In a droll sendup of a Glossier makeup tutorial, New York comedian Benito Skinner purred, "I like a really dewy, natural, sweaty look" and then proceeded to slather two gobs of Vaseline all over his face and head. When his video went viral on Instagram last spring, Emily Weiss didn't dive into crisis mode or even get embarrassed. Instead, the Glossier founder was delighted: The "Glossier aesthetic" had become a meme.

"The Glossier look became mainstream this year as opposed to niche," says Weiss. "That dewy skin look is very much the new normal."

Five years after launching, the New York City-based cosmetics and skin-care company has become practically synonymous with the fresh and dewy-skin look that dominates social media and magazines.

Even apart from the breakthrough meme, 2019 was a big year for Glossier: The startup reached unicorn status with its latest funding round, which valued it at a $1.2 billion valuation, according to the company. The funding milestone is fueling new developments as it looks ahead to a major expansion, as well as a bigger focus on an issue of growing importance to many cosmetics companies--sustainability. Here's a look at the changes at the popular brand in the past year and where it's headed in 2020.

Glossier has been quietly stealing some of the thunder of its larger legacy competitors. It's worth noting that the company passed $100 million in annual revenue and has just 36 products. In contrast, Estée Lauder booked $14.8 billion in net sales in its 2019 fiscal year with more than 25 brands under its name, including Clinique, M·A·C, and Bobbi Brown. Weiss declined to comment on whether Glossier is profitable. But in March, Glossier added another $100 million to its coffers by closing a Sequoia Capital-led Series D funding round​, bringing its total funding to $186 million and locking in its $1 billion-plus valuation, according to the company.

While its total number of SKUs is slim, the brand's popularity is hard to deny. One tube of its $16 eyebrow pomade, Boy Brow, was sold every 32 seconds last year, according to the company. Glossier also said that since its launch in 2014, it has surpassed three million customers--including such big names as Michelle Obama, who was photographed for the cover of People magazine's December 16 issue wearing Glossier's eyelid color Lidstar. Other high-profile fans include Beyoncée, Reese Witherspoon, and Chrissy Teigen.

The company has its share of direct-to-consumer cosmetics competitors, some quite formidable--for example, Kylie Jenner's Oxnard, California-based makeup startup Kylie Cosmetics, which sold a 51 percent stake to beauty juggernaut COTY for $600 million in November. Overall, the value of the U.S. beauty and personal care market rose 4.5 percent to $93.5 billion in 2019 from a year ago, according to research firm Statista. It's expected to climb another 4 percent to $97.4 billion in 2020.

The Next Phase of Growth

Determined to outshine the pack, Weiss spent 2019 seeding her company with a management team to take Glossier to the next level. "You have a sense of your company's true potential. And you need to be honest with yourself about what skills you need for the next phase of growth," says Weiss.

Glossier hired Melissa Eamer, a former vice president of sales and marketing at Amazon devices, as chief operating officer; Vanessa Wittman, the former chief financial officer of Dropbox, joined as Glossier's CFO; and Diane Vavrasek, the former vice president of human resources at Jet.com, became its chief people officer. The company, which has 200 employees, declined to share its 2020 hiring plans.

With a stronger management team in place, the company focused on growth--launching nine new products and several brick-and-mortar pop-up shops in 2019. The company has two locations--its flagship in Manhattan and another in L.A. This year the company opened temporary locations in Boston, Miami, Seattle, and Austin. Those pop-up stores drew more than 100,000 shoppers in 21 weeks, the company says.

These offline efforts will help propel Glossier in the year ahead, says Kayla Marci, a market analyst at Edited, a retail data platform. The pop-up shops are a savvy move, says Marci. By testing out different markets, the company will have a better understanding of who and where their customer is, she says. "That's setting them up for their expansion goals and an even bigger year in 2020," says Marci.

This year wasn't without hurdles. Glossier found itself under fire on social media after launching a wearable glitter product called Glitter Gelée that quickly drew criticism from environmentally conscious consumers. They'd spotted in its ingredient list polyethylene terephthalate, a form of microplastic that can end up in oceans and threaten aquatic life. Glossier says it is exploring eco-friendly options but has yet to find one that achieves the desired level of performance. 

The company says that it is prioritizing its sustainability efforts, an issue that will score with today's consumers, according to Marci. For example, Glossier removed the option to have orders packaged in the company's signature pink bubble-wrap pouch. It also opted to bottle its popular, newly released oil serum, Future Dew, in glass instead of plastic.

"When we launched five years ago, the commentary around sustainability was a whisper," says Weiss. "Today, it's an absolute roar and the next frontier for us."

Published on: Dec 24, 2019