placements: Sand & Sky’s list of press mentions is as covetable as its list of retail partners. The brand has been gushed about in Allure, PopSugar, Elle, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed and more. “We are really proud to be putting A-Beauty on the map and helping women worldwide discover new and effective and clean ingredients to incorporate in their skincare routines,” says Hamilton, referring to Australian beauty. “Australia is one of the world’s least polluted continents and, therefore, we offer amazing active ingredients.”

Packaging design: Sand & Sky opted for eye-catching bright pink packaging inspired by its homeland that shunned minimalist design in favor of fun. “Sand & Sky brings the chill Australian vibe into bathrooms around the world with immersive outer boxes featuring stunning local landscapes—in this case, the Barrier Reef,” says Hamilton. “We want to be transparent and for our customers to easily understand our products and ingredients. We make sure to include this information on our packaging.”

Social media strategy: Sarah’s twin Emily knows a thing or two about gaining traction on social media. Her other Supernova brands, BodyBoss, SkinnyMint and Coco & Eve, have 549,000, 296,000 and 339,000 Instagram followers, respectively. Today, Sand & Sky boasts 378,000 Instagram followers, many of whom were drawn in by the brand’s beachy aesthetics and stellar reviews. “Most women are on social media every day and beauty tutorials are huge online,” says Sarah. “When we created the mask, we knew we had to get the beauty girls to try it and share their reviews to make it work. When they started showing their followers how to use the mask and people could see the results for themselves, it just took off. Social media is powerful, but, ultimately, delivering a product that works is most important to any brand’s success. On our social media channels, we are constantly engaging with and listening to our customers to create content they love and want to share.”

Retailer take:We launched Sand & Sky in October of 2017. We were one of their first partners,” says Revolve beauty buyer Kandice Hansen. “It was one of our fastest-moving launches when we partnered. In 2018, Sand & Sky was in our top 50 brands, which is crazy considering how tight the assortment is.”

Hansen continues, “I think their #SandandSkyResults campaign plays a huge part in their success. When you see the before-and-after images, it makes you want to try it and, when you do and it works, you’re hooked. It’s one of my personal favorites because the efficacy is there and the price point is great. It’s one of those hero products everyone needs in their routine.”