Vox editor Julia Rubin got a text from her medical resident friend explaining how her protective masks were ruining her skin and asking if she knew of a way to get a discount from a beauty company. Rubin sent a screenshot of the text to New York-based beauty reporter Cheryl Wischhover asking if there might be a way to mobilize the beauty community.
It started with a simple tweet: "Beauty editors/brands: I've heard from hospital staff that their faces are breaking out/skin a mess from wearing masks. Trying to organize some donations — acne products, cleansers, gentle moisturizers, balms. It's small but something we can do rn."
Beauty editors/brands: I've heard from hospital staff that their faces are breaking out/skin a mess from wearing masks. Trying to organize some donations-- acne products, cleansers, gentle moisturizers, balms. It's small but something we can do rn: email@example.com— Cheryl Wischhover (@CherylAnneNY) March 19, 2020
Brands, editors and healthcare workers began reaching out immediately, eager to help or provide product. Less than a month later, that tweet turned into Donate Beauty, which now has an official Instagram account and a four-person team of industry professionals including Wischhover, writer Caroline Moss, Women's Health Beauty Director Kristina Rodulfo and The Cut Beauty Director Kathleen Hou, as well as a number of volunteer helpers. Many of them have large social media followings of their own and were thus able to amplify the call to action significantly. As a result, they've had to do very little direct outreach.
At Donate Beauty, they work together to coordinate donations, acting as middlemen between brands and hospitals, since they obviously can't gather in a room and box things up themselves. Typically, they'll liaise directly with individual healthcare workers, tell brands where to send the product, and then those workers distribute it to their units. As of April 10, over 140,000 beauty products have been donated to over 30,000 healthcare workers at over 400 hospitals. They get the most requests for hand cream, as well as lip balm and moisturizers of all kinds, but also things like cleanser, shampoo and conditioner and body wash, because many healthcare workers are staying at hospitals overnight and showering there.
When Jennifer Barthole, Senior Fashion Editor at Shape, began working from home last month, brands began reaching out and offering to send her care packages. "After receiving a few, I started to feel uncomfortable that I was the one being pampered while the essential workers — particularly in healthcare — were fighting on the frontlines," she tells me over email. "I began reaching out to my personal network of medical professionals in the tri-state area, asking if I could forward them these care packages and they all expressed that they really needed new footwear ASAP."
She's heard that back pain has been a major issue, given the hours they spend on their feet all day and that constantly disinfecting their shoes has caused them to wear more quickly. "It became clear that providing new, supportive footwear was a simple way to give them additional comfort and let them know that we are appreciative for all that they are doing," she says.
Barthole immediately began reaching out to her brand contacts in the hopes of collecting 50 pairs of shoes to donate to her friends and family in the medical field. "Not only were the brands quick to jump on board," she tells Fashionista, "but they also offered additional pairs for anyone else that I knew in need. I started to realize that this could help so many people, so I reached out to my contacts and Instagram followers, asking them to refer me to any healthcare workers who could benefit from a new pair of sneakers."
As with Wischhover and her team's experience, the response was overwhelming. "People were sending me heartbreaking messages about the toll of working in hospitals day in-and-out and how exhausted they were," she says. "I decided to expand the initiative, giving it the name Sneakers For Heroes, and quickly doubled my list of brand outreach. What started as a list of 50 recipients grew to 400 names." She's been working with brands including Adidas, APL, Hoka, North Face, Skechers and Under Armour, confirming how much product they can send and then telling them where to send it.
"It's become a second job for me in a lot of ways," Barthole adds. "Right now, I am doing everything myself, including daily outreach to brands to request donations." She hopes to coordinate 1,000 donations by the end of this month.
Because of their careers, the writers and editors involved in these initiatives are in unique positions to mobilize them. They've spent years working with brands on stories and developing strong relationships and trust. "I am not sure that I could've done this without Shape's platform and the connections that I've built there," Barthole explains. "Not only do brands trust my editorial integrity, they know me well enough to help out, no questions asked."