CALABASAS, Calif. — “I’ll try anything,” Kim Kardashian said during an interview in her massive office here last month. It houses a photo studio, showroom, video room, staff offices, her personal office, a glam room (where she gets ready for a shoot), a model glam room (where models get ready for a shoot), a conference room, a theater and more. “If you told me I literally had to eat poo every day and I looked younger, I could do it. I just might.”
Excrement is not yet an ingredient in Ms. Kardashian’s new skincare line.
But vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, glycolic and lactic acids, shea butter and squalene are among the more traditional ingredients you’ll find in SKKN by Kim, which is set to debut later this month. Skincare is a first for Ms. Kardashian, who is 41 years old. (She previously sold fragrance and makeup through KKW Beauty and KKW Fragrance, both of which are defunct.) Her first nine products are a reflection of her own regimen, that’s thorough.
Why does the woman who brought the concept of contouring to the world want to take up skincare instead of contouring for her return to beauty? It’s simple: Ms. Kardashian wants to show off the tone and texture of her own skin. Up close, it’s something to behold – glowing, hydrated and smooth.
“I just wanted to stay true to exactly what I use, even when everyone said it was mind-blowing,” said Ms. Kardashian, who donned a black Balenciaga tracksuit and black Yeezy foam pool slides with full glam camera-ready makeup and wore straight, platinum blonde hair that reached her waist.
Though Ms. Kardashian is late to the Zillion Step programs popularized by Korean skincare brands, she peddles a tedious routine. Her nine-step system “might seem spooky to some,” she said. “That’s why I’m here — to break it down, to say, ‘They’re all necessary.'” If there’s one step to eliminate, it’s the scrubs (there are two), which vary by skin type, and don’t require daily use.
The SKKN products are significantly more expensive than most skin care products, celebrity created or not. (A hyaluronic acid serum and night oil are $90 and $95, respectively.) Combined, the nine items — cleanser, toner, exfoliator, hyaluronic acid serum, vitamin C serum, face cream, eye cream, oil drops, and night oil — total 630 $. It’s a price that could be out of reach for many of her potential clients and 313 million Instagram followers. (All products are refillable, and replacement capsules cost about 15 percent less than the original packaging.)
Ms. Kardashian isn’t overly concerned that people can’t afford their skincare routine.
“It’s definitely more prestige, and to get the types of ingredients that I really wouldn’t miss, it was kind of a necessity,” she said. “The products I’ve used that were comparable were way more expensive, let alone anything. I tried to get the quality at the best possible price, especially the vitamin C serum.”
Ms. Kardashian’s office, filled with beauty samples, is messy. Almost every surface is covered with product and packaging prototypes. The messy scene is at odds with the rest of her tidy workspace on multiple levels. She offered a look at planned products, including makeup, perfume, bathroom accessories and homeware (“a lifestyle,” she said). Everything has a “stone effect,” and bottles, jars and more have a neutral color scheme, just like her shapewear brand, Skims.
“It’s not just part of my job, it’s who I am.”
Ms. Kardashian’s appearance has been a decades-long source of fascination centered on her body. The constant fluctuations and evolution of her weight, dramatic proportions, butt, waist, lips, cheekbones, hair, and makeup are key to audience engagement.
The camera-ready world of the Kardashians
The Kardashian-Jenner clan has built an empire on pseudo-reality, and fans can’t take their eyes off them.
“So many people want to pretend they don’t care what they look like,” she said. “I don’t pretend it’s easier or that it’s all natural. You just don’t wake up and use whatever. You wake up, you use ingredients. The PRP facials, stem cell facials, lasers—all of that is work.”
Ms. Kardashian’s entire business is image, and she takes it seriously. Her net worth which is estimated to be over $1 billion is based on her physique. Her face. your appearance. Everything else is an extension of it. Her physical appearance and willingness to manipulate it is her career, whether it’s trying to fit into a dress or spending 18 hours dying her hair platinum.
She’s been in the news for years for trying extreme beauty treatments. Remember when she posted a selfie of her bloodied face after undergoing a “vampire facial”?
Ms. Kardashian is often credited with changing modern beauty standards, and it wasn’t because she was committed to any particular cream or serum. She is not a dermatologist or beautician. So why would anyone take their skin care products seriously?
“I think the credibility of knowing that I got the best advice ever and the best phrasing from some of the people I respect the most,” Ms. Kardashian said. With Skims, she said, she wanted to find solutions that she felt were lacking in the market. For her skin care line, she looked for solutions to her everyday skin problems.
Over the years, Ms. Kardashian said she’s tried almost every high-end skincare product and treatment in the beauty space — integrated research and development for SKKN. To develop her formulas, she collaborated with Joanna Czech, a cosmetologist and famous cosmetologist who has her own skincare line.
Ms. Czech, who has more than 35 years of experience, advised on a skin care vocabulary (they don’t use the term “anti-aging”); taught Ms. Kardashian about different molecule sizes and versions of vitamin C; and helped reformulate products to comply with European Union skin care regulations.
“There weren’t three trials of one product — there were 23,” Ms. Czech said, noting that achieving the optimal consistency for each serum, especially the oils, is the biggest challenge.
Ms Czech, who said the products were “developed from the ground up,” added, “People expect nothing more from celebrities than olive oil.”
Most celebrity brands are little more than a famous face lending their name to a product and promoting it online, making it all the more difficult for the few celebrities actually involved in their companies. Kylie Jenner introduced Kylie Skin, an extension of her Kylie Cosmetics brand, in 2019 and was gobbled up online after appearing to wear foundation in a video promoting her facial cleanser; That same year, Kendall Jenner became an ambassador for Proactiv, and was met with backlash because the partnership was perceived as “phony.”
But Ms. Kardashian remains unfazed by the public’s perception of celebrity and influencer lines. Think what she did with Skims, a shapewear giant that was worth a whopping $3.2 billion as of January.
Ms. Kardashian has similar goals for SKKN. “People might have assumed at first that Skims is definitely a famous clothing brand,” she said. “I understand that, but when they got the product, I think they realized that it was a product-based brand. I had access to skin treatments and stuff and learned so much in the process. It’s like sharing my solutions like I did with Skims.”
“The Splendor of Life”
SKKN by Kim is Ms. Kardashian’s most ambitious beauty project, but it’s far from her first. Her previous beauty lines were different endeavors, not all of which were successful. There was KKW Fragrance, a line of cheesy emoji-themed perfumes; and KKW Beauty, a makeup collection.
It closed both: KKW Fragrance in April; KKW Beauty, last summer. French beauty conglomerate Coty, which had a minority stake in KKW Beauty, will help expand SKKN by Kim internationally and be a resource for things like packaging, Ms Kardashian said.
Vanessa Regiardo, general manager of the SKKN brand at Coty, said the line has been extensively tested by consumers and is “formulated to care for all skin types, tones and textures at every stage of maturity and for men and women alike women can be used.”
Ms. Kardashian plans to consolidate and eventually relaunch her other beauty and lifestyle products under a single brand, SKKN by Kim. A new website, skknbykim.com, will be the only place to shop for her new skincare. Next year, SKKN by Kim will be available at a major beauty retailer, she said. (Details are still being finalized.)
For now, potential customers will have to rely on online content and tutorials before ordering a $95 face oil that, when mixed with the face cream, will give you “the glow of your life,” she said.
She wants to prove it.
After flipping through SKKN samples, Ms Kardashian went to the bathroom to wash her face and remove makeup from a previous photoshoot. She tucked her mermaid-length hair into a giant claw clip and performed an abbreviated version of her nightly skincare routine. She cleansed, exfoliated and patted her face with a mixture of glow oil and face cream.
“I always go down to my chest, down to my nipples — always down to the nipples,” Ms. Kardashian said, massaging the emulsion onto her neck, cleavage, and the top half of her breasts. Expect a tidal wave of TikTok tutorials to follow, with influencers taking their skincare routine “to the nips,” like Ms. Kardashian is doing.
Does the exercise of such influence ever become an albatross?
When asked about the controversy over her significant weight loss to fit into her Met Gala gown, the same see-through, iridescent gown Marilyn Monroe wore in 1962 when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy, Ms. said Kardashian: “For me it was like, ‘OK, Christian Bale can do it for a movie role and that’s acceptable.’ Renée Zellweger also gained a role. It’s all the same to me. I didn’t say, ‘Hey everyone, why don’t you guys lose that weight in a little while?’”
To her, it was about commitment, like a boxer who needs to gain weight for a fight. She lost about 16 pounds in a month through dieting, a sauna suit and running twice a day. “I haven’t done anything unhealthy,” she said.
What if she didn’t do a weight for the Met?
“I just couldn’t have left, which wouldn’t have mattered,” she said. “It was just important to me to achieve this goal.”
It was just one scene in Ms. Kardashian’s role in her life — she played herself. And if there’s one thing Ms. Kardashian has shown her followers over the years, it’s that she never gives up on a goal.