Are Science-Backed Formulas Overtaking Celebrity Beauty Brands? MOJEH Investigates

16 min read
Image: Instagram/haileybieber

Celebrity-branded skincare may have had its moment. Fatigued consumers are now turning to science-backed formulations with proven results. It’s time to call the doctor

With his neck overlaid in a labyrinth of black ink, ‘blessed’ elegantly scrawled across the arch of his right cheekbone, and an anchor etched above the other, American rocker Travis Barker was never a likely candidate to front a skincare line. However, neither were Academy Award- winners Brad Pitt and Jared Leto who would also debut genderless collections while still appearing evasive when discussing their own skincare routines.

In recent years, the skincare market has seen an exuberant Hollywood roll call: Jessica Alba, Miranda Kerr, Drew Barrymore, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Moss, Harry Styles, Ellen DeGeneres… The release of creams, serums, exfoliants and cleansers by big-screen names has been significant, sometimes surprising, and on occasion short-lived. Jared Leto would part company with his Twentynine Palms collaborators within a year, actress Kristen Bell’s Happy Dance CBD skincare line had a less-than-happy ending and, despite her monumental online following, social media starlet Addison Rae’s line was ousted from Sephora.

It seemed a more obvious Hollywood transition for those with existing makeup lines like Kim Kardashian’s KKW Beauty and Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics. Yet both struggled to replicate the same success with SKKN by Kim and Kylie Skin. The walnut face scrub in the latter’s collection even elicited criticism as nutshell particles are now known to create micro-tears in the skin. While there’s no doubt Fenty Beauty’s success has been meteoric (hello, US$2.8 billion valuation), Rihanna’s ‘scented’ skincare has divided the room — particularly among the dermatologists — for that very reason.

And it’s not just the professional skincare experts weighing in with opinions, either. Thanks to platforms like Reddit and TikTok, today’s savvy and, may we add, vocal consumers are wilfully expressing opinions on products and their efficacy. Celebrities are now being held accountable for the beauty goods they are putting their names against. To boot, our appetite for celebrity-endorsed products appears to be waning.

Supporting this theory, financial risk management software company TradeAlgo surveyed 650 of those using cosmetics and skincare and found celebrity endorsement was unimportant to most female consumers when making a skincare purchase decision. Perhaps that’s why when Hailey Bieber released Rhode, her trendsetting ‘glazed donut skin’ line — that ‘leaves skin cleansed, hydrated and freshly glazed’ — she threw a spotlight on her highly qualified ‘advisory board’. Responsible for guiding product innovation from initial formula to ‘final glaze’ are award-winning chemist Dr Ron Robinson and dermatologist Dr Dhaval Bhanusali, who is also behind Martha Stewart’s 86 Elm and Amazon’s Fast Beauty Co. skincare lines.


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Over on TikTok, Gen Z’s favoured search engine, you’ll find New York-based Dr Bhanusali, where the ‘Dermtok’ tag has reached 200.4 million hits. Dermatologists, aka ‘derms’, are garnering vast digital followings as science-backed brands gain traction, many becoming celebrities in their own right. This is no truer than in the case of Dr Simon Ourian. “It’s the perfect platform,” agrees Hollywood’s go-to skin expert. “Instagram, TikTok and Facebook allow doctors like me to demonstrate our art to a global audience. With over 4.3 million followers on Instagram, I can reach international clients all over the world.” Favoured by the famous, Dr Ourian’s Epione clinic in Beverly Hills is frequented by the Kardashian- Jenner family and Lady Gaga, among many others. At the same time his skincare line has a devoted following in the Middle East. “I developed MDO Simon Ourian M.D. to allow people to quickly achieve great results outside my clinic — with effective ingredients and step-by-step instructions — simply, effectively and safely,” the A- list Iranian American physician explains.

His mission? To bring the skin as close as possible to its original perfection while keeping the complexion radiant for as long as possible. “As a seasoned cosmetic dermatologist with a deep reverence for natural beauty, I’ve dedicated over two decades to perfecting skincare solutions that celebrate and enhance your skin’s innate radiance,” he says, exclusively speaking to MOJEH. “Through my expertise, I’ve formulated powerful products with the most effective ingredients that harmonise with your skin’s needs, targeting specific skin concerns with precision.”


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Tailoring products to individual needs, the celebrity skin guru highlights the benefits of science-backed skincare, telling us: “By choosing a doctor-led skincare brand, you’re not just investing in products — you’re investing in the assurance of targeted care, transformative results and the radiant confidence that comes from healthy, luminous skin.”

Over in Europe, Dr Barbara Strum, known for her vampire facial which went viral after Kim Kardashian posted her bloodied face post-procedure on Instagram, has, too, been attracting a wealth of celebrity clients and gaining notoriety by doing so. With Cher, Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hailey Bieber and Victoria Beckham among her legions of loyalists, the German aesthetics doctor also has a sizeable waitlist at her clinic in Düsseldorf for her personalised MC1 blood cream. Seemingly offering a glow like no other, a patient’s plasma is separated from their blood and spun into a bespoke moisturiser.

Among the younger generation, the straight-talking American Dr. Shereene Idriss is currently in favour. The #PillowtalkDerm, who made her name by posting videos from her bed, has amassed a TikTok audience with a community of upwards of three million followers, who she fondly calls her ‘nerds’. On the back of her success, she has launched a popular skincare range that includes The Depuffer, a puffiness and redness-reducing roll-on serum. The power of social media has not been lost on long-established, doctor-led skincare brands either. On TikTok, La Mer Crème has 23.5 million views, while La Prairie sits at 43.4 million.

Outside of social media, Vienna-based dermatologist Dr Alma Kamenica has also seen skincare preferences lean towards scientifically backed formulations that ‘deliver undeniable results’. “Today’s beauty enthusiasts are discerning, seeking products grounded in research rather than fleeting trends,” she told MOJEH at last month’s scientific skincare exhibition, Dubai Derma 2024, where she was a guest speaker. “In this era, authenticity reigns supreme over celebrity endorsements, marking a shift towards a deeper appreciation for evidence-based skincare.”

Dubai medical aesthetician and all-around skin aficionado Dalya Sager agrees: “Years of meticulous and thorough research and testing by dermatologists and skin care chemists have gone into medical- grade products,” says Dalya, “they have higher concentrations of science-backed active ingredients and have been formulated in the most optimum way to ensure outstanding results, often transforming the skin at a cellular level.”

The skincare expert points out that unless celebrity skincare brands have solid medical and scientific research behind them, they will be no different to any other over-the-counter brand. “You are just paying for the association with a name,” she reveals, “rather than because the ingredients are optimally effective.”

Indeed, as millennials and Gen Zers become increasingly invested in dermatological science, consumers are now considering the ingredients on the back of creams or serums rather than simply the name on the front.

MOJEH’s Picks

MOJEH rounds up five timeless skincare brands that are deeply invested in science.

La Roche-Posay

Over 90,000 dermatologists worldwide recommend La Roche-Posay. The company started in 1928 to help patients cure pathological skin conditions using the natural properties and antioxidants of the thermal spring water of the La Roche-Posay commune in western France. The brand focuses on effectively treating skin issues and offers instant skin analysis online via AI. Shop now

La Prairie

Known for their cutting-edge, regenerative skin caviar technology, several of La Prairie’s skin products resemble perfectly round fish roe. Yet the story of the Swiss anti-aging pioneer predates this 1978 innovation. It begins in 1931, on the crystal shores of Lac Léman, when Clinique La Prairie enlisted Dr Paul Niehans, a leader in the field of cell regeneration. During his lauded tenure, Niehans successfully treated thousands of patients and formulated a topical cream that’s been reconceived over the decades. Shop now

La Mer

With one sold every 36 seconds, Estée Lauder’s La Mer consistently tops the skincare charts of many a beauty editor. The brand traces its history back to the 1950s when Max Huber, an aerospace engineer, suffered severe burns from a laboratory accident. This led him to study the innate self-healing properties of living algae to rejuvenate the skin. Today, Crème de La Mer Moisturising Cream is a cult classic with Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez among its devotees. Shop now

Augustinus Bader

Cementing itself as a billion-dollar brand and amassing 120 industry awards within five years, Augustinus Bader, crowned with copper and wrapped in the trademark ‘Bader blue’, has stormed the skincare market despite its infancy. Yet behind the revolutionary, eponymous skincare is three decades of research by Professor Augustinus Bader, a biomedical scientist, physician and expert in regenerative medicine. The cleansing balm and body cream are consistent bestsellers. Shop now

Noble Pancea

Winning the 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his decades of research and life’s work in organic chemistry, Sir (he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, too) Fraser Stoddart is the man and chemist behind Noble Panacea. So confident of its luxury patented skincare, Noble Panacea offers a money- back guarantee. Shop now

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  • Words by Vhairi Jane Moir