Glow Recipe Found Cross-Category Success on TikTok

The upstart skincare brand used social media to level the playing field

Skincare, according to beauty brand Glow Recipe, can be more than a necessary step in a monotonous routine. By pulling back the curtain on the beauty industry and crafting a robust community and influencer marketing strategy, the brand is maintaining long-term traction in a social space that is often defined by fleeting trends.

Christine Chang, co-CEO and co-founder of Glow Recipe, took the stage during Adweek’s recent Commerceweek summit for a chat with creator economy reporter Emmy Liederman. Chang shared the formula for community-based commerce that positions product education as entertainment while prioritizing consumer feedback.

From curated selections to original creations

Born in 2014, Glow Recipe began as a curator of difficult-to-find K-beauty products for sale outside of South Korea. But when co-founders Chang and Sarah Lee observed a paradigm shift in the skincare industry, they sensed an opportunity.

“We were seeing a sea of change in skincare, where skincare was previously a chore that people had to get through to get to makeup—the more transformational and fun part that was talked about on YouTube and other channels like that,” she explained. “But we felt like skincare could be the main conversation.”

Cultivating community

According to Chang, social media has been an indispensable ally in Glow Recipe’s transformation from a fledgling startup to a viral sensation in the skincare world.

“Social media has always been one of our top channels for both awareness and conversion,” she said. “In the early days, it was simply because we couldn’t afford anything else. But we were lucky because we came out at a time where social media really helped level the playing field, and you could get as much engagement on a brand post as a large company or corporation.”

As the pandemic reshaped consumer behaviors and preferences, Chang’s team spotted a significant shift in their audience toward TikTok. To keep up with the changing dynamics, they engaged their customers on the platform, creating an organic connection that led to an unexpected success story for Glow Recipe’s Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops.

According to Chang, the serum not only clinched the No. 1 spot at Sephora for serums but also emerged as the No. 2 primer, acclaimed for its brightening effect and glow even under makeup—cross-category success that Chang said was driven by TikTok.

“This instantaneous effect really helped make it a conversation piece on TikTok,” she explained. “Once it went viral because a few creators had talked about it, we got a call from our merchant asking what had happened? Did we take out some equivalent of a Super Bowl ad to get the sales we were getting that weekend? It was all from TikTok!”