When Hyram Yarbro was growing up in Arizona farm country, he took up sign language. His sister was learning it and wanted someone to practice with. For Yarbro, however, signing became something else.
“I was always looking for essentially an escape, something that could take up my time, that could take up my attention and energy to kind of help me tolerate and handle the not-so-great environment I was raised in,” said Yarbro, a Hawaii Kai resident.
One can see remnants of signing in his YouTube videos, where his hands flutter and gesture constantly. What one doesn’t see, except in cases where he addresses it directly, is any evidence of the “not-so-great environment” of his youth.
Yarbro is now omnipresent in the online world, with a combined 12 million followers on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. He posts his views on various skin care products and comments on the skin care regimens of celebrities like actor/singer Hailee Steinfeld, music producer Pharrell Williams and socialite Kendall Jenner, all with a slice of humor delivered alongside plenty of substance and common sense.
He’s been written up not only in fashion magazines like Vogue and Teen Magazine, but in such news publications as The New York Times, which labeled him “The Content Creator Who Can Make or Break a Skin Care Brand” and estimated that he is likely a millionaire by now. He has the respect of the skin care industry, where some companies have actually changed their formulas after he’s commented on them.
Over the summer, he raised a stir when he announced that he was leaving Hawaii. With COVID-19 numbers low at the time, it looked like a good opportunity to “go big” on the mainland, as so many others from Hawaii have.
Not to worry. The break was related to his newly released skin care line, Selfless by Hyram. He remains loyal to Hawaii and expects to be in the isles most of the time, business notwithstanding.
“I plan to spend the majority of time here and just go to New York and L.A. for work purposes,” he said. “As enjoyable as it is to go to those locations to get work done, Hawaii has a special place in my heart.”
Yarbro held a launch for his line at the Ala Moana Sephora store on Thursday and Friday.
Speaking in a recent interview, he is every bit as lively and energetic as he is on screen. Not every sentence is as rapid-fire as the “everysingleweeeeek” phrase in his videos — which is how often he wants you to log on — but he is quick with words, the thoughts flowing easily and effortlessly, sounding almost rehearsed. Which in a way it is, because Yarbro, at the age of 25, has spent quite a bit of time reflecting on his life and talking about it.
In one video where he discusses his early life, he shares how his upbringing in a devout Mormon family clashed with his developing awareness of his homosexuality, and how trying to overcompensate by being an outgoing people-pleaser drove him to further despair. Counseling did no good because it seemed to him that his counselor merely tried to submerge him further in his faith.
In high school, however, he developed a friendship with Native Hawaiians living in Utah and became intrigued by the island culture. He also visited Fiji and Tonga, and the support he got from people there was overwhelming in its sincerity and honesty.
“It was the first time that I experienced true unconditional love,” he said, adding that he maintains ties with the people he met.
Partly because of that experience, he came to Hawaii for college, enrolling at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. But while he enjoyed the weather and the beauty of the island, those could not help him contend with his low self-esteem, and soon he developed a serious eating disorder and struggled with depression. His eating disorder rendered him so weak that he could barely get out of bed or walk to class. He was aging prematurely, developing wrinkles on his forehead and bags under his eyes.
“I would describe myself as quite literally as a shadow of a person. Everything about my personality, what makes me, me, my unique points, were entirely diminished by the pain of an eating disorder,” he said. “More than anything, I wanted to hide.”
He got through that period with the help of two close friends, one a roommate who “responded in the best possible way, which is ‘I’ll always be here for you. I’m always here to talk,’ ” Yarbro said.
The other friend took a tougher approach, telling him outright “you need to eat,” but by that time Yarbro realized that he needed help. Through BYUH, he began to see a counselor again and found one who addressed his problems without involving religion. Although Yarbro dropped out of BYUH, to this day he gives credit to the school for providing him with the help he needed.
DEVELOPING HIS PASSION
Yarbro had been working to support his education, but realized that he was “kind of entrepreneurial by nature.” He had already run an online design business as a youth and had been involved in charity work. He questioned whether he needed a degree to get a good job. Within a week, he’d left BYUH, moved to town and started working at Saks Fifth Avenue as a makeup artist.
“My experience there really got me first introduced to cosmetics and to skin care, and really started to develop my passion,” he said.
But he admits to “not being a good salesman.” He was troubled by the high cost of skin care products and cosmetics, and the fact that neither he nor his customers knew much about them.
“I would hear people say ‘I want the best skin possible, so I’m willing to pay the best price,’” he said. “So for me, it made me instantly question what is in these products that justify this price point, and when I started researching and learning about these ingredients and functionality, I realized that these products were not worth the price points.”
In his videos, Yarbro is quick to offer the disclaimer that he is not a trained scientist or dermatologist. Instead, he sees his role as translating the science and medicine into something accessible to the general public.
“I really wanted my channel to kind of be a documentation of my personal growth in skin care,” he said, “to show people that you can learn about skin care, you can make good decisions for your skin and find what products you should use, without necessarily having to be a dermatologist or be someone who’s specialized.”
Although it is often celebrities and social media influencers who post their skin care regimens online, ordinary people, posting on Facebook Live, YouTube and TikTok, have also demonstrated skin care products of all kinds, including cleansers, exfoliants, moisturizers and sunscreens.
Interest in skin care has expanded dramatically during the pandemic, as people saw their own faces on computer screens and were not happy.
“It used to be you’re in a meeting, and other people saw you, but you didn’t see yourself,” said Dr. Carla Nip-Sakamoto of Oahu Dermatology and former president of the Hawaii Dermatological Society. “Now you’re sitting in a Zoom room, you see yourself, and people pick themselves apart.”
She said she has noticed a trend toward everyone wanting a youthful appearance. For example, she said, Botox injections, which used to be in demand primarily by middle-aged and older women, are now popular among young adults of all genders.
Nip-Sakamoto viewed a few of Yarbro’s videos and said she was “impressed by the fact that most of everything he said sounds like he’s really done his homework, and that he’s probably got really good counsel.”
She was pleased that Yarbro adhered to her own No. 1 tip on skin care: Use a lot of sunscreen. “I’m a strong proponent of you just put it on every day,” she said.
For now, Yarbro’s focus is on his skin care line, Selfless by Hyram, promoting it not only as effective but having an impact on global issues such as deforestation and access to clean drinking water. After initially thinking about overseeing every aspect of the business himself, from sourcing ingredients to manufacturing and packaging, he is now partnered with the Inkey List, a skin care manufacturer that cites knowledge, quality and efficacy, and transparency as corporate values.
“I saw their dedication to wanting to create social change while also creating some of the best skin care products I’ve ever used,” he said. “I’d been a fan of theirs for a long time.”
The Selfless line, which launched in June at Sephora locations in 29 countries, supports the environmental nonprofit Rainforest Trust and water charity Thirst Project through partnerships. The fragrance-free products feature ingredients from sustainable sources and omit other potential skin irritants such as denatured alcohol. Its smartly designed packaging, which is made from sugarcane bioplastic, is fully recyclable.
Yarbro also envisions moving outside of the skin care industry to work on local issues such as sustainability and promoting traditional culture. He sees himself primarily as an entrepreneur, someone excited about “building a new venture, working on new projects and turning passions into something that can support you.”
Skin care came along as a “side passion, and I never, never anticipated for it to be my lifelong career,” he said, but it’s left him with a gratifying sense of accomplishment.
“The most incredible thing and the thing I’m most proud of, when it comes to my social media presence, is the amount of people, whether it’s 60-year-old men, 10-year-old kids, teenagers, mothers who have five children, coming up to me and saying, ‘I had no idea I was supposed to be taking care of my skin and now I have a full skin care routine,’ ” he said.
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