These 23-Year-Old Founders Are Proving That Mental Health and Skin-Care Are Connected

In the beginning, Claudia Teng and Olamide Olowe’s skin-care brand had a March 2020 launch date — but then COVID-19 hit, and the disruption caused by the fallout of the pandemic ultimately delayed their plans.

“Our original launch was delayed because of supply chain disruptions that happened as a result of border closures in certain countries where we source our ingredients,” Olowe told POPSUGAR. The 23-year-olds are co-founders of Topicals, a medicated skin-care brand that offers customers clinically-tested, dermatologist-approved products targeting specific skin conditions like eczema, hyperpigmentation, psoriasis, and more. The brand eventually launched in August after a second delay in production, and even with the stress of this year’s events, it’s thriving.

At the moment, Topicals offers two products: Like Butter, a hydrating face mask formulated to soothe dry, sensitive skin; and Faded, a brightening gel created to even out skin tones. Like dozens of preceding skin-care brands, the company was born out of necessity. As two people with skin conditions — Teng with severe eczema and Olowe with post-barbae folliculitis — the founders often had trouble finding products that not only got the job done, but also made taking care of their skin feel less like a burden and more like fun.

“We never found a brand that resonated with us,” Olowe said. “We always felt embarrassed about our skin conditions and used to hide our ointments because they made us feel like outsiders.” On top of that, the roommates and former pre-med students both felt like many brands in the skin-care industry were promoting an often-unattainable standard of beauty that idealizes clear skin. In lieu of attending medical school, they teamed up to create Topicals in the hopes of “transforming the way people feel about skin” with products that treat skin-care as part of a self-care ritual, putting less focus on achieving “perfect” skin and more of an onus on having what they call “funner flare-ups.”

“At Topicals, we know that you make skin look good, not the other way around,” Olowe said. “We are fluid, imperfect, shape-shifting, and real representations of you and your skin.”

Additionally, though mental health may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about skin care, Topicals is showing customers through its initiatives that the two are more connected than we think. “Most of us grew up feeling insecure about our skin and this led to negative thoughts about our self-worth,” Olowe said. “People with chronic skin conditions are two to six times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, so we partner with and donate to mental health organizations like Therapy for Black Girls, Sad Girls Club, and the JED Foundation.”

To date, Topicals has donated to total of $10,000 to the causes above. Read ahead to shop the brand’s products.

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