What do you think of when you hear the word “acne”?
It’s not surprising if feelings of frustration and embarrassment are conjured when the topic comes up. For many women, skin issues are still a major pain point that affects their mental health cross-generationally. Findings from a 2019 study revealed that a whopping 76% of the women surveyed said they felt good about themselves if they thought their skin looked good, regardless of age.
24-year-old Jamika Martin can personally attest to this. With breakouts that started at the age of 11, she’s navigated the challenge of treating acne in a world that tells us pimples are a sign of something going wrong with our bodies. “Growing up, it was super bad,” Martin told Essence, referring to skincare marketing in the 90s and aughts. “TV shows, movies, and commercials would build entire storylines around a character’s single pimple that were so extreme.” She pointed out there are a few brands using skin-positive messaging now, but there is still work to be done. That’s what drove her to launch her own inclusive line, Rosen Skincare in 2017 when she was just 21.
After the UCLA grad grew frustrated with the myriad of ineffective skincare products, including Accutane, she not only decided to take breakout solutions into her own hands but set out to change the way we view skin health overall.
Starting out with research in esthetician Facebook groups and smart Googling, Martin started creating formulations out of her kitchen. Rosen emphasizes natural ingredients and gentle formulas, doing away with many of the harsh staples of traditional acne products. “I think it’s time to destigmatize acne-prone skin and create a higher sense of normalcy regarding different types of skin,” Martin said. “There’s so much shame around something that happens to so many people and has nothing to do with our level of health.”
From the start, Martin was smart about the direction her business would go. Until recently, the line was completely distributed direct-to-consumer with most of the orders being handled out of her home, despite its almost instant success.
“I was really realistic about my business model from the beginning,” she shared. “My decision to bootstrap everything was both strategic and circumstantial. When we started to see consistent growth, investor conversations started happening but I was still unclear about the process of fundraising.”
She credits a deep sense of self-awareness to her intentional scaling strategy.
“At that point in our journey I had to be honest with myself and acknowledge that if we were to get seed funding at that stage, I wouldn’t have even known what to do with the money,” she revealed.
She said accelerator programs helped her reach a point where she was really ready for her company’s growth, something that she urges aspiring entrepreneurs to look into. “We’re actually coming up on closing a round of funding and I’m really confident about what’s on the other side of that because of the knowledge I gained from accelerators like the UCLA Startup program and Target Takeoff,” a five-week incubator geared toward equipping beauty startups with key information for expansion. “I’m happy I waited.”
Her patience paid off because now, the brand’s retail footprint has undergone a major expansion with distribution at Nordstrom’s Pop-In, Target Stores, and a partnership deal with Urban Outfitters.
It doesn’t stop there. The brand is aiming to not only provide topical acne solutions but also enlist health experts to disseminate skincare education to Rosen’s large social following.
“We’re excited about partnering with some recognizable estheticians and skincare educators on our digital platforms to provide their perspective and help us get people to target their skin issues with a simple routine,” Martin said.
Martin said this is a pivotal moment in the Rosen journey because they’ve always aimed to shift the conversation around skincare and that starts with understanding our own skin.
“There’s still room for us to be more authentic around attainable beauty goals and changing what ‘good skin’ really means.”