Soft Services Wants You to Embrace Skin Care From the Chin Down
Because the rest of your body deserves the same TLC as your face.
Consider the products that you use on your body and the products strictly for your face—it’s more than likely that the latter is getting more targeted treatments. Soft Services, a brand dreamed up by two Glossier alums, wants to change that. But their objective is to make your body care routine more efficient, not more excessive. “We’re more of a problem-solution brand versus a lifestyle brand,” co-founder Annie Kreighbaum tells Coveteur.
As a counterpoint to the abundance of attention brands pay to skin stressors from the chin up, Kreighbaum and her co-founder Rebecca Zhou created Soft Services to carve out space for a well-rounded self-care arsenal, where the full body (read: arms, back, chest, and legs) gets as much TLC as the face. Their formulas also address common skin issues below the neck, from body acne to keratosis pilaris.
Soft Services co-founders Annie Kreighbaum and Rebecca Zhou.
Photo: Courtesy of Soft Services
The pair launched Soft Services in 2021, several years after meeting as coworkers. In fact, their first interaction was body care-based. “It’s kind of kismet that we launched a body line together,” Kreighbaum says. When Zhou first approached Kreighbaum at Glossier HQ, it was to compliment her on an article about a body peel that she had penned for Into the Gloss. “I had written about Makeup Artist’s Choice. They were the only brand at the time doing serious formulas for the body with acids. She said that she bought it immediately and I thought, OK, I like this girl,” Kreighbaum recalls.
Years later, after Zhou had moved on from her post as Glossier’s head of digital product and Kreighbaum had transitioned out of her role as VP of brand development, which touched everything from editorial to product development, they were working as creative consultants together and couldn’t get past their ongoing skin struggles. “Rebecca and I were like, ‘Why are we 30 and still have body acne? Maybe we should create a product for this,’” says Kreighbaum. “We started pulling on that thread to see what else people are searching for when it comes to the body. That’s how we did our first product roadmap for Soft Services.”
The Buffing Bar.
Photo: Courtesy of Soft Services
Today, the brand’s offering includes five products: a suite of smoothing essentials, including their Buffing Bar, Coveteur’s 2022 Beauty All-Stars winner for “Head-to-Toe Hero,” Smoothing Solution, and Carea Cream, plus a clearing duo made up of a Clearing Clay and an accompanying Clearing Mist. Below, Kreighbaum looks back on her experience building one of beauty’s coolest body care brands, how she navigated learning curves, and why we should start thinking about beauty from the chin down.
Do you remember the first person (other than your co-founder) who you told about the idea for Soft Services?
“Yeah, we told Rebecca’s husband, David. He’s a really cool designer and brand-builder. He and Rebecca had a consulting practice together and they’d bring me on to [help with] projects. One day, we were talking about Rebecca’s wedding and what it was like shopping for a wedding dress. She had a really hard time finding a dress that wasn’t backless or strapless. She told me that she had acne scars all over her back and didn’t want to wear makeup [over them] since the wedding was in Miami and it was hot. That’s when we had that lightbulb moment. We were both 29 or 30 at the time and we had been able to figure everything out in terms of beauty, but we were still breaking out on our backs. We told David and he was like, ‘I think this is it, you guys.’ He’s an expert, so him saying that we really had something with Soft Services was special.
And then, of course, I told my mom, who was so supportive. She’ll use any beauty product I tell her to and she’s the reason why I’m so obsessed with beauty today. I’m so inspired by her because I see her generation being overlooked in beauty. We’re constantly asked about our plan for Gen Z, but there has to be solutions for body [care] as we age. And it has to be somewhere in between dressing really conservatively because you don’t want to show skin anymore and getting plastic surgery. There has to be preventative care and topical solutions in between there.”
What was the learning curve like for developing a brand? Was it harder or easier than you expected?
“My biggest surprise was the resistance of some lab partners to make really efficacious body formulas. They’re so used to the body category being a scent-based moisturizing product or something for hair removal, so asking them to do the percentage of active ingredients in a product that you would for face just scaled up for body, they weren’t grasping the concept.
We had a scenario where we were working with a lab partner on a retinol product and we did all of our research to see which scientific studies and which form of retinol had the best results on the widest range of skin tones so that we could hone in on what form of retinol we really wanted. We would write these crazy-specific briefs that we’d send to labs and then we would get back products that would have the diet version of the ingredient that we want. It was really eye-opening to me to see how common it is for labs and brands to market products in a way that isn’t exactly truthful. Seeing how smart the consumer is, it just boggles my mind that brands are still OK releasing products that aren’t really what the consumer thinks that they’re getting.”
What do you do when you feel stuck creatively?
“Traveling is really helpful and inspiring, especially in beauty. I love going to Mexico and seeing the products that they use and the way that they treat retinoids there—you can actually get retinol over the counter! I always collect soaps when I travel, too. Little bar soaps are like my souvenirs that I take home. So in Italy seeing the way that they package everything so ornately and the same with Morocco. But when I’m really feeling stuck, I have to give credit where it’s due. With Estee [Kim], who is our director of design, I’ll word vomit what I’m thinking about a new product and she’ll come back to me with not just what I said, but evolved to an even better state.”
What impact do you hope your brand has on the beauty industry?
“Coming from the first wave of direct-to-consumer brands, Rebecca and I wanted to create just as exciting of an unboxing experience and make people really feel brand love without extra stuff. That’s always a challenge that we’re trying to figure out. We didn’t want to come out of the gate saying that we were a sustainable brand. We just wanted to do really cool stuff that was more sustainable and wouldn’t create as much waste. In the same way that people knocked off a lot of the stuff that Glossier did—like when a lot of different brands were suddenly doing sticker sheets—we wanted to design a shipper system that uses paper to protect the products and is really low-waste with no tape on the box, so that everything is really easily recyclable. If that suddenly becomes cool and people take photos of it, maybe other brands will see that and want to do that. Hopefully we can unlock some things that are really good for the industry and the environment that other brands will want to also do.”
The Buffing Bar
“The first time I touched my skin after using the Buffing Bar, I literally gasped because it was so smooth. I really like when my shower feels like an experience, and I feel that especially with the Buffing Bar. The shower is my happy place, so I really love this.” —Ama Kwarteng, Coveteur Beauty Editor