Most people like to physically test a beauty product before they smear it all over their skin. Not necessarily so for customers of the beauty brand Glossier, whose founder Emily Weiss has used social-media marketing to create hype so strong that customers join months-long waiting lists for products they’ve never even tried. “[We’re] the first socially driven beauty brand,” Weiss says.

The company grew out of Into the Gloss, a beauty blog that Weiss started in 2010 while working as a fashion assistant at Vogue. She posed a question to readers: What would your ideal face wash be like? Based on the hundreds of responses, Weiss and her team designed the Milky Jelly Face Wash, still Glossier’s No. 1 most repurchased product. Many of their products, from lipsticks to moisturizers, have been created through crowdsourcing customer requests (after customers requested a rose-scented lip balm, the company made one), then marketed using real customers on their Instagram feed with more than 400,000 followers. “It’s a living, breathing brand,” Weiss, 31, explains. “We’re responsive in real time to our customers’ needs and the changing needs of women.”

Emily Weiss photographed in New York on Jan. 31, 2017. (Emiliano Granado for Time)
Emily Weiss photographed in New York on Jan. 31, 2017.
Emiliano Granado for Time

It’s an approach that has brought Glossier $34.4 million in investor funding and strong social-media buzz. All the products cost between $12 and $35.

Weiss says she and her team design products as “tools” to allow women to look like the best version of themselves, not an aspirational version of someone else. To her, a tube of lipstick is more than just lipstick, it’s “sort of a talisman.”

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