Body Care Brand Soft Services Is Taking Over The Beauty Industry Thanks To Innovation (And A Viral Sensation) – Forbes

Photo Credit: Annie Kreighbaum and Rebecca Zhou, cofounders of Soft Services, Courtesy of Soft … [+] Services
Some of the world’s best brands exist thanks to their ability to solve a clear problem. Enter Soft Services, launched by cofounders Rebecca Zhou and Annie Kreighbaum in May 2021, when they identified a void in the market for body care products that solve popular and specific skincare needs.
After meeting while working at Glossier, Zhou and Kreighbaum had gone their own ways career-wise and worked in the direct-to-consumer world as consultants, but had always remained in touch.
The spark that led to Soft Services came from a conversation they were having, about body acne and especially “bacne.” They had both turned 30, and Zhou was looking for a warm-climate wedding dress but was having trouble finding one that didn’t expose her back (and expose her bacne scars).
They started pulling on that thread and wondered: Why was no brand focused on targeting and clearing up skin concerns on the body — which is essentially our largest surface — but rather covering it up with body makeup, à la KKW Beauty?
This question revealed Soft Services’ mission.
The coworkers turned cofounders noticed a trend: popular yet taboo body skin concerns, which were at the core of articles that took off organically. They started to dig into the conversations bubbling up in TikTok skincare, Google Trends, and Reddit Top 10 — and landed on the fact that people were searching for these things and not ending up anywhere in terms of education and product.
Soft Services’ products target the problems people are having below the neck, which don’t have existing solutions — until now.
Among their hero, signature products? The Buffing Bar, Smoothing Solution, Comfort Cleanse, Carea Cream, and of course, Theraplush hand cream, which you’ve likely seen on your Instagram feed and is currently on preorder. (It sold out within 2 weeks of launching in October and the first restock sold out in less than an hour at the end of November; the next restock will ship to customers in January.)
While products like the Buffing Bar have created a buzz thanks to their efficacy and ultra-cool gender neutral vibe, Theraplush has created a stir as a viral sensation.
Theraplush, Photo Credit: Courtesy of Soft Services
“We had to actually pull down our Facebook and Instagram ads for Theraplush after they were too successful, with one going viral at over 350k views, and we realized we were going to sell out,” Kreighbaum shares. Over four thousand people signed up to be notified for Theraplush’s first restock, which sold out in a single hour.
While skin concerns like keratosis pilaris (KP), dry skin, and body acne are more taboo and less sexy, Soft Services leans into formulations with proven ingredients that lead to life-changing results, as well as sexy branding, aesthetic and must-have status.
Each chic bottle begs to be displayed on the bathroom counter or nightstand for a “shelfie moment,” instead of being hidden in a medicine cabinet.
“We went into a space that no one else was taking on, but there was an obvious customer need for these products,” Kreighbaum adds.
Its first-of-their-kind products have the efficacy expected of advanced facial treatments, but are optimized for the unique conditions of body skin and formulated to make users feel comfortable in their own skin. The key here was to expand a category versus creating alternatives to products that already exist (like facial serums, for example). Kreighbaum and Zhou are extremely intentional about each product release, as each release is backed by need and clear data.
One can say they’re taking the road less traveled, and going in a different direction than what’s proven, but Soft Services is going far and disrupting the industry along the way — and using data as its compass to inform their decisions.
They are both conscious consumers, dedicated to also being conscious creators, hence Theraplush’s refillable container (the magic cream comes in a refillable pod). They also create reusable lockable pumps for their products.
Theraplush, Photo Credit: Courtesy of Soft Services
Kreighbaum explains: “We designed the Theraplush case primarily to protect the formula and help users incorporate it into their nighttime routine as the last step before bed — so, the best place for it to ‘live’ is on your bedside. Retinol is incredibly effective for improving the look and feel of the thin skin on the backs of hands, but it’s an ingredient that shouldn’t be exposed to air or light. Airless pump packaging is best, but the challenge was to design something that’s attractive enough to be the last thing someone looks at before bed each night and doesn’t require the user to throw away the non-recyclable pump every six weeks. Once all of that was accomplished, the fun part was designing the aesthetics of the case to be a chameleon and look good on any nightstand — and of course, yes, on Instagram too.”
(Influencers are posting about Theraplush as a chic vanity or nightstand accessory, most notably @theoverglowedit’s unboxing video on TikTok, which has already garnered over 880k views.)
Rather than join the bandwagon of Gen Z-focused brands, Soft Services refers to its approach as “elastic branding” — which means that each product can stand on its own as a hero product, with its own look. (The through line between each product is the logo at the top of the packaging, as well as a detailed breakdown of the pH or percentage of key ingredients.)
Product lineup, Photo Credit: Courtesy of Soft Services
“Our brand system is honestly way more work. Every single product’s packaging is its own world or universe. But in the long run, it’s a worthwhile investment,” Zhou shares. Despite breaking rules and hearing people tell them, “you won’t garner brand equity,” Soft Services’ magic is in its tagline: “Everything can be different.” (A double entendre on its different cartons and its products’ life-changing results.)
“We include a lot of information on each carton and try to overshare and provide as much context as possible,” Kreighbaum adds.
Including a detailed breakdown of ingredients is tablestakes today, but Soft Services takes it further with its Mass Index on its website.
“The thing that we want people to be talking about most is the efficacy and the effect of the product,” Zhou asserts. “While the branding is important, performance and functionality come first.”
Based on their expertise, the cofounders made a huge investment in content and SEO, so that Soft Services shows up as the solution, along with educational content such as ingredients to avoid if you have KP. The key is finding the customers and meeting them where they are, which is the goal of the site’s Mass Index (a resource for frequently asked, but under-answered questions on body skincare).
“The Mass Index is like WebMD meets a chic beauty site you really want to read,” Kreighbaum shares. (This also speaks to Kreighbaum’s career background as a storyteller and the executive editorial director of Into the Gloss before becoming VP of brand development at Glossier, as well as her current gig as cohost of the beauty industry podcast, Eye Witness Beauty.)
This also ties into Zhou’s expertise as a digital wizard (she was head of digital product at Glossier) who navigates building a brand’s technical backbone to create a smooth user experience. ‘We are left brain, right brain, art and science,’” says Zhou.
“Annie is really good at following the public conversation around beauty, which stems from being an editor since day one — she’s active in the comment threads and she always has an eye on the skincare subreddits. She really understands what people want to know,” Zhou continues.
Soft Services is always dedicated to performance too.
“We’re thrilled that people are dying to get their hands on Theraplush, and even happier that those who have tried it love the formula as much as the packaging,” Kreighbaum added. “Our number one priority is formula efficacy, so we stress-tested the formula with consumers from lab samples in stock packaging to the final product, which was tested by 40 people one month prior to launch. We could see that the formula clearly worked from the photos our testers were sending in, and 82% said their hands looked better after just one night. The cuticle improvement after two weeks is really impressive — that’s when people decide they will be using it for the rest of their lives.”
One of the most exciting things about Theraplush is its appeal to people who might think they don’t need to level-up their body skincare, or have never even heard of Soft Services.
Kreighbaum shares: “Rebecca and I wake up every day wanting to do this and it was really important for us not to just create physical stuff that you put into the world that may or may not sell that’ll end up in a landfill — we really felt strongly about not contributing to that. Our promise with Soft Services is we want to prove that you can build a wildly successful company, that is way more sustainable than the average beauty company.”


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