What's the next frontier for beauty #content creation? The category has gone through several iterations at this point: There's been the vlogger, the influencer and, most recently, the micro-influencer. While cosmetics and skin-care brands like Milk Makeup, The Ordinary — and, of course, the oft-cited Glossier — have played a big role in reconfiguring the market landscape to better match millennial desires (both aesthetically and practically), we haven't exactly seen that shift toward a pared-down, minimalist approach mirrored in the beauty blogging sphere. Most beauty influencers have gained success by doing The Absolute Most (see: curling hair with Cheetos; applying foundation with a condom), so it's up to a new wave of beauty content creators to forge a simpler path.
After months of feeling fed up with what bloggers and vloggers were putting out into the world via their social feeds, I came across something fresh amidst all of the Inta-beauty clutter: the Gelcream Instagram account. And even with one initial glance, it made me feel excited about beauty again. The photos are beautiful (which is especially impressive, given they're all captured on an iPhone); the reviews are concise, yet informative; and its tone is personal and authentic, two adjectives influencers are often striving for (though less often pull off, I'd argue). A quick scroll through the feed and you'll also notice a fairly major anomaly in the Insta-beauty sphere: There's also not a single selfie in sight.
Gelcream is an experience that more closely matches what most people (probably) want from a beauty account, which in turn helps explain how two weeks shy of its first birthday, Gelcream has amassed more than 13,000 followers with only 204 posts.
While thousands of Instagram followers are no longer that hard to come by, there's another thing that sets Gelcream apart as a concept: When's the last time your favorite Instagrammer sent you an actual postcard? It's this type of grounded, sincere and atypical real-world communication that has helped bolster the account's dedicated and engaged community of beauty lovers and aesthetic connoisseurs.
Other than these tidbits available through the voyeurism of Instagram, Gelcream remains pretty mysterious. Who is behind the account? And what actually is Gelcream? An Instagram account? A beauty blog? A yet-to-be-launched store or business of some kind? I set out to answer those questions by tracking down the human force behind the impressively lit Instagram veneer.
Gelcream is the creation of Yana Sheptovetskaya, who is originally from Moscow and previously worked as a stylist at AnOther magazine, a fashion editor at Russian Vogue and managing director at fashion brand A.W.A.K.E before moving to San Francisco and then Los Angeles to pursue newer, glossier directions (and launch Gelcream).
Sheptovetskaya’s pedigree probably helps explain how she came to create the Instagram concept, which she describes as "a beauty magazine; a collection of products and stories" that she likes to think of as "The Gentlewoman of Instagram.” Currently, Instagram is the only incarnation of the Gelcream concept — I hesitate to even call it a "brand" — because Sheptovetskaya gravitated toward the platform's ability to incite "immediate responses" from followers.
Gelcream is representative of the next wave in beauty blogging: clean, streamlined and decidedly millennial and transparent. The most eye-catching phrase in Gelcream’s bio is "no ads," a notable departure from the gummy-bear-beauty-supplement-peddling beauty bloggers of the past few years. Sheptovetskaya stresses that she's not wholly opposed to turning Gelcream into a profit-seeking business; she's open to collaborations, but would likely need to take the form of "a Gelcream pop-up somewhere or uniting with a great designer to do a little cosmetic bag collection," rather than paid product reviews.
Here's what else Sheptovetskaya had to say about what goes into creating the freshest, most interesting beauty account on Instagram.
When did Gelcream launch?
In two weeks it will be one year since I started Gelcream. I bought Luna Oil by Sunday Riley and really loved the packaging and the blue color of this oil, so I photographed it and first published on my personal Instagram. I love lists, so I thought it would be a great idea to start a separate account where I can document my beauty experiences. [The inspiriation for the name of the account came from] the writing on a bottle of La Mer's Moisturizing Gel Cream. It all happened within few minutes: I checked the name, it was available and it fit me perfectly. I love being simple and straightforward in descriptions. I never had plans for Gelcream. It was a sudden, emotional decision.
What was the impetus for creating Gelcream?
I was always fascinated by the magic of beauty products. The first lipstick I bought I didn't even use. It was my little talisman, a sign of sensuality, a little secret. I love beauty products for creating an emotion. I am thrilled when I open the box for the first time, touch the bottle and smell the product. It's a very intimate and relaxing time to look at yourself in the mirror and think (or not think at all) while taking care of yourself. On Gelcream, I'm sharing the emotion every products creates with my readers.
What type of beauty community or discussions do you hope Gelcream fosters?
I hope Gelcream serves as an eye to see the beauty of the skin-care products and stops time for a second. What I don't want to get involved in is the skin-care issues; I don't have enough knowledge to advise how to deal with skin conditions and believe that there are two types of beauty products: those that maintain and those that treat. I focus on the first ones.
You've built a strong, involved community pretty quickly. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
I am very romantic, and I love letters. One day I thought that I wanted to say my readers, "Hi and thank you," and decided to do it the way I would love to receive it, via old school mail. I've already received few letters back and I can't stop smiling when I read them. Isn't that the goal?
How do you see Gelcream as being different from other content creation in the beauty space on Instagram?
I don't focus on skin conditions and hard-core beauty routines. It is more meditative, minimal content. Maybe it's because I'm being honest in my reviews and I don't try to seem that I know everything or that I've tried everything. I'm trying to keep it real and beautiful.
Do you plan to eventually monetize Gelcream? What do you see as the full potential or realization of it?
I don't want to rush anything, but I would love to make Gelcream a bigger part of my life. I have a lot of ideas and I'm working hard on making them real. Gelcream is my exploration of beauty. I would love for it to become that lipstick, a talisman, that reminds people that beauty and harmony are within us and all those products are just helping us to find it.
I would love for Gelcream to get physical and become something like a Schwab's Pharmacy — a space where like-minded people can drink, shop, hang out, work. A very easy atmosphere with good music. Maybe one day.
Why was this past year the right time for you to start Gelcream?
I love it as a platform where I can experiment and the freedom it gives, especially comparing it with the times I worked in fashion magazines, where every step had to be confirmed with several people. I constantly test different features. Soon I'll introduce stories photographed by the readers and independent photographers, which I'm excited about. What also makes me happy is that I can do what I want [with the platform]. I couldn't imagine having a chance to send more than 300 postcards to different parts of the world before; that was be a dream of mine and it came true thanks to Gelcream. I feel like I have 300 friends now, it is so amazing! I want to continue doing those little things that bring joy to me and readers.
It's interesting that your hands are shown but your face never is. Was this a conscious decision?
I talk a lot about experiences and feelings when I review products and rarely about actual effects, so there is no need to show myself. I don't want to focus on "how-to" beauty, I am more about the visual, sensual part of it.
Did you want to maintain some mystery and anonymity with the account, though?
I am not being Banksy — you can easily find my personal account, and I post lots of selfies there. [See below, for example.]
What are your top five all-time favorite beauty products?
I have to ask, since your hands are so prominent on Gelcream: What goes into your hand maintenance routine?
I love Byredo hand creams — the scents are so good, I can't stop waving my hands around my nose after — as it's just another way to apply perfume. Also, I really like UKA cuticle oils. There are few scents dedicated to specific time of the day you should use them: to energize, to relax, to concentrate. I love the idea, and cuticles should never be dry.
Lastly, do you have any advice on how to take one of those great product shots?
Just take a beautiful object and hold it under the sunlight, preferably over a palm tree shadow.
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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.