How the World Sees Beauty
Today is Glossier Inc.’s five-year anniversary. Five years ago, a group of us you could count on two hands, beleaguered by all-nighters and fueled by adrenaline, hope, and Dunkin Donuts coffee, huddled around a monitor in downtown New York and watched the first orders trickle in. 8:02 AM—two orders! 8:10 AM—six orders! By the end of that first day, we’d introduced the first four Glossier products (Balm Dotcom, Priming Moisturizer, Soothing Face Mist, and Perfecting Skin Tint) and our “skin first, makeup second” philosophy to 953 customers. Considering that we really, truly had zero clue whether anyone would care, this was a big number. We were tired, but we were happy—we were excited, we were scared, we were passionate, we wanted to create something good for people, and we were together. Our hearts were on the line.
Five years and three million customers later, I walk into the office every morning feeling exactly the same way: excited, nervous, and surrounded by people, both our customers and our team, who are choosing to live their lives with intention—who are choosing to stay open and positive. Back in 2014, when we launched, I wrote, “Glossier is about living in—and embracing—the now, not the past, and not the future. It’s about fun and freedom and being OK with yourself today. It’s about being nice to people and knowing that a smile begets a smile.” Let’s be clear: this has gotten much harder to do over the past few years. In 2018, nearly half of Americans said they sometimes or always feel alone or left out, and the adults in Generation Z (ages 18-22) were the loneliest segment of all. This is despite having more ways to connect than ever before. The ascent of social media and the democratization of, well, everything, presents a double-edged sword of opportunity and consequence: be an individual, and voice your opinion, but make sure everybody likes it. Try something new, be different, but don’t mess up. Be curious and learn, but choose a side. It’s easy to look towards the future and think, I’m going to stay in my lane. I’m going to find my people. I’m going to play this game of life not to lose.
For women, we know this balancing act well. Wear makeup, but not too much makeup, or you’ll be seen as stupid. Wear too little makeup, and you’ll be seen as lazy. And so, we ask, what amount of “maintenance” is socially acceptable? One person’s “high” is another person’s “low,” and these standards, labels, and snap judgements, both spoken and unspoken, permeate cultures and shape lifelong identities. We’ve been choosing lanes when it comes to beauty for as long as I can remember. And through it all, beauty has taken on an increasingly narrow definition: beauty equals physicality. Vanity. Superficial worship. Frivolity. Skin. Hair. Makeup. But, what about beauty as a quality of experience? What about the beauty in your journey, in your day, in your friendships, in your risks, in your growth, in your failures? In your morning commute, in your exchange with a child, in a job well done?
To believe in beauty, to find the beauty in something, to make beauty a personal value? As valid, as admirable, as heroic as love, honesty, and courage? Unheard of! Wasted space that belongs to far more noble principles. But, that’s exactly the kind of future beauty company we are building. What happens, what can we all do, and who can we become, when we start with ourselves and then turn our gaze outward, seeing the world through Glossier colored glasses? Finding a way to live with optimism and see beauty in whatever phase we’re in, even as things get harder and the stakes get higher.
Helping people in this journey is perhaps a tall order for a startup. After all, we make beauty products. Yes, we are honored to be a part of your routine as you get ready to face your day, and again as you wash it away. But more so, we strive to create experiences that connect people and foster a sense of belonging. The tens of thousands of people who visit our two stores weekly aren’t just coming for products they could buy online—they’re lining up for the community and the experience of being together. The millions of people who interact with Glossier—but more importantly, with each other—across Instagram, Slack groups, Facebook groups and Into The Gloss comments, are finding common ground as they navigate their relationships with beauty. Nothing makes us happier than hearing that you talked to a stranger on the bus because you spotted their Berry Balm Dotcom. Or when you DM us a selfie after you nailed a job interview because you felt confident. Or when you start a club in your high school to celebrate women in business...and Glossier. These are the moments that inspire us to grow by creating experiences—whether through our products, digital spaces or offline spaces—that connect people and make us all feel a little more joyful and a little less alone.
So thank you, to the millions of people globally who have joined us so far, and welcome, to everyone who joins us for the next five years—and beyond.