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She’s the German aesthetics doctor who pioneered the vampire facial and counts Kim Kardashian and Victoria Beckham as fans. Now, Dr Barbara Sturm is coming for the Gen Z market.
This month Sturm is launching a microbiotic range for customers aged 12 to 15. It includes a cleansing balm, hyaluronic anti-blemish serum, face cream and stinky pimple treatment, priced from £30 to £80, made with new formulations and using sustainable packaging . Sturm believes the range will align with the needs and values of younger shoppers.
Gen Z is the ethical generation, wanting action, not flashy campaigns. To succeed with this demographic, beauty and skincare brands have to go beyond product and formulation and really prove that they can tune into young consumers’ mindsets, experts say. “Gen Z is a sceptical generation,” says Marcy Huang, senior strategist at Do Something Strategic, a Gen Z consultancy. “They grew up in an era of misinformation as well as disinformation, and they very much bring that mentality to their shopping experience.”
Sturm plans to connect with students and younger shoppers through her online skin school and a college ambassador programme, offering advice about how to look after skin. Misinformation and overconsumption in the skincare industry impact younger generations, she says. The beauty industry has spent years pushing exfoliating acids and retinoids while many consumers do not know how to properly use them, she says. “The younger generation are overloaded. It’s confusing for them when there are a lot of empty marketing promises. Most brands’ approaches are so aggressive to the skin and create long-term problems for teenagers. You can prevent all this if you do the right thing from the beginning, by listening to trusted advice and using good products.”
Unlike Sturm’s existing portfolio of products, which focuses on anti-aging, anti-inflammation and hydration, the new microbiotic range aims to help balance sebum levels by leaning into microbiome science. During puberty, production of sebum, the oily substance that coats and protects the skin, is high, which can enable bad bacteria to thrive and lead to skin irritations and cystic acne, she explains.
Sturm has first-hand experience of this. Her daughter, Charly, 26, battled skin breakouts when she went through puberty. “The teenage skin is impacted by hormonal changes,” says Sturm. “The common misconception is to use something harsh to get rid of acne.” Instead, she advises ingredients such as tiger grass, madura leaf extract, moringa and butterfly bush, can help to strengthen and repair the skin barrier.
The Gen Z challenge
Connecting with the young isn’t easy. In June 2017, Japanese beauty giant Shiseido launched Waso, a pared-down skincare range targeting millennials, priced between $30 and $45. Four years on, Shiseido pulled Waso from Japan, although the brand has been relaunched in other markets. Competition in the premium category is intense: YSL Beauty last August launched Gen Z-focused range Nu, which includes a primer-moisturiser hybrid, a light-medium coverage base and a lip and cheek blush. Science-backed skincare brand Augustinus Bader, best known for its £215 Rich Cream, is launching the Light Cream, a gentler and lower-priced product at £135, for younger consumers on 15 June.