Caroline Hirons - The Story of The Skin Rocks App

“I’ve had an idea”: The Story of The Skin Rocks App

Here to revolutionise the way you shop for and learn about skincare, discover exactly how the Skin Rocks App came to be as Journalist, Claire Coleman, sits down with our Founder, Caroline Hirons, to find out.

“Whenever I come up with something new, I normally message the team: ‘I’ve had an idea!’” says Caroline Hirons, explaining how the Skin Rocks app came about.

“That’s when they’re like ‘Oh sh*t, what now?’” she laughs. You can kind of see why they’d have that reaction. After all, at the point that they received this particular message, they were hardly twiddling their thumbs. While initially conceived as the brand name for Caroline’s long-awaited and still-in-development product range, Skin Rocks was also the brand name for boxes of targeted solutions for different skin types, and a platform for information from a variety of sources — dermatologists, cosmetic formulators, journalists and more. 

It was a concept born out of Caroline’s desire to create something separate from the Caroline Hirons name that represented all the things that were important to her — somewhere people could learn about skin, about what they need for their skin — and what they don’t need. But, while most of us would consider we had our hands full creating a line of skincare, Caroline wanted the brand to expand further.

Quote: “I wanted to take the aspects of the blog that I loved — the sense of community, talking about things factually, talking about not buying into the hype, not buying into the marketing, and basically helping people." - Caroline Hirons, Founder and Skincare Expert

I wanted something that would answer all the questions that I’m asked all the time about how to put together a skincare routine, whether a product is right for someone, and whether they can use a product if they’re pregnant. And I started thinking about how I might do this…and I was in the shower one day, and I suddenly realised: it needs to be an app.

It needs to be an app because there isn't an app out there that gives at least a baseline review of every product that you can buy. And that’s when I messaged the team: ‘I’ve had an idea!’”

You can see why their hearts sank — every facial skincare product in the UK and beyond?! 

Image of 3 phone screens with different pages of the Skin Rocks App open on them in the following order: the product page for The Inkey List Peptide Moisturiser, The Products homepage, Top Tips for Oily Skin article.

 

“At the moment I think we have 12,000 products on the app, and it’s growing all the time. Every time we get a new product in the office, it goes on there, and we’re constantly checking websites, and social media to make sure it stays relevant.”

Caroline is at pains to point out that the products listed on the app are not her recommendations.

“I know that I’m Marmite, that not everybody is going to like me, and I also know that people think that there are brands that I like or don’t like, so I wanted it to be more of a neutral space, a directory of every product that’s available, with guidance and information on all of them.”

And it’s a really comprehensive directory. Each product listing includes a wealth of data: details of what the brand says about it, information on who it’s for, what it does, what it costs, how to use it, where it fits in your skincare regime, whether it’s tested on animals, whether it’s vegan, whether it’s suitable for use while pregnant or breastfeeding, whether it contains, alcohol, fragrance, oil, parabens or silicone, as well as a complete ingredients listing and crucially, a section that tells you — objectively — whether you need it or not. So, for a moisturiser, it might say “You need this if you enjoy a traditional cream texture. You don’t need this if you prefer a gel texture.”

“There is a sprinkling of me,” admits Caroline. “If, for example, a product claims it’s ‘clean’, you’ll find a ‘CHecked it’ panel on the listing with me pointing out that it’s an unregulated term and ‘toxic’ levels of ingredients are never used in skincare. And you’ll also find a ‘Founder Favourite’ tick against some of the products I really rate.” 

Image of two phone screens showing product pages within the app. The first screen shows the product page for The Inkey List Bakuchiol Moisturiser with text below 'CH checked it: Buyer beware bakuchiol is not a retinoid". Second screen shows product page for a cleanser "You need this if you want a cleanser that does not leave your skin tight and dry. You don't need this if you have oily skin and prefer a deeper cleanse."

 

But it’s more than just a list of products you can browse through. When you download the app, you’re invited to complete a profile with details of your skin concerns, likes and dislikes, and then an algorithm recommends the products best suited to you.

“It’s for everyone,” says Caroline. “From the complete beginner who walks into Boots and doesn’t know where to start when confronted with aisles and aisles of moisturisers, to someone who knows what they like but wants to try something different, or a bit more expensive. Someone even commented on one of my Instagram lives the other day that they’d used the app in store with a customer,” she laughs. “I didn’t have time to find out who they worked for!”

For a free app, you’re getting a lot of information and Caroline insists that not only will the app in its current incarnation always be free, but that the recommendations made by the algorithm will never be subject to commercial pressures. 

Quote: “We’ve already had brands asking how they can come higher up on the matches, but that’s not how it works. It’s entirely objective, entirely independent, and all recommendations are made solely based on your skin profile.” - Caroline Hirons, Founder and Skincare Expert

That’s not to say there aren’t plans for partnerships with brands — “brands have enquired about launching products via the app” — or for a premium version — “we’re looking at things like community reviews, where people can click through to get other people’s opinions, but that costs a lot of money and time to set up.”

For now, however, she says the focus is on “fine-tuning and making sure there are no glitches.”

Asked about her goal for the app, Caroline says she wants it to be “the Google of skincare”. 

“When there’s a controversy about something in skincare, I want people to come to the app to find out from The Column section what the facts are. When there’s a new product launch, I want them to come to the app to find out what it’s all about and whether they actually need it. When they want to switch up their routine — or put together a routine — I want them to know that they can come to the app for that.”

Essentially, if you want help with any aspect of skincare, there’s an app for that — and this is it. 

Download the Skin Rocks app here.

 

Words by Claire Coleman, Freelance Editor & Journalist

Follow Claire @featuresjourno