As the clean beauty uprising continues, consumers are looking for more clarity from brands scrutinizing whether their products are indeed truly clean and free of harmful ingredients and irritants which have otherwise easily slid under the radar. We’re talking about those brands that slap on those empty claims like “all natural” “beauty from nature,” while casually listing alcohol, fragrances, essential oils, formaldehyde, parabens, and other known irritants on their ingredient list. While some have fairly tolerant skin, others are super sensitive skin and have had to learn the hard way to not to idly trust a tag line.
Amy Liu was one of those people who suffered from sensitive skin for much of her adult life before starting her LA-based brand Tower 28. Amazingly, it’s the very first beauty brand that’s actually totally clean, vegan and free of every know skin irritant. They’re also the only beauty brand that follows the National Eczema Association’s ingredient guidelines completely, so their products are not only hypo-allergenic, but also non-comedogenic, dermatologist-tested and gluten-free.
Before starting Tower 28, Liu worked as an executive at some of the fastest growing beauty brands like Kate Somerville, Josie Maran Cosmetics, and Smashbox, but couldn’t take advantage of the free products because of her eczema and decided she needed to fill the hole in the market for herself and many others who would otherwise have to resort to more clinical offerings.
A quick visit to their IG Profile or website proves you can still be cute while being transparent. They have an extensive blacklist that highlights (in great detail) what you won’t find in their products, and even started the hashtag #ItsOkayToBeSensitive.
Launching just under a year ago with a small product offering including the SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray, ShineOn Lip Jelly, SuperDew Highlighter Balm and BeachPlease Luminous Tinted Balm, the brand has already built a cult following and just announced they’ll be stocked in over 500 Sephora stores across Canada and the US.
We sat down with Liu to chat a bit more about her story, the brand, and what separates Tower 28 from their competitors.
Sidewalk Hustle: Clean beauty is a huge trend. A lot of beauty brands claim to be clean and vegan, what is it that sets Tower 28 apart from other beauty and skincare brands?
Amy Liu: Tower 28 is about creating beauty products that are designed for sensitive skin and made for all; while some brands in the clean space can carry a pretty hefty price tag, we’re proud to offer all of our products for under $28. Also, clean doesn’t necessarily mean non-irritating, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that. We are actually the first beauty brand that’s 100 percent clean, vegan, and free of every known skin irritant. I personally struggled with eczema my entire adult life, and while there has always been a pretty wide range of skincare products for sensitive skin, it was hard to find options for makeup until Tower 28!
SH: What was the first product you thought about launching and why?
AL: I was relying on topical and oral steroids to manage my eczema for longer than I care to admit! I learned about an incredible ingredient, Hypochlorous Acid, which is actually a naturally occurring part of your body’s immune system. While it’s been used in medical settings for ages because of its antibacterial properties, I was excited to apply its healing powers to a skincare formula. When it’s applied to the skin, hypochlorous acid triggers an immune boost, which then signals your body to soothe, purify, and care for irritated skin. It was a breakthrough application to try to take it out of the hospital and onto a vanity; it took a team of chemists a *long* time to develop a stable formulation (which ended up having only three 100% natural ingredients), but the result is so worth it.
I called it SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray, which stands for “Save Our Skin,” because that’s literally what it did for my eczema! SOS embodies everything I was trying to accomplish with the launch of Tower 28; powerful, clean products that are both effective, safe for sensitive skin, and fun to use. Since I started using SOS daily, I haven’t used any steroids, and my skin is back under control!
SH: What’s the story behind the name Tower 28 & how does it connect to the (genius) packaging?
AL: I love beach culture in LA – it’s a true melting pot of different types of people enjoying a healthy lifestyle! I wanted the brand name to be a universal sign of health and safety, without being too clinical. The lifeguard towers from Malibu to Santa Monica are numbered 1 through 30, and I always find myself at Tower 28! To me the name evokes the feeling of safety, community, and most importantly fun! The packaging aims to be an extension of that lifestyle.
SH: What aspects of working for big beauty brands over the years have translated over into the Tower 28 world?
AL: I’ve been lucky to work for some major brands with inspiring teams like Smashbox, Kate Somerville, Josie Maran, and more, but as someone with a history of sensitive and unreliable skin, I couldn’t even enjoy the best part of working in the industry: trying out all the products! Even the clean alternatives were either sensitizing, super expensive or too clinical, like they were coming straight from the doctor’s office. This is the white space where I wanted to bring Tower 28 to life, as an approachable beauty company inclusive of all skin tones, skin types, budgets, and beauty philosophies.
I’m forever grateful for my years in the beauty industry, because I learned the various (sometimes tedious) ways to do things correctly. Thankfully, I also made some of my best friends at those jobs; now with Tower 28, when I’m stuck on a problem with something like a manufacturing issue, help is just a text away!
SH: Let’s talk products! Tell us about the initial product roll out and why you choose to launch with these products and the marketing strategy behind it?
AL: We launched with just three core products: the SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray, SuperDew Highlighter Balm, and ShineOn Lip Jelly in Chill (clear). I chose to come out of the gate with no color cosmetics, because while we formulate every product to adhere to the National Eczema Association’s guidelines, the NEA hasn’t moved into endorsing color cosmetics just yet. We are hopeful! SOS and SuperDew do carry the official National Eczema Association Seal of Approval, which is important because I think it helps our customers, whatever their skin issues, feel safe using our products.
SH: Besides the new Lip Jelly shades what are your plans to expand the product offering?
AL: We were so excited to expand into over 500 Sephora stores in the US and Canada last month, so for the near future our goal is to focus on building brand awareness in these markets, and to create a few new products that our community is asking for! We’re excited by the challenge to fill voids on beauty shelves and develop products that are non-toxic, non-irritating, $28 and under, and that are FUN!