Bubble Skin Care is leaning into Gen Z with eye-popping packaging and unique formulations that address the cohort’s concerns such as acne and oily skin. Shai Eisenman, who founded Bubble, said she wanted to launch a service for teens, but was woefully disappointed when she researched available brands, so she decided to create one herself.
“Even though young consumers are the most advanced generation that ever existed, when it comes to skin care they use the same old school stuff that I used as a teen and my mom used as a teen. If you look at consumers today, 80 percent of Gen Z’ers use Neutrogena, Cetaphil, CeraVe, Clean and Clear and Clinique – brands that they’re not emotionally connected to and don’t love and aren’t excited about,” said Eisenman, who looks like she could be a member of the youthful demographic born between 1997 and 2012.
“We conducted focus groups of 4,600 teens and did research with 8,000,” Eisenman said. “We created a community of 4,600 teens and researched over 10,000. Teens were part of every decision we made with the goal of creating a brand that is first and foremost, extremely efficacious and clinical and actually helps them clear their skin and balance their skin in a very gentle way because most products out there are very drying.”
Eisenman said Bubble’s team has 70 years of collective experience and hails from companies such as Estée Lauder and Avon. “We created products that took over two years to develop,” she said, noting that the skin care line is “rooted in plants and perfected by science. The products are all about balancing the skin in a very gentle way, and we created the brand with thousands and thousands of teens, from the packaging, the brand name and the experience to the testing of the formulations, they were a part of everything.”
Bubble has a room on its web site where teens can speak to the company’s dermatologist and product developer. A tab called Skin School was designed to educate consumers about skin care. “We realized how much misinformation and how much fear-mongering there is in the beauty industry,” Eisenman said. “We wanted to create a platform to really understand skin conditions and how to treat skin conditions and what are the active ingredients and mixing active ingredients.
“We collected all the thousands of questions we received in the different consulting groups we have in the community,” she added. “It’s not just about Bubble. What’s very important to us is that we created Skin School to educate consumers to ask the right questions, and it’s a platform to get them to understand their skin and ingredients without over-pushing, say, benzoil peroxoide, which is a really incredible ingredient for acne, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all our products will contain benzoil peroxide. It’s really teaching them what’s good for them and what they should be using.”
When it came time to launch at retail, brand – which was introduced with a direct-to-consumer strategy – after much careful consideration, decided to partner with Walmart
“We’re the first DTC brand that’s launched exclusively at Walmart,” Eisenman said. “We have a full year of exclusivity with the retailer that ends in July, with the goal of disrupting the skin care aisle and bringing really high quality ingredients and quality products in a very affordable and accessible environment, considering the consumer doesn’t have a driver’s license, and doesn’t have credit cards.
“We had an opportunity to be in a lot of other retailers and be in the full chains of most of the major ones,” she added. “We chose Walmart because we conducted a lot of research and saw that over 40% of Gen Z consumers go to Walmart three to four times a month and that 20% of personal care products purchased in the U.S. are bought at Walmart. We were thinking about making the brand truly accessible, thinking about being in the aisle and being in a place where consumers are really going to be able to find us, not just in urban areas.”
Bubble is planning significant expansion by the end of the year, and moving from Walmart’s Trending Now section created for indie brand launches, to the main skin care aisle, where its neighbors will be direct competitors, Neutrogena, CeraVe and Cetaphil. Bubble offers a 15% student discount, which should cause some buzz.
“We’re really excited to be moving there,” Eisenman said, noting that Bubble won the Supplier of the Year accolade at Walmart in March, unheard of for a brand that was sold at the retailer for less than a year at the time of the contest.
“It’s across all brands, it’s not just in the beauty and consumables areas,” Eisenman said, adding that the company is launching four new products at Walmart this summer. “When we launched DTC only, we were shocked to learn 58% of Gen Z’ers shop for skin care at big box retailers, and only 20% of them shop for skincare online.
“They love going into stores and they love going to consolidated shopping experience destinations because they’re all about affordability, accessibility and getting the brands that represent value and have a great mission behind them,” Eisenman said. “The fact that 80% of consumers still use old school brands was very shocking. When you think about the consumers over the age of 25, there are 400 different options for every skin type, for every skin concern and for everything they need at every price point. When you look at younger consumers, they use the same old school brands that we used during the last 34 years.”
Eisenman immersed herself in the Gen Z cohort, spending about an hour on average, talking to the Bubble community. Prior to the launch it was five to 10 hours a day speaking to consumers through the app. “It’s an amazing generation because they’re so educated and really have information about the world that no generation before them had. At the same time, they lack the emotional maturity and they lack the the emotional tools because of the Covid-19 pandemic and because they haven’t had a lot of real life experiences. The result is they see the world as very black and white, and they don’t see a lot of the gray. They consume most of their content on YouTube and TikTok, which 100% of the time is very subjective.”
While education is a big part of the brand, mental health is paramount as well. “It’s something we care about and something we talk about constantly,” she said. “We donate 1% of product sales to organizations around mental health. We also created a partnership with betterhelp.com to give our consumers 50% off of online therapy for the first month, and help them get access to online therapy. Mental health is one of the important pillars of the brand, along with accessibility. We’ve been very accessible for a brand as young as we are, and the goal is to make the brand even more accessible.”
Eisenman took a holistic approach and worked with a combined approach with a dermatologist, who addressed the efficacy of the brand, and a product developer “to ensure that were utilizing the most advanced ingredients and the most advanced research and also to ensure that we’re utilizing plants in the best way we can utilize them. We kind of like to call our philosophy, ‘Less ingredients, just the right ones,’” she said.
“We’re utilizing the best in plants, perfected by science,” Eisenman added. “We make sure we don’t formulate with anything controversial. We don’t formulate with formaldehyde releasers and we don’t formulate with any fragrance, any alcohol, and we don’t formulate with any essential oils. We don’t add anything extraneous.”